Every small business owner has a story. How can you use that to grow your business, build relationships, and help others? “Small Business Stacey” interviews Dawn Fitchett Fernandes to find out the answers. #ASmallBizLife #WhereMarketingMeetTechnology
Stacey: Hey everybody, Small Business Stacey here with another episode of small business marketing success interviews. Today, I am so excited for my guest Dawn Fitchett Fernandes. She actually runs two businesses, which I find very inspirational and she’s going to be sharing with us why your story is your superpower. Welcome to the show Dawn.
Dawn: Thank you, Stacey. Thank you for having me on here. Hello everybody.
Stacey: So as you know, Dawn, my community tends to be small business owners and they sometimes feel like they’re struggling with just one business, but you have two. So give us sort of the background. Who are you, where did you come from? Did you grow up always wanting to be an entrepreneur and how did you get to where you are today?
Dawn: Oh boy, Stacey, it’s a long story, but I will put it very briefly. I did not want to become an entrepreneur. I’ve always been a worker. I was the manager of large printing departments. The prepress with big cameras and light tables. And then 2007, you know, the economy hit and I lost my job. Printing was really hard hit. So I was on unemployment for about two years and three months and I had 60 days and I had a girlfriend who owned a salon in our town and we saw a lot of our business friends were going out of business too, it was just hard hit. And so she was suggesting that we do kind of like a welcome wagon on steroids, you know, our own celebrate our town, where we bring gifts and gift certificates to the high-end homeowners that were moving in. So we started in three territories and in 60 days the business was a success.
We help small businesses bring in these high-end people who have the money to infuse into the community. And I also included for free the nonprofits and the churches, but the nonprofits with their list of needs so that when people were on searching, they can help the community and also get community information, you know, the bike trails, the dog parks and et cetera, and a letter from the mayor. So it was all about community and helping small businesses. I did not, like I said, I wasn’t thinking about being an entrepreneur, but my heart went out to these small businesses and watching everyone struggle. And they’re going to remember at that time, the real estate market buying confidence was that the worst. So who better than people who had credit and had money then to market to?
So, it went on, it was a huge success from day one. I mean, huge. We had three territories and it’s still going to this day gangbusters, but what was great about that is that was delivering the basket. Beautiful home lady comes running down the stairs as I’m going over my schpiel over all the different businesses. And she’s like, I want to do this where I live, you know, so she pushed me to write the program. And so I wrote the entire program, talked to business consultants and my attorney and stuff like that. And I started in 2011 end of 2011 and started selling dealerships with an exclusive territory worldwide. And I’m now in 34 states going into my 35th state. Yeah. All over Canada and all over Australia. So it’s been a real blessing because we really do help the small businesses.
It’s all about community. You know, it’s all about helping your small businesses. Your non-profits and your local community come together through these new homeowners and it’s been a win-win for everyone. I just love the program. I never even thought of working for myself. I didn’t. So I was just like 20,000 resumes and I couldn’t find a job. And the day before I lost my job, I was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. I have learned how to walk and talk again, tenacity, you gotta be tenacious, but I literally have been healed and just kept going. And it’s been just my biggest thing is, you know, you’re blessed to be a blessing and I love blessing small businesses.
My age is going to be shown, almost 40 years. I love printing it’s in my DNA for sure. But I absolutely love helping small businesses, whether it’s standing out, you know, and looking just above everything else, all the noise so that they really can shine. And then also with Celebrate Home, I love training the new entrepreneurs because I show them it’s all about them. And actually I interviewed them before they could buy. And I said no to many people who wanted to, just to be about money. You can make great money, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the heart. You have to have a heart for your community. You know, if you don’t, I’m not going to sell it, you know? Cause it’s just then it’s sleazy.
Stacey: Well, what an amazing backstory. I’m really interested in your backstory because you were on unemployment, as you said, you never woke up one day saying I want to be a business owner. You got the inspiration to not only open one, but two businesses today.
Dawn: Or being kicked in the teeth. Yeah. I was a single mother with a mortgage that my unemployment wasn’t even half of my mortgage for over two years. And my daughter was a very active teenager and I lived out in the buku country. I mean, everything was far away. So I really had, it was either sink or swim. So for me, when I started that business and being an entrepreneur, I was so scared.
