Beth Carr is the CEO of Fortified Branding and a Certified StoryBrand Guide. With over 17 years of experience, she applies her expertise to building brands and marketing systems for her clients. From Fortune 500 companies to purpose-driven small businesses to start-ups, Beth helps them harness the best storytelling strategies to engage customers and claim a place in their audiences' hearts and minds, attracting more growth.
In this episode, Beth talks to host Tivi Jones about walking through fear, how uniqueness is your superpower, and that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be lonely.
Beth has worked in marketing and branding for over 17 years. She started as a graphic designer on Wall Street, creating visual graphics out of dense excel sheets to tell a story about the numbers. “It’s actually great training,” she says, “because how do you take numbers and make it really accessible as a visual story to more people?”
Over time, her responsibility grew and she became in charge of the whole creative and marketing arm, managing big corporations like Nestle as well as startups, tech, financial, and wellness apps. She’d help these companies develop their messaging, solidify the core of their brand and express that through marketing.
Beth noticed that many female creative leaders, including herself, experienced a shift every 18 months–either getting promoted or being laid off. In her case, every 18 months, she was being laid off for various reasons such as the company downsizing or a change in leadership. “After the fifth serial layoff after working at six companies, I decided I really wanted to serve many instead of one,” she says.
She was burning to share her knowledge and uplift many different businesses and companies. So right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in January of 2020, she launched her consulting business, Fortified Branding. “My business has thrived during the pandemic because many small businesses pivoted into e-commerce and were looking for ways to position their products,” she says.
It’s been a journey. Instead of focusing on how to make more money, Beth wanted to serve her clients as best as she can. “I think because of that, it opened up a mindset of abundance instead of survival,” she says.
"It opened me up to walk through the fear because there’s a bigger purpose than getting stuck in the “I can’t” or the imposter syndrome or whatever else that might be adding to the mind trash in the morning,” Beth says.
Mind trash is your internal voice, the critic, the fear. Beth also calls it her “itty bitty shitty committee.” She says it’s like a committee that sits around the table in her mind and says things to her that she wouldn’t dare say to anyone else. “There’s nothing good that comes out of that. So every day, I take out that trash and say to that committee, ‘I’m sorry, your opinion is not welcome here,” Beth says.
Tivi thinks of her “mind trash” as mean girls. Before she learned about it, she tried to beat those thoughts up, get rid of them without compassion. Now, she still tells them to shut up but does it with more empathy and understanding.
“It’s important to understand how those voices came to be in my brain. I think at the root, they really want to keep us safe,” Tivi says.
The voice says you can’t do that, you shouldn’t try, people are going to judge you, don’t advertise. Tivi compares it to the primal fear of being seen and judged. “It’s less threatening if you are small and safe,” she says.
Beth says the voice comes from a place of survival. She starts every morning, taking out that mind trash and claiming space. She reminds herself that she is allowed to take up space and she doesn’t need excuses to be present and to show up authentically, which for her means being full of laughter, making jokes, connecting with people, and asking them questions. “I’m the weirdo that stands in line and talks to strangers,” she laughs.
Mind trash is something everyone should be aware of. How do you take out your mind trash?
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BRAND STAND OUT IN A CROWDED MARKET
Beth’s company, Fortified Branding, helps brands differentiate in a crowded market, but how does she make her own business stand out? Beth has found new strategies for this year. Every day, she does something to market herself. Currently, she’s building a new offer–helping companies in a shorter amount of time. The typical process at Fortified Branding is one to six weeks, depending on how large the project is. But she’s creating a VIP one-day model where within 24 hours, the brand would receive their core messaging. Beth is also working on creating new free information because there’s a lot that people can do on their own. In addition, she started a new email campaign. “Emails are about nurturing conversations, not selling or talking at people,” she says.
When it comes to attracting new audiences, Beth uses LinkedIn, her network, and a community of entrepreneurs. “Right now it’s a lot of word of mouth, showing up and being of service,” Beth says.
Tivi thinks sometimes there’s a lot of pressure to market and be everywhere, but there’s a seasonality to it. “For a while, I worked 99.9 percent based on referrals. And only now I’m getting to a place where I want to seek out some new and different clients. I think there’s value in figuring out what works for you,” Tivi says.
LEARNING FROM CHALLENGES
The biggest challenge for Beth, coming from the corporate world, has been figuring out how to work in a virtual space. “In the past, when my head hurt and I was trying to figure something out, I always had a team to ask for help,” she says, “but the greatest lesson has been realizing that everyone is still available at the tip of my fingers–via Slack, a text, a call. I don’t have to be alone and that is why it’s so important to join communities of like-minded individuals.”
Finding a community and asking for help opened Beth up to being vulnerable.
"Usually, I was one of the only female minority leaders in a company and I had to act as if I knew all the answers, but having my own company, I realized it’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know. What do you know?,'” Beth says.
SHOUT OUT TO YOUR MAMA
Beth’s mom inspired her to be an entrepreneur. “Shout out to my mama,” she says. Raising Beth in the mid-70s after her father left, her mom was doing a lot of things that were not common for women at the time. She worked three different shifts as a nurse and would only sleep for a couple of hours. When that became too much to bear, Beth’s mom opened up her own daycare and was running a business out of their home. Later, she started a home nursing agency.
“Because that was modeled to me growing up, always in the back of my mind, it gave me an escape hatch,” Beth says.
