We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Happel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, what is the most important factor behind your success?
One word: Authenticity
I’m currently running two businesses – one is Genuine Content, my web design and branding boutique agency, and the other is my digital product line where I help aspiring non-fiction authors find the following they need to attract agents and publishers.
Authenticity is at the core foundation of both. The more my brand message aligns with my authentic personality, the better my business does. It’s absolutely a direct relationship.
I came up with the name Genuine Content when I was first building the business. I asked a friend and early client what sets my work apart, and she nailed it on the head – I have the ability of listening to someone’s story and can then turn it into something that both genuinely speaks to the heart of their business and also has a marketable message to their ideal audience. I’ve carried that mission throughout every part of my business.
As for my personal brand, which is how I sell my digital products and coaching services, authenticity is an important attribute of my message, whether that be through advertising, emails, social media, and how I interact with my clients and customers.
For a short while, I teamed up with an agency who created a marketing funnel and Facebook ads for me.. Everything they created for me never felt like it aligned with me from the creative to the actual sales process. I’m sure it works for other people, but their cookie cutter system felt like I was trying to fit into my high school jeans. And you know what? Sales were abysmal.
I’m grateful for all the work they did building out the infrastructure they did, because after we parted ways, I was able to build on what they had already done for me. But I went to work on the messaging and structure, really aiming to speak to the heart of people I know I can help with my book.
It was more authentic to who I am.
And that right there was the magic. Not only have my sales improved exponentially, but I’m having the most amazing conversations with people who have purchased my book. It FEELS more me, so it’s easier for me to get behind it.
I consider myself to be a heart-centric entrepreneur, and I know there are many more like me out there. A heart-centric entrepreneur has to lead with heart and a mission they believe in before they can focus on sales. We live in a society that focuses on sales-centric. It works for some people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re heart-centric trying to fit into the wrong practice, authenticity feels like it takes a back seat, and that makes the road feel much steeper.
If there’s one thing I could do as far as helping others establish their businesses, it’s this idea of the heart-centric entrepreneur and the importance of authenticity. It has been a game-changer for me, and I hope it rings true for others as well.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My diverse background. Marketing wasn’t my first profession.
I spent nearly 10 years working as a reality tv casting producer. It was an incredible experience — I traveled the country talking to people about their lives. We recorded interviews, produced packages, and made our recommendations to the network executives who we thought should be part of the final cast.
You wouldn’t know it until you actually do the job, but it was often just me and one other person on the road. I had to know how to use a camera and lighting equipment, public relations to promote open calls, event planning to set up the logistics for those calls, conduct interviews and tell unique stories. There was a year and a half where I was an Associate Producer for an HGTV show when I had to put on coveralls and crawl under houses to interview home inspectors with a night-vision camera about the condition of the house. That career turned me into a get-er-done worker and problem solver. I have some STORIES.
But more important than my own stories is the muscle I was building in helping people tell THEIR stories. The casting interviews were my favorite part. People trusted me enough to let me in to important parts of their history. I listened and guided them through the story to help them weave a tale that I knew would relate to a national audience, and also what would appeal to our executives.
What I was doing was getting real-world training in personal branding. It’s all about understanding people and connection, and what message with make it all resonate.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Start off the day with a hike around Lake Hollywood – it’s a nice flat stroll, so it’s great for chatting while walking, and also a great view of the Hollywood Sign without being too touristy.
Then brunch (or lunch) at Aroma Cafe in Studio City. I used to live right around the corner, and it has some really happy memories for me. It’s also a great place for some casual celeb sightings.
One of my other favorite lunch spots for visitors is Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. It’s one of the only places in LA where you can sit between a pool and the ocean. Moonshadows on the PCH is also great for a sunset beverage.
If things were back open as normal, I’d make sure we had tickets to a recording of Loveitt or Leave It podcast at the Hollywood Improv.
I’d also make sure I had reservations at some point for the original Katsu-ya in Studio City. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There is a book that changed the trajectory of my business in my first year. It’s “How to Be a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero. I’ve read it a few times since, and each time it encourages me to invest in and believe in myself and my own abilities.
As for other humans in my life? There are so many. I’m incredibly blessed to be surrounded by supportive friends and family. One person who stands out is Jonathan Unger. He’s a friend who has been with me through all the ups and downs since I first moved to Los Angeles in 2005. When I fall down, I can count on his hand being the first one to offer me a way back up.
We also both started our own businesses the same year, so we’ve been able to share that experience as well. His tv development company Unger Media is doing some pretty remarkable things right now, and I’m incredibly proud of everything he has achieved.
photos: Judy Lin Photography (portfolio images by Genuine Content)