Own Your Niche: An Interview with Business Expert Stephanie Chandler

On books, business, kids, and the importance of girl's nights out!

By , Columnist
It is always interesting to me how our lives intertwine with others. Way back before I even considered leaving the US to live in the Caribbean, let alone returning to the states, I was contacted by a woman who wanted to feature my business story in a book she was writing about the ins and outs of starting your own business. The author was former Silicon Valley software sales expert Stephanie Chandler, and that book, The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide, is still selling with 5 star reviews on Amazon.

Over the years Chandler and I have stayed in contact, and I watched her grow from a business author and website owner, to a renowned speaker, to a bookstore owner, and now to a book publisher while at the same time starting a family and writing more informational books. If her own success is any indication of how much she knows, Chandler is brilliant!

Her latest book, Own Your Niche, is aimed at "bringing authenticity back to internet marketing." With all the crap on the internet, the long sales letters and scam sites, is it possible for any expert or business owner to show herself off and gain customers while still having some integrity? According to Chandler, it is both possible and necessary.

So how does this high powered woman keep it all together both personally and professionally? I recently sat down with Chandler to find out.

LL: In the 10 years or so that I have known you, you went from Book Seller/Book Author to Book Publisher. Is this new role less painfully stressful even though it seems like it would be more so? Please explain.

SC: It has been quite a journey. In 2003 I opened a bookstore in Sacramento and planned on writing novels from the back office, but along the way I fell in love with small business marketing and started writing business books. Several years later I sold the store and launched Authority Publishing, which allows me the freedom to continue writing business and marketing books while also helping others get their books published. No part of my entrepreneurial journey has been as stressful as my past life in Silicon Valley software sales! That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges—there always are in business—but it’s different when you wake up in the morning and really love what you do. I feel fortunate to do work that I love and that far outweighs any stress of daily life.

LL: As one of your first interview subjects, I can say that you really made me think about what I was doing in my business from the outside. And that was crucial to my long term success (thanks). How has writing your books and working with owners/authors helped you develop personally and in your own business?

SC: Ooh, I love this question! My goal is to learn something new every day, and my clients, peers and interview subjects all give me endless opportunities to do that. From my clients, I learn about what is most challenging for them based on the questions I’m asked repeatedly. I’m also an avid blogger and the comments, retweets, and feedback also help me tap in to what’s on the minds of my audience. I think it’s incredibly important to stay in tune with your audience and understand their challenges—that’s how we can develop solutions that are in demand!

LL: Your niche has shifted in several ways over the years. How important is it to be flexible about your niche? And when should somebody consider changing their niche?

SC: My business has certainly shifted several times over the years, and I think that’s been a key to building success. If we hold on to what’s not working for us, we can miss opportunities. My bookstore was a great example. Sitting in a retail store stifled my creativity and just wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m always open to what the next step will be and willing to take those risks.

We’re going through some new changes at Authority Publishing right now and adding social media services. This is something I’ve personally been doing for years, and after listening to my customers, I know there is a need to offer these in a high-integrity way. I think that when it comes to making changes to your niche or your services or products, it comes down to understanding two important factors: (1) where market demand is headed and (2) what kind of work satisfaction you can create for yourself. When these two factors converge you strike gold.

LL: How crucial have your books been to establishing your authority? Should every business owner write a book?

SC: Writing books has without a doubt been a huge career-builder for me. It wasn’t something I even expected when I wrote my first book (The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide). As soon as that came out I started getting invitations to speak and consult. It launched a whole new career for me that I wasn’t expecting. Own Your Niche is my eighth book and with each book new opportunities have shown up. My books have generated a tremendous amount of revenues from the services I’ve sold as a result of the books. A book is the ultimate business card and I definitely believe that every business owner can benefit

LL: In what I do, finding a niche is easy. I can do fitness for celebrities, back pain, joint replacements, etc.; Rehab-oriented or bootcamp; home or studio. What is the first step in finding a niche for folks just getting into products or information marketing?

SC: It’s also important to make sure you don’t cast the net too broad, but instead narrow it down to a niche that’s small enough so that you can stand out and large enough that you can earn a living. You can study keyword search demand with Google’s free keyword tool for starters. You can also evaluate potential industries to see what kind of competition is out there. Also look to your existing client list. What trends do you see?

For Authority Publishing, we specialize in custom publishing for non-fiction books. Most publishers will produce anything in exchange for a check, but not us—we’re selective! We want our authors to know they are in good company, which differentiates us from competitors and creates demand with professionals who want to get their books done right the first time. Establishing a niche has been essential in helping us connect with prospective customers.

LL: Finally, how do you keep the balance of business and personal life? Favorite exercise? Massage? Reiki? Meditation? Girl's nights? Do tell!

SC: Oh goodness, I think when I realized that balance is something that shifts and changes, that was the first step in taking some of the pressure off! I’m a mom to a 5-year-old boy, which completely rocked my world. If it wasn’t for him I’d be a total workaholic. But because I don’t want to miss anything, I set boundaries for myself. Most days I work from 9am to 4pm.

I used to sit at my desk until midnight, even on the weekends, so this has been a dramatic shift for me! But I also try to incorporate activities that I enjoy as much as possible: long walks (while listening to audio books—always non-fiction!), meditation, monthly massages, date nights with my hubby, voracious reading on my Kindle, a girl’s night out at least once each month, visits with family, and lots and lots of laughter. I lead an incredibly busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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NYC resident Lynda Lippin is a world-renowned Pilates, Fitness, and Reiki instructor with nearly 25 years of experience. She is also an accomplished writer and a former Philosophy professor. In her Featured Column, Lynda will lead you on a path towards Fitness Sanity. Got Questions? Want Lynda to checkā€¦

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