Today we spoke with Vanessa Cornell, founder of NUSHU. NUSHU works to create collaborative spaces for those seeking inspiration and discussion, and offers guided sessions to build trust and new ideas. Tune in for Vanessa’s advice on how to grow a business from the ground up, how important authenticity is in drawing clientele, and what it takes to truly serve your target audience.
Vanessa Cornell [00:00:01] I’ve always been a sort of proponent of get it right, do your thing, just keep going and the bigness will come.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:12] Welcome to Ideamix radio. I’m Sam Jayanti, and every week I chat with entrepreneurs, solar producers, career changers, experts and enthusiasts for insider tips that you can apply to turn your idea into a business. So sit back and enjoy today’s show.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:33] Today, we’re talking to Vanessa Cornell about how to build a wellness community, Vanessa is the founder of NUSHU. And through the power of true community, NUSHU’s held a space for curiosity and evolution for people experiencing profound personal awakening and transformation. It’s a radically different space where you can show up exactly as you are and be welcomed and accepted. Vanessa, welcome to Ideamix radio.
Vanessa Cornell [00:00:59] Thank you for having me. It’s always great to see you, Sam.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:03] Always. So tell me Vanessa, what inspires you?
Vanessa Cornell [00:01:08] Yeah, I’m I’m a real observer. I notice a lot. So literally everything that happens to every person I meet, everything I see inspires me. I sort of take it all in and filter it down. And then I feel like there’s this little distilling thing that happens in me and that’s where the inspiration comes from. So it’s not really external. It’s like I take everything in and then I feel like there’s a little bit of an internal inspiration that flows from that.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:34] Amazing. What’s one piece of advice that looking back, you’d give to your younger sellf?
Vanessa Cornell [00:01:41] Yeah, I mean, this one’s easy. It’s stop pretending. You know, there was a lot of sort of lying and external lying, but there was a lot of just trying to meet other people’s expectations, trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be. And so the biggest thing is stop pretending actually to sort of take the time to know who you are and what you want. And you’ll waste a lot less time in life going down the wrong path if you do that.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:09] Totally, and then just take the time to be, right? Yeah. How do you stay motivated?
Vanessa Cornell [00:02:15] You know, it sort of goes back to the first two questions of what inspires me. It’s almost like I don’t even think about motivation. I think about how do we figure out who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. And then it’s almost like I don’t have a choice. Like it’s like a creative energy that just flows out of me that propels me. And so I don’t even think of it as being motivated. My husband jokes that I work all the time and I don’t even feel like I’m working because it’s just like I’m just becoming more of who I am through my work. And so that’s sort of it’s like very internal and very tied to sort of trying to get on the path that I feel like I’m supposed to be on.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:58] Yeah, it’s it’s a perfect, sweet spot when you find that in your work. Yeah. So let’s dive in. You have an idea, a yearning for a community. What are the first three things you would advise people to do to actually create one?
Vanessa Cornell [00:03:16] Yeah. So I’m going to feel like I’m a broken record. But first thing is like know who you are, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. It won’t work. People’s see right through it. Be really, really, really honest about who you are and then really think about why you want the community. What what are you trying to do, who you’re trying to reach, what’s your purpose and your goal in creating this community. And then the third thing, which is a little less obvious is, is to really ask yourself, like, do you love those people? Do you love serving those people, because if you don’t if you’re like these people will come together in the community for a purpose to make money or to promote me or to make me feel more important. And you don’t love them and you don’t want to serve them. They will know. They will feel it. You just can’t fake that. And if you’re bringing together a group of people that you’re like, you know, they can serve me, but I don’t like they’re not my people. They’re not the people that I’m like, God, I love these people. I love everything they’re about. I love it when they come to this space. That’s the ingredient you need to have to make people feel drawn to the community and to make you want to work and work and work to serve them, not because it serves some abstract end just because you’re, like, so thrilled that they’re there, so happy that they’re with you and all you want to do is sort of foster that feeling of like, yes, you’re here with me doing this thing together. Isn’t it amazing? And so that, to get to that place takes a lot of soul searching. And if you miss any of the steps along the way that I know people throw away, throw around that word authenticity so much. But it’s true, especially in mediums like social media and YouTube and videos and virtual. You can’t fake it. You can’t fake it. People will know. They’ll see right through it.
Sam Jayanti [00:05:18] Yeah, they absolutely do. I think that the level of transparency that’s been confirmed by all these various communication mediums is pretty absolute. And as you said, how can you nurture a community unless you are ready to serve and have a genuine love for that service? So that’s so important. Vanessa, when building a community, what’s your advice on finding that first 50 members that are going to come in and really make it what it is?
