I recently had the privilege of attending a workshop headed by a genuinely motivating woman. One who's guaranteed to make her mark - Justine Ulph of Victory Gardens. An individual you can't help but learn a bomb from. A perfect example of someone creating a life that matters. Justine is taking forceful action to do her bit towards creating a better world. And she's doing it with contagious authenticity & determination.
Understanding her innovative habits may help
But I won't dig too deeply into the details of Justine. We're scheduled to meet up and do a comprehensive interview. The thing is, I was unusually impressed when I heard her speak. I left that workshop bursting to share her cracking messages. And I figured it'd be wrong if I didn't write a separate article.
Justine's story contains a really positive message. A message to all of us. Great things can happen when you take the leap and simply start. Combine this with a set of core habits and you'll never know what will develop.
A little about Justine
So yes, it's a watch this space for the all-inclusive interview into what makes Justine tick. But for now, I'll give you a taster. On the day I was in the audience, Justine talked to a group of 8 small business owners & potential starters - all eager to learn. But just quietly, I felt her expertise was almost wasted on us. She could easily have captivated a more experienced & sizeable crowd.
If I could turn a social media channel into a person, the avatar would be Justine. She's wildly energetic, innovative and all about people, their stories & life. Social Media connects, promotes & builds awareness; it links communities & supports causes. Justine does all of this in one small almighty package. Her Twitter profile could comfortably read:
Co-founder of Victory Gardens. Entrepreneur, Networking Natural, People Connector, Idea Starter, Public Speaker, Authentic PR Specialist. Mum of 3: Build a career, cause or business you believe in.
An enviable profile that many would consider unachievable. But make no mistake, Justine's not simply 'lucky' to be where she is. This mother of 3 has worked hard, with limited time. She's rolled up her sleeves and got on with it. No hesitation. No excuses.
The 8 Innovative Habits of Justine Ulph
After listening to Justine talk, I extracted 8 savvy habits that she applies to her life & work. Habits she weaves through everything she does.
1. Nail your 'why'
Justine made it clear that this is a habit not to miss. Something that will take careful thought & reflection. Your 'why' is the solid base on which to build your thing. The secret sauce for your business, brand or blog. Justine has nailed her 'why' using the model created by Simon Sinek of Start With Why. A resource new to me and one I was excited to learn about.
She recommends narrowing your 'why' down to a handful of core messages. Once you've done that - memorise them. Put them in your internal toolkit. You'll be able to communicate your purpose clearly & consistently. People will know precisely where you're coming from. And in turn, they're more likely buy your products or support you.
If you narrow down your 'why' you'll stay true to yourself, without getting distracted from what you want to achieve.
2. Start. Even with no budget
Don't think you can start something without a budget? Perhaps this isn't so much of a problem. Justine & the pro-bono team behind Victory Gardens are a living example of building something great from nothing. 'Zero, zilch, zip' in Justine's words.
During the idea phase of Victory Gardens Justine was rich in knowledge & experience, but not rich in funds. An all too common issue for many women in their life after children. 'If you use your creative flare you can bring life to an idea that you believe in', points out Justine.
With no budget, the only way to get her venture off the ground was to lean on the skills of others. Her artfully designed logo is a prime freebie example. A local graphic designer, also starting out, was keen to help. She believed in Justine's 'why'. In exchange, the designer could use Justine as a reference….. a testimonial…….an example of a happy client. A fair exchange. Both gained from the connection.
3. Forget perfect.
You may be like me and have a tendency towards perfectionism? Postpone until everything is 100% ready? As a self-confessed perfectionist, it's a habit I've been working on. The audio book Leap First is my 'go to' when I catch myself stalling. Justine displays the enviable 'leap first' habit in everything she does. And to hear it coming from a regular person, not a celebrity, is truly motivating. 'Near enough is good enough' is a mantra she lives by.
