Branding Strategist | Best Selling Author | TEDx Speaker AND Founder of Unforgettable by Sabah
She’s been featured on TEDx, NBC, CBS, ABC, and much more.
She’s a branding and Instagram strategist, bestselling author, TEDx speaker, and the founder of Unforgettable by Sabah. Of course, we have Sabah Ali.
How’s it going, Sabah?
Sabah: Hi, I’m doing great. Super, super stoked to be on here today.
Quin: Yes, my pleasure, Sabah. Lately, everywhere I look, it’s like I see you. Like on TV stations, TEDx, I’ve heard your talk which was fantastic. This was not overnight, right? You didn’t just go suddenly, now you decided to go on all these TV stations and all that. How did that happen?
Sabah: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Let’s go back a little bit. I actually first got into entrepreneurship in this creepy world when I was 19 years old. It was funny because I was in college and at the time, I was interested in entrepreneurship but by no means did I ever try to start a business, anything. I was a sophomore at 19 years old and I went to go listen to a speaker just for extra credits for one of my classes at my university.
Let alone did I know that he was an entrepreneur building up a business, starting [inaudible 02:13] and he was supposed to be for insurance. I was like, “It’s super cool. I like what he’s doing. Let me just learn more about what it is that he’s doing.” Long story short, I interned with him, got exposed to this entire crazy world of entrepreneurship, and I started to work alongside his company.
I started to do a lot of branding, marketing, PR, media, and worked with big influential people like Kevin Harrington, John Lee Dumas, Jeff Hoffman, and I got to go to all of these cool events like Red Carpet premiere events and what I was doing was I was documenting the whole thing on my social media. I was sharing pictures, doing stories, videos. Let alone back then, I didn’t know I was building a brand as I was doing it, but I was because I started to brand myself as that college entrepreneur that was going about and figuring out this creepy world of entrepreneurship.
Fast forward a little bit, when I was a junior in college, I said, “Okay, I wanna build up my brand even more. What can I do to really get myself to the next level?” That’s when I decided to write a book. I wrote a book and I made it a goal to do it in 30 days about my college journey and principles that I use every single day to be really successful in the field of entrepreneurship but then also focus as a Junior college student at the time.
I wrote that book, I hit bestseller with it, and then I used that to leverage myself to get on different media features. That was the first thing that really launched my brand. As I started to do that, I continued to document, share my story, and people start to follow me and I start to build an audience that way.
Going into my last year of college, I actually graduated about a year ago now, people try to ask me like, “How are you building up an audience? You’re doing it so well with intern, with pictures and videos. Can you help me?” That’s when I started to build my coaching/consulting business. We’re focusing on teaching people how to use their story to build up a brand and audience online.
Long story short, I did all that and I realized throughout the entire process that I have a really amazing story. Before I got into entrepreneurship when I was in high school, I had really low self-esteem. I lost my mom when I was 15. I was in a terrible four-year relationship so I didn’t really know exactly what I want to do. It was until I met my mentor, Brandon, who showed me that I was able to do so much more than what I thought I could do.
For me, I knew that I wanted to speak and share my story, so I start to focus on getting speak engagements, leverage my brand and everything I did previously, and to land myself on TEDx. That comes to now, here today. I’ve given two TEDx talks so far. I’ve been on different media publications, by pretty much teaching people how to use their story and create a message that’s so much greater than what it is that they’re currently doing.
Quin: That’s so incredible. The book that, you said you wrote it in 30 days, that was Enrolling in Confidence.
Sabah: Yeah. That was going into my Junior college, and one of my other good mentors, Laura Peterson, she actually previously had written a book and she challenged herself to write in 30 days. At the time, I didn’t know if I can write a book. I was blogging a lot and I’ve always been good at writing. I was like, “This is kinda cool. I wanna try it to see.” Once again, everything they do, I always document it and make my audience feel like they’re a part of going along with me on the journey.
I was much really doing lives. I was putting out updates on me writing chapters in my book. I put it live out there so then, also, I have to hit the goal of writing in 30 days. Because if I didn’t, then I’ve let my audience down, so I did that. I think I actually wrote it every week because one week for editing and sending it out, edit or [inaudible 06:14] and everything, and then putting it up on Amazon. That entire process was super hectic but such a great experience, for sure.
Quin: Yes. Then, you put it on Amazon and it became a bestseller. Did you ask anybody for help or you just listed on Amazon by yourself?
Sabah: Laura, who was helping me through the process, she helped me in putting the book on Amazon, and the entire strategy behind it because, for me, I hadn’t ever sold anything on Amazon, so I didn’t know how to upload my trends [inaudible 06:49]
But throughout the 30 days, I was building up high [inaudible 07:00] for the launch of my book. When I did launching, I already had so many supporters because I was showing them the entire process of me writing this book so they sell. They were part of the journey. That’s what I always so to other individuals that build up their brand, do some sort of a launch, make it public and show their audience what is that you’re doing because they like to see the behind-the-scenes of everything.
