Biz Bites with Simran Kaur from Girls that Invest: How to build a community, market your business and all things social media.

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Show Notes

The third episode of Biz Bites features Simran Kaur (you will know her as one of the co-founders of the Girls That Invest podcast and the global media empire). We chat everything from social media, how to build a community (from the queen of community building herself), how to start and build a mission-driven business and successful marketing tactics. Our Snappy Snippets feature business owners changing the world with their enterprises and some big questions around what they are superstars at! No intros, no waffle (okay, well not much), just helpful snappy answers to help you build your businesses!

Simran Kaur:

Our sister podcast is called 'Now, That's What I Call Green'.


Brianne: One sentence, what does Girls That Invest do? And I know you do this really well.

Simran: Girls That Invest is a media company that specialises in helping women and minorities understand financial literacy, understand stock market. It's just de-jargoning a very confusing landscape. I knew that Girls That Invest was gonna be something that we needed to do when, particularly in March 2020, the stock market dropped, and if you were financially literate, you saw it as, oh, just kind of another day. We have ups and downs. This is not abnormal. If anything, let's invest a little bit more money. I don't need to be moving my KiwiSaver around. And then I turned up at work, and I remember people saying that they'd moved from an aggressive to a conservative fund, and they'd solidified their losses. And I just remember the fear mongering on social media and the news. It made me realize, even though I was surrounded by very intelligent, very capable people, a lot of us were new grads that had just started our first full-time jobs, the lack of financial literacy meant that people were making poor money decisions. That's when I realised that education in itself is not actually enough to know what to do with your money, and we need specific knowledge around it.

Brianne: Yeah, it is just not something that is taught and I hope that changes at school because my parents are not financially literate and I only am now because of work and business. So how did you take those first few steps? What did you do?

Simran: I am definitely a go-getter. I think if someone had to describe me in like one word, it's just someone that gets things done. And so for me, the idea came about and within, I'd say, a day or two, I was like, right, let's come up with a name. Let's think about where people are and let's think about what we can offer. And for me, that was, it was almost like an upside down triangle. And at the bottom of the triangle was, well, we should probably offer some sort of incentive. Is it good? I don't know what it's going to look like. Maybe it might be a book or a webinar or a course or workshops or something that we can do. That's the bottom of the triangle. Well, to get people to get there, not everyone's going to be either able to or can afford to have the time or energy to invest in something like that. Let's have something that's more general and broad, that still gives them as much free resource and content and education as possible. And so we were weighing up between a YouTube channel and a podcast. And we went with podcast because we kind of laughed and said that we had the face for podcasts and we also decided that it would be a good way to start because with a podcast, you're actually not investing that much into this. You just need a good microphone, which actually we didn't even have, but you're not having to set up a video camera and do your hair and makeup or whatever it is that you need to do. It's a very low effort way of beginning something. Then at the very top of this upside down triangle, the biggest portion was, well, no one's going to search up a podcast on money. So where do we reach everyday people that could benefit from learning these skills? And that was where everyone was, which was social media. And so that's why I made an Instagram account. I made a Facebook group because back then in 2020, Facebook was still alive and somewhat thriving. Added all my friends and family.

It was very embarrassing, but I still remember one friend on the first day messaging me and going, you've done it again. Like, how did you know that I was interested in investing in the share market?

Brianne: A lot of action, myself included, a lot of action oriented people just go and do stuff. They don't lay out why the reasons that they did something. So the fact that you talk about why the podcast, because it's a sort of easy access-ish. And then where you look for people is a thing that people don't consider. They just do these things because they think they should do them. They don't think about why. Should I be on Instagram? Should I be on Facebook? Should I be on all of these goddamn social platforms? Where are my people gonna be? It's constantly keep trying to be the thing to think about. So it's really interesting.

Simran: It is really interesting. And I think when I see, oh, I look back to, well, why did it grow? Why did it become quite popular? I think it actually comes down to the naivety of my mindset. And you hear this a lot, like business owners was so naive. Will always say when I first began, I don't know, I didn't weigh up, I didn't make a pros and cons list of like, YouTube versus a podcast, which would be better, where should I put my time, because the analysis paralysis, when you have too many data points, means that you get less done to not know enough and go, I could read a few articles on how to record a podcast, I can download this free software, and podcasts might not have been the best option, maybe we would have been even bigger if we had gone down the YouTube route. But the idea is at least we chose one and went for it.

