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Ep. 209: How this former educator left her secure career to become a remote CEO with Amanda Smith

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In this week’s episode, I speak with Amanda who is an expert in connecting, marketing, pitching business, and cultivating community. 

After a huge life shift in 2017 and a move to Dallas, Amanda was seeking a community for women that was inclusive and offered resources for career, life, and business- and came up empty. So, she created one herself and called it “Dallas Girl Gang.”  Today, DGG has an audience of over 45,000 women across the country. 

Listen on to find out how Amanda brings women together into a meaningful community and lifting one another up.

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here. I am really excited for my guest today, Amanda. 

Hey Amanda, how are you? 

Amanda:

So good, Debbie, thank you for having me on the show. 

Debbie:

Thank you for being here. Can you tell us about you and why you live an offbeat life? 

Amanda:

I am a teacher by trade, I live in Dallas, Texas and I also come from a direct sales background but then turned remote CEO of my own company. 

I’ve never really wanted to do things the normal way. I was never really happy with just doing one thing and so I’ve always had my hands and feet in lots of different things which is what led me to start my own business and empowering other people to do the same.

Debbie:

Incredible. And as you had mentioned, you used to be a teacher, how did you actually take yourself from being a teacher to running your own business? How is that transition like? 

Amanda:

Well, this is quite a story. So I moved back to Dallas. I grew up here, was at school in a different state. My husband and I moved back here in 2016 and really were trying to find community. 

And so I was a teacher, I was teaching Elementary music. So running around with little kids all day and I really wanted a community for adult women ’cause I spent so much time with kids. And so started this community in 2017 as a Facebook group and really what we found was people were so excited and thrilled to finally have a place that everyone belongs. 

And so we started hosting events, launched the podcast around it, went to conferences around it, and more events. And we just have grown now, beyond Dallas, to 50 thousand women across the country.

As I was teaching I saw this grow from a passion project if you will and really starting as a Facebook group to “oh my gosh, I think there’s something here”. I think it was about the time we hit a thousand people on our Facebook where I was like, “Something’s going on. Something’s happening.”

We had not been around for very long, maybe a few months, and I really began to seek mentorship and just explore and learn on my own and Google is your best friend when you’re starting a business, especially when It’s mostly online. 

And so I just started to find ways to monetize and find ways to continue to serve our audience the best that we could. Really let them drive what we were doing but also profit at the same time.

And so my husband and I looked at the numbers and 2019 was probably the hardest year, working my tail off and hosting events all the time. I think we did 40 in-person events in 2019. And of course, 2020 kind of threw a wrench in things but we are still incredibly profitable.

And in December of 2020, we had hit the goals that I wanted to hit and it was sustainable enough to the point where we are well set up for me to step away from my teaching job and I did and It’s been incredible.

Debbie:

Amazing. I love your whole story because you really created this community for yourself that allowed you to leave your teaching job and to have more freedom with your life. How are you able to pivot your business in 2020 when most of what you were doing was really in person. How did that change for your business? 

Amanda:

Absolutely and I think everybody faces in some capacity, even if you were an online business owner, things change in the world and changes how you have to speak, address things, market and serve your people.

Obviously, I’m the kind of person that won’t probably sit there and just throw myself a pity party. And so I was like, “Well, that’s not possible anymore. There is nothing I can do about it, we’re going to go online. We’ve  done it before.” It hasn’t been as frequent as we ended up doing it in 2020 so we shifted all of our events online. 

We created way more events online and I think in 2020, that’s what really grown us to this national reach because virtual equals endless possibilities. And so our audience is not just in Texas, not just in Dallas anymore but it is absolutely everywhere. 

I would even say globally. Most of our audience is in the contiguous US but we shifted and we just continue to ask people, “How are you doing? What do you need? What kind of support do you need?”

I think everybody in March and April was just scrambling to try to figure out like, “What do we do? How do we shift this?” We’re at home and we’re working from home, people are out of jobs and so we created virtual events that were enough for entertainment, for self-care, for fun, for business growth. 

