Originally posted on NAWBO.org on May 13, 2013...

Most 25 year olds are still figuring it all out—starting a new career, starting a new family or even just starting adulthood. At 25, Amanda Sage, owner of Gong Gong Communications, was starting her own business.

After spending time in Ghana working with women's trade cooperatives, Amanda returned to the U.S. and quickly felt the squeeze of the lean job market. With a job search going nowhere, she took matters into her own hands and began working as a freelance copywriter. After finding success on her own, it was that entrepreneurial spirit that helped her take the final step to launch her own marketing and communications firm in 2009, naming it after the "gong gong," or person in Ghana who spreads the latest news.

Today, Gong Gong Communications, LLC is based in Westerville, Ohio and serves small businesses locally and across the nation. One of Amanda's top priorities when working with her clients is to educate them on the importance of effective marketing and the impact it can make on a business' success. "You can't look at a balance sheet and see the value marketing gets you," she says. "The benchmark is that you're supposed to spend 5 percent of revenue on marketing and I do a lot of explaining how the return on investment could work. I use this analogy: you can throw darts at a wall or at a dartboard. If you're being strategic about marketing, it will make the most sense and show the biggest return."

On top of her marketing know-how, Amanda credits NAWBO for helping her find her way as a woman business owner and continue to grow—even resulting in 75-85 percent of her business. "It's completely shaped where I am, " she says. "NAWBO has really brought me in front of people in all different levels of business and they've been a great inspiration. I felt support in the camaraderie and empathy—they really know what you've been through. Without NAWBO, I would have had no idea how to start. It's been such a huge part of who I am."

Amanda is now proud to have recently joined the Board for the NAWBO-Columbus chapter as Vice President of Communications and, at 29 years old, is the youngest board member in the organization's history. She also recently opened an office in the Women's Small Business Accelerator, where she helps to coordinate educational opportunities for other women business owners. "Right now our NAWBO chapter represents over $1 billion in revenue," she says. "Columbus has been rated the seventh top city in the nation for women businesses. We've got a huge amount of technology here and the right things for business owners. I'm excited to be a part of this group to help grow our businesses."

As she looks ahead, Amanda is focused on growing her clientele and expanding her staff. She hopes to one day go back to her source of entrepreneurial inspiration and open an office in Ghana. But above all, she notes, she is excited to be a woman business owner right now. "Women are becoming a force to be reckoned with. We can be women who want to be feminine and nice and who don't want to act like the characters on 'Mad Men,' and still have a really awesome business."

For more information on Gong Gong Communications, please visit www.gonggongcommunications.com.

Originally posted on resumebiz.com...

  1. What led you to writing resumes? Do you have a background that made you an ideal fit for the industry?
  2. I have been writing professionally since I graduated from college…speeches, articles, and so on. I think people often (mistakenly) assume that if someone can write, that person can construct a resume. Obviously, one skill does not beget the other. However, in my circle of friends, I was always the one to come to about problems: I listened, I suggested realistic solutions, and I was a truth-teller. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in dreams, following dreams, and such, but the reality is that dreams take work to achieve. I’ve always been practical enough to figure out the work that needs to be done in order to achieve what I wanted to achieve. This is how I tended to help other people. Before I knew it, I was helping them write bios, cover letters and resumes to help them re-position themselves to get there!

  3. How long have you been in the industry? Would you recommend it to others? Why?
  4. I just received my renewal documents this week! I have been officially certified as a resume writer since 2004 and as a career coach since 2005. I have been in the industry of human resources, though, since the mid-90’s as a trainer. The recommendation question is an interesting one. I always recommend everyone to explore their entrepreneurial side. For some, it is the best move they could ever make and they are successful; for others, they get it out of their system and return to the corporate world to figure out how to utilize their skill set. Yes, it is a great career to be in to help others crystallize and articulate their next step in their career journey. However, it is not an easy way to make a living. As a business owner, doing what you love is actually just a fraction of owning the business. Marketing and building a client base is a significant component of any business and if you don’t like doing those things, it will be a challenge for you.

  5. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
  6. I never understood this when I went through my resume certification training, I vaguely grasped the importance of it when I went through my marketing training, but after owning my own business(es) for a decade, I now totally understand it: BUILD SYSTEMS AND OPERATE YOUR BUSINESS BY THOSE SYSTEMS. When you can succinctly and with confidence operate your business, produce your product or deliver your service, your life is so much more peaceful and your business is so much more manageable. When your business is structured in a manner that flows logically, you can market it, discuss it, and sell it easier and with more confidence. One question I am asked by nearly every client during the consultation phase of the sales process is, “What is your process for writing a resume?” It makes me sound so much more competent and it makes the prospective client feel more confident, when I can walk them through a step-by-step process of what to expect. Notice I also said the “sales process.” You should promote your business and funnel those prospects through your business in a very organized system, as well.

    As for building my clients, I tried paid advertising, mailing, having tables at events, etc., but the two best ways I built my business were: “feet on the street” networking (Go out and be visible!) and speaking engagements about a topic related to career transition (in my case, I have built a very solid reputation as a LinkedIn speaker). When you are networking, don’t sell, sell, sell. Instead, listen, listen, listen. Actually offer suggestions and solutions. You may feel like you’re giving away free advice (and you learn to balance what is just enough versus too much), but in reality, you’re connecting with prospective clients and getting them hooked. I have learned that people THINK they will do things themselves, and they may even try, but once they start on something, like writing a resume, they end up recognizing that it’s worth having someone else do it. And, on my FB page, I share resume and career tips, job leads, etc. That also keeps my clients connected.