When the workplace would get toxic in the corporate setting, Beth always reminded herself there were more options than just A or B. She knew that she could start a side hustle, go out and work on her own, or join forces with others. “I’ve never felt fully stuck,” Beth says. She would sit in silence to figure out the next step. “For me, entrepreneurship has always been there. It was just about time when I was ready to step into it,” she says.
Tivi says women have come a long way. “When you learn the statistics about women and money, you can see how far we’ve come in recent history. Before, women didn’t have access to wealth. Wealth mechanisms were only for men,” she says.
IDENTITY & SELF CARE
The flip side of growing up with a mom who worked three jobs and barely got any sleep was that Beth didn’t learn much about self-care until her twenties when she started therapy.
"I had to help my inner child that still had abandonment issues and felt less than and invisible. My mom would have been open if I said, ‘hey, here are my needs,’ but there was never that opportunity as she was too busy just helping us survive,” Beth says.
When Beth notices she’s feeling irritable and “flattened” to the point where she can’t focus, she knows it's because she didn’t work out that day, which for her is “about strength and reproducing energy.”
She says little things such as getting home and getting into your pajamas, washing your face, and relaxing are important. Beth has now developed a ritual where she wakes up early in the morning and works out or takes a walk. “Bottom line, whether you’re going to hit the gym or not, you have to move for 30 minutes through space outside–even if it’s freezing,” she says.
She also writes and reflects in the morning. In addition, Beth has made a goal to read at least 10 pages of a nonfiction book every day for self-advancement. Right now, she’s reading A Minute to Think by Juliet Funt. “It’s all about carving out space in your schedule so that you actually have time to dream,” she says. It’s crucial to create a schedule that is not stuffed with back-to-back appointments that leave you with no time to think.
This is something painfully familiar to Tivi, who just had ten back-to-back meetings the day before. When one of them got canceled, she almost cried with joy to have that extra hour.
Beth used to have meetings back-to-back Monday-Friday as well. One thing that was important for her to realize was not tying her identity to work.
"I tied my identity, my importance to the role I played in those companies instead of just showing up just like a good human being, a great wife and friend,” Beth says.
(Auth. side note: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of not tying your self-worth to your work! That is one of the key things that I’ve learned from therapy!)
A Minute to Think inspired Beth to set aside 30 minutes between each meeting to have time to breathe and be creative. “I’m supposed to be the creative strategist so that’s how I can free up those thoughts,” she says.
She’s also not taking meetings after 3 pm anymore. “Because I am melted-minded by then,” she says.” Fridays are off-limits, too, for clients. “I work on Fridays, but I work on my business and not in it,” Beth says.
“There’s no extra badge for being busy,” Beth emphasizes.
Tivi says that’s something she’s learned in the past couple of years–being busy does not equal success, importance, or how people value you. “Kudos to you because I’m trying to get to that place where I have no external meetings on Friday,” she says.
Once Beth started creating space around meetings, at first she panicked, especially when she had prospective clients who wanted to talk to her and would tell her that she was booked for the next two weeks. “But then I just had to realize that if you really want to work with me, maybe you’re gonna have to wait. If there’s an opening, I’ll try to put you in there,” she says.
Another useful technique that Beth uses is talking to herself in front of the mirror. “I had to look in the mirror and tell myself, I don’t work after three and I don't work on Fridays externally with clients. That made a stake in the ground.” Beth says.
Tivi loves the idea of talking to yourself in the mirror and shares something very vulnerable with the audience:
“Growing up, I always had very low self-esteem. I thought I was just the ugliest thing on Earth. And for a while, it was hard for me to consistently look at myself. So the idea of looking in the mirror really sticks with me. I’m really good at maintaining eye contact with other people but when it comes to myself, it’s such a vulnerability to look at yourself and actually see you and talk to you,” Tivi says.
“Thank you for sharing that, Tivi, because I think actually, a lot of women experience that. I experienced that growing up,” Beth says. “It’s such a dual message that we get growing up as girls. We are told to be pretty, be quiet, be gracious, and don't take up too much space. There are so many roles that are assigned to us,” Beth says.
Beth grew up in a Jewish family and was told to take care of other people’s feelings and make sure that they feel okay. “ I remember being reprimanded for speaking my mind because that meant I was rude or hurting somebody's feelings. So it was very easy for me to then see myself as ugly inside out,” Beth says.
Beth thought she would never fit in. This conversation reminds Tivi of Beth’s business and how she helps companies differentiate and stand out. “As kids, we don’t want to be different. We just want fit in. but what’s funny, your business is about making brands be different and it’s your superpower,” Tivi says.
"I forget who said this, but what makes us different is our magic. That is our intellectual property, our signature,” Beth says.
She thinks it’s really important, through either therapy or meditation, to reflect back on your teenage years when you felt vulnerable, and tell yourself, “All is good now and you are safe. It’s okay to pull those things out that might put you down because they are your magic and your gift,” she says.
THE NEAR FUTURE
Beth is the most excited to work on her new business offer–to serve more people in a shorter amount of time. Her goal is to continue expanding her team and turn Fortified Branding from a consultancy to an agency.
Congrats on year three of your business, Beth! 👏🏻
Demi Vitkute is a Media Editorial Manager at Hey Awesome Girl and Director of Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones show. She’s a passionate storyteller, fashion aficionado + crazy cat mom trying to change the world. She’s a journalist, editor, and media consultant. Demi is the founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. You can follow her on IG and Twitter @demiivit.