All the contingency planning in the world couldn’t have accounted for an international health emergency. Like many other small businesses, COVID-19 threw a wrench in Discover Your Personal Brand (DYPB)’s plans for the year.
“It hit us like a ton of bricks,” said Bobby Umar, CEO of DYPB and one of our Online Community Members. “Last year, we decided to take out a business loan because we thought we were on track. […] So part of us were freaking out: ‘Oh my gosh, we have this loan. How are we going to deal with this?’”
DYPB began as an annual personal branding conference. At its peak, they brought in 300 attendees and 40 speakers — and people loved it. In fact, they loved it so much, they asked Bobby and his team why they didn’t teach personal branding year-round.
“Personal branding helps people with three [things],” explained Bobby. “One is alignment: it aligns their values, gives them more meaning, more purpose. The second is that it gives them more focus: more clarity and direction. The third thing is that it gives them more impact: because when you have more alignment and you have more focus, you’ll have more impact. You get better success, better results, and ultimately build a story and legacy you care about.”
So in 2018, the conference team decided to go all in: they put together a business plan, they put together a team, and they launched the DYPB that exists today.
At first, they facilitated panels and workshops. Then they began to host LinkedIn Local Meetups in Toronto. Last March marked one of their biggest events — Women Breaking Barriers — which sold out all 250 tickets. (Psst — does that stage look familiar? It’s CSI Annex!)
“It was a great moment,” Bobby reflected. “We were like: ‘Wow, okay, we’re doing something really big here. People really like this.’”
They started gaining momentum, seeing growth in all their offerings. DYPB was pitching in-house training to companies and clients. They were planning more LinkedIn Local and Dinner Mastermind events. In February, they ran their most profitable event ever, an evening of live panels and short talks with senior executives on how to lead a diverse and inclusive workforce.
“We made more money than we expected. We got a sponsor, we sold out completely. Even though we raised our ticket prices, people were still buying,” said Bobby. “We were like: ‘Okay, wow. If we can just keep doing this, we might be able to move along.’”
Things were going great — until all of a sudden, they weren’t.
When the pandemic hit, their top two ways to manifest their personal expertise — in-house training and live events — were taken away. It was like going back to the beginning stages of any startup: the DYPB team had to try, fail, learn, and adapt.
They knew anything they did had to be virtual, so they tried to port their live events to the online world. But their webinars weren’t generating traffic, and LinkedIn Locals didn’t seem to have the same appeal when they were hosted online. On top of that, the companies to which they were pitching training were quick to cut leadership and development budgets.
Launching a comprehensive online course on Personal Brand Discovery seemed like the best option.
“The course is 25 videos [and] 30+ exercises. People have to do at least 25 hours of homework on their own,” said Bobby. “The whole idea […] is to help people discover their brand, identify their top 5-10 personal brand elements, come up with a personal brand statement, […] and then use that to help them design and deliver a brand out there.”
DYPB has also launched a Community Membership for individuals who are looking to dip their toes into personal branding, but not yet ready to commit to the full course. As people continue to work remotely, or seek employment, the moment presents a unique opportunity to pause, reflect, and plan for the future.
“Right now people are at home thinking about how to pivot, how to transition, how to ramp up their brand, how to use LinkedIn, how to build an online presence,” said Bobby. “We’re cautious but optimistic.”
If you’re interested in building your personal brand, check out DYPB’s programs and resources. They’re also always looking for help, so if you’re a graphic designer or business analyst, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.