I'm so excited because I just did a podcast with Jordan Dooley! Jordan and I met this past fall at a live event and Jordan is going to be one of our speakers at, She's Building Her Empire Live, which I'm so excited that you're going to get to see her in person and meet her! Today is just a little glimpse of what that's going to look like. Let's dive in!
Can you share your back story of how you got here, how you started your own business, created what you've got today and really become a real, true influencer?
Jordan: “Absolutely! It has been everything but linear as I'm sure I think many people have that story. But I actually started everything I do now after interviewing for a job after college. I was studying health care administration and thought that I would be managing a hospital or working in insurance and went to an interview for an internship that was really related in the insurance field. I just felt kind of disheartened by it. It was like it went well, but I don't know if this is what I'm supposed to do with my life, you know? Then, like every one of us has had one of those like life crisis where you're like, oh no, I'm on the wrong path. So that was basically what happened and I remember feeling a little bit concerned because I was finishing school and I was like, I don't want to have to go study something else now, so I might as well finish it out, but I'm a little stuck.
I told my mom about this and she was basically like, well, even if you don't do the internship, you know, just try some stuff. You're not really giving yourself any freedom to, you've worked really hard at school but try something that interests you, just get creative. So even if you end up taking a job you don't love right away, you might have some hobbies and passions alongside. She was never like well go start a small business. Right? But then that's kind of what it evolved into. I'm a 3 on the enneagram, you give me an idea, I'm not going to just have a hobby. It's going to turn into something that is way bigger than an average hobbie. So, I tried a couple of different things that were more creative.
I thought maybe I'll do some scrapbooking, which, who scrapbooks anymore?! I don't know. But I thought maybe I would do that and then I tried modeling. I thought maybe I can be in commercials…they said no. So that was a shock to my pride! But anyways, around that time I was also dabbling in the hand lettering. I was finishing up school and I was like, I can do that. I won the hand writing contest in third grade. I got this! So I just started doing that for fun and it would really help me remember things like Bible verses that inspired me, or notes from class that I wanted to remember and quotes that I really liked.
So when I took the time to write it very beautifully and intentionally, it would stick in my memory more. So I started doing that and then I started to have some friends who would say, hey, my sister is getting married, can you make a sign for her wedding? Or can you make something for my desk? And so I just started doing that. Then my husband, who I was dating at the time, he said, you're pretty good at that, maybe you should do like an Etsy store or something. I don't think he really knew what an Etsy store was! So I said, sure, why not, and learned how to make an Etsy account. I don't think Etsy was as popular as it is now, just because this was early in the days of social media, like 2012 I want to say when this was all kind of starting to happen.
I started learning, I'm going to take a picture and put it on Etsy and I'm going to put it on things like that. A year later, social media didn't have algorithms at the time, and it started to grow and I started to get all these orders and I'm like, what the heck?! My friends started to help me and they would sit in a storage closet with me in the upstairs of our sorority house.
We would ship all this stuff out to Germany and California all over the place. It was amazing. I'm literally answering customer service emails from class, but no one knows that. It got to the point where it just grew and grew and then I started sharing some of the stories and the things that we would talk about in that sorority closet and just the advice that we would share and the things that I was learning and my own take on things. That started to turn into something that grew really fast because a lot of people resonated with those captions. It started to evolve into a blog and then all of a sudden had an online community that was growing really fast. I have an audience of people that I don't know watching what's going on and that caused everything to grow. So I eventually ended up taking a break from the retail shop and really figuring out what I want this influence to look like. It's evolved a lot over the years. I've gone through different seasons with it, but that's turned into other opportunities to bring the retail shop back. The whole heart behind that was when we were sitting in the sorority closet and packaging, it felt like a safe place. So I made a little tagline for it, ‘Your brokenness is welcome here' on it.
We put that on a sweatshirt, it's a clothing brand and that grew and led to having an online community there and that's also led to writing books and podcasting and creating courses and coaching and doing other small business type things. All because of a little shop that I started getting college. So it's been absolutely incredible and absolutely crazy journey that me and studying health administration never would have guessed, but I was just trying stuff. Sometimes when you try stuff, it works out!”
When you realized that people started following you, did that sense of responsibility scare you? Does it excite you? What did that feel like? Because you were still really young when that was all happening?
