Has the current economic downturn left you wondering if now is the right time to start a new business?

You’re not alone!

Many have taken advantage of this time during the pandemic to transform something that they love to do into a profitable business with the help of social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram.

During this week’s episode of Do The Damn Thing, Laura Foy has a chat with Kena Hodges. She is a holistic healer, a wellness warrior, a social influencer, a student, a teacher, a coach, a professional athlete, and a mom.

Even though Kena is extremely busy, she’s been able to create and maintain a successful online business. She lives life on her own terms and has made it her purpose in life to teach others how to do the same.

But how did Kena get started on this venture? What challenges did she encounter? And what tips can she give you to help you grow your own business?

Be sure to watch our video now to find out how she did the damn thing!

Read the script:

Laura: Hello, everybody. Welcome back to another week of Do The Damn Thing. This is HipCat Society’s… opens in a new tab to HipCat Society website… weekly show where we talk to entrepreneurs who are out there doing it, and we figure out exactly how they did it, and tap into their stories and their brains for just about 30 minutes.

This week I am very excited because we’re switching it up a little bit. We’ve had a lot of marketers and a lot of people that have been building online communities. But this week, we’re going to do a little healing. I am very excited to introduce Kena Hodges. Hi, how are you?

Kena: I’m great. How are you?

Laura: I’m wonderful. I’m going to be better after talking to you. Kena is a holistic lifestyle coach. She teaches yoga and all sorts of fitness and wellbeing. And I’m very excited that you’re here today.

Let’s talk a little bit about your story. How did you get started in all of this? You were a college basketball player, right?

Kena: Yes.

Laura: So, how did you go from playing basketball to what you do now?

Kena: It’s a very interesting journey. I played college ball, but I knew that I didn’t want a regular job after college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I didn’t want to work. And so an agent slid into my AOL – I’m showing my age now because I used AOL.

Laura: Did we call it sliding back then?

Kena: No, we just said it was a chat, I guess. And he’s like, “I have a contract for you.” Technically, I wasn’t supposed to be talking to agents because I was still an athlete.

But let’s fast-forward a little bit. I eventually moved to Sweden and played professional basketball there. It was great. Then I came back to the US and played here when I got picked up by the Washington Mystics. When I got cut by the Washington Mystics, I got picked up by a semi-pro team. And then life hit really fast because I got pregnant. The money from that was not enough to really take care of me, let alone to take care of a child, so I got right into the workforce.

My mom owns an HR consulting firm, and she said, “Hey, we could have a family business.” And at the time, I thought, “She’s got benefits. This sounds great.” But it ended up not being a family business. It ended up with me working for my mom. So she owned the business, and her family worked there.

It was different. It had its challenges. It had some great moments but definitely had its challenges. After five years, I needed to make more money and have better benefits. She wished me good luck, and I went and found it somewhere else.

Now, let’s fast-forward a little bit more. At this point, I was working but also always attached to sports. So I became a personal trainer and a group fitness instructor. I was teaching Zumba and doing personal training. Then in 2014, I was laid off from my HR job, and I said, “I’m going to make use of my background. I’m going to marry the fitness part and the HR part of my past and start a corporate wellness company.”

And that’s what I did. I had clients that were my friends. But after I went through my roster of HR friends – which wasn’t that big at the time – I was like, “I need more money.”

I ended up back in corporate America because I didn’t have a plan on how to actually sustain the business. I still kept that on the side, but I worked full time as well.

I always knew the importance of nutrition. And eventually, I got into yoga and fell in love with it. I was like, “Yeah, I need to teach yoga!”

Once I got to that point, I wanted to do more than just help clients look good. I wanted to help them feel good and heal in a way that they could become the best version of themselves. So that’s how I started adding different modalities to my offerings.

Laura: So, is it like Mind – Body – Soul? Do you do spiritual wellness?

Kena: All of it. I do full-spectrum coaching.

Laura: Most coaches who I’ve spoken with had some sort of a mentor themselves. Did you have someone coaching you? Was there someone that you modeled?

