Sandra Hughes, founder of Life Reinvented®, gets to the heart of what it takes for solopreneurs
to succeed in business and life. This speaker, author and encore entrepreneur shares her own
journey and advice on how to integrate your work and life in a way that lights you up every day.
building for-profit and nonprofit businesses and juggling her family life, she didn’t have time for
graduate school. Then, she decided to start her own business, earned an MBA from Santa Clara
University and founded Life Reinvented at age 50.
Her Life Reinvented® Solopreneur Accelerator helps people gain traction in their business
through highly effective work and life success strategies. Sandra’s pragmatic approach to
leadership applies to anyone seeking greater personal and financial success. She says when you
live your core values – the intersection of your life and work values – and then unleash your
superpower or differentiator, people see and appreciate your uniqueness.
Sandra emphasizes it’s important to be strategic and intentional about your success. Identify
and connect with your ideal clients through Meetup groups and other networking events.
Perform a customer discovery process for product/market fit by asking the right people the
right questions, analyze the data and finetune your offer.
Remember, a life reinvented means that where you start and where you end up may be
different than you expected. Sandra’s company can help you take control of your own happiness and success.
What is Fearless Growth with Amanda Setili?
We all want to do work we love, and as leaders, entrepreneurs and employees, wouldn’t it be great to create workplaces where work feels like play?
Where people are tuned in to changes going on in the world around them? Where they’re constantly learning, spotting new opportunities, and taking action to go after them? These traits are essential to an organization's agility and success.
In the Fearless Growth podcast, Amanda Setili and her guests explore the mindsets and choices that lead individuals, leaders and their organizations to outstanding performance.
Amanda Setili 1 (00:04):
Today. My guest is Sandra Hughes Hughes. Sandra Hughes is the founder of life reinvented. She is a solo preneur accelerator. She shows solopreneurs how to optimize their business gain, traction to grow. And most importantly, she helps them integrate their work with their life. Thanks for joining me today, Sandra Hughes.
Sandra Hughes 2 (00:28):
Oh, it's a pleasure, Amanda Setili. Thank you for having me.
Amanda Setili 1 (00:32):
One of the things that I forgot to mention as I introduced you is I was really impressed when I heard that you had meetup groups I guess spread throughout the country or the world that have 8,000 members. That's really cool.
Sandra Hughes 2 (00:46):
Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's, it's been a process and it's a great community. Yeah.
Amanda Setili 1 (00:53):
Yeah. And I, I was fascinated by the fact that you said using meetups as a really good way to test your market, to test your message, to test whether you're attracting the right people. So anything you can share about how to do that would be fascinating. Like what would I do if I just wanted to, if I had a new business idea and I wanted to use a meetup strategy to test it, how would I do that?
Sandra Hughes 2 (01:19):
Well, the, the first thing that you would do is you, you gotta have an understanding of who you're going to target and so you would determine who you're going to target and what the topic is going to be. And then and where, and see if you have a good sense of where those people might be in, in a in a demographic, in a large metropolitan area look at the demographics of the area and see where those people would be, and then set up the group in that area and start to offer events and offer events based around your area of expertise and offer educational events as well as networking events. And the educational events are something where you can offer some free information that educates people within your subject area. And also at the end of it, you can make an offer to have a discussion with them.
Sandra Hughes 2 (02:24):
If they're interested in talking to you about about what you do further. But, and during that event, you can have some questions and answers so that you can get the, the audience engaged and get a sense of what it is they're really looking for, because a huge benefit to using meetup as a platform to hone in on who your target market is, is to be able to get that data, to be able to ask questions see whether what you're presenting is really landing, or if they're looking for something else get to know people and also to build your positioning in that market. And so, and people love to be engaged. So I highly recommend if you do an educational event, have some engagements in there, and then also hold hosted networking events because then you are providing a service to to people and they are appreciative of that, that they're getting to know other people in the group and and meet other resources.
Sandra Hughes 2 (03:34):
And the other interesting or good thing about this is that when you have your meetup group and you set up the registration link, whether it's through zoom, which I usually use, or you can use other platforms like event bright you capture email addresses. And then in there you can say to, when you're doing your event description, say to people, you know by signing up for this event, you're agreeing that I can have your email address and that I can put you on my list. Now you have to worry about that privacy issue, but it's a way to capture email addresses and to stay in touch with the participants and you know, send them your newsletter or invite them to other things. So it's it provides a lot of really good a really good ability to test the market. But then also once you have you know, you're clear as to your message and, and who you're attracting then also to potentially enroll clients.
