Does an Entrepreneur Have A Personal Brand?

Every successful entrepreneur has become woven into the brand that they created. Steve Jobs was Apple, and Apple was Jobs. Who can think of Amazon and not Jeff Bezos? Starbuck’s and Schultz, Dell and Dell, Ralph Lauren and Polo, Hilfiger and Hilfiger, and on and on.

This natural identification process is part of the entrepreneurial experience. It’s the founder’s inculcated relationship with the brand that they create. We are all unique and the ideas for solutions to problems are our unique value proposition.

Martha Stewart was the pioneer of the concept of the “living brand”. Ralph Lauren went looking for the clothing styles that he recalled from his youth, but could not find, so he created them. His vision was to create a brand that people would identify with wealth and everything associated therewith. He selected Polo as the game of the rich and created a now $7.7 Billion dollar global brand with the “Polo Player” logo.

He has gone on to expand the brand to encompass almost every other sport of the wealthy, and added derivations of the Lauren name to a variety of other clothing brands, household products, women’s wear, glasses, and innumerable other variations thereof.

This fusion between the brand and the entrepreneurial creator of the brand typically takes on average about ten years. This period is called the embryonic phase and is much akin to our own evolution from birth to preadolescence wherein the founder is consumed with developing the concept for their solution. Ralph Lauren, for example, grew up in the Bronx, and at 16 started working part-time selling ties, and began developing the style and vision for the brand we now know as Polo. Ten years later in 1967 he launched the brand with a $50,000 loan. And in 1997 he took the brand public.

Steve Jobs did basically the same thing working out of a garage in California with his partner Steve Wozniak developing the first personal computer. The Apple brand name came from the apple orchard close to where they lived. Launched in 1975, Jobs spent the first ten (embryonic) years developing a market for the brand and in 1985 the company entered the growth phase and the rest is history.

Whether it’s Bill Gates with Microsoft, Bezos with Amazon, Jobs with Apple, Lauren with Polo, and many others, the fusion between the entrepreneur and their brand takes about the same amount of time. If successful, the customer also forms an emotional bond with the brand. The ultimate goal for any entrepreneur is for the customer to exclaim “I love it” about their brand. “I love my iPhone” or “I love Amazon” are the magic words.

Three points I suggest for any entrepreneur to establish their personal brand that eventually becomes the brand for their business are:

1.You have to have a passion for yourself and what you believe can be. 2.You must stay focused on your passion and not be distracted. 3. You cannot do it alone. You will need help from others with complementary skills.


Robert M. Donnelly is the author of: Guidebook to Planning - A Common Sense Approach, an educator: Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Saint Peter's University, and a brand builder and marketing expert. His new book: Personal Brand Planning for life is a guide for anyone w...

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