Entrepreneurship has become the new American dream. Even though many people dream of location independence, financial freedom, and being their own boss, the fear of jumping off the corporate ship and into self-employment has kept many from making this a reality.
Running a business is no easy task, and there are many insecurities looming over one’s head while considering the decision: what if I fail? What if I lose my savings? What if I don’t know how to run a business?
While these are all legitimate concerns, consider the alternative: would you rather spend your days making someone else more money, or build a venture of your own? Do you want to work because you “have” to, or because you want to? How important is it for you to pursue your passions when it comes to your career? Entrepreneurship is not easy, but if you are willing to work hard, stay dedicated, and most importantly, not give up — it’s absolutely worth it.
Meet Dillon Kivo, an American entrepreneur who set aside his reservations and took a chance on himself. The result? He is the founder and CEO of MentionWorth, a 6-figure business. Kivo helps brands find their competitive edge and share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and social media marketing.
Kivo shares key insights about how businesses can build a powerful brand and leverage public relations to increase their visibility:
Da Costa: Briefly describe your background and what led you to entrepreneurship.
Kivo: My entrepreneurial journey started when I was about 12 years old. I lived across the street from a candy factory, which is any kid’s dream! I went over there one day and was able to negotiate my way into getting $10 of candy for $5. That’s when it hit me. If I sold each piece of candy for double the price, it would allow me to continue feeding my candy addiction for free. From that moment on, I was hooked on entrepreneurship.
I put entrepreneurship on the back burner to chase my dream of playing competitive hockey, which taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, and teamwork. My hockey career ended abruptly at the age of 20 with a blindsiding wrist injury, which forced me to pivot into becoming a firefighter.
Shortly after starting this new career, I felt lost again. My father-in-law kept talking about making money online and I thought he was crazy at first until I let my guard down and gave it a real try. I bought a laptop, glued myself to my desk, and watched about 100+ hours of Youtube videos until I was comfortable creating my own website.
I continued to learn the ins and outs of WordPress and Photoshop until I was competent enough to take on paid projects. I spent weeks visiting local shopping malls, walking into every shop and asking if they needed a new website until one woman gave me a chance. I spent about two weeks on that website and only made about $400, but it was the best feeling. Soon after, I resigned from the fire department.
My leap of faith paid off: my father-in-law introduced a successful entrepreneur to me who then became one of my new clients. He is a multi-millionaire who decided to take me under his wing. I worked closely with him for over two years to master the art of public relations, advertising and social media. Ultimately, I figured out how to draw attention and exposure to any brand I wanted.
I decided to go all in and start my own business. Although my head was filled with doubt, there was something inside me that pushed me to take a risk. In addition to financial freedom and independence, I wanted to show the world what I could give back.
Da Costa: Why did you pursue the branding and publicity route?
Kivo: I launched MentionWorth after seeing — from my previous work with media placements, advertising, and social media marketing — how much power there is in strategic branding. Your brand is the first impression that others have of you and your business, so you don’t want to confuse your audience or you’ll lose them. Proper branding plus press are a killer combination for growing a business, as it is the most effective and quickest strategy to reach your target audience.
Shortly after branching off on my own, I worked with companies such as the Shark Tank company and Tik Tok to create viral marketing strategies, AquaVault to land organic mainstream media placements such as Yahoo News, and cbdMD (a publicly traded company) to grow their business by getting billboards in Times Square, NYC. The key is to get our clients as much exposure as possible by coordinating various media opportunities that would have otherwise been very challenging for them to initiate on their own, and in the process, increase media attention, traffic, and brand awareness.
Da Costa: What would you say is most challenging about developing a unique brand?
Dillon: People really struggle with staying true to themselves when it comes to branding, which makes it difficult to stand out from the crowd. It is easy to blend in and do what others are doing, but it takes guts to go against the grain.
This also happened to me in the beginning: I struggled to find my identity because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that people wouldn’t want to watch me. That is where I was wrong. Do you think Gary Vaynerchuk cares what other people think about him or how he carries himself? NO.
Being true to yourself is the only way that you will make it in this industry, especially as a personal brand. I only started seeing real results in my business when I overcame my fear of not being “good enough” and was rawer and more relatable. To get started on this journey, do the inner work to create a brand that truly reflects who you are, and make sure you find a niche to show up in that you are passionate about. Most importantly, be proud of your brand.
Once you find your niche, assess your competition, and see what they are not doing. Then, fill that void. Sometimes, all it takes is taking a step back and figuring out what problem your business is solving and what is the best solution in your industry. I had a client once come to me because he was looking for creative ways to stand out from his competition. He was in the fitness niche, and we figured out that all of the local competing gyms were not providing free workout/nutrition plans for new members. Once he started advertising that online and reaching his targeted audience, his monthly memberships sales doubled within 30 days.
Don’t waste your time and energy being anyone except yourself. Create a brand that is reflective of your vision and personality, and that you are excited about associating yourself with. For example, if you are starting a high-end real estate firm, do not advertise that you are selling mid-level homes. Showcase the million dollar listings that you are representing.
Da Costa: How can budding entrepreneurs start their journey?
Kivo: Get into the habit of being a problem solver. Think of every problem as an opportunity to start a new business. Ask yourself, how can I create a solution for this problem that no one else is providing? There are three steps to building a business based on this “problem solving” method: 1. Identify the problem that does not have a valid solution. 2. Find a viable way to solve the problem that has not been done before. 3. Make sure that your solution is scalable and makes sense to the average person. Once you have completed all these steps, it is time to start working on bringing your business to life!