The big ones that we hosted were: how to pitch your business, how to address your marketing right now, how to still be profitable if you lost part of your business that was in person.

And so I will say, I’m all about being transparent and honest, we lost money in 2020. We had in-person events scheduled and for larger events, we have to be active in planning 6,9 even 12 months out sometimes.

And so there’s deposit then there’s fees and hiring people – things like that go in. It was not all like sunshine and rainbows. We weren’t like, “Oh, It’s fine. We’ll just go withdraw.” I probably made it sound like that but we had to shift and serve our people.

The best thing was to give refunds. So we refunded thousands of dollars to people having paid for tickets for events that we didn’t even know were going to happen. And so that was one big thing but we didn’t let that stop us. 

And another thing I doubled down on in 2020 was teachers started working from home which was absolutely probably the best thing for me. 

And at that point, people have been asking or approaching saying, “I need your support. I need your help. I saw you grow the Dallas Girl Gang. I want to grow my business too. How did you do it?” The classic hey, can I pick your brain kind of thing.

And finally, I had the time and capacity to think about what I wanted that to look like. And so I really continue to step into being a coach for women who wanted to start a business or women who had a business but maybe they were at a plateau.

We really doubled down on that and developed my personal brand because from 2017 through 2020, I was Dallas Girl Gang. I didn’t really have so much of a personal brand. 

And so at the end of 2019, I started to kind of continue to develop that, and 2020 just really allowed for me the space to do that. It’s not easy but we were able to do it and really able to do it with the help of our amazing community.

Debbie:

I think within the last year with everything that’s been happening, having community being a part of it has been so crucial especially since most of us can’t go out and can’t meet people so having that online is really a lifesaver for so many people. 

Can you take us to the process of you being able to actually grow your community? How were you able to do that and also monetize it? 

Amanda:

Yeah. I think from the get-go, I wanted this to be a space where women could come. It didn’t matter what background they were from, what job they had, if they were a mom, a business owner, or an influencer. 

I wanted them to have a seat at the table before that was a cliche phrase to use which led me to trademark our motto if you will: You can sit with us. Obviously, it’s a spin-off of Mean Girls but I wanted everybody to feel that whatever they need to know., this is our safe space, this is where you can belong if you’re looking for something like this. 

And so I think from day one it was such a white space, as in, there was no one doing this especially locally. Any local groups were very individualized, very specific, and a little bit exclusive. 

Like, there were groups for mom bloggers, women in tech, or real estate agents. So they’re very specific which is great. I think that those have their place. But I wanted something that everybody could find whatever they needed.

And so from the get-go, as people joined and I just invited a couple of friends that I had met through different things and I said, “Invite your friends.” And all we did at the beginning of Dallas Girl Gang was I had like themed days in our Facebook group: Motivation Monday and whatever. 

Conversation starters that led to supporting each other, that led to people doing their own meetups, that led to people asking for market research feedback for their business, or some of the biggest things are like, “Hey, where do you take your dog to the vet? Where do you go for this?” Especially if they’re new to the city. That was a big big big thing that we saw. 

Tons of people have moved to Dallas and moved to Dallas all the time. And so it spread like wildfire because people felt safe and seen and so they were like telling their girlfriends, “You have to get in this group.”

It’s so funny. My doctor and gynecologist is in Dallas and she tells every woman that comes in her clinic to go plug into Dallas Girl Gang because she is just such a fan of what I do which is so sweet.  

And that’s just the power, it was completely word of mouth. Because of our foundation of who we were, our mission and our purpose, and the value that we are offering to the community, of the connections, the resources. And then, later on, the events, our podcast, specific resources for business owners – things like that. 

And so that’s what I would attribute to the growth and then like I’m always said:  listening to your audience and asking them questions. Getting feedback and giving surveys is 100% crucial if you are going to grow at all because also, from 1,000 members of the Facebook group to 7000, it could be a totally different group at that point.

People come in and people come out. Most of the time people come and they stay. With a Facebook group, I mean, how many of us really go through our groups and clean them out? 