Vanessa Cornell [00:05:50] Yeah, I talk a lot to people about creating strong self selection. And so if you’re saying I just want people no matter what, so I’m going to try and morph myself into who I think they want me to be so that they’ll come, you’re not going to get the right people. So you have to be really clear about who you are and what you’re offering. Put it out there as truthfully as you can without modifying it. Right. When I first put myself out there, I was like, this is who I am. And I’m a little nervous about people being like, oh, that’s so like, well, and that’s a little bit so emotional and so spiritual. But it’s like you have to put that out there because the people who resonate will resonate and will come and the people who don’t will not, which is exactly what you want. It’s OK. You don’t have to be for everyone. So don’t try and be for everyone and be really strong and clear in what you’re offering so that there’s really strong self selection. You’ve got the people that you want and then secondly, be really generous with those people.
Vanessa Cornell [00:06:53] You know, it’s really a gift when somebody comes and jumps on board with something that’s just starting that has no proven track record, that has no other sort of touch points. And if they’re willing to take that leap of faith with you, honor that. Don’t forget, when you go from 50 people to thousands of people, don’t forget those first 50 people because they took a leap of faith on you. And that’s a real gift they gave you. And so make sure that you remember those people always, that you appreciate them, that you show your appreciation to them and value them when they jump on with you in the beginning.
Sam Jayanti [00:07:31] One hundred percent. So true, those 50 people, in our experience and working with entrepreneurs at Ideamix radio has been those are the people that allow you to find the right space within your business that you’re going to occupy. Right. Because they are incredibly valuable for the feedback and the honesty that they provide, as well as the character that they lend to your community.
Vanessa Cornell [00:07:58] They they allow you the space to try things out that might not work, right? So they’re there in the time when you’re just starting to say, like, am I doing this or am I doing this? I’m not sure. Let me try both. And they come and they try both and they give you the feedback. And so that’s also incredibly valuable. And they allow you to be in a bit of a space of unsure. I sort of talked about like be really sure of who you are. But on this entrepreneurial journey, I found you have, like, perfect clarity and then you’re like, oh, wait. And now I’m not quite sure, maybe not overall, but in terms of what direction you’re going in or how you approach things. And so those are the people who are allowing you to experiment with that and to really close in on who you are and what you’re offering is. And they really should be valued for that.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:47] Definitely agree. How do you feel, as an entrepreneur, one should adapt their approach from building that initial community to then, growing it beyond sort of family, friends and first huge supporters.
Vanessa Cornell [00:09:04] Yeah. So, yes, family and friends are often your first supporters. They are on your side. They want you to succeed. They’re willing to be with you through those sort of maybe rocky or maybe just unsure beginning moments. And sometimes they’re willing to be with you, even if what you’re offering is not exactly what they want just because they love you and they want you to succeed. And so the first thing I would say is don’t be afraid or offended when those people fall away. Always serve them, always honor them, but also don’t take it personally if they move on because they were there, because they wanted you to succeed. But maybe what you’re offering is what they need in this at this point in their lives, or maybe it’s not. And that’s not about you. That’s about that’s about them. And so the first thing I would say is make it easy and generous for them to step away if that’s what the right thing is for them. And then I think through the process of creating clarity of what you’re offering, then you’re really opening the door to people who come across your message, come across your offer and say, wow, this is exactly what I need right now. I don’t really know you per say that’s not why I’m jumping on it, because what you’re saying resonates with me and, give people an opportunity to get to know you so your family and friends know you already, but how can you give other people an opportunity to get to know you, whether it’s putting yourself out there in video? This is who I am. This is what I believe in, in print on your website. Give people a way to get to know you. That’s not just sort of marketing copy, but, you know, particularly if the community isn’t centered around an individual, give them multiple touch points and multiple ways to get to know you so that as we know, the attention is so much of our currency right now, attention is so valuable, why would somebody choose to trust you, spend time with you, be with you and be in your offering, give them reasons to trust you and to know exactly what they’re getting if they’re going to be joining your community.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:20] So true. So what do you feel is more important, having been at this for a few years, a few dedicated members or a large following? Is there a way to both capture numbers as well as engagement?
