“Sus you’ve spoiled us. I go to [another restaurant] and I expect subconsciously for the host to behave just like you with diners. And when she is being [formal] it kinda feels odd.”
“Food is good at Carrots. But there’s a connection to the place which keeps bringing us back…And the way you interact with all of us strengthens the feeling. 🙂”
Messages like these from our restaurant guests were very common. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy of course, but they also tickled me. I didn’t plan this cultivation of connection and familiarity with our customers. All I did was just be myself.
In the hospitality circles students are taught to dress a certain way, welcome people with practiced smiles, always say “sir” and “madam”…some amount of distance is encouraged. It’s considered professional to behave formally.
But I never studied in the hospitality industry. 🤷🏻♀️ I had no bloody idea that as a restaurant owner, I was “supposed” to exude a degree of polite aloofness. So I was always just my own damn natural self! 😂
I’d gush and laugh and wave my hands about enthusiastically while talking. And if we were discussing our food or veganism, my absolute passion for the topics would manifest as my voice going up a few decibels. 😜
A lot of our regulars became dear friends. Delighted to see their familiar faces, I’d often pull up a chair and sit chatting with them at their tables.
It wasn’t just the happiness though. When we were struggling with anything, I wouldn’t pretend to our community like all was hunky dory. I’d be transparent and vulnerable as much as possible (without going into a ranting spiral of course).
These behaviours aren’t considered okay by traditional hospitality standards. But going by the sheer numbers of “cozy”, “warm”, “friendly” and “homely” in our reviews and messages, I’d say being authentic worked beautifully.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, don’t hesitate to be real. When you look at what others are doing, being your true self can be scary. But it’s also incredibly freeing!
Don’t worry about rules and norms. Just be yourself and connect honestly (and kindly). You’ll find so much more joy and fulfilment in your work.
Here’s how you can build those meaningful, authentic connections as a conscious entrepreneur.
The three following parts were written as a series, so each one is like a mini article on its own. But all of them come together as a deep, detailed insight into authenticity for anyone running a heart based, purpose driven business.
Part 1: They need to know who you are
“There’s a new vegan business in town? Yasss!” I rub my palms together enthusiastically. 🥳
I want to indulge in delicious goodies of course, but I also want to get to know the awesome people running it. What’s their story? Why did they start this venture? Most importantly, can I trust that they’re actually selling vegan products? (Oh what a skeptic experience has turned me into! 😅)
I open up their Instagram page and start scanning.
Product pic, product pic, product pic, information about food and nutrition, business logo, more product pics…
Wait, who the heck is actually running this place? And what exactly are their core values? 🤷🏻♀️
As pretty and curated as the photos are, I have no clue about the team behind this organisation! I feel the tendrils of disappointment creeping up.
I visit their website. There is an “about us” page, but it only makes vague, third person references to the founder and their educational and professional qualifications. Feels cold and impersonal.
I step away. I’m not about to be one of the first people to experiment here. Once others try the stuff and recommend it to me, I *might* come back and order.
Okay, I admit everyone might not be like me. 😄 For you, it might be as simple as seeing a conscious product with clear ingredients and buying it.
But think about this, whenever you’ve connected to the stories of real people behind a business (founders, team members…) don’t you a tend to support them more readily and more often?
❗️If you’re a conscious entrepreneur who only spotlights your products/services, this could be a reason you’re not gaining enough momentum.
A lot of people want to support small, heart-based entrepreneurs like you who contribute something positive to the world through their work. Having a real connection with you will only encourage them more.
I’m not saying you need to turn narcissistic overnight and plaster your face all over your profile. 😄 But pepper your content with a few pictures of yourself and your team. If you’re camera shy, then at least clicks pics of your behind the scenes process, and share stories in your own words.
Personal connections are magic! 😊
Part 2: Be your awesome, shining self!
“Project a personality that matches your business”
“Always stay professional even if it means being aloof”
“Dress this way to make the right impression”
“Wear make up for your photos and videos”
There’s a lot of marketing advice out there that’s very cookie cutter. It instructs you to say certain things, act a certain way, and build a public persona that aligns with the “industry standard”. *cringes*
This basically means you shape yourself based on what you’re selling even if it isn’t who your are, just because other people within (or worse, outside of) your niche might be doing it.