And so that’s what I would attribute and it definitely evolved over the years. 

Debbie:

I love it. And then from that, from nurturing all of these people in your community, how are you able to create income from it? 

Amanda:

It was one of those things where I discovered I was giving so much of my time that it was almost like, “Okay, something has to give.” And so at the beginning, I was charging nothing and everybody just showed up, and if we were at a restaurant pay for their own drinks or meal.

And then I realized, “Okay, there needs to be some more planning to this. Let me just take care of all the details so that they can just show up.” And so I would basically charge to cover the cost. 

And then from there I was like, “I really want this to be an experience. I want this to be memorable and well branded. I wanted to hire a photographer,” and things like that. And so I said, “If we want to do those things that cost money.

The mentors that I had really encouraged me from the early stages like, “Charge your worth if you think it’s a big topic. But I went from charging like $5, which is really embarrassing to charging $5, to, any of our in-person events, usually $20 minimum or up. 

If It’s a workshop you’re looking at a hundred or more, if it is a conference you’re looking 300 or more if It’s virtual, it just depends: it could be 20, it could be 48, it could be 129. Our conference last year had to go virtual.

And so with the events piece, there’s so much cost to go into it depending on what you’re doing. I did make sure in order to even profit X amount, we have to charge this and we need X amount of sponsor dollars, we need X amount of sponsor covered cost – things like that. 

And then I looked at our community. And so we created a membership that was really for those people who are what I would call super fans and they want to stay even more connected. They want the benefits of the resources, trainings, intentional community, and Q&A session – things like that as they’re going through life.

And really for the members, we should focus on our business owners because that’s what we heard was needed the most. And so that was one revenue piece. And then as our audience grew to 10,000 people, 15,000 people, 20,000 – whatever, people obviously wanted to partner with us. 

In the beginning, you’re offered sometimes with free product or free whatever in not a paid fashion. And what I realized was like, and no one had to tell me this, I just knew I’m not doing this for free because I know our community is so valuable and is so: a.) large, b.) engaged, and c.) a very specific audience. 

And so when it aligned to the brand that is approaching us, I love to put my best foot forward and say, “This is how we can really serve you. This is what our audiences like in our community and their habits and behaviors. What do you guys need? What are your goals? How are you guys growing?” 

And then I can send them a proposal of what it’s going to cost and oftentimes brands are pretty receptive to that when it really aligned and when It’s a brand that actually has the budget. And so what’s been a huge piece of our revenue stream as well is paid advertisements and paid partnerships especially in 2020 we wanted to really support local business. 

And so we gave opportunities that were really really budget-friendly to get their name out there, to partner with us, to advertise within our community. And so those three big things have been the main profit streams for the business.

But also on the completely different side of what I do in 2020 or the end of 2019 is leaning into my coaching and my services. Just opening this whole other door to revenue streams. Not only being someone’s consultant on something but being there to guide them and support them as they grow because I was there because I’ve been there. 

And what I absolutely love to do is walk with people through their experiences and as they grow their business because basically, my clients are where I was four years ago or me three years ago. 

And so those are some of the major revenue streams that we have been able to come up with. 

Debbie:

I love that. I really really love the fact that you have been able to create these different streams of income. And I think there’s a misconception that when you have a business, you necessarily just only want to have one, right? 

And in the beginning as well. Like, you don’t know where you really want to niche yourself down too so that’s always good to find that out. And don’t say no to where that income is coming from especially if you’re just starting out.

And then once you really figure out where most of your money is coming from then obviously you focus on that but there’s always going to be different ways that you’re going to do this. But it also makes it more sustainable for you in the long run.

Amanda:

A hundred percent. I mean, if we didn’t have multiple streams of revenue when 2020 hit, I don’t really know what we would be doing right now. I definitely would not have been able to leave my job, that’s for sure. 

Everybody probably heard this but if you want to be a millionaire, you have to have seven streams of revenue. Whoever said that, that’s probably in a lot of our heads. But the multiple streams of revenue is absolutely essential if you want to: a.) scale to six figures, multi-six figures, whatever and b.) stay in business. 

