Today, we’re continuing our favorite blog series “Behind the Bar” with none other than our favorite free-spirit and magnetic marketing genius of a friend, Jenna Kutcher. Her kind-hearted, let’s-keep-it-real approach to life and to business has taken Instagram by storm, where she’s garnered upwards of 80k followers who seem to love her as much as we do. She now teaches other creative entrepreneurs how to cultivate an engaged tribe of followers by being (wait for it)… YOUR ACTUAL SELF! She’s a wedding photographer on the weekends and blogger, educator, and everyday-nap-taker during the week, but all along the way, she lives life fully, intentionally, boldly and in a way all her own. So naturally, we just had to have her take you – dear TONIC Regulars – behind the bar to reveal some of just how she does it.
Photo by : CASSIE ROSCH
“I am done going with the flow. Only dead fish do that. So let’s get crazy.”
– Jenna Kutcher
What’s the biggest light bulb moment you’ve had about your brand?
Own it! When I hired Jen to do my new site, I told her, “I am done going with the flow. Only dead fish do that. So let’s get crazy.” I run a high end business and brand but I am super laid back. I knew I had to find the right designer who would mix the high end, laid back vibes and Jen was that puzzle piece that had been missing. It IS possible to be yourself, to be professional, but to show up for life in yoga pants (and somehow be taken seriously!) Jen nailed my desire to just go for it and she took my jumbled thoughts and made them into the most beautiful, cohesive design that feels just like me.
If you had to distill your advice for growing a social media following to one thing, what would it be??
BE YOURSELF! Social media can often feel like a screaming match and we try to be the loudest, but I’ve found that the secret isn’t in screaming to the masses, it’s in whispering the right message to the right audience. The more that you show who you are, the more you are giving people the chance to fall in love with YOU (and let’s be honest, you are your biggest asset!) Share your heart, bits of your life, your work, and create a brand, not just a business.
“…the secret isn’t in screaming to the masses, it’s in whispering the right message to the right audience…”
– Jenna Kutcher
What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever done for your business?
Trusted my gut. There are a million things out there that will tell you how to run your business, how much work you need to do, how to get from Point A to Point B, but I’ve always listened to and trusted my gut. Everyone has a different path, a different journey and that’s the beauty of it. Select your mentors wisely, don’t get too many opinions, and trust your gut along the way. There is no secret sauce or magic potion to “make it” you just have to go your own way (and I sincerely hope you just sang that line Fleetwood Mac style!)
What piece of advice would you give anyone beginning the branding and website design process?
Choose a designer who understands you and stop looking at everyone else’s websites.(Editor’s note: HEAR, FREAKING HEAR!) One of my favorite things I did when we rebranded was I didn’t go to anyone else’s site for inspiration. Instead we made a Pinterest board filled with the most random things from travel photos to fonts to script and sweaters, but it gave Jen a “feel” of what I was going for. It’s far too easy to look at everyone else’s stuff and cloud your vision. When you stop looking around and keep your head down, you’re freed up to think of new things! We just “went for it” and I fully trusted in Jen and her ability to make it all come to life – she seriously killed it!
“Choose a designer who understands you. and stop looking at everyone else’s websites.”
– Jenna Kutcher
See more of Jenna’s highly original website at jennakutcher.com
You own your own business and Drew works a more traditional job. How have you guys been able to balance that? Is he involved in a lot of the areas of your business, or do you keep things pretty streamlined & separate?
Here’s the truth: Drew literally doesn’t touch my business. Not even a little bit. The most he does for it is allows me to share our lives and sometimes he’ll bring my checks to the bank (seriously!) I didn’t want our lives to become centered around work, so we treat my business just like a traditional job as much as we can with start and end times, office hours, and at the end of the day, we will ask one another how work was but that’s that. He doesn’t read my blog, he doesn’t really “follow” my stuff, and most of the time he has no clue what I am doing day in and day out – I like it that way! We both have different passions so I’ve never felt like I needed him to be a past of my work vision, he fills my “life” vision just fine ;)!
That’s so interesting, and we love that you treat your job like a JOB in so many ways. So, on another note, what’s the best memory you’ve made this year? (You can say drinking strong gin & tonics over our makeshift cheese plate if you want.)
Gosh, this year has held some really high highs and some low lows, it’s such a tough answer. Honestly, though (and I’m not just saying this) when I close my eyes and think of this year, I think of the day we all took out Barbie the pink boat and floated on pink flamingo floaties in the Seattle sun. As someone who gets to travel a lot for work, trips with Drew are even more special and precious and getting to show him parts of my life and world is my favorite. That day was probably one of the most carefree days that 2016 has held (thank you Jeff and Captain Darren!)
You’re never off a plane: can you give us five JK essentials in your carry-on?
I feel like I have lived in airports these last two years! (Fun fact: I never fully unpack my bag, much to Drew’s demise)! I have taken over 20 trips and left the country 7 times in the last two years and I have only travelled with a carry on, every single time. I never, ever check luggage. So it’s safe to say I am a professional packer at this point. Packing cubes have changed my life and I roll up my clothes super tight so I can fit as much as I can! I also always have a little eye pillow and ear plugs because I’ve trained myself to sleep on planes (yes, I am that girl with a little eye mask and no, I don’t care how ridiculous it looks!) I also always bring my Kindle to read and I switch between business books and fun books! Lastly, I bring my camera wherever I go, it’s always with me!
Photo by : Cassie Rosch
You and Drew are such welcoming hosts – any entertaining tips for making guests feel at home?
We have slippers in the guest rooms and little goodies for our guests that they might forget like extra phone chargers, toiletries, chocolate (you know, just in case!) I want to get new towels and a robe too! I think my favorite thing about hosting is not just telling people to make themselves at home but giving them the grace to do just that. Now that we have a home that allows for more entertaining, we are hopeful to host more wine nights with friends or backyard bonfires by the river!
Let’s put an end to the speculation: what IS your favorite mac & cheese shape?
I’d have to go with Finding Nemo – I mean, everyone says there are plenty fish in the sea but there’s only one Nemo.
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were little?
A million different things but I truly believed I would go into medicine! I wanted to be a plastic surgeon and I watched all of those crazy surgery shows for hours on end, I even job shadowed a surgeon a few times. When I signed up for college, I declared pre-medicine and that lasted a whole two weeks before I switched to business and communication!
What’s one thing / secret talent we wouldn’t know about you?
I used to be a gymnast — I basically grew up in a gym. I then went on to be a springboard diver and dove all four years in college! Yes, I did all the flips and spins and crazy things from very high in the air. I still hold some school and pool records, and yet I haven’t touched a diving board since my last college meet.
So before we let you go, is there anything exciting you guys have been up to that the TONIC readers should know about?
I am launching a new podcast in just a few weeks and you’ll be hearing from Jen herself! I am so excited to be launching this new project – called, “Goal Digger!” – and it will be an educational/workshop styled podcast where I will interview industry leaders and give them a platform to teach the stuff they love the most. I personally love podcasts and so I am so thrilled to be filling a need in the creative industry for free education and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite people with the world!
Jenna, thanks so much for taking the time to share a little behind the bar. We were honored to have you, and we can’t wait for the next time we get together… when we’ll surely be sipping on Gin & Tonic’s and laughing about our first hangs in that shall we say “basic” hotel room in DC. You can follow along with all things Jenna Kutcher via her blog and on Instagram at @jennakutcher.