Kena: Not that I modeled. I do have someone coaching me right now, but at the time, I didn’t.

That was one of the things that was a pitfall for me. I was trying to figure it out as I went along. I was also so adamant about not talking to my mom about starting a business. She was an entrepreneur, but I was like, I don’t want to ask my mom anything.” She told me to go out and do it on my own. I was always that kid who said, Watch me!”

So there were some pitfalls I probably could have avoided if I had a mentor or coach. Now I definitely have that, but it’s not in the wellness space. It’s more about how to get my business to a place that I can offer what I need to offer. I want to attract the right type of client that’s going to pay and not have to invest all of my time and energy into it so I can still live life.

Laura: Well, let’s talk about that. You’ve got 5,000 followers on your Instagram page… opens in a new window to Herbal Healing & Yoga Instagram page…, which is a very respectable amount. What are some of the strategies that you used to build that following?

Kena: One of them I used – unfortunately, they’re not in business anymore – was SocialCaptain… opens in a new window to SocialCaptain website…. They were more of a personalized growth bot. So you could set up your whole account and say like, “I want to send messages to people and comment on their posts,” and they would do all of that for you. That helped with some of the rapid growth. But I did have a very big network at the time.

When people come and follow me, I respond back, and I typically follow them back. I’ll shoot them a message to say thanks. I’m in a lot of different communities. I’m on a couple of Instagram pods. So joining groups where the rule of the group is every time someone posts, you have to go and like their posts.

Laura: I’ve never heard of that. What’s an Instagram pod? How would I find one? And is everyone in your pod in the same niche that you’re into?

Kena: No, everyone’s different. There’s one where we have about 80 in that pod. The other one that I’m in has a little over 200 people. Right there, that’s like 300 to 400 followers that you’re going to get because everyone has to follow each other.

Laura: And a hundred or so comments, right?

Kena: Correct.

Laura: That’s good.

Kena: With Instagram, you’re always trying to keep up with the changes in the algorithm. It changes every three months. So, every quarter you need to find out whether hashtags are in or not.

Laura: Oh, no. My favorite hashtag is banned. When did that happen?

Kena: Right? It’s crazy. So with Instagram’s new features that they roll out – that’s the other way that I’ve built it – for example, reels are important now. They’re the new feature. And so they bless you when you have reels. I did my first reel, and I got 20 new followers in a day because I did a reel in my kitchen making a protein shake.

Those were some of the ways that I’ve grown it. But it really has been organic up until the last six months, when I started using some additional artificial intelligence help.

Laura: We’re looking at your Instagram page now, and it seems to be that there’s a constant theme. I see a bit of a color palette that is pretty consistent here. Are those things that happened by chance, or is this something that you learned and then incorporated as part of your strategy because you found that it was working?

Kena: It’s part of my strategy because I found that it was working. When you’re starting a business, you want to project yourself in the best way. You also are fighting with this thought that you need to spend a lot of money to have the best marketing, the best website, and all of that stuff.

The reality is you have to start where you are and start where the budget is. So Canva… opens in a new window to Canva website… is something that I use religiously. Canva Pro is like $10 a month, or you can pay $70 for the year, or something like that.

Everything that you see that’s posted on my Instagram page was designed in Canva. I came up with the colors that I liked. Honestly, there were other brands out there where I was like, “Oh, I like that yellow.” And there’s a website where you can actually take a screenshot of a photo, upload it, and then it’ll tell you what the numbers are for those colors.

So I just made a brand kit in Canva, and that’s what I follow. And I have a system as well. Typically I post four photos or a photo-video combo, and then a graphic. And that tends to be the algorithm for now.

Laura: Yeah, or today. Of course, it’ll change in three days.

One thing I noticed about you, which I think is unique for a yoga instructor, is that you have lead magnets. You have things that you’ve created, products of value, that you offer to people for free. I’m assuming that some of them are free. I think the one I saw today was one of your free guides.

So what motivated you to create these free downloads for your community? It’s not something that I think most yoga teachers do, although maybe holistic lifestyle coaches would.