Amanda Setili 1 (04:48):
So if I were to do this, or if anyone were to do this, you, how, how do I how do people find me? Are there people just browsing around meetup looking for things that might interest them? Are they using search terms? So you need to make sure to use the right search terms, or can you somehow latch onto other beat ups and attract the same kind of people that they're attracting
Sandra Hughes 2 (05:13):
When you're first starting out, it's, it's really, you know, you're going to be setting up a group in an area, in a major metropolitan area or in, in a local town, wherever you set the group up, it's going to attract people from that area. And, and so it will show up. And eventually if you have enough groups, if you have enough if you continue to offer enough events on a regular basis, cause that's the other thing you have to, once you commit to this, you have to do events regularly because that will keep people engaged. And the more you do the, the more you know, the, the higher it will show up in, in Google search for events in your area, that's
Amanda Setili 1 (06:02):
Really neat. So one of the things that's interesting about the pandemic is that everything has become non localized, cause you can join anything from anywhere. So does meetup have a capability to attract a niche market with no geographic boundaries at all?
Sandra Hughes 2 (06:20):
Not really. You do have to have you do have to plug in a city, you know, a specific zip code. And then it attracts from 50 miles around that zip code. So that's why I have, that's one of the reasons I have so many groups I have, I started all my groups in the bay area and through the pandemic I grew across the country. And it really, I mean, one of the things that I'm going to start doing now is to provide more localized activities for people in the areas, in which my groups are like because I want them to meet locally, even though I'm not physically there with them. So I'm going to start doing kind of localized networking events in those areas because I just want to continue to serve and and, and, and give people opportunities now that things are kind of hybrid.
Sandra Hughes 2 (07:19):
You know, some things are open and some things are, are not. So but one of the things that's really important when you do, when you set up a group is to pay attention to the, the, the tags, the which are your which they're the, the things that meet up, asks you to identify that are the types of things that you were psychographic or information that you were potential attendees might be interested in. So you, you can basically paint the picture of who your potential audience will be based upon the the, the, the categories that you choose. Like they've got a category for African-American entrepreneurs or professional networking, or women's empowerment or women's network. You can, you can go through and look at all of those, and you get a maximum of 15 categories that you can choose. And it you're basically giving a full picture of who your potential client could be in terms of what their likes are, what their interests are, and that's who you're going to attract. It's, it's, it's a little bit it's a bit a process to understand how it all works, but it's, it's really interesting. And it's just one of the ways that I I I attract people, but it's also a huge way that I have tested when I went through customer discovery, when I was starting my business,
Amanda Setili 1 (09:16):
Are there any things that you can point to that you thought would be good positioning for yourself, which turned out to be actually not effective for you, either in terms of people didn't want it, or you found out you really didn't enjoy it that much, or it wasn't a good fit with your skills?
Sandra Hughes 2 (09:33)
Well, it's interesting because this brings up a really good point. Amanda Setili, thank you for bringing it up because so I'm an Encore entrepreneur. I started my business when I was in my fifties, after I got out of graduate school. And so I've been in business for six years now, and I actually one of the things I want people to understand is that where you start and where you end up are going to be very different. And you figure that out by going through this customer discovery process, which a lot of people do not do. So one of the things that I I'll use myself as an example, when I got out of graduate school, even though I had just gotten my MBA and my superpower, my thing, my, the thing that sets me apart is that I'm a business builder and an exponentially forward business forward-thinking business builder.
Sandra Hughes 2 (10:23):
So I'm the type of person who can help people see what's possible in their, in their growing business. So, but that, wasn't what I chose to do when I was starting my business, because I was going through major life transitions and I wanted to help everybody do that. So, and I'd also gotten a coaching certification. So I started out helping people through major life transitions, and I ended up helping people with their businesses. So what, so I pivoted, and and in that process, I also realized that there is this, this very necessary need to recognize the integration between life and work and how we, you know, they're not mutually exclusive. Sometimes you dial area one area of your life up or down. And when you know, to accommodate work and then sometimes you'd dial work up or down to accommodate life, but they're integrated.
