How to Build an International Brand for Less than $500

Building a business on a shoestring budget, let alone an international one, seems almost impossible. However, breaking down your business goals one-by-one, as well as your personal motivating goals, can make all the difference in seeing your dream business manifest into reality.

Gwen Jimmere, CEO & Founder of natural hair care company NATURALICIOUS, initially started her business from her kitchen, but within two years, has built NATURALICIOUS into a global brand.

Jimmere had recently been laid off, was going through a divorce and was raising her then two-year-old son. With $32 in the bank, she built her company into one that can now be found in Whole Foods stores across the US, as well as in international locations such as Trinidad, South Africa, South Asia and Bermuda.

For her, creating and developing her own company was a necessity and she stretched her money so that it went far enough to cover raw materials and other operating expenses. As the former Global Marketing Manager of Ford, Jimmere was skilled in how to utilize social media and digital marketing to create a solid fan base.

She began locally, but soon after gained a loyal following across the U.S.; then reinvested her profits and was able to transcend boundaries to take her business abroad.

Here, she explains the steps she took to build her beauty lifestyle brand into an international one and how you can follow these four steps into creating a global brand yourself.

1. Read: The more you learn the more you earn
With building any business, learning is an essential act. "As you build, you acquire more and more knowledge. And, increased knowledge can lead to increased profits," Jimmere explains.

And, like many other experts, Jimmere espouses the belief that readers are leaders. "It is important that you keep up with what's going on in the world around you.

It is key to make sure you're reading any trade publications in your industry that are specific to your type of business, as well as literature that has been reviewed as being instructive or informative by experts and critics in your field.

Jimmere mentions developing your unique selling proposition (USP) citing its essential nature to your business. In order to take on what might be a saturated market, you must figure out what your USP is in order to keep your business running consistently.

And, to do this, focus on asking yourself: "What about my brand is disruptive to this industry? What pain points am I solving? What is it that I bring to the table that is unique and unlike anything else that already exists or that is emerging?"

Jimmere says a good place to help answer those questions can be found in two of her favorite business books: Purple Cow by Seth Godin and Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Visit your local library and you'll likely find both of these books, as well as several industry trade journals.

Total cost: $0

2. Bet on You
When in doubt, always bet on you. Jimmere says that the first purchase order her company ever received was from Whole Foods.

"At the time, our packaging was very basic and we didn't even stand out on the shelf. I had no real sales, except from those of family and friends, but I approached Whole Foods anyway, set up a meeting and 10 minutes into my pitch they decided to carry our products on their shelves," she says.

The takeaway here is that you have to be bold enough to have the audacity to ask for what you really want. Although she approached Whole Foods before her packaging was "perfect", Jimmere's USP was strong enough that the health food heavy weight chain took a chance on her. As Jimmere says,

"Waiting is not a wealth strategy. If you want to grow your business, you must strike while the fire is hot. There is rarely a right time or right circumstance that will perfectly prepare you to learn how to succeed in business and build your brand. So the best thing for you to do, is to start moving."

Sure, there's risk, but you're betting on you. "Why should anyone else invest their resources or time into your company if you're not even willing to bet on yourself?" Jimmere elaborates.

She quotes millionaire business coach Marshawn Evans: "Start where you are, use what you've got. Everything you have right now is more than enough."

Total cost: $0

3. Innovate, don't imitate.
It's almost impossible to develop a strong USP if you're doing the exactly same thing that someone else has already done. As individuals and as business leaders, we are well aware that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

But Jimmere makes it clear that there is a distinct difference between inspiration and imitation. "While you may try to copy someone's ideas and strategies, you will never be able to copy their grind and their hustle." Jimmere explains, "The farthest an imitator will ever get is where an innovator has already been."

Additionally, give considerable thought to legally protecting your intellectual property. In building an international brand, it's key to protect your inventions to keep competitors from copying your creation and profiting off of it. This is an area Jimmere has a lot of experience.

She holds a number of copyrights, and trademarks and even made history when she was granted a U.S. patent for her Moroccan Rhassoul 5-in-1 Clay Treatment, making her the first Black woman to hold a patent for a natural hair product.

Total cost: between $25 (copyright filing fee) and $400 (Micro Entity Patent filing fee)

4. Market, market, market
We've all heard the mantra, "if they build it, they will come," but we know that does mnot always apply. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows it exists, then it makes no impact and it has no relevance.

Jimmere says that, "You have to know your brand, then you have to know how to market your brand. You must determine who your audience is, what your goals are and how to convey to your audience that what you offer is not something they want, but something they need in order to enhance their lifestyle."

She further encourages business owners to go where their customers are, but consider reaching them in places that might not seem so obvious.

For example, if you manufacture nail polish, the most obvious place to market your business would be to nail salons, beauty stores and beauty events. But think beyond the box.

People who buy nail polish do not spend the entire day focused on their nails. So where else can you reach these customers? These same customers may also be into live music, fashion, family events, or even personal finance.

Find ways to market in less obvious spaces so you can be a big fish in a small pond, which means less competition, more sales and more revenue for you. Consider partnering with social media influencers to help spread your message.

By being creative with your marketing, you can find low cost, or even free, opportunities to get your company in front of hundreds of eyeballs.

Total cost: $0 - $100