Making Something From Nothing: Sasha Laghonh Of Sasha Talks On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Life happens. Remain flexible without becoming too rigid at how you want to execute your business plans and manage your portfolio of endeavors. Some chapters of life are quieter than others. Take advantage of the slower pace to strengthen the areas of business that need attention. Develop an internal audit / compliance system that tracks progress by communicating which initiatives are delivering a positive ROI.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sasha Laghonh.
Sasha is a Founder and Entrepreneur of an educational and entertainment platform that integrates self & professional development into nurturing meaningful outcomes. As a speaker, mentor and author, she partners alongside different clients, from individuals to organizations, to capitalize upon their talent. She is the host in residence for KreativeCircle.com and Global Ambassador for Style My Soul, a Lifestyle & Interests Community. She has also authored books and educational content focusing on business, self-development and spirituality. To learn more, please visit www.sashatalks.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Southern California for a brief period of time before my nomadic adventure began taking me to other geographies within the United States, including opportunities to live abroad. This granted me a chance to observe and meet people from all walks of life through my academic and social environments. I know how it is to be homeschooled, situated in public schools, Sunday School, and private institutions. Change became an integral theme embedded throughout my childhood which helped me transition into adulthood with the aid of seasoned life experiences. Therefore embracing change and navigating through it isn’t a foreign concept for me. It has definitely helped me leverage those experiences when applying myself in the business realm.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘Fight your battles based on who you are, not what you do.’ — Myself
It was a line I contributed to a recent engagement. Life presents many battles along our way and it’s inevitable to be tested with tempting propositions of all kinds that can yield unfavorable outcomes. What we do for a living can and will evolve over our life spans. Who we are will also evolve over time as long as we refine our values along the way. It’s better to learn which battles are worth fighting for without letting what we do get in the way. Human beings are a work in progress. If we do choose to fight a battle, it should be anchored from a place of who we are rather than investing ourselves over a fleeting matter in life. Battles will always exist. It’s only a matter of whether they serve a legitimate purpose justifying our time and effort.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing by Paul Jarvis. It talks about discovering ways to engage in a fulfilling career without having to compromise your quality of life unless it’s a personal choice to spread yourself thin among all of life’s commitments. It touches upon learning how to effectively develop your priorities and nurture them through crafting smart solutions that work for you. Entrepreneurs that choose to stay small do so by choice in order to leverage other parts of their lives better. This is achieved without compromising the quality of their work and rewards that nourish their mission.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
I encourage people to keep a notebook or a tracking tool that welcomes them to write down their ideas for possible development. It’s important to notate them when they come to mind because it’s easy to forget them when they present themselves in their raw initial form. Write down the words, phrases or any supporting thought that trails it. Invest time researching these ideas because a good portion of them will already be taken, prematurely applied and have failed in the market, some of them may already have a variation of the idea at play; etc. Life happens. It takes a lot of creative and critical thinking to take simple ideas from conceptualization to launch.
Coming up with ideas is not the hard part. It’s investing the time to learn whether it’s a kosher idea that can translate well in business. Because a person loves an idea doesn’t mean that it’s welcomed by potential consumers in the business realm. Conducting business can be a complex idea for some people but underneath all the emotions and brainstorming, it still demands a practical application in life. Make sure your ideas are well researched to ensure there are no conflicts of interest in the market, including legal issues. Conduct your market research through legitimate resources. Refrain from using online search engines to answer all your questions.
Take ownership of your chosen idea. Take action by doing live real-time research by speaking to people on the phone, in person and making field visits to address questions by vetted sources in those respective industries. Become a student because sooner or later you will be explaining your concept to others whether it’s investors, business partners, prospective clients; etc. Putting in the effort up front will yield results down the road. No one is interested in investing in any product or service which lacks benefit(s) for the end consumer. It can be the best idea out there but if it lacks a good foundation, its prosperity will be limited.
I’ve seen many products and services that have remarkable marketing but the actual item they’re selling is flirting with mediocre standards. Consumers are made to believe quality goes hand in hand alongside the amplified PR efforts. On the other hand, there are people and brands that engage in conservative marketing efforts therefore it takes more effort to discover their high quality presence & delivery. Figure out what you want to be known for without discounting the marketing and quality control efforts.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
If their idea has to do with licensing and copyright, it’s wise to run a few varied searches on this matter through independent efforts, seeking out legal sources that specialize in licensing and patents, speaking to people within the respective industries to guide you to legitimate / vetted government sources that track these developments. Blindly trusting an online source is risky business because not all databases and websites are updated on a regular basis nor are they credible.
It’s very important to conduct such due diligence before investing resources, especially money, into developing the idea until you know there’s a minimal chance of running into costly issues down the road.
The information is only as reliable as the source.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll keep it topical because steps vary based on the idea itself.
- Write down the idea and all the thoughts that trail it. It’s important to know how you intellectually frame this idea. You will need to remind yourself how you rationalized the idea’s conception prior to dressing it with questions, research, feedback, recommendations and an action plan for next steps.
- Allow the brainstorming session to include crafting your questions that need to be researched and answered by sources you’ll contact. Make a list of all the items you will need from things to types of people that can contribute their professional expertise to either guide you, or provide services (as vendors) to help your idea become a reality.