Sandra Hughes 2 (11:23):
And so how can we show up in a way that in our leadership and our life and our work that allows us to succeed. And that was the, the, the the beginning of life reinvented my brand, which is all about helping people find success high, highly effective success strategies in their work and their life as they're building their business and they're going about their lives. So I started in one place. I ended up someplace else, but I ended up in that way because those were the people that were showing up. And I was looking at the data and you have to do that. You have to get yourself out there, you have to test the market. You have to look at the data and then be willing to pivot when the data suggests something other than what you started with. So you've got to keep an open
Amanda Setili 1 (12:20):
Mind. So I would imagine some people get intimidated by the word data, because they think you would have to have hundreds of, you know, examples or something, which it sounds like with meetup, you actually can get some good data, because you could see whether 50 people show up for an event or two people show up for an event. So that would be pretty glaring, but some people, you know, might only have five clients or, you know six different projects or something. So what does data mean for someone like that? Or how, how do you think about data and how do you get people to understand that data can be a conversation? Or maybe you're, maybe you're not thinking of it that way.
Sandra Hughes 2 (13:01):
Yeah, no, I'm totally thinking of it that way, but I also want to go back to the meetup example for, for one thing. So, so one of the things that we have to recognize is that we have to go where our audiences, okay. So when you use something like meetup, it is it's everybody, it's everybody from an end to really, you know, find the right people could be very time-consuming and very difficult. It is one place to focus on as you're doing your customer discovery. And it's really useful for a lot of different things, but it's not your only place. So whatever entry point into your sales funnel you use, whether you use meetup, which is great, but not to be totally dependent upon whether you do speaking events, you know, get out there and start talking to to chambers of commerce or groups that you're affiliated with, or how, whatever you do to get yourself out there.
Sandra Hughes 2 (14:04):
Whether you go to networking events and you tell people what you do and you get, you know, connect, you get some, some good connections there, and you have followup phone calls and you you, you do that. You've got to have multiple entry points into your funnel. And I don't want to just focus on one. So anyway, those are some examples of entry points into your sales funnel, whatever you do to meet people, you, you have that conversation, you make that connection, you have that conversation, you get to know the person and you really, you're really curious. You really find out about them, find out their story, find why they're challenged, find out why they're challenged specifically in the area that you can serve them in because that's going to be key, have those conversations. So you can start to have conversations with people that you meet in all of those places that come in through your sales funnel to start gathering information about what people are looking for.
Sandra Hughes 2 (15:14):
Okay. That's what you're trying to find. So have that through conversation through those entry points, into your sales funnel, and when you figure out what it is people are actually looking for, and you see that common thread, then you can message your product or service in such a way that addresses that want, okay. So that's, that's one thing. The second thing is that when you're talking about data, going back to the data question, so many people, especially if they have been in business for awhile, but it's, they're not gaining traction, don't go back and look at their past clients. What it was that brought them to you. What brought them to you? What did you do for them? That's what I'm talking about in terms of data. And you can even go back and survey them, have conversations with them, with a list of questions and say, you know, what was it that actually brought you to me?
Sandra Hughes 2 (16:19):
And what was it that actually was the most profound effect that I had on your business or, or the, the most important thing that you, that you got out of working with me, because oftentimes what we think it is and what it actually is, is not the same. So you've got to ask people and the ideal time to ask it is when you finish working with them, they give you a testimonial and you get all of that information, but gather, you can, you can go back and ask them. And, you know after the fact and, and just have a conversation, but, but that's the kind of data I'm talking about. So it's not like just numbers and calculating and analysis. It's really tangible evidence of what it was that you were able to. What what check, what change were you able to affect? What benefit were you able to provide? What, what was it, and, and just gather that because you will see a common thread and then you can continue to emphasize that particular part of your product or service, and to also message accordingly.
Amanda Setili 1 (17:35):
I once had a marketing consultant interview, 10 of my clients and ask them some of these questions. What was the differentiator? What did Amanda Setili do that nobody else can do? And it was really helpful to have someone a third party go and do that, because I think that they might say some things that I would just have too much of a filter as I was listening, or I would steer them in a certain direction, but just having a third party who doesn't know any of the facts go in and ask them can be really, really, really helpful. And I would imagine that some of your people in your community could buddy up with each other, you know, you asked my clients, I'll ask yours and then we can advise each other. That would be an interesting process.