Jordan: “Yeah, I still am. It's been a little bit of both, I would say. I love people so in some ways it was super exciting for me. I felt like this is a cool thing to get to do. I get to speak into hundreds if not thousands of women's lives everyday, but at the same time I think with that, especially being young, especially not only when it just start to happen, but when I started to realize there are women that are significantly older than me following me. Do they realize how young I am? Do I need to pretend that I'm older? So there was this element of imposter syndrome that came along with that. I haven't really done anything for you to be following me other than doodle on mugs and canvases, you know. So, it was odd to see that they were resonating with what I was writing and sharing and putting out into the world content wise, not necessarily even just from a product perspective. There was definitely an excitement. I was like, all right, we're going to make this happen, we're going to do it! But I often felt like I need to pretend I'm older and cooler but that's totally not true!”
I think imposter syndrome comes in so many ways and when yes, you're identifying as a certain age and then you see other people who maybe have more life experience than you, I can completely see how you're going, what if they find out? When a lot of the people probably do know and they still just love you anyway because that's part of you. I want to hear as you were evolving and finding yourself, did you very quickly come to what you are today or was it a lot of trial and error? I think a lot of people are kind of stuck and not sure how fast should this happen for them.
Jordan: “Well, I will say that the Etsy store, I've been trying to think very specifically because it honestly it's been such a nonlinear path and it's like I need to get all this straight to be able to say this is how long and it's like a blur honestly. So I think I actually launched the Etsy store, specifically online towards the end of 2014 or very early 2015. I had started dabbling social media a little bit before that, but that's 4 or 5 years but all that time throughout that as I was getting ready to graduate and do all of that.
At the time I was also still trying to figure out well I can still go get a job, like a real job because there's no way I can actually like what I'm doing. This can't actually be it. On top of that, I often felt like I was burdening my friends too if they were helping me and then when I graduated I was like, I can't keep running this by myself. I don't have 100 girls to be like, hey, I'll pay you in pizza, come upstairs and help. So throughout that it's been a long but quick journey in that so much has happened in a short amount of time. I think that's sometimes what we forget is things can happen somewhat quickly if we take action. I didn't have my 5 year business plan figured out. It wasn't like I want to have 17 retail shops all over the country. I think it's good to have a big vision for sure, but if I had held so tightly to that and not just learn what packing peanuts were and then learn how to build an Etsy store and let that evolve and say, oh, people are actually falling for the content, maybe how can I serve that need more than maybe just creating little mugs or whatever it was.
I started to really pay attention to what was being asked, what was really resonating and then how could I actually take action on that and learn as I went. When we do that, when we allow ourselves that room to evolve and take action in ways maybe we didn't originally intend or plan that allows things to grow faster than they would have if we held so tightly to, nope, this is the only thing and this is the only way it's going to be and this is all I can ever become because then I wouldn't be writing a book right now. You and I wouldn't be talking right now. I'd probably still be shipping mugs out of a closet. I wouldn't have a shop team. I had to close it down for a while and most people don't even realize that part of the story. There was a year and a half or two years where like it wasn't a shop, I was just writing because I wanted to get a better pulse on what are people actually wanting, what's resonating and there there wasn't a sense of rush or urgency. It was just how can I be really intentional with what I have? And when you do that and take action, things going to actually happen pretty quickly because you're not trying to control or rush. I think when we try to control a rush, is when it feels like it's moving very slowly or we're not seeing for progress or we're not open to other things that may end up being the thing for us.”
Then all of a sudden we get so disappointed when we want to rush because we're like, why isn't this happening right now? You're hearing Jordan's story and it's been years in the making. I think we all have to remember that people always think all these people are overnight successes and that's just not the case. So slow down, take it easy, things will come. I think when you're not evolving, that's when I would be worried. As you start to realize you've got somebody listening, where were you putting your energy? Was it a platform? Was it your blog? Where were you putting most of your time and showing up?
Jordan: “What I would do instead of trying to overextend myself, because I think that sometimes in our digital world especially, is how dependent businesses have become on that. You can almost feel like you have to put so much out there all the time. So what I really focused on was identifying what type of content is resonating and how is it best delivered so that it reaches who I want it to reach. At the time I wasn't even really trying to sell anything so what I would do is I would create a long caption on social media that would start kind of like an article or I would write a blog post and basically take bits of that, turn it into what social media was. Honestly, I felt like I was cheating because I would just copy and paste Instagram captions into a blog post. But what was interesting is as I created a little bit of graphics and kind of learned and Pinterest had started to be a little bit more popular, and as I started to create those things and just find what needs to work for each platform and then not feel like I have to duplicate or over do it and do a thousand different pieces of content every week and just learn how to break it up or have maybe 2 set pieces of content and let that be it. It actually would gain more traction because I wasn't bombarding with constant random stuff. I would start either on Instagram or with a blog post and then break that up into Facebook, Instagram, and a blog and that was it, you know?
