Solopreneur

I started a video introduction service to help people showcase their personality, promote their personal brand, and communicate their ideas.

Why Would Anyone Sign Up For This?

Why would anyone sign up for a life of uncertainty. A life of risk. A life where you need to hustle to prove your value with no guarantee of results. A life where you have to give way more than you get. A life spent living on an income rollercoaster – constantly playing catchup while never knowing for sure if you’ll be able to make those car payments you just committed to or pay your bills – let alone, buy groceries! 

If you think I’m talking about living the life of a solopreneur – I’m not! 

Welcome to the world of precarious employment. 

Precarious Employment

That doesn’t mean to say that precariously employed people don’t love the work they do! In fact, that is why they hustle. They hope to get off the rollercoaster. What they don’t love is being chronically underemployed – sometimes on the verge of bankruptcy from living on credit in order to survive. 

Have you ever been in line at the grocery store when the person in front of you – who appears to be financially stable – or at least, not homeless – pays for their groceries with Visa? Do you secretly get judgy and say to yourself, “Why is she buying bananas with a credit card?” 

And yes, I do know people collect points with their credit cards! 

But, let’s be honest. Have you personally, or do you know somebody who has, had to buy groceries with a credit card or somebody who’s had to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul”, that is, use one form of credit to pay the minimum balance on another source of credit – or a bill? Well, if you don’t, you do now – me! I’ve had to do all of those things. Why? Precarious employment. 

The good news is, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Thank you, Plato! Or how about, “Precarious employment is the mother of invention”? Or perhaps the mother of solopreneurism. 

And before you blow a big raspberry at the term solopreneur – feel free to insert any term you’re more comfortable with that describes someone who does everything themselves to run some kind of business. 

Durham Dance Salsa

My first stab at being a solopreneur was when I started Durham Dance Salsa back in 2012.

Fun, Fitness & Friendship – The Durham Dance Salsa Motto

The Problem

If you read my Longest Ever Cover Letter on the Education page, you’ll recall that I started Durham Dance Salsa because my friends and colleagues said they wished there was a local place (Durham, Ontario) to learn and practice salsa dancing. 

To be honest, there was already a place to learn and practice salsa. The Love of Salsa had been in operation for several years. The founder of that school, Kurt Glasgow, was and still is very well-known in the dance community. I wasn’t aware of The Love of Salsa until I created a Meetup.com group and discovered them – and Kurt.

On the surface, you’d think we’d be competitors. But that wasn’t the case. In fact, we ended up collaborating on multiple projects – like the Pan Am events – and became dear friends. Why?

The Solution

The Love of Salsa offered – and still does, by the way – multiple group classes on a weekly basis from a dance studio. They also host yearly social events that includes a show from their dance performance class. 

I didn’t do any of those things. 

Durham Dance Salsa primarily offered private lessons in a home studio. You know that wasted space, sometimes referred to as a dining room, at the front of many homes? Well, I invested in a bunch of mirrors and that became my dance studio!

A Dining Room & A Dance Studio

I did offer some small group lessons – mostly for women but also to connect existing private students. 

Sip & Salsa – a Social, a Song & a Hot Sauce

I would host social events that I called Sip & Salsa where my students were invited to have a lesson, socialize, and enjoy munchies and cocktails. And hey, my performing artist & guitarist husband, Rob Tardik, even named one of his songs Sip & Salsa because of that class! Oh, and he also sells a hot sauce named after the song!

The other thing I offered was bi-weekly salsa socials. And between you and me, this was the main reason I started Durham Dance Salsa – I wanted a local place to dance, too!

Salsa socials were all about socializing and dancing. I offered a lesson at the beginning, but most people would show up for the party that followed! 

If the thought of a Latin dance social gets you excited, they’re still happening today! Durham Dance Salsa is a thriving community now run by Julio Arriechi who continues to offer weekly dance events in the Durham community.

Putting First Things First

Kurt and I saw how we could work together to grow the salsa community in Durham. 

We looked for ways to offer more options for the dance community rather than creating conflicts for them. We’d often cross-reference our schedules in order to support each other’s groups. 

My private students would join his group classes and events – as would I – and his students would come to my dance socials. In fact, Kurt and I often taught the lesson at the salsa socials together. 

Kurt and I worked well together because we were both dance community first people. Another reason our collaboration worked is because what I offered was complementary to, not in competition with, what he offered. I was swimming in a Blue Ocean

Blue Ocean Strategy

In my research on entrepreneurship, I came across the book Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne. Similar to having a ‘leadership style aha moment’ when I read Leaders Eat Last and Dare to Lead, this book also gave me an aha moment. 

When I started talking to people about INTRObyVIDEO, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain what it was that I did. Was I a videographer? A producer? A coach? Was I an on-camera host? A digital content creator? A video marketer? 

How do you describe all the things you do – concisely – without sounding like even YOU don’t know what you do? Especially when what you’re doing is uncommon. Regardless, I definitely needed to be able to articulate it – or pitch it – to others.

When I was introduced to Blue Ocean Strategy, it helped me to realize that it was ok not to already fit into a box. In fact, it was a good thing. I discovered that my innovative idea was called a Blue Ocean Strategy:  

“…the pursuit of differentiation to open up a new market space and create a new demand thereby making the competition irrelevant.”

What is a Blue Ocean Strategy

I guess you could say, it’s creating a niche for yourself.

Anyone who I’ve shared my video introduction idea with has said things like, ‘I don’t know anyone else who does that’ or ‘I’ve never heard of that before’.