Kena: My business coach told me that people have to have a minimum of eight engagements or eight touch-points with you before they start to trust you. It doesn’t cost me anything to help someone develop their meditation practice or give them a blueprint of where to start. It doesn’t cost me anything to tell someone how to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. That information is freely found on the internet. So, I took the time to put it all together and add my experience with it because it doesn’t hurt me to do that.

I’ve gotten emails from folks that have gone through my email funnel – a series of eight welcome emails. And at the end of it, they told me, “I feel like I should be paying you for what you gave me in your free resource library.” And that right there is building trust.

The moment someone signs up for my website, I’m like, “Hey, just go to the free resource library. I’m going to be updating that all the time. There are six or seven things in there now, and you can work through that.” And then they do work through it, and they’re like, “Yeah, okay. I need more.” In order to get more and to get my time, they’re now willing to pay me, or at least hop on a webinar or masterclass to see what else there is that they can benefit from.

Laura: Some of the things that we sort of hang our hat on here at HipCat Society… opens in a new tab to HipCat Society website… is generosity and providing value. So everything that you’re talking about right now is music to our ears. One of the things that I found really interesting about you and your Unmasked brand is the level of vulnerability and openness that you have.

I mean, you talk about being pregnant and homeless. Some of your stories are super personal, like talking about abusive relationships and so on. What made you decide to share some of the stuff that is very private and personal?

Kena: People connect when they can have a me-too moment with you where they can relate. And even with the me-too movement – it was a statement of empathy and compassion. And it’s like, “I see you. I hear you. I can relate.”

I can’t show up and I can’t be a coach and help people live authentically if I’m not willing to do it myself. There has to be a level of transparency and openness.

And honestly, there’s somebody that needs to hear my story. I feel like it’s selfish of me to go through what I’ve been through and keep it all to myself. I’ve been a professional athlete, but I’ve also been homeless. I’ve been in that abusive relationship, now but I’m thriving. I’m no longer just a survivor, but I chose to thrive after that.

I can give somebody resources that I utilized that helped me. I would never charge for that. I feel that it would be very wrong to charge somebody to learn how to get out of a situation like that.

Laura: That’s super powerful, and thank you for sharing that with us today. I absolutely love how you talk about that. You can decide what you want to be. It’s all about the choices you make, and you are really helping people to make better choices.

Kena: When I went through my yoga teacher training, one of the books we read was Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning… opens in a new window to Wikipedia reference to Man’s Search for Meaning…. It’s one of my favorite books. In it, he talks about the power to choose and how the choices that he made – the space between stimulus and response – saved his life. Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor.

You don’t get to control what happens in life, but you definitely get to control how you respond to it. So the power is in the choice.

You have the ability to choose how you want to respond to things. And for me, every day, I choose to show up a certain way. I teach my son to choose how to respond to the things that happen to him. And it’s a much healthier space to be in when you’re not being pushed through the ebb and flow, just moving with the waves. Rather, you can be the stillness under the waves. They will dissipate eventually.

Laura: That’s a great visual. We do have one question from Curtis. He says, “You mentioned the need to have 8 engagements before they trust you. Have you actually found that to be true, or do you think it takes a little more or a little less?”

Kena: It depends on what you’re engaging them with. For me, my first email sequence was actually just 6. In all of them, I’m giving them a little bit of me, and I’m asking them to share a little bit of them with me. And when they respond to that email, they’re getting a response from me. I get every single email.

When you’re looking to grow your business, your email list is as good as cash. The bigger your list, the more money you’re going to make.

Laura: The money is in the list.

Kena: You actually spend a lot of time on email. And it’s not just setting up the email, but it’s also responding when people write back. They don’t know that they’re in a funnel. You know that they’re in a funnel. But when they write back, they need to get the authentic you.

I share my story in two of those emails, and people will write back and respond. And so now the conversation gets a little deeper. They’re still getting the other emails, but now they’re also getting Kena. They’re getting me Unmasked. After that, whether they buy anything from me or not, it doesn’t matter at that moment. They’re still on my email list because they see value in staying in contact with me.

