• Melanie Pena

How to market yourself early

Now more than ever marketing yourself and your product has become pivotal to a successful career. Before the idea (or spark if you will) even strikes, you need to have an audience and people that will support your goals. The question then becomes, how does one start this process early?

We collaborated with UF senior and president of the Entrepreneurship Collective, Oluwaseyi Oluwaleimu, to pass on some advice on how to begin your marketing journey. Oluwaleimu first became familiar with marketing when he started a sticker printing business his freshman year of college.

Oluwaleimu had moved to Florida from London to attend UF. Due to this, he didn’t have social security when school began. “After two weeks of being here, I got a call from the financial aid office,” Oluwaleimu said.

“They're like, ‘Hey, you qualify for, like aid to cover our school, but we can't give any of it to you because you don't have a social so we’re going to kick you out of school and classes.’”

Oluwaleimu realized he needed a plan to make money and started selling calculators on Facebook Marketplace until he had enough money to buy the supplies for sticker-making products. He ended up making stickers for many organizations in the Gainesville area, including the mayor.

“I met a lot of local entrepreneurs through doing that. I feel like a lot of that was because of knowing how to market myself. That's kind of how I got in this space,” Oluwaleimu said.

Oluwaleimu moved on to become president of the Entrepreneurship Collective and a board director for StartGNV. Through his experiences, he gained valuable skills and knowledge about the marketing process.

His first tip is to not be afraid of failure.

“I think that the biggest thing that people struggle with is the fear of starting. Most people just don't even get to the point where they start,” Oluwaleimu said.

“Starting a company is hard, it’s just really hard unless you have a community around that you can bounce ideas off of or mentors to help you while traversing the struggles that you'll encounter. The likelihood that you will fail is like 100%, it's gonna happen. If you can get over that then you can at least start doing something and then fail to the point that one thing actually works.”

He also emphasizes marketing yourself before you have a product.

“Let's say one day, you want to start a business and you don't know what it is right now and you haven't made any moves towards actually doing it yet. If you spend the time now making content or building a personal brand online or writing blogs and you actually garner a small following of people that care about what you say, then you've built this garden that you've tended to,” he said.

“Then when you have an idea, there are people that care about you enough to give you money for it.”

The next important step is to go out and talk to people.

“Networking skills are really important. At the end of the day, one of the most important things about any endeavor is being able to talk to people. That's a really crucial skill,” Oluwaleimu said.

“I think that even if you disagree with 99% of something that someone that you're talking to says, if you can take away one nugget of wisdom, that conversation seems worth it to me.”

Lastly, it’s important to read about people and learn how to understand them.

“A lot of what I read about is how to become a better person, and also relate to people more, because I feel like when it comes to marketing if you can understand how people work, then you kind of figure it out,” he said.

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