Brianne: Thinking 10 years, 5 years knowing you, into the future, what is the ultimate goal?

Simran: The ultimate goal I think is to have the one-stop shop where someone goes, I'm interested in improving my money and that Girls That Invest is able to help them in that, whether that is free content, whether that is paid content, whether that is a one-on-one or just something that they can feel like a part of. When I remember my journey of beginning in personal finance and when I was studying finance, I was looking for communities online or in person because I think when we begin a very life-changing or habit-changing journey, whether that's like fitness or finance, you want to find like-minded people and you want to feel supported because it's not easy. It is not easy going to the gym every single day, but if you have a community of other people doing it and you're seeing them every day, you're going to be more motivated. The same with finances. No one goes, I'm terrible with money. I'm going to quickly snap out of it and be good with it, you still need support, you still need change and to have a community to do that is so important. So, we have a great online community. I think the next step is taking that off the screens and actually putting that into place in the real world, as some people say.

Brianne: People struggle to build community. They can build followers and they get excited about the number of followers they have, but community is the key. What are your top tips?

Simran: I'm glad that you asked this question. I think if I have one skill set that I can, you know, put my Hand up and say this is why things work is I'm very good at building communities, Girls That Invest has not been my first. When I was younger, I built another online community it grew to a very large following we had celebrities follow it and it was very engaged and I think my top three things is have a mission that everyone is so clear about. If you say, hey, I am this brand and my mission is to help more women and minorities learn about investing, that is very clear. People know what they're there for. If you say, hey, we want to help people get better with money, that's a cool mission. It's a noble mission, but it's not really specific enough and it doesn't really make people feel like they're being chosen to be a part of this. It's just like come in if you want. It's kind of like an invitation to a party where someone says, you know, if you want to come in, you can. You're less likely to go. Whereas someone looks at you and says, “are you a woman or a minority that does not invest? Come here.” That is a much stronger mission and a stronger invitation and you're going to get more pull. I think the second thing with missions and with community building is you've got to be very vulnerable and authentic. If you can say, this is my journey and these are all the things I did right and all the things I did wrong, people are more likely to trust you and go, okay, she's actually or he's actually a human too. This is more for companies or brands that have a very strong founder story or founder wants to be front-facing, but I find that that has made such a difference when you can put a face and a story and a person. The fact that our brand has quirks and little side offsets of girls that invest, but they also really love skincare and they'll talk about that sometimes and tie that in with investing. I think that really helps. I think the third thing to build a community, which I hate saying this because I hate when people say it to me, it's just a time game. It's just a consistency game. We told ourselves we're going to do it for 12 months. It was so embarrassing at the start making content for, like, the three followers that we had. But you have to give that same energy as if you had three followers or 100,000 followers on social media. You have to turn up the same every single day and the people will come if you keep the first two pillars up, the idea of having a strong mission and being consistent and being vulnerable.

Brianne: I love that you say it's embarrassing because a lot of people keep saying, I don't want to post on social media because I'm embarrassed. My friends and family will see it and they'll laugh at me. If they laugh at you, they suck, so who cares? But everybody feels that way starting out and it's really refreshing to hear that because they can't even imagine having three followers. It's very hard to imagine.

Simran: It was three followers. I still remember them. One was a friend, one was a random person, one was a family member and the friend I hadn't spoken to in years and I was like, why are you here? Why is it happening?

Brianne: How do you embed that purpose, that mission into the business?