As an example, someone went through my funnel, and she ended up buying a herbal tea blend for some ailments she had. I hadn’t talked to her in weeks, but she shot me an email that said, “Hey, I’ve got a friend in Canada that’s dealing with some health issues. I recommended you.”

I connected with him, and now he’s a client. So yes, I do find that it has worked and that there’s value in it.

Laura: Awesome. You mentioned earlier that there were some pitfalls that you fell into, and had you known now what you knew then, maybe you would have avoided some of them. Would you mind sharing some of those with us?

Kena: I didn’t have savings. I was laid off when I was an HR manager for a very large nonprofit organization in DC. I was a little upset when I got laid off. I knew what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t really mapped it out.

They say you should have three to six months’ worth of savings in case something happens. Well, that was the first big thing I didn’t have. I didn’t have a game plan for that. I also didn’t really have a business plan. I was figuring it out as I went along. I got my business name together, but I was co-mingling funds.

After my network dried out, I still didn’t have a plan on how to go out and get more business. And I didn’t have a plan on how my business could still run or be automated to where it doesn’t require me always have to be giving of my time and my energy. How do I set it up one time and let it run without me and still generate cash flow? Those were the biggest pitfalls that I have since learned and corrected.

Laura: Automation is such a gift for marketers or businesses. I’m sure 10 to 15 years ago, things took a lot longer and a lot more energy to make them happen. Do you have certain tools that your business uses to help you survive?

Kena: Yes. ConvertKit… opens in a new window to ConvertKit website… is one of them. It’s the lifeline of my business.

Laura: That’s your email platform, right? What makes ConvertKit better? I’ve used a bunch, but not that one. So, what does it help me convert?

Kena: It is great. I use it in conjunction with Zapier… opens in a new window to Zapier website…. They work well together. What I like about ConvertKit is that it does what I need it to do. My business coaches recommended ConvertKit, so that’s what I use, and it works.

I definitely love that I can create various automations. I can pull information from different forms into my email funnel, and I can also create broadcasts. It’s very detailed for me. I can see who’s clicking, where they’re clicking in the email, if they clicked outside of it, and if I got a sale from the click. It’s really thorough. I live and swear by ConvertKit and Zapier.

Laura: When I think about having a holistic life coach, I would think that needs to be someone who is local to my area. So, are most of your clients in the South Carolina area?

Kena: None of them are in South Carolina.

Laura: Really? So was your business plan virtual pre-COVID, or did you adapt?

Kena: I adapted. As a business owner, you have to be able to pivot, and you have to be nimble. You have to recession-proof your business. And now you have to pandemic-proof your business.

I was trading time for dollars. And that was really challenging, especially being a single mom with a kid that was traveling for basketball. My initial business model was teaching yoga and hands-on personal training.

I used to live in Maryland, DC. I was there for 33 years. I just moved back to South Carolina a year and a half ago. All my clients were like, “So, now what?” And I’m like, “Hey, I got you. We’ll do it virtually.”

So, I made an app. I had the app before I moved. But now, they can log into their app and get their workouts. But I miss teaching yoga. I miss the hands-on part of yoga.

Laura: Well, congrats. If you’re going to scale it – that’s what you got to do. You have a global audience now.

We have a question from Shannon. She wants to know, “How do you end up scheduling and creating all of your content, given that you are so busy?”

Kena: I get up early, and I stay up late. That’s just the reality of it because I don’t have a virtual assistant yet. I plan out my content, though. I think about it constantly. So it could be a Wellness Wednesday, a Travel Tuesday, or a Fitness Friday, or something like that.

I have folders that I use in Canva, and I repurpose content too. You don’t have to feel like you have to create a new thought process every single day. Instagram rewards you if you post there every single day. There are some weeks where I can post every day, and there are other weeks where I might only post twice. But I definitely repurpose content. I am up early doing that. Again, I’m designing the stuff in Canva, or I’m doing color corrections using Lightroom… opens in a new window to Adobe Lightroom website….