About a decade or two ago, that might’ve made sense. After all we rarely see any kind of personal touch when it comes to big corporations whose only motive is to make profits.
🌺 But now we’re in the era of conscious businesses, social enterprises, and collaborative ecosystems. The game has been flipped on its head!
In today’s landscape, your audience can smell bullshit and insincerity a mile away. Pretending to be someone you’re not will not help you!
🌟 Your gifts, your strengths, your quirks, your personality, let them all shine through. The more real you are, the more meaningful your business relationships become. That’s good for you, your team, your customers, and all the people you collaborate with.
Everyone might not like you or your style of working/communicating. But that’s a very good thing!
❣️ Your authenticity is a powerful filter that ensures only the *right* kind of customers/audience come to you.
Only the people whose energy aligns with yours, get attracted into your sphere. Makes life so much easier for everyone!
Close your eyes and picture yourself freely being YOU all the time. Don’t you feel all your muscles just un-clenching? 😂
Bonus: when you’re being yourself, you give permission to others to do the same (be themselves I mean, not be like you 😛). Believe me, it’s a beautiful thing to nurture a culture of realness, vulnerability and sincerity. ☺️♥️
Part 3: You’re so full of S…
S stands for Stories, okay? Not what you were thinking. 🤭😛
Seriously though, don’t you enjoy listening to/reading stories? Don’t you feel so much closer to the people they’re about? We all cherish real connections. Sharing your own stories is such a great way for people to connect with you, your team, and your work!
“This is my first visit here but I feel like I know all of you already”, is something I’d hear quite often from guests when I ran our restaurant. And it never failed to fill me with warm fuzzy feelings. ☺️
Our social media had more content about our team, and everyday things happening at Carrots than the actual food. The response was beautiful!
Often when someone walked into our space, they already had a sense of familiarity with us. Sometimes, people from a different city/country who had never once visited us would recommend us to their friends in Bangalore. All this because our stories made them feel like they were going through the journey along with us.
♥️🌟 Build a community around you and they’ll grace you with engagement, support and love. Through your stories you have the privilege of becoming closer to each other.
Your purpose/inspiration behind your business, hurdles you’re overcoming, funny antics or triumphs of the team, thoughtful gestures/messages from guests, what you’re experimenting with… Every day is filled with experiences that are nutritious fodder for great anecdotes.
❗️But this is very important: Always think of how your audience will benefit from your stories – inspiration, learning, a different way of thinking, joy, laughter, hope… they must take away some kind of value, and preferably feel uplifted (no one enjoys rants 🤷🏻♀️).
Your stories don’t need to be long winded write-ups (like this one 😜), just short, simple ones are good – a few lines under a photograph, a live video, clips on your Insta stories, there are so many possibilities.
Share them like you’re talking to a friend, not some potential customer. And do it with the sincere intention to meaningfully connect with your community.
You’ll be richly rewarded in so many amazing ways! ☺️
A few closing thoughts about authenticity for conscious entrepreneurs
Yay, you’ve managed to read so far! Great. You better be sold on fearlessly being your true awesome self by now! Haha I’ll share just a couple more things for you to keep in mind, and you’re all set.
- Always communicate from your soul – not just that kind heart and beautiful brain of yours
- Be honest, vulnerable, and transparent where possible – without sucking your customers into any drama
- Make it personal (while maintaining your privacy of course) – a community of your ideal clients will build itself around you
- Don’t be afraid to show other sides of yourself and occasionally go “off topic” in your content if it’ll add value to your audience – your various passions make you unique and interesting
When you’re your true self, YOU are the brand. Your clients/audience return not just for your quality product/service/content, but because it’s YOU delivering them.
Why personally be the brand though? Isn’t it enough for the business to be the brand?
Good questions, my friend. But the answer is looooong. So for now work on your authenticity. I’ll be back another day with a full write up about the benefits of becoming your own brand separate from the one for your business.
“I’m a Spiritual Vegan Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur. I read voraciously, find humour in most things, and believe kindness and authenticity can make this world a happier, loving place.
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Vegan cuisine and holistic business building are my two biggest passions. If you’re looking for guidance with vegan cooking, or want to grow your conscious business with joy and fulfilment explore ways we can work togetherhere.”