Ditching perfect happened for Justine in her start-up phase. The 'perfect' domain name for her business wasn't available. Annoyingly she was left with the less desirable - victorygardenau.com. Not ideal. 'Clunky' even. A lot of us would let this hold us up. But Justine didn't pause for long. She chose the best fit and moved on. Adopt this habit & you're bound to step out of your comfort zone & see exciting things happen.
4. Get out of your bubble
This is big. An absolute non-negotiable according to Justine. Whatever you want to call it - networking, connecting, schmoozing - it's the ingredient that will make all the difference. Hate networking? Not a behaviour that comes naturally to you? You're not alone. It's a behaviour that many creatives, bloggers & writers avoid. Preferring instead to sit in their bubble. Networking can be nerve-racking. And if you're anything like me you might feel it's all a little phoney.
But Justine made me think about networking differently. 'Networking isn't that hard if you know your 'why'. When you know your 'why' and totally believe in it, you'll have no problem getting it out there. You'll meet people who can help you grow and build your brand.'
5. No expertise is no excuse
'But I'm not a techie…, I'm not a designer..., I'm no good at social media...' Perhaps you've made excuses like this yourself. Common excuses that can stop you from getting started. But according to Justine there are ways around this, if you are creative. Don't know how to do something? Learn how - or find someone who does.
To fill her expertise gaps Justine boldly gathered favours from people around her. Free specialist advice that would have cost thousands. In exchange, she traded her skillset or offered ways to leverage a partnership with people or other businesses to create a win-win. A lawyer, a chef, a horticulturalist and an architect. All have jumped in to help. All believed in her 'why'.
6. Use a range of Social Media Channels
Justine cleverly works social media to spread her message. Both herself and Victory Gardens have an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & Google plus. She's a social media self-learner and has predominantly learned by observing and then copying expert social media users.
Social media, Justine asserts, is a critical tool. Use it to keep your followers informed and to become a go-to resource; an expert in your field.
But a word of caution? It's important to always respond to comments left on your social media channels. And always acknowledge shares & retweets. Justine highlighted this with a simple example she witnessed on Facebook. A friend left a comment on a cafe's page about how good the coffee was. The response from the cafe? Nothing. No reply. The message was ignored. They missed a valuable opportunity. A chance to engage with their community. You wouldn't ignore someone in a face to face discussion. It's important not to ignore people online.
7. Forget Competing. Collaborate
Justine is a massive advocate of collaboration. Of working with other businesses for each others benefit. Competition? No problem. She embraces it and uses it to her advantage. 'Amazing things can happen if you work with your competitors rather than against them. You can springboard off each other'. Consider developing a positive relationship with your competitors. If you do, you'll gain access to each other's audiences.
8. 'No' is not that bad
So many of us, particularly woman, hold back from asking for a favour. We stall due to our fear of hearing 'no'. Worried that we might inconvenience people. But Justine has a habit of asking. And this habit has lead to great things. What's the worst thing that can happen, questions Justine. If you think about it, 'no' isn't really that bad. And you know what? Justine has found that in most cases, people say 'yes'.
Hopefully I've captured a good sized chunk of Justine's manifesto. I walked away from my short time with her feeling pumped & more focused. With an insight into the gaps I need to fill. We all want to live our lives with purpose. Justine Ulph is doing that bravely, ethically and with a good dose of spunk.
Question: Would you benefit from adopting any of these habits? I'd love you to leave a comment in the box below.
Victory Gardens - Justine's self-made ethical venture. The people of Newcastle, Justine's home town are privileged to have someone so passionate & experienced advocating for their city.
Justine Ulph on Twitter - In addition to her founding role at Victory Gardens Justine is CEO of Public Relations & Community Engagement Consultancy The Victory Collective Pty Ltd.
She is available as a keynote speaker at events and workshops.
Justine is also a Board Member of green tech co-working space, 1804, and an enabler of the newly created Tech Ecosystem #Newystartups.
Follow Victory Gardens on Twitter @VictoryGardenAU
Follow Victory Gardens on Facebook
Start With Why Simon Senek
Leap First by Seth Godin Can't recommend this audio book enough if you're considering taking a step towards doing something different.
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