Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jon Barnes, Founder of The Jon Barnes, located in Ellicott City, MD, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

When I tell other people what I do, I say that I'm a "Personal Brand Coach." Yet this is a broad and buzzwordy phrase that means different things to different people. For me, it captures the intersection of a few different areas of coaching that I roll together: Life Coaching, Business Coaching, and Marketing Strategy. I still function as a fractional CMO for many clients, but I've really sought to take that enterprise-level strategy and brand-building experience and apply it to personal brands... aka individuals who are leaders, ambassadors, and representatives for a broader brand or their own business. My clients are business owners, sales teams, leadership teams, and entrepreneurs looking to invest in themselves in relation to other business goals.

I'm seeing more and more interest in what I do as well. The ongoing algorithmic performance of brand pages vs. personal content on social media, for example. Also, with the increased transparency and values orientation toward brands, today's workforce expects leaders to be out there and be visible with their unique voices in the marketplace. "Personal brand" is just a code word for being proactive about your perception and investing in it strategically to reinforce your position in relation to people, organizations, and your industry. And it's rarely about a logo... it's all about identity, goals, and perception.

Tell us about yourself

I originally went to school to become a car designer. Yet after a revelation at art school about my true gift, I set out on a broader path focused on my real talent... creative communication. Since car design school, I've been in full-time youth ministry, the legal space, creative agency world, YouTube, entrepreneurship, and now run my coaching business and CMO service full-time... Oh, and I'm a parent of 5 kids! That diversity of backgrounds is what has helped me apply my generalist perspective to all different kinds of scenarios. My first book, Creative Threads, was about this exact topic but applied toward young professionals. My new book, Brand Thyself!, is all about taking your personal brand seriously and determining where you want to go with it and how to build it in a substantive way.

What motivates me each day is realizing that doing my own thing, while potentially riskier from a revenue stability perspective, allows me to have the flexibility, playfulness, and satisfaction that comes with utilizing your gifts each day. While it's always a balance between time stress, money pressures, growth, and the running of the business side, there is a satisfaction I constantly discipline myself not to miss- the satisfaction of living out my calling and impacting others with my unique and God-given skills.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think my biggest accomplishment is that between the connections, resources, and opportunities I've been able to establish, I can take an idea or dream and feel like I can run it to reality... that anything is possible and that a path will always present itself.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Solitude. When the burdens of the business fall on you exclusively, then, over time, your sense of isolation, aloneness, or martyrdom can compound and eventually push you out of touch with reality. Ensuring that you have access to mentors, friends, family, and others who are living like you do is vital to keeping yourself tethered to reality. One of the reasons I've spent so much time shifting into a coaching model is that I can sense similar isolation in others and can serve as a bridge to reality and connection that oftentimes is lost with high performers and entrepreneurs. I think some of my youth ministry time really helped forge this ability in me and helped me step into a pseudo-pastoral kind of role as a coach.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be ready to discipline your time in a way that you never have before.
  2. Focus on establishing a support system of mentors, partners, and peers.
  3. Learn to live with unresolved tensions, especially ones regarding what you plan and how it actually happens.
  4. Focus on what makes you feel alive, what brings restoration, and where your skills and the needs of the world meet. Life's too short to do something you don't care about all day long.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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