Quin: I really like that. Talking about making it public and showing the behind-the-scenes, you went live for a full year every single day. Is that right?
Sabah: Yeah. That was for my senior year college. I documented every single day my senior. Its 267 days [inaudible 7:46] and the reason to that was because, at the time, I was building up my business and I can’t really sustain so when I graduated college, I wanna have to go work a job where they gave you success stories.
Also, the reason why I wanted to do that was because I wanted to really blow up my brand because since the last year, I was a college student and I branded myself as that college entrepreneur. I knew if I documented every single day, for one, people would love to see the journey, behind-the-scenes of what I’m doing. Then, number two, I would get a lot of attention.
A lot of people with an online space know everyone is doing the same exact thing. There’s other people that have podcast shows or brand strategists, but what makes you different, for me, I found out in order to build a well-sustained brand has to do with branding, positioning, and attention. I knew if I did videos every single day and did a reach-out and got featured on different publications because of this, more people will follow me, and that’s what I did.
It was definitely hard.
There were times when I didn’t wanna go live because, at the same time, I was [inaudible 08:50] through my classes. I graduated with two majors, so I did that within nearly a four-year time. It was definitely quite a journey, for sure. [laughs]
Quin: What are those to majors?
Sabah: I graduated with Apparel Merchandising and Design, Fashion and then Business Management, and that was the route of entrepreneurship.
Quin: Wow. Apparel Merchandising, does that mean you can design, like build your own apparel brand?
Sabah: Yes. Pretty much, the portion that I focused on within that major was the merchandising aspect. That’s more like visual branding, or like that. The reason why I did that major was before, I was really interested in fashion, and I love fashion. My entrepreneurial spirit came from where I want to become a fashion designer and open my own clothing store, which maybe someday, I might be doing well in the future. But that really wasn’t that much of my focus. I might say that’s more of a hobby for me. That’s why I did that major, but I still learned a lot from it for sure.
Quin: Why is branding important to you?
Sabah: People always ask me this. Branding is literally the foundation of any successful business, person, agency, whatever that is because your core values, the mission statement is pretty much what people get attracted to, you’re front-end selling your product, your service. People don’t actually buy your actual products, your service. They buy from the end of the jewel or the message that’s behind that business or that brand.
I like to say as if like Nike. Why do people buy Nike? It’s because of the message, “Just do it.” Very motivational and inspirational so you can connect with it. The actual product, the actual shoe itself, or the t-shirt, it’s probably quality-wise, the same as any other features out there that’s similar with the
supporting niche. But people don’t actually go and look into like, “What’s this shoe made out of? What’s the fabric made out of that t-shirt?”
They don’t look into that because it’s the brand. I always say when you’re going out there building a business or building your own personal self, always focus on building up your brand as you’re going through it. Branding is not an astronaut. People think it is the one they build up a business. They’re like, “Now I need to brand myself.” Something that you can be doing before, during, and continuously as you’re building up your business, then.
Quin: Very good. You seem to be a branding expert ’cause you have done it with yourself. What tips do you have to people that want to brand themselves? Put themselves out there as a brand?
Sabah: I can go into such detail. First of all, a lot of people know exactly what branding is. Like what I was saying earlier, branding is all about identity, positioning, and attention. Identity, meaning who you are as an individual, what you hold yourself as. People know me as Sabah Ali and my brand is Unforgettable. Teaching people how to be unforgettable within their business, their life, and their relationship, so they truly see fulfilled than what it is that they’re doing.
That’s my brand message and my statement. What is it that I actually do is I teach other entrepreneurs and business owners to build and sell their brands online so you know they can generate income and make a greater impact. That’s my identity. That’s who I am as an individual.
Then, positioning, meaning it’s how my audience sees me as. Within the online space, within social media, I create a lot of content on a non-media feature and speak on stages. The way I’m positioning myself as the audience sees me as a credible figure because I’ve done all of these things.
The third thing is attention. You can be doing all these things but no one’s following you and you’re not making a pattern that you grow up within the social media space. It’s gonna be really hard for you to stand out. I found one way to get attention is by getting maybe featured, landing myself on different TV stations, doing TEDx Talk, but it’s one step further than that.
You can be doing all those things but if you don’t know how to properly leverage that in your actual brand, once again, position yourself as that credible figure, it’s gonna be hard for you to stand out. But if someone’s listening to this or watching this, and they’re just starting out, really focus on creating content and documenting what you’re doing because that’s what I did.
People love consistency. Once again, if you just show up one day out of the week for a week, then you stop for a few weeks, then you show back up, they’re gonna forget about you because there’s so many other people that are on the high-end rising within social media space.
