Entrepreneurs and COVID-19 - Interview with Julie Ann, founder of Influence Publishing and InspireABook (Canada/Mexico)

Please share a bit about yourself as an entrepreneur and what your business entails - brick and mortar store, online, product, etc..

I am the founder of Influence Publishing Inc. and Inspireabook publishing coaching - businesses that both grew from my experience trying to write and publish my own memoir of spending seven years living on a sailboat. Ten years later, I am proud to share I have successfully helped over 200 authors reach their dream of publication.

For the first 5 years, I had my office in North Vancouver with a staff of up to 8 people. In 2014 I changed the model of our business, closed the office and downsized so that I could be free to travel and host writers retreats around the world. In the last five years I’ve spent the winter hosting writing retreats in Mexico, Turks and Caicos and France.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, how did you work with your regular clients and reach out to new ones. What type of marketing worked best for you?

Most of my clients come to me from word of mouth recommendation. I’ve always ensured I have a strong presence at women’s conferences, networking events and gatherings to ensure I have a physical presence among my authors. When I’m travelling I make sure I do regular Facebook updates so my authors always know where I am.

Mexico retreats - work and play included!

The pictures and stories I share of my authors on writing retreat with me ensure that I’ve always got plenty of people wanting to experience this with me. When I am in Vancouver in the spring and summer I do most of my meetings in person and we then continue our work together via zoom when I am travelling. 

How has the social isolation required to combat the spread of COVID-19 affected your business? What about this has been hardest for you personally?

I had just secured the villa in Mexico for my writing retreats for this winter. I had only just starting to market when Covid-19 became a serious situation, and that meant no one wanted to travel to Mexico. I had already committed to a 6 month lease for the winter period. Now I have a villa and no guests! 

Southern France Retreat - manuscript planning and of course sharing a meal.

My retreats feed my publishing business as those authors who attend the retreats go on to publish with me. Without retreat customers I have fewer publishing contracts, and most of the people who wanted to write books put their projects on the back burner as they could no longer afford the publishing and coaching fees. As a result of this, February was the last time I drew dividends from the company. 

Have you found new ways to interact with your customer? Have you developed any new products or services as a way to help your clients through this time, or to fill a new need you see?

Author mapping her book ideas.
I have had to develop new services in order to create income for myself. I transformed the process I do in a week when the writers are on retreat with me, to four one hour sessions on zoom. So far I’ve seen amazing results. The writers have all created their writing plans chapter by chapter and set themselves realistic writing goals to have their first drafts completed within 4 months. I reduced my prices by half for the month of April to launch this new coaching series and to help people to afford my services. There are only a few day’s left if you want to take advantage of this opportunity!

I’m also working with Holly of Eidetic Films to launch a new mental health platform online. We are presently looking for 20 pioneers to showcase their mental health story on Storyguide.ai. If you have a story you want to get published there are two opportunities to get involved. You can contribute a chapter to our Mental Health book series or you can publish you own mental health book. Take a look at the great team we have already recruited for the platform at www.storyguide.ai and be sure to let me know if you would like to get involved!

What type of marketing seems to be working best for you in this time of social isolation?

Facebook and Instagram seem to get the best results. I’ve tried boosting a few posts and I was amazed to see a blog I wrote about using your book as a business card had 5600 people reached and 47 shares! Most of the others only reached 200 without the boost, so I think for $30 that was money well spent!

With a few of the fellow authors of a collaborative book at their signing event!

Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your business? Any last words of encouragement you'd like to share with everyone? 

Although some may be feeling some fear with this crisis, I always look at the silver lining and try and make lemonade from lemons. I’ve ended up with a beautiful place to be isolated in! Although I have no customers for my villa retreat in Puerto Vallarta, I have a private pool and a very comfortable space that I’m happy to “stay at home” If I had not planned to do writers retreats in Vallarta, I not would not have invested in such a nice place to stay! I’ve developed new programs and involved in a very exicting new venture with Eidetic Film that I would not have done if the covid-19 restrictions didn’t involve some creative solutions!

Left, from one of her many trips - Right, the book that helped to launch her business!

I had a very bad chest infection in February and looking back on my symptoms, there is a good chance I actually had the virus. I was quite ill but made a full recovery and I’m grateful for those clients who were very patient to put their coaching on hold until I was back in health. Since then I’ve been very careful to ensure my body is at optimum health with the nutrients I need. I’m happy to say I get that in my Isagenix daily protein shake!

Link - 
Websites - 
Personal Coaching -  www.julieinspires.com/
Influence Publishing - www.influencepublishing.com/
InspireABook - www.inspireabook.com/
Instagram - @julieinspires