The number one thing that I’ve seen, especially locally, is to have one product and one service. And some people just don’t stay in business because they probably don’t have the support, they don’t have the education, the resources they need, and they don’t have the streams of revenue.

Debbie:

Absolutely. And especially now It’s so much harder to just stick with one type of income because of everything else that’s happening. 

So for you, Amanda, when did you know that it was the right time for you to finally leave your day job as a teacher and do this business full-time.? 

Amanda:

Well, I would say for those who are listening who may be in a committed relationship, a marriage, a partnership, we had to be on the same page. My husband and I come from two different worlds and two different backgrounds. 

He grew up in Arkansas. Very small town, people don’t spend money like crazy there, the cost of living is way cheaper but also like income levels are way lower. He comes from a background where money was a huge stressor in his life and his childhood specifically a lack thereof. 

I came from a very different background. I was a typical white kid growing up in the suburbs to parents. Dad had a great job, the end. We never went without, we always had what we needed, went on family vacations.

And so to give you that as a background when it came to being self-employed, self-employed means a whole other host of things. You have to find your own insurance, you have to save for taxes, and then if you’re building a team you’re going to pay your team. And so It’s like, “I’m not keeping all this money.”

$1,000 is really $500 because of XYZ and that is so risky in the first place, especially in the world’s eyes. So when I started really growing this business, and hear me say this, my husband has always been my biggest cheerleader. 

He always says he’s the token boy of the girl gang. He absolutely loves what I do. He also used to be in sales and marketing and so he has this incredible fresh perspective when it comes to things like that. I always go to him for advice or if I get no response that I’m not sure what to do with or an email.

And so with all that being said, as I’ve started to profit, I was getting so exhausted teaching full-time 7 a.m. To 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and then working my business when I got home until 8 or 9 o’clock. And then getting up at 5:30 and doing it again and then hosting events on some weeknights or weekends. 

I was burnt out pretty much from most of 2019 early into 2020. I think the pandemic, ironically, gave me a little bit of a break because I got to be home as my body got to take a rest. And so as a start to profit I just kept thinking, “I have to do this full-time. It needs my full attention, it needs my full passion and capacity.”

Though I’ve always loved being a teacher, I love kids, I always will and I will always be a teacher in anything that I do which is what I love about coaching now, but really what it comes down to is the numbers have to be there. 

And so the agreement that my husband I came to was he always wanted me to be able to do what I wanted. And we said, “Okay, we want x amount of money in savings as a cushion, worst-case scenario, whatever.” And then on a monthly basis, how do I replace my teacher salary? 

And so I was like, “All right. That’s what it is. That’s all we got to do. That’s what it’s gonna take. Here we go.” And so at the beginning of 2020, I knew that’s what it was going to take and I busted my tail to grow the personal side of my business and make that sustainable. 

Also invested in coaching for myself because I knew if I wanted to grow this quickly I needed assistance to not shortcut that but accelerate that – if that makes sense. And so I found an incredible coach, Tiana Nieves, she’s in New York, really help me put all these systems in place.

Brought on a couple of people to assist me ’cause I couldn’t do it all myself as we grew the podcast and my coaching and Dallas Girl Gang events and content and all the things that we are doing while I was running a full-time job. 

So I brought it over two assistants and I hit that goal and then the pandemic happened. And we had to kind of put a pause on things. My husband was out of work and what he did was he actually went on to get certified to be a teacher as well which is crazy.

And so we just kind of had to be positive about things. We want to be really conservative too. I would highly recommend not pulling the trigger before you are absolutely ready to because of things like that, because of a global pandemic, because of possible layoffs, or whatever. 

So we just save, save, save as much as we could and I remember one of our stimulus checks. I think we just put it in savings and then once school back into session, he started to teach. We decided, “Okay. This is my last semester. “ We’re going to strategically save with my income, with his income, pay for what we have to, live completely within our means and under.

