How My Pageant Wins Helped Me Build a Better Brand and Business

Lisa-and-Dannielle-675x320.jpg

How you can maximize your personal pastimes for business gains. By Lisa Song Sutton (Co-founder, Sin City Cupcakes) This post originally appeared on Young Entrepreneur Council

I spent 18 months of my life holding the titles of Miss Las Vegas and Miss Nevada. I attended red carpet events, conducted photo shoots and most importantly, spent the majority of my time volunteering with various community service projects around the Silver State. To make time for all the travel, volunteering and events, I had to pull myself away from my three businesses: Sin City Cupcakes, Elite Homes U.S., and Liquid & Lace.

Despite the brief hiatus, all of them showed substantial gains because of the business lessons I learned during my time as a reigning beauty queen.

The Power of Networking

At every single event I attended, be it a red carpet opening or volunteering at a soup kitchen, I met at least one person I otherwise wouldn’t have.

And inevitably, one question would arise: “So what else do you do?”

That was my opportunity to tell them about my companies and how thankful I was to have my business partners’ support as I took on the pageant. I exchanged cards and contact information, and while the new acquaintance may not immediately remember my name, they would remember who I was and parts of what I did and contact me for business needs. Get out there and make people remember you.

Learning Your Brand and How to Manage It

In my experience, the modeling and pageant industries are one of the best places to gain firsthand knowledge about how to grow and build a brand.

Models and beauty queens are essentially brand ambassadors who are paid either in money, scholarships or gifts to be spokespeople for an organization. The emphasis on personal branding and analyzing how the organization wants the brand portrayed can be directly applied to the corporate world.

For example, as a titleholder, when wearing my sash and crown at public appearances, I was prohibited from drinking an alcoholic beverage, lest a photo of myself in regalia with a cocktail in my hand made its way onto social media. Being so cognizant of my public behavior, I felt like a politician with a crown on. As a business owner, I realized that my social media presence and public persona also directly affect people’s views of the companies I co-founded.

Some questions to consider:

  • What are the tenets of my company?
  • How do I want my company portrayed to the general public and consumer?
  • Does my personal brand also reflect this?
  • How do I, my partner, or any person we hire, fit into the brand I am trying to build?

Pageant judges consider variations of these questions, and so should you as a business owner.

Engaging in Your Community

IMG_0534-300x232Since I knew I had a finite amount of time as reigning queen (I crowned the new Miss Nevada in April 2015), I wanted my legacy to be one of service. As a result, I tried to say “yes” to as many appearance requests as possible, with no consideration for monetary benefit. The financial sacrifices I made to be part of events with organizations or schools that didn’t have the budget to pay a “celebrity appearance fee” were some of the most worthwhile events I participated in. They paid for themselves many times over through goodwill, gratitude and of course, the indirect marketing of my companies.

Many fellow entrepreneurs have asked me, “What’s the one thing I should be doing right now?” And my answer is always to get engaged. Go volunteer with an organization that has a cause that speaks to you, whether it’s animals, veterans, the homeless, children or another population. If that cause is also in line with your company goals or culture, that’s even better. The community leaders and volunteers you meet will share most of your same ideals. The goodwill you build will not only be helping the community in which you live and work but will also indirectly benefit your business.


About the guest blogger: Lisa Song Sutton, J.D., is a real estate investor and serial entrepreneur, holding ownership interests in several companies in the real estate, retail and food & beverage sectors. Follow her on Twitter at @LisaSongSutton.