Success Profile: Princeton Graduate Rana Campbell Uses Storytelling to Ignite Dream Drivers Nationwide

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Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Rana Campbell, storyteller and host of Dreams in Drive.

“I’ve worked with a coach who’s helped me figure out what my one word is and my one word is ‘storyteller.’ It’s been a journey for me to accept that that’s what I am… I love stories and I think stories rule the world.”

Rana Campbell is the voice behind Dreams in Drive, a community for creatives who are tired of being stuck–dreaming but not executing. In less than 3 years, her podcast has gotten over 600,000 downloads and she’s interviewed over 150 guests. We sat down with Rana to learn about how she started her platform, some challenges she’s experiencing and what motivates her to keep going. If you’re a lifestyle entrepreneur in need of some inspiration or you’re a 9-5er who’s looking to plan for a future in business ownership, this interview will bless you.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. How did your background and upbringing pave the way for the work you do now?

I grew up in Orange, New Jersey, which is like an urban suburb. I went to local public schools up until sixth grade, and then my parents transferred me to a private school in seventh grade.That was the catalyst to me getting into Princeton. At Princeton I studied Sociology. I always knew that I loved people. I loved institutions. I loved learning how things worked.

I had an internship in college at CBS Corporation, the media company, and thought I would have this big media job and when I graduated, it didn’t happen, so I had to go down the path of how do I create my own opportunities? That’s when I started freelancing for different outlets like Huffington Post, Madame Noire, where I was interviewing a lot of entrepreneurs.

I was talking to this entrepreneur one day and he asked, “Why don’t you start a podcast?” I said, “I always wanted to but I just haven’t.” He replied, “What’s stopping you?”

So that was another catalyst moment for me. I had to ask myself, what do I have to do to get this podcast started? I picked a launch date of January 1, 2016 and I just worked towards that date. Since that date we’ve had over 160 episodes, we’ve grown to over 600,000 downloads, and I’ve gotten to interview over 150 amazing people of color who are putting their dreams in drive.

I’ve constantly been on this path of figuring out how do I take my passion for storytelling and use that to create something that helps other people?

2. Was there anything specifically in your childhood that you can track back and say, I’ve always been a storyteller?

It’s funny because I’m a screenshot-aholic. I screenshot everything. I was looking through my screenshots the other day and I found a FB screenshot where I asked my followers, “What’s one of your favorite memories of me?

One of my friends from kindergarten said, “In kindergarten you used to always read everyone stories.” I said, “What?!” She said, “Yeah, I remember that.”

I don’t know if they were actually from books or if I was just making them up. I’ve always been that person that was telling stories or making up stories. I was always talking and trying to get people to talk to me. My sister said I would write on everything–write things out and tell stories in the house. I was always that kid who was writing stories or trying to figure out how get people to go along with my ideas.

3. That hustle is definitely key. Based off all of the interviews you’ve had so far, what do you find is one of the biggest roadblocks that hinders creatives from pursuing their dreams and getting them out of park and into drive?

The biggest thing is really ourselves. Sometimes we think it’s something else, but sometimes it’s just what are we telling ourselves about our ability?

I learned this especially in episode 167 with Ashley Langston, an Active Duty Captain in the US Army and fashion designer. She was talking about this idea of untapped potential, which is something that the army taught her. There are things within ourselves that we don’t even know we possess. If we can tap into it, we can really unlock these secrets and these lessons.

I think the biggest thing for my guests, even for myself, is fear and doubt. Those are the biggest dreamkillers for a lot of people. Let’s say you want to open a restaurant. The biggest hurdle for that is really logistics. How do you figure it out? The figuring it out is the easy part. Telling yourself I can do it and I can figure it out is the hard part. Once you’re able to get out of that self-sabotage, I find that a lot of the guests have really been able to find success. However, that can be a  struggle. That can be the biggest part of people’s journey, especially when things aren’t smooth sailing.

4. Talk to us about the importance of your 9-5 feeding your side hustle.

I think the 9-5 is really important especially to build a foundation. There’s a lot of things I learned in my 9-5 that have really helped me along my own dream-driving journey. One of my mentors told me, “Make mistakes on other people’s dime.”

When you work at a larger company, you’re able to see what a successful business does or doesn’t do. So in my 9-5, I was able to see, what does it take for a lot of these e-commerce companies to become really successful? What are their business margins looking like? What does leadership look like? What are things you should do and what are things you shouldn’t do?

Whenever I see things not working right, I take note of that and write it down. One day when I scale my company, this is what I want to make sure not to ever do.

I also love that my 9-5 allowed me to learn a lot of new skill sets. I was able to learn all about email marketing, marketing automation, sales, especially, because my job was really connected to bringing in leads for the sales department.  By working with very experienced salespersons, I was able to learn how the story really does matter when you’re trying to tell your business story or when you’re trying to get people to buy in. You have to really understand the client’s needs.

As I’m transitioning into new opportunities now, I’m taking those learnings and I’m happy that I was able to have a foundational learning that I didn’t have to pay for. I was paid to learn, if that makes sense.

Now, don’t go into a 9-5 in the sense that you want to use them, but definitely know if you have a side hustle, you can leverage the things and the experiences you’re having in your 9-5 in order to translate those learnings into your own hustle.

I think a lot of people don’t realize that they really don’t want to be entrepreneurs; they just don’t want to work. There’s people that think they want to have their own job/ don’t want to work for anyone, but they don’t realize that being an entrepreneur is probably harder than going to work every day, so you have to know why you’re doing it.

5. Looking at your press page and all of the amazing places you’ve been able to get featured, is there any pressure to maintain the flame every single week? How do you navigate keeping up the content while also promoting your own brand and giving yourself exposure as well?