Vanessa Cornell [00:11:36] Yeah. So it depends on what your goals are, of course. But I think you can have both. But I think it’s really important and I found this, you have to get it right before you can make it big. You cannot go the other way around because as you mentioned, Sam, it’s those first 50 people that are your culture carriers. They’re your greatest ambassadors. And if you get it right and you really serve those people and you’re really clear about what you are and who you’re for and what you’re offering, those people will go out and be organic spreaders of what you’re doing. And that’s what that’s what’s happened to me. I’ve got some people who are I mean, I’m almost like you should write the marketing copy. They’re so gung ho and excited and they’re so excited to tell their friends. And so it’s not like they’re even going out and telling their friends because they want to help me, although I’ve gotten to know them and they’re very generous and they want to help me. It’s because they feel like it’s a gift to their friend to even tell them that this thing exists that they can be a part of. That’s what you want to foster, where people want to go out and tell people not because it’s a marketing ploy, but just because they’re so excited about it. So you have to foster that excitement, that feeling of I’m a part of something that’s important that I want other people to know about. And then the spread happens. If you focus too much on getting too big, too fast, you cannot foster those relationships with those people, really understand what they want, and really dial yourself in to creating a community that feels that way. And so I’ve always I’ve always been a sort of proponent of get it right, do your thing, just keep going and the bigness will come. It will come as a natural result of that. And I’m I’m a little impatient, sometimes I feel like it’s not fast enough. And then I just remind myself, keep doing your thing, stay true to who you are, take care of your people and it will come.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:44] It’s one hundred percent true, because I think what you’re exactly striking at the heart of is unless you figure out the sort of most refined and specific version of what you’re doing, the scale will not come because you will not be occupying that valuable space that’s been validated by your first 50 people. And you’ve validated for yourself as an entrepreneur and as a business for that set of people wants that thing that you’re providing them. And the scale just never comes. And you can buy temporary scale through marketing and then whatever else. But the best marketing remains people who love it, talking about it for you. So, yeah, no shortcuts. Last question, Vanessa: customers increasingly expect things for free. Right. Especially when they join communities that are relatively new and they know that they’re sort of instrumental in helping build out those communities, which is amazing, but it doesn’t pay the bills and doesn’t help to bootstrap the business. How do you think founders should think about that balance in building and creating communities?
Vanessa Cornell [00:15:01] Yeah, so so I agree. Free, really important. As I mentioned, people’s attention is currency and there’s so many offerings and there’s so many free offerings out there that it’s very difficult to capture someone’s attention and get them to actually pay for something. So you have to give people, free is important, but you have to give them something that’s worthwhile and you have to respect their time as well. So I can’t tell you how many offerings that I’ve clicked on that are free that start with twenty minutes of sort of self promotion and blather. And by minute twelve I’ve clicked off. So don’t assume that because it’s free that you don’t have to tightly curate what you’re offering, make sure it’s valuable and make sure you’re respecting people’s time and keeping it tight. We do a webinar that’s free and it’s an hour and often people ask us to make it longer. And I say, you know, an hour is actually a long time to be paying attention. And when I moderate, and when I ask questions, I’m always considering, how can we pack the most information, the most into one hour? Podcasts often i’ll listen to and the first 20 minutes it’s not valuable to me, it’s a waste of my time and it annoys me. So that’s the first thing I would say. Make sure that just because it’s free, you’re not deemphasizing how tight the content is. So the second thing is, I understand it’s not possible for people to just offer things for free. So I would say that what people sometimes do is they’ll offer things for free and then they’ll offer things that are paid, but they’ll undervalue them that, you know, they’ll undervalue themselves, that undervalue the strength of their offering. And I I’m sure everybody does this, but I see women do this a lot. If you’re going to offer something that’s paid, be confident about it. Really put out the value of what you think it’s worth and then stand behind it and promote it. And what I think you’ll find is that if you really value what you’re offering and you really put a lot into it, it has to be valued. It has to be valuable what you’re offering. Right? Make sure that it’s polished, make sure that it’s not wasting people’s time, but don’t undervalue what you’re offering. And in that way, I think you can create a real balance of saying to people, I understand it’s a lot to take a leap of faith and pay this amount of money with somebody you don’t know. Let me give you lots of opportunities to tell you who I am. But as part of what I’m doing in my free offerings and telling you who I am is showing you that I value your time helping you, that I’m putting something together in a way that values your attention. And then maybe once you’ve gotten to know me in that way, you’ll say if I pay this money based on what she’s saying she’s offering me, I have a level of trust that that’s worthwhile and that I’m willing to do that. And so it’s really, it really is a balance. And I think that sometimes people think when it comes to free more is more. And it’s not necessarily more, I have attended a lot of summits where it’s like forty five free talks, I don’t have time for forty five free talks and it feels a little bit to me like the stack of books on my nightstand. It feels a little bit to me like pressure, so be disciplined about what you offer. If you have five ideas, say what are my two best ideas. What are the two things I think people will resonate with the most and then offer that really generously, rather than thinking that you just have to keep throwing more and more and more. Focus. Less is more, so that people, when they come to you, will learn over time and be trained over time. She’s not going to waste my time. If she puts something out there, it’s good. It’s worthwhile.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:56] Yeah, it’s so important because I think consumers are, as you said, it is hard to get and keep their attention. And so they’re always making a relative decision about do I want to stay or do I want to leave? And you have to keep affirming that they should stay because their time is being respected as valuable and that you’re delivering in turm value to them for their time. So true. I also totally agree with the point that women tend to undervalue themselves and undersell themselves in terms of just what they price things, and that and there’s there’s almost this sort of opposition between free and paid. And you should set up that opposition kind of really strongly. So it’s clear in a person’s mind.