Also, Instagram has time features. If you look at the analytics of your account – the insights on Instagram – you can see when the majority of your followers are online. And I post during those time periods.

Laura: One of the things I tell people is that if you’ve got one video, you can transcribe it. There are cheap places to get transcription worked on. One of the ones we know of is Rev.com… opens in a new window to Rev website…. And before you know it, you’ve got a blog. And then you can take a still to promote the video, and there’s your social post. You have to figure out ways to multipurpose and repurpose your content. Those are some really great tips.

We’ve got another question here from Lori. We’ve kind of talked about the benefit of going virtual, but she wants to know, “What challenges has 2020 and coronavirus brought to the holistic healing and coaching industry?”

Kena: It’s always about the need. There’s a need for what we do. But can people afford to pay for what we offer, particularly during a pandemic? So I’ve had to decide what I’m willing to give away for free, what I’m willing to do at a discount, and what I’m not willing to budge on. And create different packages and offerings for that.

For example, there are folks that don’t know what to do. They know they don’t want to get COVID. So, the two things that they have to focus on would be the respiratory system and immune system. So, I asked myself, “What are two things that I can create for people that are accessible for them to be able to start to be their own wellness advocate?” And that’s what I did. I created two herbal blends and put those on the site. And they’re relatively inexpensive.

Laura: As a COVID survivor, I wish I had had that herbal blend because my chest was pounding for a week.

Kena: Oh, wow! I will send you the respiratory tea blend as a thank you for having me on your show.

Now for any folks that want a little bit more, I have another level. You have to create levels in your business. So, you have the free offerings. That’s to give things away and to build trust. Maybe you can do a masterclass. I use the product-launch formula. As I add products and increase value, then I increase the price.

But there’s always something for everyone in my business.

Laura: You’ve described the value ladder and the funnel, where there are upsells and downsells. I mean, there’s different terminology for it, but we’re kind of talking the same language.

So HipCat Society actually builds funnels for clients. We do lead-gen funnels, tripwire funnel, and all these other kinds of funnels. Do you have a service that you use to create your sales funnels? What platform do you use?

Kena: No, I’ve been doing my own stuff. My website right now is hosted on Wix. I’m building a new one in Squarespace because I can do more with it. And I’ve just been using the ConvertKit. I don’t have a whole lot of different systems that I’m using yet, but I’m always open to it because anything that gives me back my time is invaluable.

Laura: Absolutely. Well, we will streamline your landing pages for you.

As you scale and as you grow, there’s a need to offload certain tasks so you can really live in your area of excellence. And then all that other admin stuff – let somebody else do that. I’m sure that’s something that you’ve learned as you’ve grown.

Kena: Yeah. And now I’m like, “Elevate to delegate.”

Laura: Exactly. That’s going to be my new tagline. I’m going to tell my boss.

Kena: People sell these Canva templates. And I have bought those because it does help me from a creative perspective as well. If you’re trying to figure out how to launch a course, there are a million and one folks out there that are selling a template where you can create anything you want.

Laura: There’s so much help out there these days. So many great sites that will give you resources for very cheap or even for free. People definitely need to be taking advantage of those.

Well, we’re out of time. I’ve been having so much fun with you. I want to give you an opportunity to tell everybody where they can find you and how they can become your client and learn all about you.

Kena: The best way to reach me is through Instagram. My Instagram is @kena_unmasked… opens in a new window to Herbal Healing & Yoga Instagram page…. And if you just want to learn a little bit about me and who I am, you can go to KenaHodges.com… opens in a new window to Kena Hodges website….

Laura: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. It’s been really fun talking to you. I wish you nothing but the best! Everyone, head on over to all of those various places to learn more about Kena. Bye-bye.

Kena: Thank you so much.

Please like us on Facebook… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Facebook page…, follow us on Instagram… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Instagram page…, and connect with Kena on her Facebook page… opens in a new window to Kena Hodges Facebook page….

Graphic of Do the Damn Thing with title to never miss an episode

Like our Facebook page so you never miss an episode… opens in a new window to HipCat Society Facebook page….