  7. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
  8. Early on, I was so desperate to get going that when someone asked me about my prices, I would state them, but then follow up quickly with, “but we can work out something…” or some such thing. Remember, just as a job helps them pay their bills, getting paid for a resume helps you pay yours. You have to remember that being a resume writer is your job and you deserve to be rewarded competitively for a job well done. State your prices, state your value proposition and then BE QUIET. When you are confident in what you offer, others will be confident that they are getting a good product and good price. If they go elsewhere, you have to be okay with that.

  9. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
  10. I would not have spent my money on sponsoring tables, doing advertisements, etc. It is just not effective. I would have developed my systems and processes faster and stuck to them.

  11. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
  12. Define your ideal customer. Actually write the characteristics of that person on paper (Professional level? College grads? Retirees returning to the workforce? Freed convicts? Very specific education or income level? Only engineers?) and then define WHY this profile is your target. Next, write down what you offer (how you validate yourself to this target). For example, you may have 25 years in retail, so your target customer is retail management professionals. Great! Your 25 years demonstrates that you “get” the retail person, can speak their lingo, and will develop a resume that will appeal to someone who hires the retail professional. It may seem like you’re limiting your opportunities, but you are actually setting yourself up as an expert and in a position to exploit a niche. You have limited bandwidth as a solo-preneur. By going narrow, you build stronger relationships and more referral opportunities than if you try to stay broad and never develop an expertise or expert status. By the way, referrals are your GOLD.

  13. How do you see our industry transforming over the next 12 months? 5 years? What do think resume writers need to know in order to survive?
  14. Because HR and hiring is going mobile, resume writers need to figure out where they fit in with helping candidates be mobile. Resume writers need to also help people define the THEMES of their careers, not just the functions of their jobs.

    Sharon DeLay is the Executive Director and a tenant at The WSBA. To learn more about her services, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

I have had the unique experience lately of mentoring a high school student as he completed his senior project at New Albany High School, and given that he's the younger brother of one of my closest friends, I've found myself in the position of "elder voice of reason". I look at this young man, and his twin sister, and so frequently think Wow, I wish I would have realized this or that when I was their age.

Granted, I'm only 10 years older than they are, however I'm continually staggered by how dumb I was when I was younger. I'm amazed at how much we learn as we age and mature, and as a business owner that only seems to be intensified. Because we're daunted with so many challenges thanks to our many roles, we're constantly learning how to become a better entrepreneur, boss, leader, strategist, and don't forget about our growth within our own fields!

Do you remember in school when your teacher would ask you to write something at the beginning of the school year, and then she'd force you to read it at the end of the year so you could judge your progress? I find myself looking back over the 4 year history of my company and, on occasion, smacking my forehead over some of the lame, unlearned, ignorant, and just plain stupid things I've done.

And that doesn't count what I did before I started Gong Gong. In between some ventures, I took a stab at running a short-lived and ill-advised business. It was incredibly niche, had high overhead, and was in a field I didn't know all that much about. What could possibly go wrong? But looking back at the situation in general and the company in specific, I still think it was a good idea and had wonderful potential.

So, what was the problem? Me.

I had ambition, I had vision, and I had desire. I can inspire the feathers off a duck if I try hard enough. But what I lacked was focus. Strategy. Any clue how I was going to turn my idea into a success. My company lasted approximately 9 months and left me in debt.

When I started Gong Gong, I was gun shy and honestly just wanted something quiet and easy that would pay the bills and that's all. Eventually, I regained my confidence and the scales fell from my eyes. An idea could only take me so far, and I needed to buckle down and work on becoming a serious business owner. I know I'm not the next Richard Branson, and I don't pretend that I have it all together, but slowly I've learned how to run a business, not just play at being an entrepreneur.

When I became involved with the Women's Small Business Accelerator last year, I was excited for so many reasons, but the education programs were what really wowed me. I see so many business owners that don't have a clue, and either don't think they need to have strategies and plans, or realize they need them but are too cheap to invest in them. And guess what? They usually fail.

The WSBA will begin its first educational program in mid-May. This first class will focus on startups (businesses up to 24 months old), who need help getting from A to B. After 6 months of classes, you'll leave with a completed business plan, marketing plan, sales plan, credit recovery plan, and a lot more. Guest lecturers (including yours truly) will help ensure you stay on track, and the supportive environment means you won't feel alone in your journey.

When talking to groups, colleagues, and friends, I've been summing up this program in two words: Game Changer.

I wish I had this program when I started my first business, and definitely when I started Gong Gong. The WSBA will eventually be launching a similar education program for businesses further along in their growth, and you can bet that I'm going to be taking part. I know first-hand how valuable this kind of investment is, and $1,500 is a drop in the bucket when you think about the dividends and ROI (not to mention saving your sanity!)

The first class is May 18th so if you're interested, be sure to sign up soon. The first few registrants get a 10% discount, so don't pass this up!

Full disclosure: Gong Gong Communications works as a service provider for the WSBA, however, we are also a happy tenant and participant in the WSBA's programs. Not to mention an unabashed supporter of anything that helps women business owners excel!

Originally posted on 4.17.2013 on http://www.gonggongcommunications.com/blog/wsba-educational-programs.html.