That’s something I’m struggling with now. I think the biggest thing is reminding myself that I I’ve been pretty consistent, but growth is the goal because I always want to make sure I’m reaching as many people as possible. It’s about to be 3 years of podcasting  in January 2019. It’s easy to become complacent.

I always have to remember that my goal is to help more people learn how to take their dreams out of park. If I’m not actively investing in ways in order to reach new people, it’s really hard.

One of the things that I’ve been doing recently is that I’m in a mastermind group with other lady podcasters that I love. Having a collective of some sort really keeps those things in check because when you’re only working with yourself, you don’t really know what it is that you really should be aspiring to. In this mastermind, all of the other podcasters are all at different levels. I think we all encourage each other.

You never want to be the smartest person in the room.  Make sure that you’re always around people that are going to push you because it’s real easy to get complacent especially if you’re consistent. But being consistent doesn’t always mean growth. You can be consistently mediocre. That’s been a big thing for me. It’s always a struggle. You have to prioritize remembering that growth is key.

6. You were doing Dreams in Drive as a service to the community for a long time. You didn’t start introducing your t-shirt line and your coaching services until recently. Talk to us about the decision to monetize.

I think monetization has always been the goal for me, but you have to be smart about it.  In podcasting there’s so many different avenues to monetization. You have to be creative with your model.

In any business when you’re trying to figure out how to monetize, you really have to put things out there and experiment. With the t-shirt merchandise offering, I’ve learned that things are definitely really in season. I’ve learned how to sell them, how to promote them in that way.

With the coaching services, I’ve learned, maybe I don’t even want to do coaching so much. Maybe I need to move to a different model. I also have episode sponsorships where I reach out to companies and do it that way.

I don’t know if you follow Alex Wolf, but she was talking about how a lot of brands need to start being creative about how we’re monetizing because people’s buying habits are different.

Wanting to monetize smartly has really forced me to hunker down on what it is that people want. At the end of the day that’s what a business does. You provide value to people.

For the upcoming months I’ll be figuring out what is the specific value that Dreams in Drive brings or what would people who are interested in the world of Dreams in Drive pay for. Maybe it’s not the consumers. Maybe it’s businesses. Maybe it’s something else.

For anyone else struggling with that, I think that’s the key thing to think about. You have to experiment. You can’t keep it in your head. Know that you can always pivot if things don’t turn out to be what you think they’ll be.

7. Have you been able to survey your audience and see what is one of the main things that keeps them coming back?

It’s funny because I thought it was going to be more tangible business challenges that my audience communicates with me but what I’ve found it’s really the stuff we talked about earlier…it’s those intangible things…the things you can’t necessarily quantify. It’s the fear, the doubt, not knowing where to start. It’s things that have to do with who we are. Mindset hacks.

How do I find a service that speaks to this unique audience that helps them solve these types of problems?

It’s not the Marketing 101 or How to Start a LLC 101. That’s not what people are coming to Dreams in Drive to get answers to, whereas they can go to other podcasts and get those types of answers.

Maybe events will be the place. Maybe there’s some kind of online workshop or challenges—things like that that will really speak to their need and not just be another “How to Market 101.” That’s not where I think my sweet spot will be.

8. What has it meant for you to be this “voice” in business?

I’ve worked with a coach who’s helped me figure out what my one word is and my one word is “storyteller.” And it’s been a journey for me to accept that that’s what I am. I want to be a Personal Brand Strategist. I want to be this. I love stories and I think stories rule the world.

Stories are so important. Think about how crazy we all go for Game of Thrones or Insecure. And it’s fake! But yet we’re all united around this fictional story of other people who don’t really exist. We find connection. We find ways to change our own lives. It helps us put into perspective our own feelings.

I’m going to embrace being a storyteller because I think each of us are blessed with unique gifts and once I embrace that, I’ll be able to find even more success with Dreams in Drive. I want to embrace what makes me me.

You need to figure out what’s that thing you do better than anybody else does and if you embrace it, you’ll be so much more in line with yourself.

There’s something that will bloom once you find your spot. That’s the process I’m in now—really letting go of trying to be something else and just being who I am and seeing where that takes me.

9. How do you stay motivated as you motivate others? What are some of your self-care tips?

I’m a devout goer of YouTube University. For me, that’s really fun. That’s my time to relax and explore and get brain food.

I think it’s also important for us to stay physically active and healthy. As millennial women and men, we need to invest in the things we’re putting into our bodies because we want to be around for the next generation. The world will be here, but will we be here? So we have to  make sure we’ll be here.

I’m a lover of book. I’m currently reading The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious. In Western culture…American culture, it’s really hard for us to relax. Take time to go on vacation. Take time for your family, your friends, your relationships, your parents. Because at the end of the day, what are we doing it for? If you don’t know what you’re doing it for or you don’t have anyone to share the success you’re trying to gain with, then what’s the point?

10. Where can the audience reach you to learn more about Dreams in Drive?

You can check out an episode of Dreams in Drive if you want to take your dreams from park to drive by going to dreamsindrive.com. We’re also on social: twitter, facebook and instagram @dreamsindrive as well.

11. Final thoughts, tips?

Madame CJ Walker, she’s definitely a legacy, she’s definitely somebody that, within our community we see her as wow, she could do it, I can too. So I just want to let anybody else out there know, if you’re struggling with something, know that there have been others who have left the blueprint. And if there’s a blueprint, that means that it can be built.  Remember that as you’re driving toward your dreams.   

 

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith is passionate about connecting marginalized populations to resources that position them for success. As a business counselor at the Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia, she equips aspiring business owners with the tools they need to become economically empowered through entrepreneurship. She teaches monthly business startup classes and conducts daily counseling sessions to meet the individual needs of her clients.

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