Sandra Hughes 2 (18:18):
That that would be, that would be a really good idea. I actually have somebody. So I've got so part of having an accelerator or, or Y what I call an Excel. So, so let me, let me back up a section or a second. So I've got people that I have as resources that I ask them to do that kind of interviewing for my clients, for example. So in the, the whole purpose of, of what I do, and I, the reason I call it an accelerator is that it's, it's giving startup, it's giving solopreneurs the benefits that a startup would have in terms of how to frame things, how to build the foundations how to do the customer discovery and how to enter the market in a very intentional way. So that's why my business is an accelerator. And and in doing that, I provide what I provide, but I also have collaboration partners who are really good at what they do, who come in and you know, do that kind of interviewing if it's required, who help people with their financial analysis who help people with digital their digital strategy.
Sandra Hughes 2 (19:42):
So for larger clients, I have that kind of resource for people that are just starting out. I can advise them as to ways, like you just mentioned to how to get people that they know to help them do something like that. If you want an unbiased third party, but honestly, for people that are just starting out or have been in business for a little while and have had clients, I, I suggest that if you just come up with that list of questions and just ask them the questions, and then, and then look at the data you, you won't be making judgements while you're having the conversation. Just stick to the questions because the filter won't, you know, but there are different ways to go about it, but but you're right there, there are you can get people to help, you know, colleagues and friends and others to help.
Sandra Hughes 2 (20:39):
Can I just bring something up as I'm saying this, because this is something really huge that I really would like to convey to people when you are starting out or when you're gathering information, or when you're sharing with people that are not in the, the, the, they could be friends, family, you know you, you you're like asking people, what do you think, please be careful about asking, you know, the right people in, in terms of sometimes when we ask people who aren't on board with us, then we end up going down a rabbit hole based upon the answer that we're given. So one of the things that I ask people is to be very careful about crowdsourcing and be very intentional about who you reach out to, to get feedback about something, because you're not necessarily looking for somebody that totally agrees with you, but you're looking with, for somebody who has a sense of where you're coming from, what you're looking to achieve and will guide you or give feedback or something on that level, as opposed to somebody that knows you really well, who has your best interest at heart, but might not be really
Amanda Setili 1 (22:04):
Helpful. Yeah. W what I've found most helpful is as someone who's actually worked with me in a difficult situation and who, I just really loved working with like a client, that's just like a fantastic client, because that's the kind of people you want to attract more of, right? Yes.
Sandra Hughes 2 (22:24):
Yes. So that's very true. And, you know, one of the things, so you just brought up something interesting, which I I want to touch on. So those are the clients that you want to attract, and you've, you've resonated with them. You've had a great relationship. You've had, it was, it was fun. You've you, you appreciate that. And you want to have more of that. Well, the way to get more of that is to really like dive deep and figure out about yourself, about your superpower, what sets you apart? What's your unique value proposition, whether your values. So, because when you're trying to attract your ideal clients, there's a values residents and people, people hone in on who you are, how you stand, you know, how you stand out, what your messages and your message should include that, that those values so that people can see what you stand for. And those are the people that are going to be attracted to you. So it's on a very simple level right now. I just want to throw that out there to just find that values resonance,
Amanda Setili 1 (23:34):
Right. Are there any examples that you have of someone who thought their values were X, but they were really why? Because they hadn't really thought about it that much, or maybe they were just being too simplistic or superficial, or
Sandra Hughes 2 (23:49):
Now not, not really, because what what's, what's really interesting is that I take people through an exercise of having them identify their life, values, their work values, and then where they intersect, what are their core values, and that's what I'm looking for. And so what ends up happening is that when they identify their core values, there's this aha of, oh, you know, this really is what I feel like deep down, and I want that reflected in my work. So that becomes part of how they message who they are. And when they do that, then there's just this amplification of of, of who they are so that, you know, that kind of, that, that turns, turns up the the volume and people start showing up because they're like really standing in who they are. Totally. Right. Does that make sense?