To be honest, I’ve never been a competitive person except with myself. To be able to offer something innovative in the video creation space without being concerned with what other video creators were doing allowed me to focus on my own path.

There’s room for everyone.

So What Exactly is INTRObyVIDEO?

In a nutshell, it’s a video introduction service – but not of the matchmaking kind. Actually, it IS meant to match people – but not in a Match.com kind of way. 

It’s meant to match job seekers with employers, business owners with clients, and community leaders with community members. 

How? By telling people about yourself – with video. 

Why on earth would anyone want to do that?! Great question.

The Backstory

My Problem

My interest in using video to help people promote themselves began with creating my own video resume.

I had applied for dozens of jobs over several years and had invested countless hours customizing my resume and cover letter without getting much response. I also spent hundreds of dollars to pay a professional resume writer assuming my resume was the problem. Still – crickets.

My Solution

I thought I’d try something different to stand out to potential employers. I had on-camera experience from doing commercial work, so I thought, “Hey, why not create a video resume”. I got to work writing a script and preparing a storyboard, and I hired a videographer.  

It worked! I got hired at an organization after the decision-maker saw my video resume – they hired me without even seeing my written resume. 

Hire Her!
Video Resumes Work Trailer with Original Seven I’s Framework Logo

The manager shared my video with the organization on my first day of work so that people could get to know me – it was a video introduction after all. 

Apart from being told that the blooper reel was their favourite part, many of the staff suggested I create video resumes for other people. They had never seen one before and really liked the idea. This resulted in starting a video resume service, Video Resumes Work.

A Name Change

I was chatting one day with a good friend about my video resume idea and she asked, “Do you mean video introductions?” Her question gave me clarity for my own concept, and from there, INTRObyVIDEO emerged.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Original-IBV-One-Sheet-791x1024.png
INTRObyVIDEO One Sheet

Pivotal Moments with INTRObyVIDEO

One of the most pivotal moments for me was when I received my first paid job creating video introductions. Being offered this job highlighted the value of networking on LinkedIn and within your industry. 

One of my past professors from the University of Toronto, Scarborough, viewed my video resume and commented:

“…this is a great way to leverage technology and to show yourself as the sort of person who finds opportunities in a changing world”. 

Steve Joordens

We discovered a mutual interest in the field of technology in education, and specifically, using video in an educational context. 

Through some available funding, I was hired to create video introductions for some of the faculty in the Department of Psychology; coincidentally, I graduated from UTSC with a degree in psychology. 

Professor Steve Joordens Video Introduction to Students

These videos are shown to first year undergraduates to create a sense of community and to introduce them to their future professors and possible fields of study. 

I’m Really Proud of You, Mom.

The most significant and memorable thing about getting my first paid opportunity was when my son said, “I’m really proud of you, Mom”. 

He continues to be the reason why I work hard to achieve my goals. I want him to be motivated and inspired to pursue his own dreams knowing he can be successful at whatever he puts his thought and energy towards.

A Much Needed Confidence Boost

When a colleague of mine nominated me for a new business of the year award through our local Chamber of Commerce, I cried. For one thing, I had never been nominated for an award. 

More significantly, I was at a very low point in terms of career confidence after being rejected for a full-time teaching position for the second year in a row. I had begun to question my career choice and efforts with graduate school. 

While I was not being recognized for my efforts in teaching, unexpectedly, I was being recognized for something else – my efforts with video introductions. I am forever grateful to my colleague for that gift – that much needed confidence boost.

A Personal Pivot

It may seem contradictory to mention applying for a full-time job while talking about being nominated for a business award. But it’s important to understand that in the field of education, full-time teaching positions are hard to come by – hence my earlier reference to precarious employment.

Most educators need to find other sources of income. For me, that has been teaching salsa and creating videos. 

While I’ve been developing my videography and video editing skills, I’ve also been researching entrepreneurialism and modern marketing.

And in case you’re looking for some excellent people to learn from, check out Sean Cannells Inner Circle and Marie Forleo’s B-School. I’m a student of both, and I highly recommend them. 

The Lean Startup

A book that’s had a significant impact on me is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. 

The Lean Startup gave me the courage to just start. Start with a vision, create a minimum viable product, and test it. If the feedback is positive – keep going. If the feedback is negative – make some tweaks and test again. Once you find your sweet spot – full speed ahead. 

I had two visions for myself, full-time college professor and full-time solopreneur. Based on the feedback I was receiving, it was full speed ahead with INTRObyVIDEO. 

Video Introductions for Car Dealerships?

I put myself to work creating videos to illustrate how video introductions could be used – like this one, which was geared at automotive dealerships.

Why did I create a video targeted at car dealerships? Because I used to sell cars and remembered how challenging it was to get clients. 

Level Up Your Team Page

Even though this was marketed to car dealerships, the same approach can be used with any organization – convert your Team page from a photo gallery to a video gallery. Create some familiarity with the person behind the photo – especially if you’re trying to attract clients.

What’s Next?

I love to teach, and this will always be a big part of what I do. In addition to teaching in traditional classroom contexts, I will also bring real world experience and tangible results to students of all ages through online courses, coaching, presentations, workshops, video introductions, and of course, video resumes.

I’ll See Your Rejection and I’ll Raise You…

I’ve come to realize that rejection sometimes brings with it small blessings and clarity. Being recognized for something I was doing simply for the joy of it, caused me to reflect on where my energy and strengths should be directed and where I could make the most impact. 

I will now accelerate my efforts doing what I love: building relationships and teaching people how to use video to connect with employers, clients, and the community.

Speaking of rejection, let’s talk about trying to make it as an actor, next! 

Ooo, another great segue!