Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Tarla Makaeff Is Helping To Change Our World
An Interview With Edward Sylvan
I’ve gotten all kinds of messages from people saying that one thing I said changed their lives. They felt depressed and wanted to give up on their dreams but heard my story and were inspired to keep going as they then felt hope.
As a part of our series about leaders who are using their social media platform to make a significant social impact, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tarla Makaeff.
Tarla Makaeff, the Copy Queen and founder of the Iconic Copy course, is a published author, online business coach, and digital course creator, who helps creative, heart-centered women start their own purpose-filled business online and scale their brands with copy that converts. She has been featured in numerous online publications including LA Weekly, New York Weekly, MarketWatch, Influencive, Influencer Daily, and more. Before starting her online business, she worked in marketing agencies writing for Hollywood studios and Fortune 500 companies which led to her meteoric rise as a 7 figure freelance copywriter.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I got into the online business after my parents passed away, first my dad when I was a child and then my mom as an adult. From a very young age, I was always aware that life is short. I didn’t want to spend it always working. I wanted to leverage my time so I can spend it with the people I love doing the things I love, and also impacting a large audience both professionally and personally.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I’m very vocal about the trials and tribulations of my life on social media. I feel it’s my responsibility to use my platform for the greater good. On social media posts and on video, I’ve discussed my struggles with depression and anxiety as well as grief from losing both of my parents and not having any family. It’s happened multiple times that people have contacted me afterward.
There is one woman I remember in particular who reached out after hearing my story. She was struggling with depression. I exchanged many messages with her over the course of a couple of days, speaking to her from the heart but also using my life coaching skills, and she told me I saved her life which was very surprising and touching. I hadn’t realized the depth of her struggle or how much my words had impacted her. I always advise someone with mental health struggles to seek out a therapist, but I was happy to be a source of comfort for her so she knew she wasn’t alone. Sometimes just knowing there is someone else out there who has been through something similar is enough to make a significant impact in a person’s life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know that it was funny; it was more embarrassing. It happened in a beauty-related business opportunity I joined when I first came online prior to becoming a digital course creator and online business coach. I was taught by that company to drop links everywhere, talk about products ad nauseam on my social media profiles, and inbox people who never asked for information. I was getting unfriended, my DMs were going unanswered, and it was crickets on my page. It’s comical looking back as it seems so obvious those tactics would never work but I, unfortunately, tried them even as a successful copywriter as this is what 7-figured earners were telling me to do. Social media was entirely new to me, and I thought if this is what leaders were telling me to do, it must be right. But it could not have been more wrong. You don’t gain the like, know, trust factor by treating people like that. You cannot coerce them into sales. If they’re interested, they will come to you.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Invest in yourself. Learn all that you can from someone who has gone before you and already made the mistakes. Apply that knowledge and take immediate action. Know that imperfect is better than never done at all. Be willing to fail over and over until you find the answer that works for your specific business. Never give up because it’s only a matter of time before you succeed.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
I believe everyone with a platform, small or large, has a responsibility. You no longer have to be a celebrity to make an impact. Anyone now has the ability to influence others and has a voice that needs to be heard. You never know who you might impact in a profound way simply because you were brave enough to be vulnerable. I’m using my platform to be real and raw in letting others know they’re not alone no matter what life obstacle is before them. I’ve talked openly about my struggles.
As I mentioned, I’ve dealt with having depression and anxiety from a very young age as my father passed away when I was 1 and then it intensified when my mom also passed away in 2014. I share this with my audience and let them know about the difficult times I’ve been through, that I’ve made it through, and so can they. I always end a post or video with an inspiring message. The best part is they don’t have to have these same struggles to benefit from the messaging. Anyone who is struggling with anything in life can benefit from knowing others have been there too.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
I’ve gotten all kinds of messages from people saying that one thing I said changed their lives. They felt depressed and wanted to give up on their dreams but heard my story and were inspired to keep going as they then felt hope. There was a very special woman who I met in a Facebook grief group who had lost her mother. We connected and bonded over these losses. She started following me and engaging on my page and even turned into a friend. Unfortunately, she was rediagnosed with an illness for the third time. She told me my social media posts and emails that shared this vulnerable side encouraged her and even kept her going while was navigating the most difficult time of her life.
Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
I used to be a private person where I thought only my friends should know about my struggles. I met a woman in 2017 when I first started online and she taught me that personal branding is sharing all of you, not just the parts you’d rather people see. That is when I decided to share my life story as I knew there are so many people out there with depression and anxiety who need to hear from others who have managed to survive and thrive.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I’d say it starts with society.
Sharing the truth and not just your highlight reel. It’s about people being willing to be open, drop the facades, and share the not-so-pretty parts of their lives. Social media is a great place for this.