Vanessa Cornell [00:19:40] Yeah. Can I just say one more thing? I also think that there’s a tension sometimes between people wanting something to be accessible, so people set up different communities for different reasons. But in my personal experience, part of what I’m really focused on is creating accessibility. I’m not trying to create a luxury product that’s only for certain people. But there’s a very big difference between promoting accessibility and creating ways for people who don’t have the financial means to join and undervaluing yourself. There’s a difference. So you can say this is the value of my offering and I’m offering a certain number of discounted spots or free spots, which is different than saying, let me dumb down the value of my offering in order to create accessibility. There are very different paths and they send a very different message about what you’re offering and why people should value it in a certain way.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:34] So true. Absolutely. What do you feel Vanessa, having become an entrepreneur, you’re a few years into this, what do you think is the biggest myth about entrepreneurship?
Vanessa Cornell [00:20:46] You know, I don’t know if it’s a myth, but it’s the thing that I’ve learned the most is that it never goes away. You know, there’s never a point you get to a certain level and you say, now I’ve done it and now I’m sure of every step going forward, there is sort of clarity and direction followed by confusion and doubt and then you sit in that confusion and doubt. And you say, should I go this way or this way? It’s sort of like when there’s a path that has been laid out before you when other people have done this before, you can sort of say, I see the different paths and I can choose one. But when you’re an entrepreneur, by definition, you’re foraging a path and it’s just blank. And so sometimes it’s very unclear where you should go, what you should do, what decision you should make. And nobody has done it exactly the way you’ve done it before and nobody has been in exactly the position you’ve been in before. And so sort of it has to have this period of when you’re trying to make a decision or you’re trying to decide where to go, this sort of cloud of doubt. I don’t see it as a negative. I see it as a here’s a moment to step back into creativity, to tap back into who I am, why I’m here, what I’m doing. It’s sort of these constant opportunities to reevaluate and reset. Sometimes they don’t feel amazing, because you’re like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been going and moving and progressing and I feel all this progress and now I’m sort of cast back into doubt. I just don’t think if you’re growing and moving and evolving as a person and if your business is evolving, I just don’t think that that can ever go away. And so people sometimes think that that only happens in the beginning in the startup mode. But it’s always a feature. Always, always, always.
Sam Jayanti [00:22:45] If you have to pick a role model, who would that be?
Vanessa Cornell [00:22:53] You know, there’s a there are a couple of people and I’m in the sort of self-help personal growth space, and so I really look at this wellness space and how people have approached it. And so let me tell you who my role model is not. So I see a lot of people in this space who have branded themselves as individuals. And what I see when people brand themselves as individuals is brands are consistent. They don’t really change much. They don’t really evolve. You know, consistency is really important with the brand. But human beings change and evolve and change their minds and get bored of things all the time, all the time. And so if you create if you conflate your brand with a human being, you’re trapped in the identity of the brand. It’s like the band who has made six albums since their hit song, and the only thing anyone wants to hear is their hit song. And so what I’ve seen is certain role models who have done really important work in the space of self-help and wellness and personal discovery, who have maintained themselves as a human being, who has the permission to to grow and expand and change. They have not branded themselves. They might have books and they might have a website and they might have programs, but they’ve been able to maintain that distance where they are a human being doing work in the world. They’re not a brand.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:19] OK, last question for you. If you had to pick something else to do and you couldn’t do this, what would that be?
Vanessa Cornell [00:24:28] I mean, I think probably it’s pretty clear from the interview that I feel like I couldn’t possibly be doing anything else. Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in five years be doing something else because I have learned and grown and seen and in 10 years, who knows? So I think it’s constantly evolving and I’ll be doing different things in the future. But right at this moment, I mean, all I do is sort of ask. Of myself, is this what I’m supposed to be doing and if the answer is yes, I do it and if the answer is no, I don’t. And so I cannot imagine doing anything else. But the one thing that I would like to do in my fantasy is be a professional surfer. So if I had the time,
Sam Jayanti [00:25:09] I love that.
Vanessa Cornell [00:25:11] Maybe it’s that, that would be fun.
Sam Jayanti [00:25:13] Amazing. So great to have you. Thanks for joining us today.
Vanessa Cornell [00:25:17] Thank you, Sam. This was fun.
Speaker 2 [00:25:20] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you. So e-mail us at email@example.com or Instagram DM us. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milewski with music by the awesome Nashville based singer songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at DougAllenMusic.com.
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