But because I really cared. And I did what I said I would do was excellent. I was able to help them, and we were assigning 60 businesses in 60 days. And it was a lot of them were in tripled contracts because our service contractors went and all three territories, you know, people saw the vision. I wrote the whole program. I absolutely loved it because I’m not only helping the new homeowners come and get to know their community. But now they’re coming in with doorbuster prizes and presents cause they give gifts and gift certificates in our basket, our community gift basket. And you know, it’s all about community. And so like for instance, our bowling alley for the family, they give them bowling for six with a large pitcher of soda and a pizza. That’s to get them in. And we interview these businesses before we go in to make sure they’re a good fit for our community basket as well. And like our butcher gives to grommets and prime ribs with two twice-baked potatoes. Free pizza, free oil changes, free hair cuts, free manicures.
These are doorbusters. These aren’t something you would find anywhere else, you know? And so that was what the heat is in. Then I would, I delivered for five years. I absolutely loved delivering. I love talking to the new homeowners. I have dinner with them. I played charades. I mean, I just had a blast, you know? I’d have a drink with them. In fact, you know, they still contact me sometimes like, Hey, let’s go out sometime. It’s been a while now with quarantine, but yeah. So, you know, it’s all about community and being there for each other. And that’s why I teach my new entrepreneurs is not to do crazy things like me, like, you know, playing charades at Christmas parties and stuff, but I mean, that’s a little over the top and I’m over the top and that’s okay, but it’s just, you have to have heart, you know?
And I mean, literally my first quarter in taxes at when we started our local business, our accountant was seeing nothing but negative and sad stories. And she’s like, what are you doing? And it’s just like, we care. That’s all we know. We’re really trying to help. And, that’s why I said it’s a great business, you know, to make money. But it’s better to me knowing that I’m helping other communities. You gotta be honest, say what you’re going to do. You do it. And you do it with heart. Otherwise don’t buy it.
Stacey: Caring. It’s the most inexpensive marketing strategy that anybody can use. I have a saying that customers refund transactions, but they never refund relationships. Customers refund transactions. They will never refund relationships. So you have built your whole business around doing what you love, loving what you do, and just genuinely caring. And I know that one of the platforms that you’re big on is Alignable. Talk a little bit about that. What it is in case some of our viewers and listeners don’t know what that is and how you’re using it in your business.
Dawn: Okay. So I use it for Faith Graphics, cause I really didn’t think Celebrate Home was a great fit, but boy was I wrong. I cross-post on my Faith Graphics printing. Alignable is a business to business, social networking site. It’s awesome. There’s over 5 million small businesses on this network. I’ve been on it for a little over two years and I have found I have more than tripled my business in printing and it wasn’t because I’m salesy. I never asked for recommendations. I’m there helping people. I’m giving value. I care about people. There’s some people really hurting and if you don’t care it’s going to show in your business. I love the platform cause I find it to be very unique, you know, authentic, genuine people.
I could never talk to business owners on this magnitude, you know, in my streets, but I can on here and really get to know them and then you’ll be able to help them too, which is great. So I’ve sold a lot of dealerships on Alignable. I just got over a thousand recommendations two days ago. It’s humbling when I opened that up, you know, and then for me I’m all about doing business, right? And that means, treating people the way you want to be treated. So, you know, with recommendations, I read their Alignable profile, their Facebook, their website. So I can get to know them. If I haven’t talked to them, I want to be authentic. And, that’s what I think really helps with me is just, I put my heart into it, you know? And I think in anything in life, if you want something bad enough, you just put your heart into it and you care about people and it always returns. I’m like their poster child for Alignable you know, everywhere on there. I’m already telling them I’m your cheerleader, I’m your biggest cheerleader. And they’re great people because I’ve worked with them for a while there. Cause I really work it and they’re like, Hey, they noticed she really works this. So I let them know this doesn’t work. This will be great. That would be great. They are the most awesome people to work with because they listen, they care, and they’re funny, they call me and they’re hilarious.
Stacey: What’s your number one secret Alignable strategy?
Dawn: Oh boy, I have so many. But what I do give is number one, you have to fill up your profile, put your tags on there, everything. So people know what you do. There’s nothing worse than someone that recommends me. And they don’t have a website, a Facebook, they have nothing on their profile. What the heck am I supposed to say? Really?
Stacey: It was like going out naked, right?