I was like I'm kind of cheating, but different people consume different content in different ways, you know? So I was still reaching a wider audience because some prefer to consume it on Facebook. Some prefer to get a blog link and some just like to swipe as they're scrolling on Instagram, you know? So that was how I started and then we added Pinterest to the mix and several years later now it's turned into a podcast. But that's where I really focused to begin with and I actually focused on Facebook more at the time because the share-ability factor, and I think we forget that. I think we're all so caught up in Instagram and the good thing about Instagram is there's a lot of engagement, the things going on there, but it's not like your content really lasts very long.
It has its first day and then it's done. With Pinterest and Facebook, the share-ability factor that's what really grew my audience. A couple of those things went “viral”. I had 40,000-50,000 shares on certain posts when I only had 8,000-10,000 people following me and that grew my audience really quickly. So I think we forget sometimes the long game is the more strategic game.”
What's funny is every Monday my team shows me what my most popular podcasts are and 3 of them right now are about Instagram. It's because everybody loves Instagram but I'm so happy that you just said that because it might be exciting and you might love it, but in the longterm game, it might not be your best move at the moment. So that was really key that you just said that. Now you have recently written a book, I would love to kind of dive into how did that happen? What made you decide I want to do it? I bet a lot of people are going, wow, she has a publisher, even her first book, so let's unwrap that a little bit!
Jordan: “So when I was writing a lot of these blog posts, actually I feel like I'd only written a handful and an author reached out to me. I got an email because at the time I had a little bit of an online following and I thought, what can I get with this? Because I had stopped the shop or I'd really scaled back on it and I thought, how can I still monetize this but still serve the audience? At the time my husband was trying to play professional football and I knew going forward, I might have to be very flexible with my time, so maybe I should look into doing something with this. So I was writing quite a bit and I didn't plan on that part being the career itself, but I had an author reach out to me. I knew who she was, had no idea she knew who I was and basically she was like, hey, just wanted to say I have noticed what you're sharing online, I think it's really great, keep going. I about fell out of my seat and peed my pants! I was like, this chick knows who I am?! I have no idea how that happened.
I honestly feel like that was just divine. Then later, I responded thank you so much and next thing I know she's connecting me with her literary agent and I'm like, do you know that I'm finishing college? Like what is happening? She emailed me and said, hey, I'd love to chat with you about writing a book and I was like, lady, do you know that I have written about a grand total of 7 blog posts?! Are you kidding? So this has been a long process because around that time I said, yeah, totally and tried to act like I knew what she was talking about and she kind of educated me on the book process and I got on a call and we put together some proposals that all got rejected because I had no idea what I want to write a book on. I had never even thought of that. I was finishing a degree in health administration. So I said, you know what? I don't really know. I think this could be a great thing down the road, let's give it some time. When there's an open door, we'll walk through it or when the timing's better. But I've just graduated, I was going to get married soon, I wasn't in a place to really think about it and we got enough no's that I was like, maybe not, you know, maybe not. Then that turned into a year and I continued to write, created some resources online, started speaking and things continued to grow.
Next thing I know I had a publishing house reach out to me and plant an idea in my head like, hey, we noticed this on your site we think this could be a great book idea. And then that evolved into a much bigger book idea. I didn't end up going with them, but it was crazy because then all in one week I had several different publishers reach out and I'm like, this is weird, you know? So it was really interesting how I kind of just tabled it and I expected maybe 10 years down the road, I wasn't really even looking for it and that's kind of how I know it's meant to be just because it kind of happened to me and it all happened right around the same time.
So we really looked at that and we said, we still have a very raw idea. What's hilarious about this thing is that was a long time ago now. It was several years ago and the idea that we presented was so raw, it was not at all really what the book has become. It's just been refined and refined. I think the core heart behind it has stayed the same, but just the clarity and the evolution of it, just like with the small little store that's turned into so much more. We laugh, my editor and I, and she's like the book that we have now versus the book that we originally thought this would be are two completely different things and I was like not surprised. So that's kind of how that's that kind of came to be and what it's become. It's been quite the journey to say the least!”
