Celebrating International Women’s Day
A Q&A with Lisa Camerlengo, Medium Brand Consulting's Founder, on Entrepreneurship & Breaking the Bias
Women have faced significant challenges over the past two years, performing an incredible juggling act to balance professional and personal responsibilities. In fact, almost 2 million women have left the workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic began – either voluntarily or involuntarily – in search of a different opportunity based upon self-reflection; as a result of budget cuts; amidst safety concerns related to in-person work; or to care for children, sick, disabled or elderly family members. International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to not only celebrate the contributions of women, but also to explore entrepreneurship as a means to #breakthebias and expand women’s leadership roles. Here, Medium Brand Consulting’s founder, Lisa Camerlengo, shares her thoughts on entrepreneurship; why it was so important to create a path of her own; the lessons she’s learned; and the advice she would give to other women. What led you to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path? I’d considered starting a brand strategy & communications consulting firm for a long time. For almost 20 years, I was a senior in-house marketer with two consulting firms, so I understood the nature of the business and, of course, professional services marketing. I had also completed an award-winning brand refresh for one of those firms, which put it on a path for significant growth. I recognized these skills would be valuable to other organizations, and I was intrigued by the idea of diversifying my income. However, as a person who values financial security, I hesitated to leave a steady paycheck behind. The pandemic provided a new perspective and, ultimately, my decision was driven by two things: (1) a strong desire to do more creative, strategic, transformative work, and (2) the flexibility to balance that passion with my personal goals – spend more time with family – especially, my nephew and nieces – and the ability to be more mindful and active. Why was it so important to you? Life is short and that was never more apparent than over the past two years. I’m not only halfway through my career, I’m also likely halfway through my life. While I’ve always been very driven and focused when it came to my work, I recognized there were other aspects of life I wanted to prioritize more. Additionally, I do not have children of my own, and it’s important to me to leave some sort of legacy. While it’s still early days, and a legacy remains to be seen, founding a business seemed like one way to achieve the goal. How did Medium Brand Consulting come about? As I mentioned, the pandemic presented an opportunity to take a step in a new direction. I have a belief that many businesses will increasingly look to hire “fractional” marketing experts, particularly in times of economic uncertainty, as it is more palatable to seek the assistance of experienced consultants because these arrangements are much more flexible. Additionally, the millions of new businesses that launched over the past year will inevitably require brand & marketing support. Start-ups often look to consultants before bringing the function in-house, which typically happens down the road as the business grows. These observations led me to found Medium Brand Consulting, and it's been very exciting to bring my vision to life. What's behind the name?
I knew I wanted to work with startups and smaller or mid-size organizations. Additionally, in my experience, there are two important ingredients to successful marketing efforts: the ability to uncover the story and knowing how and where to tell it. "Medium" fit the bill from all of those perspectives. What did it take to get the business up and running? Was there anything that surprised you? Luckily, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs – both sets of grandparents and my own parents included – so the concept of owning a small business was not foreign to me. I received plenty of sound advice from family members and friends who had taken the leap. It took me a couple of months to establish Medium Brand Consulting – from developing the brand identity, messaging, marketing materials and website – to filing an LLC, setting up an accounting system of record, handling business banking, and sorting things like client agreements and invoicing. On a parallel track, I engaged in business development efforts; I made it a point to reach out to friends and former colleagues to let them know I’d started my own consulting practice. I am beyond thankful those efforts led to work almost immediately. The lack of practical guidance surprised me. In the beginning, I learned tough lessons about “experts” who want to help with lead generation efforts or those who promise to provide the “secret” to scaling a business. There are also plenty of fee-based membership groups that offer little to no value. The truth is, there are no shortcuts. Entrepreneurship is hard work. Get clear on your objectives, develop and stick to a business plan, and approach your work with clients in an honest and positive manner, and you will be successful. What advice would you offer to other women who are considering a career change? Perhaps, it's a bit reminiscent of my journalism background, but my advice is to speak with people you trust. Prior to pursuing entrepreneurship, I had many conversations with friends, former colleagues, and other professionals I met through my connections. I aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the market, learn more about establishing a business, and hear about others’ experiences. I also relied upon my contacts to act as sounding boards. Again, I’m grateful to have such a tremendous network; through those conversations, I became more confident in pursuing the entrepreneurship path. I also highly recommend speaking with other women who are on a similar journey and can share some of the lessons they’ve learned. In fact, the most valuable advice I received was from other female entrepreneurs who truly wanted to pay it forward. I am also very fortunate to have extremely supportive women in my network who made important introductions for me. What does #breakthebias, the theme for International Women’s Day 2022, mean to you? No matter how progressive an organization claims to be, in my experience, bias often exists – even unconsciously. As entrepreneurs, we have an opportunity to recognize it and establish ways to ensure it is not an issue from the start. Women business owners also create their seat at the table, which is harder to achieve as an in-house professional. The reality is, even when a seat is earned, it is not a guarantee their voice will be heard. It’s my sincere hope all organizations will make a more concerted effort to break the bias and be more open to diverse perspectives.