Sabah: It’s all about just creating content, being consistent about it.
Quin: Very good. A lot of people listening are probably thinking, “I would like to be on TV as well. Just no TV station came looking for me.” That’s not exactly how it happens, right? TV stations don’t go out looking for you. Is that right?
Sabah: Yes. People think with media features, they’re gonna come to you. That rarely happens unless you’re a high-end top celebrity. The media stations, they’re so, so busy with getting a different type of releases and doing their own shows and whatever that may be. Yes, they’re looking for stories and ideas, but they’re not actively going on social media and doing that. That’s not their job.
I knew for one that I could easily get on local stations, which is what I started off with because at the time, I was a college student and I had a good story. I wrote a book. I’ll give a little example of how to actually manage yourself on media features which not many people know how to do.
I literally just send them an email and I was consistent with it, but the reason why I landed my first media feature was I was going on there to talk about tips to any college students to start a successful career. I wrote my book in March of 2017, or 2018, but I didn’t land my first media feature until August of 2017, or 2018. I can’t remember the years right now, but I was still five months away.
The reason I waited was because if I pitched them in March, school was ending. That was a story that they wouldn’t really use. But school restarts in August so I pitched them then, knowing that at the time frame of the community, that would be something that they’d actually use for a station. It’s all about how you’re positioning yourself and pitching yourself to a different station, too.
Quin: Exactly. Then, after you go to the first one, on your second one, you put on the pitch that you were just featured on the previous one, right?
Sabah: Yes. Once in that one, it’s pretty much just repetition and you just keep leveraging that. If you’re seen on another one, the new stations, sometimes they compete. They want the better story, too, and as you’re growing and doing marketing, they wanna have interesting features, for sure.
Quin: You started very young. At the age of 19, you were already an entrepreneur, you were in college. Does that mean you were raised by a very entrepreneurial family?
Sabah: No. [laughs] No. Not really. Basically, it was pretty much just like go to college and get a job. But for me, it was always like I wanted to do something more. Like what I said earlier, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit but I never thought that I’d actually go out and create something. I didn’t think that I’d be a speaker and doing TV shows and publications and stuff like that.
But when I met my mentor when I was 19, he showed me I could be doing so much more. My driving factor is all about showing others that they can be doing so much more. It’s just something that I didn’t know I really had within me. If I didn’t meet my mentor, I don’t know what I would be doing. I probably wouldn’t be doing this at all, so I always tell people like, “Go to different opportunities, go to events because you never know how you that’s gonna lead you to something so much more greater.”
Quin: Nice. Recently, you had a TEDx Talk. I heard that TEDx Talk which was fantastic especially to me listening to that because you mentioned the story of your mom, and that happened to me with my dad. The only difference was mine was only two months ago. When I heard that, it hit me harder. But when you were on stage, it looked like you’re so at ease, so comfortable. Inside, were you really just like that?
Sabah: Yeah. I think the one that you watched was my first TEDx Talk I did back in September. I had been practicing in that talk for a long time so I knew it pretty by heart. But, yes, I was because, honestly, being completely honest, before that, I’d spoke on numerous stages before but every time, I’d still get really nervous and stuff.
But when I stepped on stage for that TEDx Talk, I was so, so calm because, for one, I knew my story. The number two, the idea that I was sharing with the audience, I knew that they would find beneficial in their own lives. For me, it was my job and belief to show them just by sharing my story, how coming from such hardships and adversity, that they can acknowledge that within themselves and turn their life around.
By just acknowledging knowing that, when I just walked on stage, it was just more of the excitement of me being able to get my talk, and that’s the first TEDx Talk I did, too, and that was the goal that I had. Last year, I was given one. Actually landing that and doing it and follow through, it was a big, big accomplishment for me, for sure.
Quin: Nice. You mentioned your goals a couple of times. For you to be able to, I guess, fulfill your goals or your dreams, does that mean you write them all down?
Sabah: Yeah. I love goal setting. I do various types of goal settings. I have goals for the next 5 to 10 years, I have my yearly goals, I have my monthly goals, and my weekly goals and my daily goals. The reason why, I always tell people to write down goals, too, is because if you don’t write them down, you don’t know where you’re headed.
You might have a vision/mission in your head, but it’s so much more real to write them down actually physically [inaudible 19:49]. Because if you’re on entrepreneurship and you’re focusing on building your business, there’s so many different parts that you have to be attentive to and if you don’t write down your goals, it can be hard for you to, for one, be productive, and that’s a huge them.
Then, number two, it drives you to continually do even more. I see a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners, they reach this plateau and they just drop, and they don’t really see what more they can be doing. When you write out your yearly goals, you actually see a vision of where you’re headed as you’re going through the process.