- The research phase will be dictated by the type of idea. Are you selling a product or services? Is it something that needs to be manufactured, or produced real-time? If it’s services, what are the services and who are the members providing them? The latter are a few operational questions. It’s important to take into consideration legal, finance, insurance, marketing, and other aspects of nourishing the ideas as you proceed in your research. Seek out professionals that specifically cater to the industry specific to the product/service you’re developing for the target audience. Do not discount market research — it serves as the nucleus to creating your idea and better refining it to better serve the right people at the right time and right place.
- Run beta-testing with your idea if it’s an option. It will allow you to learn what is working with the idea, what needs work, what are the blind spots and how changes need to be made to better accommodate the ideal target market. You want to be a student that is willing to learn and succeed. Constructive feedback can serve as a blessing in disguise.
- Implement the lessons learned and launch the respective product / service. Track its progress, keep refining the deliverables. Make sure to adhere to compliance guidelines by partnering with vetted vendors, licensed sources and appropriate tools to help you navigate the early stages of the launch and thereon forward.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- It’s about the people. No matter how you do the math — it’s about the people. Don’t just exist, engage with people to learn and develop yourself to become a better business professional.
- Niceness has nothing to do with aptitude or one’s intelligence to perform well in life. Everyone needs to put in an effort to earn their opportunity to contribute. Hiring ‘nice’ people will also invite people who lack life and people skills that can include conflict avoidance, speaking up and refraining from asking questions. While this can be cultural for some people, in business we need people who can get the job done with a firm presence and grace at the same time. You want to hire good people who speak through their actions. Niceness translates to lip service most of the time. Also you want to avoid nice people who become liabilities because they fall short in performing their duties when they need to balance their alpha and beta attributes.
- The truth will tick you off once in a blue moon. If a question or conversation with third parties attracts more questions than answers, it simply means you knew to implement a process but decided to overlook it for one reason or another. You want to thank your fleeting critics for reminding you to stick to your standards. In fact, increase the standards so you aren’t creating bandwidth for substandard mindsets prompting substandard behaviors. It’s a sheer reminder how we execute ideas will determine the type of engagement these ideas will attract. Always remember whom you serve. Everyone who falls outside that realm can join you amicably or go kick some rocks.
- Work on your blindspots. I often see talents become well known for a particular skill set while their life skills are granted less credence. Sometimes the companies gloss over these deficiencies as part of their work culture but the ramifications are great for those who co-exist with these personalities. Just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t exempt you from making an effort as a human being to co-exist with your colleagues. More companies are coming on board for not tolerating or enabling a- — — — — -s in their workplace. I’m an advocate for talents of all calibers to continue working on their self and professional development. We all can leverage an opportunity to learn new ways of performing better in life.
- Life happens. Remain flexible without becoming too rigid at how you want to execute your business plans and manage your portfolio of endeavors. Some chapters of life are quieter than others. Take advantage of the slower pace to strengthen the areas of business that need attention. Develop an internal audit / compliance system that tracks progress by communicating which initiatives are delivering a positive ROI.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Write down the idea. Ask yourself what you like about the idea, what makes it an idea to begin with and why others should be interested in your idea. It’s important the creator remembers they are expected to either serve a need or refine an existing idea for the mass market. The idea can’t serve the audience of one. There’s a small subset of entrepreneurs who fail because they love their idea so much that they forget to remain rational during their conceptualization phase. Vet your idea from as many angles as possible. Become your own devil’s advocate. Ask credible and honest sources to play devil’s advocate to help you understand your idea better. Being the primary source of an idea doesn’t make that individual the master of their creation. It’s always a work in progress.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
It’s contingent upon the type of idea which requires external assistance. Some ideas are initially meant to be vetted by limited eyes and ears for proprietary purposes. If this is the first time an individual is engaging in such an endeavor, I would recommend seeking guidance from a legal counsel or someone who has already worked with a vetted invention development consultant. I would heed caution because we live in a world today where a handful of unregulated business professionals are setting up a tent to make a quick buck. If any professional guarantees you the results for the idea, I view that to be a red flag.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Treat the entire endeavor as a professional transaction. If you have the personal funds to bring this concept to reality, rely on yourself without projecting expectations on friends and family. You want your friends and family to still acknowledge you without money matters becoming an issue later in time. If your idea hosts enough steam to welcome venture capitalists, this is an avenue to explore. I’ve seen third party businesses irresponsibly manage VC money because it wasn’t their own and also because they lack the business acumen in knowing how to invest such funds to create an expected return for investors. Treat all and any dollars like you worked to earn it. Both paths are feasible but keep it simple. The more personal the transaction, the more likely you will hold yourself accountable regardless of how your idea is funded. VC money can introduce you to new relationships and possible avenues for bringing future ideas to market. It doesn’t mean the VC members will forgive or forget any financial negligence on your part. No money is free money — everyone who receives it ends up paying some price for it.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’m doing my best to apply myself in new business spaces which welcome my contribution. I tend to make sure there are new learning curves to master, small or big, because it helps me improve my skill sets.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Go about your daily routine only in a slower manner for a day. Pay attention to your senses to recognize the people and things you cross paths with everyday. Details matter. Sometimes we overlook some of the most beautiful things (and experiences) in our paths because we’re set on autopilot.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Sheryl Sandberg. She’s become a great resource for guiding female talents through her Lean In community. It would be a privilege to engage her in conversation to gently chat about life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.