Simran: I think saying it constantly and having it front-facing and having it be almost something that you keep referring to to yourself will reflect in the work that you do. And so, for example, if we ever came up with, so we do a lot of content creation because I think content creation is a really good way to give bite-sized pieces of information about a wider topic. And so, let's say something topical happens. An example could be the Olympics or the Met Gala or the King's Coronation that happened recently. You can tie those pieces of information with what your mission is about. For example, talking about the fact that XYZ happened, or even speaking on this terrible thing happened where a woman was not able to leave a certain situation. Imagine what would have happened if she didn't have financial literacy. Imagine the different outcomes for our mothers if they were able to say, I've got taxi money, I can leave wherever I want. By taking things that are almost every day and bringing them back to your mission, you show the importance of what you do impacts every aspect of your life. And so someone might think, well, okay, it's fantastic that your mission is about financial literacy, but this is such a small subset of a person's life. By going, well, actually, no, money affects the health outcomes you get. If you have more money in your bank account, you are going to get that knee surgery a lot quicker, and definitely a lot quicker compared to the public system in New Zealand. If you can afford even turning up to a GP in a higher socioeconomic area, you are more likely to be referred for the same problem than if you went to a much more stressed out, run down clinic that was behind by three hours and had a very, you know, lower decile rating. That's a completely different story. Money affects the education you get. It affects all these different areas of your life. So to say that it doesn't is unfair. So you're able to tie this mission constantly back to all these different points and suddenly it doesn't seem like a little small thing anymore.

Brianne: So on the flip side, for businesses that are trying to do or they have started the more established and are trying to retrofit mission and vision and purpose in. What are the pitfalls they should avoid?

Simran: I think it is very easy as a consumer to see when a mission is being rebranded for the right reasons or when it just feels like something that should be done. I think as a business you've got to be so careful to make sure how authentic is this coming across? Are we slapping on something without the actions behind it to drive it? And if I was in charge of your business and you were rebranding and redoing your mission, I would not be radio silent and then suddenly drop a bomb and announce it and everything changes. I would be drip-feeding. In Gen Z language, I would be soft-launching my mission. I would be doing things that showed that we were actually making active changes towards the mission before I even announced the change in our mission. Because you're going to have people go, well, they're walking the walk. If they really care about X, Y, Z, they've actually done things to show this journey. Because you're probably doing, excuse me, you're probably doing a lot of work behind the scenes, but consumers don't see that. They just see the final product. And allowing people to come on the journey of you sharing the mission is gonna be a lot more effective than, hey, this has changed.

Brianne: And I mean, that's true of everything social media at the moment, isn't it? Bring people along on the journey. I'm forever telling people who say, I'm not ready for social media yet. I'm not ready, I'm not ready to launch this. Doesn't matter. Depending on your brand and what you want to achieve with it, you should be bringing people along with you so they understand and get invested in the idea.

Simran: Oh, absolutely. If anything, that has been our biggest asset, having people go, we saw this go from a thousand followers to however many you have now. Those are going to be people that are invested forever.

Brianne: That was part of the reason I think Ethique was so successful in the early days was that community and particularly around the shareholding and the crowdfunding, which I cannot wait to do again. So how do you fund yourself?

Simran: I say this to people all the time, I let my 9 to 5 be my first investor. And so I basically kept my job until I had enough money from Girls That Invest to fund my salary and my colleagues' salary. And so the idea behind it was make it a very lean business. And that was not by choice, it was something we had to do, but it meant that rather than waiting until we could afford the best podcast equipment, for example, we bought $200 microphones, got free software, and put in a lot of our time in the weekends outside of, you know, work hours, trying to learn how to edit things ourselves rather than hiring an editor because we couldn't afford one, for example. And we did that for a year and a half before we decided to start doing, well, before we decided to work with other brands and work with Sharesies, that was our first partner, and that was very intentional. For me, if you're going to be a media company and you're gonna speak on something so taboo like money, you need to show, or maybe in better words, earn your stripes and show a level of authenticity, consistency, show that you're not just there to make a quick money grab. When you have people's trust because you've been doing it consistently for so long, it just means it's a lot easier to have high engagement. Our very first and only product that we sell, when we first sold it, we thought maybe we'll get 10 people jumping in on this. We had 500 people sign in. And that was just purely because of the high levels of engagement by slowly building it up over time. When you don't have external funding, you become a very resourceful founder. And a resourceful founder, in my opinion, is one of the best kind of founders.

Brianne: Agree to all of that. And I think the businesses that we should celebrate are those that have not raised. And I appreciate not every industry can, but I think the businesses we need to celebrate are the ones like Spanx or MailChimp that literally bootstrap to where they are, give or take. What is your number one tip for someone who wants to start a mission-led business?

