Maggy Sterner: Being Authentic and Living Your Superpower

by DC Startup Week Team

This week’s interviewee is Maggy Sterner, branding mastermind and strong believer of “living your superpower.” We talked with her about the importance of authenticity and finding your own, unique story to separate you from the pack.

1. What do you love most about the DC Startup Community?

I love that it’s dynamic, fun and engaging. It provides real value to the startup community.

2. Tells us a little bit about yourself and your business.

I help small businesses and nonprofits get clear about the essence of their brand and find clear, simple words to describe it so they connect with their target audience.

People tend to use big words, jargon, and meaningless phrases (“paradigm shift,” “facilitating innovation,” etc.) instead of just saying straight up what they do.

It’s always just the truth.

3. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I realized I don’t thrive in captivity. At my last “job” I had to ask permission to take time off for a holiday in Peru and they said the timing was bad. I never want to ask permission to do what I want, so that was pretty much that. I love being an entrepreneur because of the freedom I have to make my own schedule and do work I love.

4. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business?

Ask for help! We can know how to do our amazing thing (brand coaching, graphic design, software development, etc.) and have no idea how to create a fulfilling business. There are a lot of steps, not the least of which is learning how to sell and ask for the money.

5. You’re a branding whiz. Why is it important for start-ups to think about branding early on?

Because your brand — the thing you do that’s unique and fabulous — is the foundation for your whole business. Everything is built on that. I discovered that after I completed my coach training. I didn’t know my target audience, my niche, or how to describe what I did.

When I joined a business mastermind, I coached a lot of people in my program and saw that nobody could market effectively and they had very low self confidence. The key to effective marketing and having the courage to get out there and own it is knowing the answers to these questions: Who do you help? How do you help them? What problem do you solve for them? What results do they get from working with you? What makes you so special?

6. We hear a lot about the importance of being authentic in your brand. Can you elaborate on why that’s necessary?

Because nobody wants to be “sold” to. My brand is an expression of my love of my work. My brand is what I stand for in my work. I stand for my unwavering commitment to challenging my clients with fierce love to get to the heart of their brand. When we communicate what we do from our hearts, not our heads, our ideal clients can find us.

What we do is a gift – a superpower – and when we can articulate it from a deep, authentic place, we can help the people who need us. My clients universally say they want to “make a difference” with their work. Differences only get made when we tell the truth and have the guts to stand for what we do and how we do it.

7. You help people “live their superpower,” what’s yours?

Mine is the ability to listen to a jillion words and see the essence of what the thing is. I am a wordy girl and 99.99% of the time I can boil down that big pile of words into one punchy line. I was a TV and radio reporter for CBS news so I had to walk into crazy town and get to the bottom of the story to hit my nonnegotiable deadlines. I loved that job.

I had a client who works at NASA. She was freaking out because she needed to be able to describe this highly technical thing her division did at a conference with academics, scientists, children, and the general public. She told me her story and I said, “Oh. You’re the weather people for outer space.” #blammo From that phrase, she got anchored in what she really did and she could talk about it in a grounded, spontaneous, dynamic way.

That’s my superpower.

You’ve inspired us to find our own “superpower!” Thanks, Maggy. Your words are so powerful and we can’t wait for you to inspire others at DCSW, too! We can’t wait to hear more at DCSW.