Dawn: Yes. Well that’s it totally, I mean, are you not on there to do business? You know, that is my pet peeve. So I will Google their company to find information. I’m a researcher. I just don’t let things go that easy, you know, I’m a perfectionist. Your profile is huge. Also having a nice letter, that’s not salesy, but telling them what you can do and how can I help you. But I also add value. I wrote a lot of articles on how to be successful on Alignable. So I send those links and I help a lot of people, they ask a lot of crazy questions and I love to answer crazy questions. So, you know, it does take time out of my day, probably an hour a day in Alignable because I have over 50 messages or in so many other things in recommendations. So I don’t mind because it’s brought in a lot of business and I generally care about people, you know? So, even the ones that are not so nice, I care about them and I usually turn them around, you know?
Stacey: I bet you do. Maybe that’ll be your next business.
Dawn: I have a third one. I didn’t tell you, but I’ve been writing the third business for a couple of years and it’s getting a little closer every day, you know? And it’s more on mind, body, spirit kind of like just mindset. Business mindset. I became board-certified and it’s just last year only because I love how the mind works and I’m not going to be doing any type of appointments or anything, but I wanted to have digital products. There’s so many different components to this business. Knowing myself with different tests about knowing yourself and knowing others. You know, it’s really kind of like all different kinds of intelligence. That for me, mindset and faith is what propelled me to be healed. When the doctors told me I would never walk and talk again, they told me I would die. And then for 42 years, I had boils under my arms and my panty line. And they said it was incurable. Not so my friends. So nutrition, supplements, everything, mindset. I just never believed them. You know, I just never did. And I went instead and found a cure, and, and I want people to live their best life. It’s never been easy, but I thank God, that I never stopped.
Stacey: Wow. You’ve been through so much. Your story is just so incredible to me like the ups and downs and what you’ve learned from it. And you never let it beat you down and let’s face it. Small business is tough, right? It’s not like you just push a button and money shows up in your bank account. What do you want the small business owners to know out there about their story and that perhaps if they’re going through rough times, what can they learn from you?
Dawn: Well, I just won the contest, the small business contest. And I was not surprised. Well, the thing is, I never wrote about myself. I’ve always been under the radar, and I never wrote about myself and I wrote 10,000 words and I had to shave it down to 500. But my story really is don’t give up because sometimes they’re actually . . . not sometimes all the times, there’s seeds of greater things from things that kick you in the teeth, but you just have to believe that and keep going. Don’t stop. You know, that scene is if you’re going through hell, just keep going. I say, heck no, run don’t stop. I wouldn’t be able to walk and talk right now, seriously, it was that bad where I had to learn how to do all that.
And they told me I would die. And I’m nowhere near dying. I’m stubborn, you know? And then the same thing with the boils for 42 years incurable. I love Marie Forleo’s book, everything is figure outable, everything is figureoutable. You just refuse to believe in the negative and work on a goal towards a positive every day. I went through a lot more than even when I told you I’ve gone through a hundred times worse and you know what, I’ve always been positive, you know? And I’ve always believed that better days were coming. Like at the end there, with my daughter in the house, I had 60 days girl, I mean really 60 days. And, it just happened because I believed that I kept saying I’m healed.
I’m just kept believing something good is going to come into this nest and although every day, 20,000 resumes I sent out to no avail. And back then, I mean, 2009, I literally I’ve been in the field for 30 years or so. And then, I could not get a job in printing. If I did it, I was like $10 an hour. But that couldn’t even pay for my light bill, you know? So it was very difficult. So I just refused to give up and you gotta reach, just keep going and believing that something better is going to happen, but you have to put in the work, you know, I liked it. You gotta put your overalls on and you gotta keep working. And if you’re going left and you should be going right, eventually it’s gonna pull you to the right again.
So, you know, I learned a lot, cause I mean, in the beginning, that’s what’s beautiful about our Celebrate Home program is we went through all the pitfalls that you could ever imagine. I mean the worst in the beginning, and it just made it stronger and better and better. And so I think that I love opportunities are really in our adversity. That’s when you really learn. I’ve not had this, but if you get a bad recommendation, listen to it, you know, and just listen to the negative cause it’s going to teach you how to turn it to the positive. You know? So that’s my advice is just keep going, never give up.
