In the world of small business, we must take ownership of our story. We must speak out, share our experiences, and open up about our struggles. By doing this, we can inspire and encourage one another to keep the dream alive. We are continually impressed by the hardworking business owners who are bootstrapping it and making things happen!
This week we’re interviewing our very own Amanda Washburn, the owner of Rough Draft Solutions. We hope it gives you a bit of insight into our company and why we’re committed to empowering other businesses to communicate with their customers! So, grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile!
Getting to Know Amanda Washburn
1. Why did you decide to start Rough Draft Solutions?
I always planned to have my own business someday; I just wasn’t planning on doing it when I was 24. After working for a few companies as a marketing manager and a business development coordinator, I realized that there were a significant number of businesses that needed help communicating with their customers in an authentic way. The timing just seemed right - I was ready for a change professionally, I didn’t have any children, and I knew there were businesses in Michigan that could benefit from my help. I didn’t totally know how I was going to do it, but I knew this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
2. Why do you believe content marketing is important?
Content marketing takes the focus off of your business and puts it back on your customer. The challenge with marketing these days is that consumers are so bombarded with boring messages of why they should buy this, or why they should buy that. That’s not inspiring or helpful. Content marketing pushes businesses to figure out what their customers want - what problems they have and what solutions they are looking for. If a business does that well and then creates authentic content through a blog, social media, a newsletter, etc., they can build a relationship with their customers while simultaneously satisfying their customers’ needs.
I think everyone will benefit from businesses being a bit more value-focused and a little less self-centered. Content marketing can level the playing field between big and small companies. With a little planning, quality writing, and intentional messages you can do a lot of good and become a valued resource in your customers’ lives.
3. How has your business grown since you opened in 2014?
We have seen wonderful growth in the last two years. The first nine months was just me figuring out what it meant to “own a business” and how I was going to market the business. I also had to build a professional network in the Lansing and Jackson areas from scratch. I felt like all I was doing was networking! But I guess that is a good thing because when I started in March, I knew no one in the local business arena! So the first nine months of the business were focused on getting a few clients and getting a few processes in place.
Starting in 2015, we figured out we had to raise our prices and have a solid strategic plan in place. Those decisions combined with the significant amount of networking I did in 2014 allowed us to grow the business and in June we hired two interns to help with the influx of work. We had several large projects and worked with about 30 different companies. The second half of the year was the busiest I ever remember being! It was an absolute whirlwind but an absolute dream come true. Having a team to work with added a new level of satisfaction to the business.
2016 promises to be another wonderful year. We added a new intern, Maddie, to our team and are excited about the new projects we are working on. The month of June has set some records for being the busiest in terms of new client requests. I am thrilled to see the business continuing to grow!
4. What would you say is your strongest area of expertise?
My education was in communication and psychology. So naturally, I have a deep rooted love for helping people communicate in an effective and authentic way. I like to understand why people communicate the way they do, and how to remove barriers that limit our message from getting across.
I work one on one with every customer to determine what their struggles are, what they are looking for regarding marketing, and guide them toward the path that I think will best serve them and their customers. I’m a strategic thinker who loves solving problems, so I believe that positions me to be a helpful partner to my clients.
I also love writing and editing. Give me a big cup of coffee, turn on some good music, and hand me a red pen and I am in my happy place. I get immense satisfaction from capturing the essence of my customers’ businesses and creating content that makes them proud.
5. What has been the hardest part of owning a business?
Uncertainty and self-doubt. Being uncertain about choices I have to make, not knowing if certain things will work out or what decision to make… That can be pretty tough. The other ugly part is self-doubt. Most days I am confident about what I am doing but sometimes doubt creeps in. There are slow times in business, and when that happens, a lot of questioning can occur. Am I good enough? Is the work I am doing valuable? I think most people experience that, and the best way to deal with it is to acknowledge it and move on. Get to work and get busy! I am a much more confident and settled person when I am rushing around with dozens of projects to work on. But regarding the grand scheme of things, these challenges are worth it.
6. What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
There are so many rewarding parts of owning a business. First, I find it very fulfilling to make my clients happy. Nothing is better than seeing them proudly showcase the content we developed and hearing them say that I captured their business perfectly. Helping them enrich their customers’ experience is awesome.
Secondly, the opportunity to work with three talented young ladies as interns has been particularly rewarding. While my goal was to give them an opportunity to learn and get hands-on experience, I feel like I am the one learning from them!
And finally, I am so thankful that most days I wake up excited about the work that I am doing! (Everybody gets tired sometimes!) I have never had a job where I felt complete ownership and fulfillment. I am building something from scratch, finding my path, and hopefully adding to the lives and businesses of others along the way! There are so many privileges I am thankful for - the freedom to take on clients I respect, the opportunity to set my own schedule, and the opportunity to travel.
7. What would you say to someone who wants to create content, but doesn't know where to begin?
I would tell you to figure out what your goal is. Why do you want to create content and what are you hoping your customers will do once they read your content? I would encourage you to think about what problems your customers have that are relevant to you and figure out a way to provide a solution. The next step is figuring out what platform your customers are on - you want to make sure your customers have direct access to your content! Stay focused and push yourself to create content that is clear, concise and focused. Always edit more than you think you need to and stick with a consistent style/tone in your writing. There are many other steps, but you can check out our blog post about creating a marketing strategy on the fly to help! Check out our blog post about breaking down content marketing as well!
If you would like to reach out to Amanda with further questions, please feel free to contact us! Stay tuned for Part 2 for our interviews with Emily and Maddie!