Because entrepreneurship, it’s not just speaking and stages and all successes. There’s still hard times, too. It’s a roller-coaster. When you’re going through that process, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s so hard. I don’t wanna do it.” Just look back and look at your goals because there’s a reason why you started it.
Quin: Most of the audience listening to this are entrepreneurs, so they know that exact roller-coaster. Although, that’s not really what we see in all social media. We see the nice things, but we know it’s like going up, going down, always very, very crazy ride, which makes it more exciting, too.
Sabah: Yeah. Totally. I always say that entrepreneurship is just a journey. Like when you hit one goal, that’s a success, but you’re just starting out. Every time I hit one of my goals, I’m like, “This is just the beginning. There’s so, so much more.” Going back to having that vision, that’s something that’s super, super powerful to have.
When you’re starting out, you might not know exactly what it is that you wanna be doing, but continually experiencing and trying different things, that’s when you’re gonna run into that one that you truly want to do. Entrepreneurship can be scary. There’s gonna be a lot of times that you’re gonna fail and go through the process, but it’s also a fun experience.
Quin: I love the fact that you mentioned it’s all about the journey because that’s one of my favorite things that Gary Vaynerchuk talks about. “F the destination, live the journey. Appreciate the journey.” That’s what it is all about, the journey. A lot of people forget that.
Sabah: Totally. I completely agree. I love Gary V. If you think about it, when you do reach your destination, then what? That’s it, right?
Sabah: You really enjoyed it because you were actually working towards it, and as you’re working towards it, you’ve helped all of these different people. It’s always just making those goals get higher and higher and higher as you start reaching them.
Quin: Since you have your goals all written down, if I were to ask you what are your plans for the future, you know that answer easily. A lot of entrepreneurs get a little bit tongue-twisted when you ask them, “What are your plans for the future?” But, what are your plans?
Sabah: It’s just so exciting. I was actually talking to one of my coaching students about this. I’m already planning my major 2020 plans, for sure. This year is a lot about focusing on helping entrepreneurs and business owners build and sell their brands, but one of my other focuses this year is getting in a lot more stages to speak. I don’t wanna quite announce what I had planned for 2020, but it has to do with more than just coaching/consulting.
Recently, I launched one of my programs where I got 10 people to go to the process of teaching them how to create brands that were used where they’re not just on social media, because I believe the thing that I’m creating and a lot of other people are creating with an online space are actually messages that need to be seen with greater audiences.
I realized social media is great, but it can only do so much. For me, I wanna focus on actually having in-person interactions with people. A few years down the road, next year, and everything like that, it’s gonna be focusing more on speaking events and a long line to that. It’s where I’m headed but I don’t wanna say so much quite yet.
Quin: Cool. You’d rather be onstage all over the world than doing your consulting. Right now, Unforgettable by Sabah, that is your business, that’s your consulting business. What exactly can people expect from that?
Sabah: Basically, if anyone you know is needing help with branding strategy, they don’t know what their message is, or having a hard time building an audience, whatever that may be, basically I coach and consult people through the process. People struggle with branding ’cause they don’t know what it is.
Everything that I’ve done, it’s organically from my brand. I don’t run ads, whatsoever. It’s pretty much teaching people who they are as an individual, what their brand message is, their story. Creating content actually shares a story to the entire process. But then, also, taking it up the next level, landing yourself on speaking engagements, different media features, and everything along the lines of that.
People struggle with this sometimes, especially business owners and entrepreneurs because they’re so focused on the advertising, marketing, and selling portion of it all, so they neglect the branding aspect. For anyone who feels like, for one, they have a business brand that’s struggling, they’re not getting attention, brand is probably something that you’re lacking.
Then, number two, a lot of entrepreneurs, they’re at this point where they have a well-sustained business but they want something more. They want to go out and speak and be motivational, inspirational, wanna build up their own personal brands. I love working with personality brands because it’s all about the story.
If you’re a personality brand, you’re an entrepreneur, you want to actually create a message that’s greater than yourself, you need help, yeah, just let me know. I love to help you to the process, then.
Quin: Very good. Where can these people that are looking for that help, where can they find you?
Sabah: You can shoot me an email at Sabah@sabahali.com. I’m on Facebook, just Sabah Ali, and Instagram, thesabahali, and I’m really active on both, so if you just shoot me a message, yeah, I’ll for sure get back to you.
Quin: Awesome. I also had her on the show notes. Just for those of you that are taking notes right now, Sabah is spelled S-A-B-A-H, and Ali is A-L-I. Alright. Sabah, thank you very much for your time and these golden nuggets. I hope people appreciate them, and thank you very much.
Sabah: Thank you so much for having me.
Playback: Thanks for subscribing to Fail Fast Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review and visit FailFastPodcast.com for show notes, Quin’s social media, or even to tell us your story.
Author, Unforgettable by Sabah
Facebook: Sabah Ali