Stacey: I agree with you. Absolutely Dawn, pivot, profit, prosper. You know a little bit about my backstory being through 9-11, 2008 and a COVID world, my coffee smoothie catering business completely shut down. And you alluded to sort of what I’ve learned is that when others zig zag. It’s about just how can you make lemonade out of lemons? And if you’re not going to then quite honestly not want to look at being a small business owner, but those who do pivot profit and prosper, they’re going to thrive in this next age. And so Dawn you’ve shown us through multiple situations, unemployment, health situations, mindset, how a small business owner can do that. So kudos and congratulations to you for winning that award as well.
Dawn: Yeah, it’s true though. I’m going to just say real quick that it’s progress, not perfection. That’s what I learned in business. It’s progress, not perfection. I didn’t know about business. And I’m going to tell you my websites before it was atrocious, but you just get better every day, you know, every day. And that’s all, that’s the whole thing I keep getting better every day. Cause I’m learning every day and that, and you can’t just go out there and say, Oh, Hey, small businesses is no joke. It is hard work, but if your heart is into it in your mantra to do it, it’s going to be fun. You know? And it’s fun for me. I enjoy every part of being my own boss.
Stacey: You’re the best boss. Let’s transition for a few moments into what your Celebrate Home business does, which I find very interesting because you focus on new movers and this is an interesting niche that many small business owners don’t think about. So talk a little bit about the new movers. Like what are they looking for when they come into a community? Why small business owners should think about this as a niche and how perhaps they could use a service like yours to become front of mind?
Dawn: Like back in the day, like I said, in 2009, when we started real estate was at the all-time boom. So, you know, they weren’t building and you know, it hit a level like we’ve never seen. And what was why we wanted to do the new movers is because these people that were moving in and we’re talking, we’re even talking to people who had 10 million summer cottages. The high-end movers who had the money to infuse into the community and these small businesses. So that was the premise is they have money cause they have credit and they can infuse the money into the community. They can help the nonprofits. They can help the community becomes viable it’s the community reaching out to this new homeowner.
And that was really cool. A lot of people volunteered their turn to different nonprofit organizations. That’s the kind of stuff you’d see and people were going to different churches, if they wouldn’t have not known that, except for these people, well advertising in our community basket, you know, so the people who advertise in our basket and we’re exclusive with everything except for food and entertainment. So, like in our local area, cause like I said, I sell dealerships worldwide and teach people how to do what we did. And it’s all really put together for you, which is awesome. But, what’s great about that is that we have lines of people that want to like say the banking area. We’ve had probably a list of 20 different banks. I want to get in there, but we only have one bank, our community bank, you know, so if we don’t step on toes that way, cause we’re only going to so many homes each month, we’re not going to all of them.
The price is very low. You know, for us it was $150 who could get that to go into the home. They get some gift certificates and they’re all made up as gifts either in cellophane bags, organza bags and you know, giving them to these new homeowners. They’ve been here for 80 years, you know, and blah, blah, blah. They’re giving you a free haircut. You know, I mean, who can get that kind of exposure for 150 a month to do that type of advertising for them word of mouth in the home with a new homeowner, you know, it’s just crazy. It’s awesome.
Stacey: Well the new mover mailing so to speak is just a fantastic opportunity because you’ve got somebody new coming into a community who doesn’t, you know, let’s say they’re looking to get their hair cut. Where do I go to get my hair cut? Who is good? Who should I do business with? Or I’m looking for a pizza shop or where do you get a pizza around here? They probably don’t know the stores much less the business owners, but they want to support local. They want to support the community that they live in, but they just don’t know where or how to start. So you kind of brought them together. It’s a vehicle that creates a win-win for everybody.
Dawn: Yes. And I mean, there’s a lot of new movers, direct mailings out there. In fact, I got one. When I moved out of the community, I got a free haircut and I was so excited. Now you gotta remember our baskets were worth $3,000 worth of free gifts and gift certificates for everything. We’re talking everything and I was so excited when I got the new mover mailer. It was a free haircut and I called and it was for men only. Well, my husband’s bald. So let’s see these new movers, direct mail. It’s like 10% off. It’s kind of like stuff you’re going to see anywhere. These are getting people who’re going to throw a free, clean and check down your furnace or your air conditioner. I mean, who’s going to throw away 18 rounds of off with a cart? I mean really, because we are going to the higher end homeowners who have the money to infuse them into the community. We interview the small businesses, and make sure that when these people come in, they take care of them. We just fit everybody in there to work together, to help the small business, to help the whole darn community. Cause it really does.
