Issue 131 — June 14, 2020
There is ambition and there is intention. Ambition is I hope, I wish, I want. Intention is I will, I am doing it, there was never a question.
Elma Beganovich’s intention is clear: to win the same size contracts that any of the big four ad agencies would get based on her company’s ability and the talent she and her sister and cofounder Amra bring.
Amra and Elma founded A&E, a digital agency with an impressive client portfolio of Fortune 500 companies like J&J, P&G, Netflix, VF Corp, and Wells Fargo. They are mega influencers with over 2.2 million social followers.
Elma’s 35 years old — the exact age I believe is the perfect point in life — old enough that people respect you and young enough to do anything you want to do — if you have the intention to do it. She and her sister seem to have a symbiotic relationship.
They were early adopters to social media, among the first to join Instagram, because Elma, a studious lawyer, saw the power of its visual attraction to promote brands. Elma credits her sister with being the more creative one. It was Amra who first recognized the opportunity to provide women with more attainable fashion and relatable travel, cosmetics, and other lifestyle advice than they were seeing in the major fashion magazines. And Elma creates the business systems to make it all work.
The daughter of Bosnian immigrants, her story is the American dream, an entrepreneur whose social media posts fetch $20,000 from brands who want to be seen on and spoken of by millennial influencers.
I talked with Elma Beganovich to find out about how she and Amra built their company. I realized in talking with Elma that I had found my archetype of the intentional woman.
I’m obsessed with the concept of intention as the lynchpin for achieving gender parity.
So much that I’m writing a book about the power of intention.
My next book is a sequel to, or more properly an extension of my last book No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power. I realized that as I was helping so many women to know and embrace their power at a deep level, and as we shifted the power paradigm from an oppressive narrative of power over to the generative and creative idea of the power TO, the inevitable next question is: Power TO do what? What is your intention? And more importantly, is your intention big enough to encompass all that you do bring to the table? Or are you limiting yourself by not fully using your power TO envision and then reach your biggest, boldest intention?
So I asked Elma when she and Amra knew they had the power TO and whether there had been any one defining moment on their journey. She said it was the day they went from making $99 per post to $20k per post.
Amra was running in Central Park when she got an email with the news that a client was ready to up the ante to $20,000. And that was the moment they knew they had the power TO scale their business quickly.
Let that sink in. $20,000 for one single post on social media.
Yet it was earning the first $99 per post that gave them wings, Elma said — it let them know they could build a business from being social media influencers.
By that time, they had amassed a large audience — over 100,000 unique visitors came to their blog in the first three months, and they started posting on twitter when it was brand new. So timing was key.
You have to see your opportunity and seize it to make it happen. They saw the opportunities of that moment and they took them full out.
The two sisters clearly have lots of drive — that unquantifiable characteristic of immigrants and first generation Americans.
Growing up, Elma said that her older sister gave her courage, Amra was the more beautiful one and more social one. Elma the more studious one. But Amra told Elma her studies were paying off. Elma wryly observed that you always admire what you don’t have or don’t think you have.
Her parents also encouraged her but her sister’s peer influence was stronger. Sisterhood was a powerful bond and Amra also got encouragement from Elma in return. At Take The Lead, we call that #SisterCourage.
Brand marketing is one thing in a stable economy. But what about now?
I asked how they were coping in the coronavirus pandemic and whether or how it had changed their business.
In optimism typical of successful entrepreneurs, Elma said that you have to see opportunities in any situation. There is a shift in consumer mindset now, she said. It is usually hard to get people to shift a habit, but now people have to grow used to online shopping. Influencers have a very powerful role because they build trust in brands and they can reach people across geography, even globally.
For Amra and Elma, this is an opportunity they were already well positioned to maximize. It has become easy to spread a brand globally instead of market by market and to go direct to consumers rather than to get people into stores. Digital marketing is less expensive, so A&E can make a compelling case for companies to shift budgets from other, more traditional ad spends.
There are also challenges due to COVID. Budgets are on pause as companies pull back, waiting to see what will happened with the economy. Social responsibility is now a bigger part of what brands want to prioritize. And there is more appetite for collaboration between brands to leverage value from their ad spends.
Here are some tips from Elma Beganovich, intentional woman:
1. Don’t take setbacks personally, and don’t punish yourself. Learn the lessons from your setbacks, then move on quickly.
2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate aggressively, if you think what you have is excellent — women are more humble, she says. Men ask for more. She would step back at first when seeking contracts. But, she says, “As we were in the business, we saw we were doing this and so we are working on it.”
3. There is so much opportunity in the digital space — take it. In the past, doors were shut by gatekeepers. It’s really open now with the internet, online, and social media. Influencer marketing has opened many different opportunities and possibilities.
4. And what of women’s personal lives? “Financial ability is the key. Don’t wait, and you can be all the things you want to be. You can be a mother, you can be a wife, you can run your own business. Don’t wait for one to do the other, and so forth. Technology has enabled us to juggle multiple things while building yourself as an individual. Like Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, says, you are constantly becoming. As long as you stay creative you can do multiple things at the same time and be successful at them!”
5. And what advice does A&E give clients during this uncertain time? “Don’t go dark on social media because of the current uncertainty. Your clients and customers will remember what you have done for your community. You must stay present. Donate food, masks, or whatever your capability is. But use this time to stay connected, stay out there talking to the consumer and nurture relationships. It depends what industry you are in as to what you can do.”
To learn more about intention and the 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career, enroll today in this breakthrough course that will teach you all of it!
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.