Now you said all of a sudden people started reaching out to you the same week. Why do you think that is? I'm always the person who will investigate things and say what's going on here? Why is this happening? Did you do that? What made you think that happened?
Jordan: “Well, I think part of it was that my agent said it is kind of a weird, usually when one thing happens it's kind of like a domino effect. I don't know if all the publishers talk, I don't know! I think part of it could have been, I didn't even really look that closely into it at the time I just thought weird, you know? Now I wish I would have been like what was happening around that time. I think because the year prior we had gotten married, so I started speaking a lot to the married audience and I think maybe that started publishers to say she's not just talking to college girls, she's reaching adults. So I think part of that was different. We had a couple of those posts do very, very well and so I don't know if that caught the attention. I remember I would have friends in a totally different city or state like, oh my gosh, one of my friends who doesn't know you has been sharing this article you wrote or this thing and Thought Catalog had started to publish our stuff and things started to happen a little bit more and so I think just because my platform had grown and the vitality of a few different things at that time plus the season of life that I had been moved in to started to maybe get some attention. I'm not really entirely sure, but if I had to guess, that's probably what happened!”
I want to ask you, do you think you're naturally a good writer or do you feel like it's more about the content than it is about the way that you're writing it?
Jordan: “I think a little bit of both. I am kind of a geek. I'm a little bit of a nerd when it comes to how I present content. So for me I think it definitely is the idea or I wouldn't call myself Shakespeare by any means in that I'm not necessarily the most artistic writer, but I have kind of found that when you can captivate, educate, and activate people and you can really infuse that into your voice and not feel the pressure to be some special, fancy author and you can write really well in a way that resonates. When I used to think what's a good writer, I used to think someone who could write poetic and flowery and use a lot of imagery and all this stuff. So I also thought I'm not really much of a writer. I'm just an intentional communicator.
I think that's all it really takes and that's actually what works. So I've actually come to find I have a skill in creating content and writing in such a way that not only captivates somebody because I think whether we're business owners or content creators or both, which I think is often most of us, we often focus on one of those three things. We want to have the awesome website, the really kick butt Instagram photo or you know, whatever it is that's going to captivate OR we want to really educate people like I'm an expert at this. I need to tell you all the things and then all we're basically doing is creating user manuals for things that people are like, why should I read this? This feels like school, right? And that's not fun.
Or we focus so much on activating people. You can be the most motivational person in the world, but if it's all cheerleading fluff you're putting out there, it's not actually helping anyone. I really had to look at this from a 30 foot view and be like, when I write or when I create content or when I make a podcast episode, am I doing what it takes to captivate someone by speaking to their heart, immediately drawing in their emotion or making them laugh. Am I giving them anything that educates them or makes them think or teaches them a lesson? Then by following that up by giving them something to actually do with that. Something to implement or an action to take. So really riding with those three things in mind I think has allowed me to maybe not be a good writer, but be a really effective communicator. I think that's effective when it comes to writing, business, coaching, anything we use our voices for it and ourselves for personal branding is a game changer. So that's something I've had to learn over the years.”
I think people are so sick of fluff. It's like give me something good to actually go and do. I think it's so important that you are able to have that combination. Now we didn't even say what is the book called and we didn't even mention any of this yet!
Jordan: “So the book is called Own Your Everyday. Everyday is one word because I love that it has a dual meaning. It can mean your day today but can also mean your ordinary life. I think so often we're so focused on getting to be extraordinary but we often forget in order to get to be extraordinary you have to show up to the small, not so cool everyday things and that's really been my story. I didn't start my Etsy store thinking I want to create a big business and have a team and be an influencer. I literally was like, I'm just going to show up and try something. I was just owning my everyday right where I was in my sorority bunk bed. I think sometimes we don't want to be seen starting small. We overlook the beauty of those small kind of awkward steps and the things that make us look like a crazy person and our Great Aunt Beatrice questions why don't you just get a real job?! You know?
It's not just necessarily a business book, the way we've been explaining it I guess is this is really the girlfriend's guide to a purpose driven life. If that's in your business, fantastic. If that's at home with your kids, great. If you're finishing up college, awesome, but here are the tools to get past these mental roadblocks that make you want to either wish away your right now or think your life needs to be cooler or figuring out your future. I think we are under so much pressure, whether it's in the business world, the education world, the church, like I go to Sunday sermon and I'm told to find my calling. I go to a university and I'm told to figure out my purpose. I get online and people are telling me to chase my dreams and I'm over here like, yes, yes, yes! But I think there's so many people with un-figured out dreams and then they feel this pressure of I have to find my thing yesterday or I'm behind and it doesn't help that you get online and see everyone else doing their thing, even if they're not sure that's really what they want to be doing and it's just this constant pressure.
