There must be millions of different brands in the world. And if you take the stance, as branding expert Oksana Tashakova does, that we are all brands, then there are more than 7 billion.
“Everything you do and say makes an impression on others,” she says. “You have effect. You are always sending a message.”
Ukrainian-New Zealander Ms Tashakova, 35, is the founder and managing director of Wealth Dynamics Unlimited, a training, events and e-learning company focusing on entrepreneurship.
She has just run the second annual Millionaire Summit in Dubai, where some 550 wealth-seeking attendees learnt about generating second incomes and part-time businesses, making money on the stock markets, the psychology of buying and selling and, of course, personal branding.
Ms Tashakova certainly has a strong personal brand herself. She left Ukraine at 18, unable to speak English, and moved to New Zealand, getting a degree in accounting and finance and becoming a marketing manager. She set up a $2.5 million property investment company at the tender age of 23 – then lost it and nearly went bankrupt three years later.
She became a practitioner of neurolinguistic programming and hypnotherapy, moved to Dubai in 2009, founding the coaching firms Design Life Coach a year later and Executive Coach, for business leaders, in 2013. Wealth Dynamics Unlimited was established two years ago, and the multi-tasking Ms Tashakova also consults as a business start-up strategist.
She says the UAE has a “brisk business environment” for small and medium enterprises; the Dubai Economic Department says some 22,000 were established in the emirate just last year, a leap of 18 per cent year-on-year. The sector contributes 60 per cent of the country’s GDP today, a figure expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2021, according to the Ministry of Economy.
“The government is obviously making every effort to create more avenues for entrepreneurs, facilitate their progress and turn UAE into a hub of business growth,” Ms Tashakova says.
But, she adds, while there has been “fantastic growth”, entrepreneurs have also had to face a number of challenges, particularly in terms of funding.
“Contrary to popular belief, successful entrepreneurs don’t just make a leap of faith and come up with handfuls of gold,” she says, which is why branding will help an aspiring entrepreneur to understand what they have to offer.
“Then you must do your research, testing and validating your idea to figure out whether there really is a market for your business,” she says, adding that you don’t need to leave your job to become an entrepreneur or decide which avenue to take.
If you work as a property manager, write a guide for buyers or other property managers. If you work as a teacher, write a monetised blog for other teachers or parents. If you love to shop, partner with someone to create an app for sales at big stores. “Can you create a course or get paid to speak or write about a topic? Is there a recruiting or sales process you might create, patent and sell?”
Even once you have a solid idea for a new business, she advises entrepreneurs not to rush into it full-time. Create a website or even just a landing page, launch a Kickstarter campaign, create a prototype and get people to test it, conduct surveys on social networks or write a free e-book to gauge interest. “This research becomes a mini- launch for your business; it is how you build interest and a client base before you quit.”
The world, says this entrepreneurial educator, is “Vuca” – that’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This was a US military acronym used to describe the global landscape and the type of strategic leadership needed, co-opted by the private sector after the 2008 financial crisis.
“It so well describes the business environment today. The Vuca world requires businesses to be agile and constantly innovating and evolving. It requires leaders to have emotional intelligence, magnified networking skills, open minds and out-of-the-box thinking.”
There are also many ways to create passive income streams – rental properties, affiliate adverts on your website, how-to guides.
“But before you can successfully build your business outwards, you must understand and strengthen the core value of your brand,” Ms Tashakova insists. “Branding is what helps you – and others – understand your value.
“The most important part of personal branding is taking self-inventory. You often have to dig deep to get to the real you. Once you understand the unique constellation of characteristics that make you, you can begin amplifying your most important attributes. Manage your brand online and in real time, making sure that all you do build your brand.”
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