Amanda Setili 1 (24:56):
Yeah, I thought that was a really interesting thing that we discussed the other day, which was people don't realize how powerful it is for your values to resonate with another person where you just go. Yeah. Yeah. I really think that too, like if only people would do X, that would be great, but whatever it is, values are very important and values can include things like you know, a love of analyzing things or a love of you know, nature, whatever it is. When you find someone who really clicks with you, that's why I often ask for referrals, or I always try to ask for referrals from my favorite clients, because, and I just say a lot of, it's just a chemistry thing, you know, you know, why you and I get along and you'll probably be able to refer me to other people who would just really appreciate the way I think, and I would really appreciate the way they think. And so please help me with that and they're happy to do it right.
Sandra Hughes 2 (25:58):
And, and it is that value as resonance. It, it totally is. I mean, so, so just think of it because the, this, so then the expands, the expansion of this is figuring out your superpower, you know, which is a little bit more than that, which is your unique value proposition, your differentiator. And so you take your core values and then you expand upon that and figure out what it is about you that transcends your life and your work that really is core to you and, and is your personal differentiator. And then you stand in that and you also stand in your, your leadership in your life and your work and show as that empowered leader with that skillset, with those core values. And once you've got all of that in alignment, and you stand in that, it's, it's amazing, the amplification that you get in terms of being able to attract your ideal clients.
Sandra Hughes 2 (27:03):
And so that's, that's what I asked solopreneurs to really focus on at the very beginning, or when I'm, I tend to work mostly with people who are not gaining traction or who are really successful, but are going to pivot. And what we do is we go through this reset process of really diving deep in themselves, really building up that superpower. And then from that place, looking at their business and with this new lens, it's so amazing as to what's possible. And they see things they hadn't seen before, because they're looking at it with this new lens. But I want to also emphasize that if people are, are working for somebody else, you know, in a company or this whole idea of that values residents is so important because when we go to work with, for a company or even we use a company's product, we're looking at their mission statement, which, which represents, you know, what their values are.
Sandra Hughes 2 (28:06):
And if we were go to work for a company and we're, we look at the mission statement and we're thinking, yeah, this is who I want to work for. And then we go in there and we have, we see the company culture, and we see what they're about. And there's that resonance, it's a values resonance. And that's what really clicks for us. And then we go in and work on a team. And the teams that are most successful is, are those that have that values alignment, and each person stands in their skillset, but there's this values resonance across the team that everybody really is approaching things and, and, and going in the same direction. And they all, you know, are really, there's a synergy. And when people leave companies and an entire team, you know, will follow somebody it's because they figured out that resonance and they all work really well together and why, and there, you know, and, and there's, there's that, but when some, when there's a disconnect in somebody is unhappy in their job and they're stopping to think, well, you know, I'm not happy anymore. Oftentimes it's a values disconnect between either the person that they're working with the team, or something's happened with the the company. So before there's like this, oh, I have to leave my job. There's really, this need to go through that. You know, what, where is there a values disconnect, and really try to address that. And
Amanda Setili 1 (29:41):
You enter address it very explicitly. You can say what, because I think that values really only come into play when you're making a tough decision. Like, should we, should we treat the situation this way or that way, that's where values become very important. And so making the values concrete in terms of how we make decisions around here is something that is something that you can, it's a problem. You can solve it. You can't always solve it. Sometimes you have to leave and go to another company or work for somebody different. But many times it's something that you can just work through with another individual or a team of people that's really valuable. Well, Sandra Hughes, it has been so enlightening talking to you. I've got so many good ideas, and I hope that everyone who listens to this podcast goes out and starts a meet up group to test their tests, their market, and looks at the data and talks to their clients to see how people are thinking of them. And what's the most valuable, and also thinks through their values and how their values resonate with the people that they most like to work with. And how would someone get in touch with you or learn more about your work or just learn from you if they would like to do that?
Sandra Hughes 2 (31:00):
Well, to get in touch with me, I, you can you can contact me at chat, Sandra Hughes.com and set up a coffee chat. If just to get to know one another, I'd be happy to do that. I'm very open to having conversations. My website is life reinvented.com. And you can also reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn. Very
Amanda Setili 1 (31:28):
Good. And so your LinkedIn has, I, I searched Sandra Hughes Hughes and I noticed there's a lot of other ones. What keyword could they put in Sandra Hughes who's life reinvented? I think they land right on you. So that'll be very good. Well, thank you so much for being my guest today. Sandra Hughes, I've learned a lot and I think our audience will too.
Sandra Hughes 2 (31:49):
Oh, you're most welcome. Thank you for inviting me, Amanda Setili.