Simran: My number one tip in 2023 is to jump on TikTok. And I know you might be thinking, this does not apply to me, Simran. I run a consulting agency. Like, this would not work. Hear me out. There is a huge benefit in being in the place where everyone is, and you can still create a very high quality powerful brand without cheapening it because I know a lot of people listening and we'll go TickTock I am NOT going to be dancing on there like my brand. I don't want to cheapen it. I have friends now that if they want to go eat at a restaurant, if they're looking for things to do, they will not Google those anymore. They will search them on TikTok. And that is absolutely insane to me. Rather than going, I want to buy a watch or I want to find out like a good accountant, they jump on TikTok and they search up accountants Auckland. And that's fantastic. You don't have to know what you're doing, but to have a presence there, to find people that do similar things to you, there's a TikTok for everyone. And this is a very unusual number one tip, but it will pay dividends. A good example of this was in Australia, they've recently announced their shark tanks, the shark tanks, the sharks, the shark tank. And one of them was the founder of Showpo, which is a online retailer for women's clothing. She got on there because two years ago, she decided to jump on TikTok, create a personal brand, just share her behind the scenes. I think she called herself the Lazy CEO. And because her personal brand grew so strongly, she's had these opportunities. No one would have said, you know what, ShowPo is a fantastic brand, let's get the founder of that on, without seeing her constantly. Because when you're there, you're in people's minds and the amount of opportunities that turn up will just blow you out of the water.

Brianne: Favourite tip. Yep. I nag every single one of my mentees about getting on TikTok. What is the one action you'd want people to take away?

Simran: The one action I want people to take away is to sit down and write down the worst case scenario and the best case scenario for the thing that you know you need to be doing but have not yet done. Because often we over inflate the worst case scenario and we really undersell the best case scenario. And oftentimes you'll realise your worst case scenario is you'll end up right where you are right now. Your worst case scenario is you try that next step, it didn't work, and you end back where you are today. Is that really that bad? Sometimes you might end up a little bit further back financially or energy-wise or strain, but you're not that far off. Your best case scenario is your life completely changes or you make such an impact on the world or you do things that you are so insanely proud of that you never thought that you could achieve. And so suddenly your risk that you're taking on has a much greater reason to take on. I remember when I was going through this I thought, gosh I really go in all on this like I've got a really stable nine-to-five job and I really enjoy it and do I really quit my job after working 18 months? Like this is insanity. I've spent five years studying for this and then I had to look at my best case and worst case scenario. My worst case was I come back to this job, they'll probably hire me again. The best case was I could make a little dent in the world and you know had I not I would never would have known and it's really helpful if you have anxiety. It really helps because then you ask yourself, well, what's the most likely scenario? And the most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. It's never always the worst case. I heard Christiana once say that she has a notepad next to her bedside table so when she wakes up and has the exact same thing, she just writes it out. She's like, it's out. I'll sort it out in the morning.

Brianne: That's annoyingly helpful too.

Simran: That's annoyingly helpful. Damn it, Christiana.

Brianne: What's your number one most successful marketing tactic?

Simran: My number one most successful marketing tactic is making sure that people come along on the journey. I have never shared a product, a launch, a campaign, a newsletter, and anything without again like micro-dressing it or soft launching it or bringing it up in conversation. You'll see a lot of really successful founder-facing companies do this, but they'll go, hey, I've got two lip gloss options, colour A and colour B, which one do you guys like? And they'll put it on their story. And lo and behold, next week, the one that was chosen comes out. If you have taken a second to just like one of them. You have been part of the journey and you are more connected to that experience, you're more connected to that campaign and you feel like you've actually been listened to as opposed to being told to go out and grab something. We see that a lot. We will ask our community everything and anything. I think for them to know that they've got a brand that listens to them. It creates such a high level of engagement. I would never share something without asking how we could tweak it, whether it's a book cover, whether it's the name of a show, whether it's the colours that we use. People love to be a part of things. We're social creatures. We love to be connected. We love to have a say. We love our opinions. And why not work with that instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on focus groups when you’ve got free focus groups online?

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