It was a pain in the neck. We are not going out to eat all the time, we weren’t going to the movies, we weren’t traveling. We got the opportunity to save money. Simultaneously, we bought and built a brand new house at the same time. 

So, people that are listening who are feeling financially constrained, it’s absolutely possible. I was a teacher. Teachers don’t make shit. He was in sales working for himself. That’s hard too. So we don’t come from jobs that had a setup making 70, 80, 90, $100,000 a year already. Teachers make like a 40 or $50,000. In some states, they make in the thirties which is crazy. 

And so we were able to save and then we decided this was going to be our last semester. I told my principal in September, “Hey, this is my last semester and I’m telling you now because it’s really hard to find teachers, especially in a department like music because there’s not a lot of them.”

And so I left in December and we really had those goals in place, met those goals, and even surpassed those goals and then we were able to kind of pull the trigger.

Debbie:

That’s amazing and it takes a lot of guts to be able to hit that goal and to actually pull the trigger on it because a lot of times we’re waiting for the right time or there’s so much fear that goes into it. So that’s incredible.

Amanda:

So much fear. That’s what I hear a lot too especially from clients when they come to me originally.

Debbie:

Yeah. We see that and we also have felt that 

So, Amanda, I’m going to give you five fun questions and you must answer in one sentence. So here we go, are you ready? 

Amanda:

Yeah, let’s do it.

Debbie:

Alright. First, what is the worst food that you have ever eaten and why?

Amanda:

Artichoke hearts – don’t like them. They’re slimy and I’m almost gagged. 

Debbie:

Awesome. What has been the best money you’ve ever spent and why?

Amanda:

Oh gosh. I feel like I just have a list of things on Amazon but I won’t. The best money I’ve ever spent was, I’m going to go the business route, my most recent business coach. Absolutely hands down. 

Debbie:

Amazing. Now, describe what your ideal day would look like. 

Amanda:

Wow. 

Now that I’m working from home, I love this. I would love to get up like I don’t have to get right up and get to work. Maybe I will take a shower, maybe I do like pilates, or going to do a quick little workout if I feel like it. Cuddle with my dog and take my time throughout the day. Work on what I want to, have some music on. Candle, get some vibes going. Then, Netflix or watch a movie with my husband, eat some pizza.

Debbie:

Loved that. If you could have a superpower, what would it be? 

Amanda:

I love this. I’m such a Marvel Universe nerd so I love this question. 

I think it’s always so cool when people can throw fire or create fire from themselves. That would be super cool. 

Debbie:

Imagine like, “There goes Amanda again making fires.”

Amanda:

Light them up!

Debbie:

What’s the one thing that you wish you did sooner? 

Amanda:

Oh my gosh, slow down. I wish I had slowed down sooner so that I could listen to myself and my body and the people around me.

Debbie:

Loved that. All right. So let’s fast-forward to 50 years from now, Amanda, and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Amanda:

I love this question.  Did you say 50 years? 

Debbie:

Yes.

Amanda:

I hope I’ll make it that long. I want to be remembered as someone who was a lot of fun first of all but someone who cared about people first and made an impact first instead of status, money, things like that. 

I want to leave a legacy that my future kids and my family are proud of. That they’ll look back and see like, “I’m so glad I had Amanda as my mom,” or just someone that really empowered a lot of people. 

Since I was young, I really felt like I wanted to do big things. And so I would love to be able to look back and know that I did.

Debbie:

Amazing. I love that, Amanda. Thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate you for sharing your story.

 If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you? 

Amanda:

You can find me at @amandasindalls on Instagram,  Amanda C. Smith on Clubhouse, want to secure my actual name on Clubhouse, and AmandaCSmith.co is my website. And then all things Dallas Girl Gang, you can literally Google it, look it up anywhere. And The Girl Gang Podcast. 

Debbie:

Awesome. Thank you so much,  Amanda, really appreciate it. 

Amanda:

Absolutely.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO TURN A SIDE HUSTLE INTO A FULL-TIME BUSINESS.


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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