So that whole title is Own Your Everyday and then the subtitle is ‘overcome the pressure to prove and show up for what you were made to do' not in the I've got to figure out all the extraordinary things…so that's kind of the heart and the message behind the book and really a lot of practical tools to find ways to do that right where you are!”
I love it! You already hit top of the charts just from preorders I think, right?!
Jordan: “Yeah! I'm hoping it continues to. It comes out on May 14th so we're pretty close now! I'm getting a little anxious about it. I have publishing anxiety, but I'm super thrilled!”
Quickly before we wrap up, I want to talk about the podcast because that's something really new for you and it did really well. So why a podcast? What made you question, is this the next place for me to go? How did you come about that?
Jordan: “Yeah, so for me I was sitting down with my team and I had requests for podcasts for a long time and I think there's something about when someone can hear your voice that there just becomes a real actual connection and trust there. I knew it's something that I wanted to do but I also wanted to be very intentional about how I went about it. I also really thought, why do I want to make this podcast? One thing I found was I want to use this as a “marketing” tool in that it's not necessarily just to market here's what I'm selling but to actually reach the target audience for my book or anything else in a way that connects with them and serves them well for free. On top of that I think a lot of us or a lot of people I've talked to and girls I've coached they want to start a podcast and make that their business plan.
I would recommend making that more of the channel in which you're reaching people. Like, Instagram isn't my business plan, but I think we somehow separate. Once I kind of nailed that and realized, now where does this want to fit in? Where do I want to fit this and how do I want to go about this? I decided I really want to make this the variety show for the everyday woman. I wanted to give her personal development tools, spiritual development, professional development and relationships. We talk about all the things, which is funny because I'm often coaching girls and I'm like don't try to make your business everything and I'm over here kind of doing everything! Within the podcast itself, it's really great because it gets to serve different segments of my audience.
There's girls who do want professional skills and ways to create content and ideas for that and encouragement and then there's some of us like can you just help me through a breakup? So it's a really sweet medium to be able to serve those different pockets and not neglect. I didn't start off trying to educate people in business or focus on my niche. I've niched down for sure when it comes to the products and the tools that I create, but not necessarily from a content perspective. I found you can actually do that. You can speak on a variety of things when you're inspiring people on a higher level and when we get down to the molecular level, you can really break down your products into who and what segments of my audience that's serving.
That's really what we've done. I put together a little launch team for the podcast because I've helped people do this for books. So we did that and they were absolutely incredible! They were just very encouraging and it hit #2 on the top charts. It's been #1 in our category several times! They've really championed it and it's just really grown really, really fast and it's been sweet to see and so much fun!”
What did the launch team look like? Who did you ask?
Jordan: “Maybe three weeks before the podcast launched, I just got on my Instagram story, I said, hey guys, I'm looking for a couple of hundred girls who are excited about this podcast. Because I did have a group who was like, we've been waiting for this and I said I'd love to have you champion this podcast and share it with your friends. If you want to be a part of a small community, we'd love to have you and swipe up. I think we did a little application and basically the application was join the Facebook group and it was like four questions. If we felt like this would be a great fit we hit accept. So we got a few hundred girls in there and then we did a few different giveaways and contests and ways for them to connect and we created some graphics for them to share leading up to the launch so that they could tell their friends about it.
Then on launch day we just said, hey, if you can go subscribe and share and review and tell your friends to review. They did that and we had a couple of different giveaways on things that they could do to tell their friends about it. It wasn't massive by any means but we just thought why not get them get involved and it was really effective. It was more effective than I anticipated so they really carried it on their backs and have championed it ever since. It had one million downloads in three months! That was not what I was anticipating. So giving people the power to be involved in something, it's sweet because it gives them something to be involved in, but it also serves the bigger mission at hand and it gives everybody a way, it's like a network effect. Instead of just being a consumer of the content but to be a contributor to it and to be a champion, it creates a family within your brand, no matter how big your brand is and I found this works!”
If you want to connect more with Jordan, you can find her on social @jordanleedooley. Be sure to preorder and check out her book coming out in May! You can preorder it here, and check out her podcast, SHE podcast!