Christine Job is a 33-year old African-American woman from Atlanta, Georgia, United States, currently based in Barcelona, Spain. In this interview with Sheila Garcia, she discusses business development strategy, and her new podcast focusing on black women living and thriving abroad.
Tell us about your company
I work as a consultant strategist. My clients are micro-businesses with employees from 5 to 20. I typically work with women with businesses predominantly in the holistic field, and also with marketing professionals, writers, and freelancers. I specifically help people to develop their businesses. Let’s say that you already have a business and you want to launch a new product. What I do is to analyze your idea. We’d need to look into the market and analyze, who are you trying to sell that product to? Is there a solution out there? If there is, why is your product better than the other ones? Can you sell your product offering the same price or a similar price and still make money? That is my expertise.
What is the very first thing that you recommend when planning a business strategy?
I advise people to prioritize because launching a business successfully is not really about the idea, it’s about executing, which means delivering products in a very succinct and fast manner. You have to give people what they want when they want it. As an example, let’s suppose you want to open a bakery and want to sell cookies. The average person would think “I can make them in my kitchen,” they don’t think about the health laws and that they might need an industrial kitchen, the shipping cost of the ingredients, etc. There are expenses upfront and you need to have the money to pay for those things before you even sell one cookie to your customer.
What are the top 5 mistakes that people do when launching a business?
People make assumptions about businesses that are not true. Number one is thinking that your product is for everyone. Entrepreneurs will go “My smoothie is for everyone,” because in their minds, babies can have smoothies and everyone can. In reality, there’s actually one tiny percentage of consumers that are really a smoothie person. Maybe they are young, female, they go to yoga, they might like organic food. The second mistake is thinking that when creating something, people will come automatically to buy your product, and that’s not true at all. You need to test things very quickly. People spend years thinking they have something that is a really good idea but they haven’t tested it outside their friends and family. Consumers like to buy things that feel like them. They want a personal association with the product so if you don’t do your testing you will never know whether people identify with your product or not. The third mistake is assuming that you have to know all the answers before you start, and that’s not true again. You only know things through action, from experimentation and testing. You can collect research, demographics, big data, and use it. All that can be very helpful but in the end, you need to get into the world and try it.
The fourth mistake I see in most women is that they believe that they are never ready to start a business. They spend years thinking about how to start, doubting themselves, or thinking that they need to be aggressive in order to compete with men in the business field. They don’t realize that a huge number of very successful businesses are run by women. We have a more developed emotional intelligence to sense people’s needs, we also have empathy, and a natural cautiousness which is awesome for sustainable businesses. The fifth one is that people underestimate simple ideas. They think “it’s not enough serious” as if a serious business is only a company like Apple. Not at all, a serious business is one that makes money!
Could you give us an example of a very successful business run by a woman? I am thinking of the cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown. She made millions by selling nude color lipsticks when the trend back then was to use tones of makeup that looked very artificial.
Yes, I have many examples, but since you are talking about someone who made millions of dollars I would say Sarah Blakely is a great example. She has a brand called Spanx. The company sells control underwear to keep you smooth under your clothes. She is a woman solving women’s problems. Going back to your previous question on the big mistakes, I think a lot of times women underestimate their value on the market, even though, statistically, women are much more in the consumer market than men and much more selective. I definitely think that women should try to help other women in their businesses because that’s very lucrative. Think in black women’s hair care, that’s beyond lucrative!
Why is it convenient to hire a business strategist when starting a business? I mean, for someone starting with a limited budget, perhaps having that extra expense is not a priority.
Well, first of all, I think you’ll find the money for the things that you want. My work is good because I can come at the very beginning. At the very beginning, people are very overwhelmed and often very scared as well. They are scared to spend the money. I want to highlight that my job is not to give people ideas. I only work with people that are confident in their expertise. I don’t say here is the business. I listen to your idea and I ask you “who do you want to serve?” When starting a business if you hire someone like me you’ll get very clear in how to execute things. There is a lot of business information on the internet which is amazing, but 95% of the people who watch the webinars don’t do anything at all. When you pay someone like me that means you are committed, ready to work, and ready to see some results. That’s a difference! With a good strategy in three months, you should have a business.
Any kind of business?
It depends. Some require more time to develop than others. If you want to take it slow then you don’t need someone. I am not saying that having a coach is essential but surely it helps a lot. I have a new client. She is a therapist. When she contacted me she was all over the place about the business and I said: “look, you have a very important gift to give to the world but you have to make money”. Within 6 weeks she is doing podcasts and webinars and now we are developing online products so she can make money during this pandemic for as long it’s going to last.
What is the number one thing that you recommend as an expert in business development?
As I said, I recommend to try out and test your ideas. If you want to sell premium candles, you’ll have to target your potential customers and find the ones that would be interested in them. You’ll need to find those potential clients on social media and tell them “It’s here, do you like this candle? Would you pay 15 Euros for it? They’d probably say “this is a nice candle but I don’t know you as a brand, so I don’t know”. What’s next then? You’ll have to develop your web presence and go where your “candle people” are online and develop a relationship with them by letting them know how you make the product, the different scents available, and see which ones they like the most. Once someone has tried your product and likes it you have achieved two things: number one, you have a business because someone is paying you. Number two, you have authority because someone likes what you do and says it’s good on social media.
That can take months though.
Yes, and it’s fine. The thing is when you have a specialist in strategy, a lot of the structure comes faster. I provide an operation structure & brand strategy, which means to niche down your brand and to better identify who are you talking to. I force my clients to be in front of their potential clients to get information from them. When you go on a website and you realize that all their products are so beautiful and it feels like that brand is directly talking to you, that’s because someone behind has made the effort on getting information from people like you and the things you like.
Are certain products easier to sell than others?
There are certainly differences. For instance, selling physical products is more expensive than selling digital services. When you have a product you have a manufacturer or you are the one, so it’s still your hours. You are exchanging your time, your efforts in exchange for money. The most important thing to have in mind is that people like buying things all the time, that’s why it’s crucial to know your audience and build a relationship with them so they can buy your stuff. Ideally, you create an audience of people, you ask them what they want to see, how much money they would spend and then you make that product.
What would be a no-no business or a very challenging one?
Anything that has a lot of regulation would be very difficult. I would say anything that might require special governmental permissions. The thing is those businesses might be quite profitable in the long term. I am thinking now in military equipment, weapons, or any business that would require a lot of capital upfront like becoming a real estate developer. That would be very challenging, especially if you don’t have the experience.
Recently, you launched a podcast. Tell us more about it
The podcast is called flourishintheforeign and it aims to elevate stories of black women living abroad. I created it because since I was 17 years old I always wanted to live outside of the US. I never saw a lot of representation growing up. I mean, black women living abroad. Another goal is a representation of black women. In the media, for example, it’s hard to find movies of black women leaving home to live outside their countries. The first episode is about a dear friend of mine, Niana, she is from Chicago, she has lived in Spain for 5 years and now she lives in the Netherlands with her husband. During the interview she explained her struggles settling in, being a black American in Spain, as well as her experience of moving from Spain to the Netherlands and how much a culture shock that is.
How did you end up in Barcelona?
I started traveling when I was quite young, three or four years old. My father moved to Germany when I was 10 years old, then I started traveling internationally to visit him. My mother has always encouraged me to see the world (she is not an American centric). Later, I studied international business for 6 months in Spain at Valencia University. In 2017 I decided to do a Sabbatical year and I traveled back to Spain to teach English in La Rioja. I taught there for 9 months, and then I decided to move to Barcelona. I’ve been teleworking for a web development company based in Washington DC until I created my own business.