Emmelie De La Cruz, Founder of The Branding Muse, is the go-to expert for entrepreneurs, college students and young professionals who want to take control of their personal brand. Combining her experience as a personal branding consultant and digital strategist, she trains millennials to position themselves for success in the competitive job market and teaches entrepreneurs how to become thought leaders in their industries. From designing personal brand identities to setting up an automated social media dashboard, Emmelie simplifies and expedites the process of creating a presence online. With a degree in Public Relations from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School, she harnesses her knowledge and expertise to create resources necessary for her clients to thrive such as the Hired, Happy and Paid program. Emmelie is a thought leader on personal branding and professional development and was most recently featured on Forbes 2013 list of Top 100 Websites for Your Career.
How did you launch your career and get to where you are today?
My career launched itself because I was able to learn how to communicate my skills very early. I had no idea that I was going to become an entrepreneur, but clients kept finding me and asking for my consultation services. While I was attending Syracuse University, I created a brand for myself by leading organizations and using social media in a professional manner. In doing so, I became the go-to person for digital strategy development on campus and eventually began attracting clients through my website and blog. After some time, I saw that I was passionate about helping students succeed in the workplace and decided to develop a platform around personal branding. I bought the domain and launched the site in 3 weeks and haven’t looked back since. In regards to getting where I am, I have simply done the work. It is true when they say: if you build it, they will come. I saw a void and decided that I would be the person to fill it. I work diligently everyday to make sure my readers, clients and supporters are all satisfied and that hustle has gotten me noticed.
What have you had to sacrifice along the way, if anything?
What haven’t I sacrificed is a better question. Starting a business is expensive and time consuming, and running a business can lead you to isolate yourself from others. What I do feel has been sacrificed most is my time. Time that I could spend with my friends and family, traveling, sleeping and just being a 20 something year old is all spent working to build my business. However, I do believe that this is temporary and necessary. I don’t regret it one bit.
How do you define success?
I define success through recognition. The dollars in my bank account don’t matter, if I have not impacted the life of students and changed the way young people approach their careers. When my personal branding program has been nationally recognized and implemented in various colleges and organizations across across various states and countries, I will know I have reached the pinnacle of my career. I want to be the Kaplan of personal branding and professional development.
How do you balance work and life?
We all know there is no such thing as work-life balance, because you will always have to compromise one or the other. We work 5 days and have 2 off, so the odds will always be against us. By integrating our personal and professional lives however, we are able to avoid categorizing our to-do list into business and personal. I embrace a very flexible work environment where I am simultaneously handling things in my personal and professional life. I don’t mind answering an important email while I’m out at happy hour or having my best friend meet me for lunch during the work day. The important thing is to prioritize and complete what needs to get done, in order to be able to carve out some time for you. Understanding the difference between procrastination and prioritization helped me become a much more relaxed and secure entrepreneur and woman.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I plan to have my Hired, Happy and Paid program sold to various educational entities while I am teaching and training millennials. I still haven’t decided if that means being a professor, the director of a career center or an internal professional coach at an organization. I have learned to blossom where I am planted and discover the steps that reveal themselves to me along the way. All I know is that I am working on elevating my position to serve more college students and young professionals in the years to come.
Who is your role model or mentor?
Beyonce. Seriously. There is something about her that I admire and has lead me to have a very unhealthy and slightly creepish obsession. Her work ethic and commitment to delivering a solid product or performance has always been something that I work to emulate. In real life however, I must credit a two wonderful women who have encouraged and supported me: Natalie Madeira Cofield, CEO of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce in Austin, Texas and Andrea James, my very first boss. Because of women like them, I know that I will always have a strong network, access to resources that will help me succeed and the courage to ask for what I deserve in life and in business.
What advice do you give your fellow entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is a team sport. You cannot plan to succeed and grow without other people on your team and in your corner. This means mentors, professional contacts, a team to grow your business, loyal supporters and more importantly sponsors, people who will vouch for you in professional settings, recommend your services and help you get to the next level. Look to build the genuine connections and friendships that will take you where your knowledge and skill set cannot.