Stacey: I love it. And you alluded to something, I don’t know if you realized it or not, but it’s an incredible marketing lesson, which is, don’t be cheap. Don’t give 10% off! Who cares about 10% off? Wow them! Give something away for free, provide value, look at the longterm value of that customer, client or patient.
Dawn: Yeah. Well that’s what we did. We wanted to be where they couldn’t say no. You know, I mean seriously, who was going to say no to a haircut, right?
Stacey: A round of golf. Sure.
Dawn: Yeah. I mean, these are things we have free nights at dog pet care, you know, where they stay overnight. And I mean, there’s just so many cool things. We had over a hundred businesses and in our baskets, we even had organic earth farms. So it’s just so cool because we could encompass everything that our community did. I didn’t even know there were so many darn community businesses until I started going and looking for different businesses. There’s just so many and it was so cool to be able to represent them in the basket. And yes, you do have to now you can’t do that on a large scale. You know, a company can’t give away, free garlic and crusted rib-eyes or whatever, you know, you just can’t do that. But on a smaller scale where we’re actually going into the house and advertising word of mouth advertising for them, on a smaller scale, they can do that smaller scale with a niche that can afford to come in and buy a lot of steaks.
Also, you know, that’s the whole thing and we couldn’t let anybody be cheap. We had a guy that wanted to just give, buy one, get one half off. And we’re like, sorry, we don’t do that. But we also do free marketing for the whole community for this, for these businesses that come in our basket too. We make them coupons that go on Facebook so that people can use their services as well. So it’s not just a new homeowners. It then morphed into having networking with businesses, all the businesses. And you know, I really morphed into a lot of great things, doing good deals of different businesses with, you know, uptown them about themselves.
Stacey: Well, Dawn, what an amazing story that you have. I know my community is gonna want to reach out to you to connect with you on Alignable and learn more about who you are, what you do. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with my community today. How can people get in touch with you?
Dawn: Well, thank you Stacey, this has been great. My first interview ever, you can reach me at info at CelebrateHome.biz and my phone number is (262) 997-9327. And we’re looking for dealers who have a heart. I went through the great recession when this first started, this business, and it just exploded it. We’re now in the Coronavirus, this is the best time. And I’m giving 50% off right now too, because I want to help. I mean, I never did this before. I want to help these businesses, you know, new people that want to start a business. So I’m giving 50% off of the kit and the territory just so that people can go off there and really help their community. You know it just hit me one day. I’m like, duh, I went through the great recession. That coronavirus is no different. Our businesses are going to need the help period. So yeah.
Stacey: Well Dawn, kudos to you for practicing what you preach. I want to give you an opportunity to kind of leave our small business community with your words of wisdom. What do you want them to take away as their lesson learned?
Dawn: Just keep going, just keep pumping and keep learning. Keep growing, you know, don’t stop growing and stay positive. We need some more positivity in this world. And I think especially business owners, I mean they always alone too. So I have to amuse myself, you know, and just keep positive just seriously, go out there and crush it with your positivity. Cause it always comes back always.
Stacey: All right. You heard it straight from Dawn. Never give up. Always get into action. All right, everybody reach out to Dawn. You have her contact information, Dawn, great job. I can’t believe this was your first interview. Thank you so much. I’m so honored that I got the opportunity to bring you on my show.
Dawn: Thank you, Stacey. You are just the best. I love Stacey with everything. She’s the greatest. So thank you so much, Stacey. You have a wonderful week.
Stacey: Thanks. Let me close this out. I’m Small Business Stacey, your small biz marketing specialist here to help you get your marketing into ACTION and help you become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz. Bye, everybody.
Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small - and not so small - businesses one marketing plan at a time. She helps business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE profit. Stacey's in-demand "Small Biz Marketing Success Coaching and Mastermind Program" is transforming the businesses - and lives - of those who want wealth, freedom, and market domination. Her highly acclaimed book "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" lays out the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of Cups To Gallons, the place where independent coffee, smoothie, juice bar, ice cream, dessert and snack shop owners go to learn how get into lucrative catering so they stop selling by the cup and start selling by the gallon. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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