Inspiring through hope. When people share their stories, they just have to be aware, that venting is not a productive way to move people. Inspiring them is. Even when you’re struggling you can find something to be grateful for. You can find that ray of light. Talk about that too. Give people hope. Spread your message through positivity.
Encouraging others to do the same. It starts with you, but it doesn’t end with you. We all need to be participating in the vulnerability because the more of us do, the safer it feels for others to also be real and raw which creates a ripple effect. It’s not only liberating for you but also empowering for others.
What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?
I share personal stories. I write posts that share my story. It’s simply about speaking authentically. It’s easier for most people to share this type of open dialogue in writing where they can think about their messaging beforehand so that is what I recommend to start with. I’ve created videos on sensitive topics where I’ve been openly emotional and it definitely is the most impactful, but it’s the harder of the two. If this is a cause they are passionate about, they can even repurpose their social media posts into blog posts or share their stories with publications like this so more people can see their message.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Be willing to share all of you to make the biggest impact. We didn’t all start out super successful. Nearly every person on the planet who’s achieved any level of recognition has worked to get there. Share that story with your audience. It’s important they hear it so you’re not only relatable but they have hope that they too can achieve their dreams. I’ve always shared where I started from: a copywriter job earning in the low 30K range per year. I ended up at 7 figures but I took years to get there. It’s important people know that so they don’t think these overnight success stories are common and wonder why they’re not the same. Instead, it’s essential to normalize that those stories are far and few between. They’re typically many, many years in the making.
Be open to create trust. People have to know you to like you to trust you. You don’t get that level of trust off of only discussing business. I started sharing my story of parental caregiving and loss in related groups on Facebook because I wanted to leave behind a legacy. From being particularly vulnerable on one post in particular, I had hundreds of people commenting and telling me the most beautiful things. I deeply touched them. They were so grateful. I’ll never know how much it means to them and so many others. I’m an inspiration. And just countless words of gratitude so much so that I was overwhelmed by the response and actually screenshot these comments for a day that I might need some of my own uplifting. But probably one of the most impactful comments was: “Just when you think no one cares, no one understands, but you do.” In fact, I received so much love in this caregiver FB group encouraging me to publish my story in a magazine — which had never occurred to me — that I did just that so I could help many more people.
Use your platform for more than just business. It’s easy to focus solely on business and keep your private life unseen. You have the power to transform lives. You’re here for something much bigger than business. You have a purpose. You have a mission. It involves something in your life you were meant to share… your message. Once you realize what this is, it’s time to spread it. Doing so has not only created deep friendships for me but also impacted strangers who reached out to tell me how I impacted their lives in profound ways.
Surround yourself with positive people. It’s vital to have people who will support your entrepreneurial journey. While we think friends and family will be the ones who are there for us, they often aren’t. I lost a 20-year friendship when this person who I’d known half my life didn’t believe in my online journey despite seeing my significant success in my prior entrepreneurial venture and chose to leave my life. These rifts are not easy to go through; no one wants to part ways with people who have been in their lives. I wish the best for them. But I realized I don’t just want but need to be around those who believe in me and my dreams and will positively contribute to my life, especially as my parents are no longer here to play that role.
Keep going even when you feel like quitting. It’s tempting to throw your hands up when things go wrong — and they will. Maybe you don’t have the support. Maybe a strategy you tested failed. Maybe you feel exasperated. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. It’s going to happen, but usually, at your most difficult point, this is when things start turning in a positive direction for you — right before you’re about to give up. This is why it’s imperative to not let emotion get the best of you. Do not let all the time and energy you put into building your business be wasted because you’re scared or frustrated. Growth will always be uncomfortable. You just have to learn to embrace it. I’m human so I’ve had these moments like anyone else but my why is so strong that I’ve never stopped pursuing higher and higher levels of success.
You are a person of enormous influence. 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. :-)
I’d love to inspire the movement of kindness and compassion. There are a lot of people struggling out there for one reason or another. It costs nothing to be kind. Social media can be an amazing place where people from all over the world can connect, but it also mirrors real life in that it can be challenging when people decide to use their platform for negativity. Remember, that everyone is silently going through something and the words you use have power so use them wisely.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“After the rain, the sun will shine.” It’s a quote from my mom. It inspired me to always remember no matter how hopeless a situation seems, tomorrow is a new day and a chance for better things to come.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Eben Pagan is someone who I’ve watched from afar for years. I actually had a friend who used to follow his work as David DeAngelo and knew him personally. I was a copywriter at the time, and I had no idea I would one day have an online business. Now that I do, I’m inspired by Eben’s marketing prowess. I recently went through his life coaching certification program and was so impressed at the level of marketing he incorporated in that course. I enjoyed seeing him live at some of the trainings, but of course, a private lunch would be even better!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can learn more about me, my book, courses, and coaching at www.TarlaMakaeff.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.
In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.
Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.
With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.
At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.
Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.