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  • Writer's pictureErin Ratliff

Allyship, Authenticity & Vulnerability: 3 Superpowers for Your Soulful Small Business





"The most common form of despair is in not being who you are."

Kierkegaard


Entrepreneurship isn't just about strategy and innovation; it's about forging genuine connections, fostering community and making a real lasting impact on others lives. In this digital age where your personal brand is everything, there are three qualities that can propel you to success: allyship, authenticity, and vulnerability.


So many entrepreneurs struggle with finding and using their voice - never hitting publish because they fear how they will be perceived.


I get it, trust me. As a recovering people-pleaser and chronic "good girl", I've spent most of my life coloring inside the lines. I've always been known as relatively being cautious, measured, controlled, agreeable, tame, and always playing it quiet and safe so as not to draw attention, make waves, or ruffle feathers.


I avoided saying anything just in case what I had to say was "the wrong thing." I didn't want to cause any discontent or discomfort in others, especially those with opposing views or those in positions of authority or power.


This means that for most of life I was only showing up halfway, and half-hearted.


But with some good ol' self-healing and shadow work I was able to unlearn that self-abandonment programming. I eventually came to realize that my worth is not tied to people liking or agreeing with me. And I began to find my confidence, my voice. I began to act braver and more courageous, living in my authenticity and practicing greater vulnerability.


So now if someone wants to label me as passionate and outspoken, I'm ok with it. I'm ok with appearing imperfect, REAL and raw. Each day I'm getting better at showing up WHOLE- unmasked, unfiltered, undiluted, uninhibited, uncensored and most importantly - unapologetic. I started accepting messiness, and now I'm inviting others to do the same.


"You will be too real and raw for some. Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too mild, too shallow or too deep. Those are not your people."

S.C. Laurie


Embracing Allyship: Strength in Unity

Allyship is powerful force that amplifies voices a and drives meaningful change. For solo entrepreneurs and thought leaders, cultivating alliances and actively supporting and advocating for others creates a ripple effect of goodwill and reciprocity.

  • Collaborate, Don't compete: Embrace the mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. Seek out opportunities to collaborate with peers and complementary businesses.

  • Lift as you Climb: As you ascend on your entrepreneurial journey, extend a helping hand to those who are just starting. Mentorship and support can make all the difference.

  • Embrace Differences: Surround yourself with a diverse network of allies who bring unique insights and experiences to the table. Embrace the richness of different perspectives.


Get Fired Up to Rise Up


You have to feel before you heal. But that healing doesn't start out of nowhere. You have to get ANGRY first.


Like all emotions, anger has its purpose. It can actually be a "positive" emotion when it's channeled in a healthy and productive way.


There's a LOT for you to be pissed about right now. There is darkness, recession, oppression, corruption and injustice happening all around us. And if you don't see it, then you're not paying attention. Even when times are calmer, we can feel disrespected or unsafe just in our daily lives, at work or in relationships.


Connecting deeply with the core of your emotions allows us to face reality of what's happening and charges us with the energy to take action or make a change. Use your anger for good. Feel it, claim it, trust it, own it, listen to it and USE it.


"Feeling anger is a natural reaction to circumstances that are frustrating, hurtful or unfair. The anger tells you something needs to change so that it can be released. Feel it. Make changes. Release it. Holding onto anger disempowers and weakens you. It doesnt keep you safe. It keeps you stuck."

Doe Zantamata


Giving Your Passions a Purpose

Think about all of the freedoms, rights and liberties you either already have, or that you would fight for if you lost. Now think about everyone who never had that freedom or abundance in the first place. Practice empathy, put yourself in their shoes, and then let that feeling be your fuel.


What matters to you? Where is your anger - either for yourself, or others in your community and beyond? If you can't find SOMETHING that you're passionate about then it's time to do some deep soul-searching and serious reflection. Are you living in a bubble of self-protection, power or privilege?


Social Issues

  • Racial discrimination and inequality

  • Gender inequality and sexism - pay equity

  • LGBTQ+ rights and discrimination - gay marriage, etc

  • Disability rights and accessibility

  • Income inequality and poverty

  • Access to healthcare and education

  • Housing inequality and homelessness

  • Domestic abuse)

  • Abortion and reproductive freedom


Political Issues

  • Voting rights and voter suppression

  • Government corruption and accountability

  • Criminal justice reform and mass incarceration

  • Immigration reform and refugee rights

  • Freedom of speech and censorship

  • Indigenous rights and sovereignty

  • Gun reform/Control


Environmental Issues

  • Climate change and global warming

  • Deforestation and habitat destruction

  • Pollution and environmental degradation

  • Access to clean water and sanitation

  • Endangered species protection

  • Intersectional/racial environmentalism

  • Cnservations & Sustainability

  • Climate Chnage

  • Renewable Envery

  • Agriculture & Food safety


Economic Issues

  • Wealth inequality and income disparity

  • Workers' rights and labor exploitation

  • Corporate greed and exploitation

  • Access to affordable housing and living wages

  • Economic globalization and trade justice

  • Financial regulation and accountability

  • Hunger


These are hard, uncomfortable, unpalatable topics. There is no way around that.


"The ocean does not apologize for its depth and the mountains do not seek forgiveness for the space they take and so, neither shall I."

Becca Lee


By actively engaging in activism, advocacy and action, leaders can demonstrate integrity, leadership, and a commitment to social responsibility. When we leverage our influence and privilege for good we can drive meaningful change and contribute to a more equitable, sustainable, and socially responsible future.


The Power of Authenticity: Be True to Yourself

YOU are your greatest asset. Authenticity is the cornerstone of trust and connection in the digital age. It's about being genuine, transparent, and unapologetically yourself, even in the face of adversity.

  • Share Your Story: Your journey, struggles, and triumphs are what make you relatable and human. Don't shy away from sharing your authentic story with your audience.When you open up about your challenges and insecurities, you create space for others to do the same.

  • Consistency = Trust: Stay true to your values and beliefs across all your interactions, whether it's on social media, in your content, or in your business practices.


Being Too Much

I know that there are times when you feel like you’re too much. When you wonder...

  • whether people would be better off without you in their lives.

  • whether you would be better off if you were someone different.

  • what life would be like if you were less loud, less open, less intrusive. Less sensitive. Less vocal, less difficult.

  • what life would be like if you were more acceptable, more agreeable, more adaptable, more tolerable.


I understand that it’s so hard to drown out the voice telling you that there’s something wrong with who you are, but I need you to trust that this voice is lying to you.

The truth:

  • You are perfect as you are

  • You deserve to be here

  • You don’t ever have to shrink or disappear for the sake of anyone else.

  • You’re allowed to be different, to be uneasily defined.

  • You’re allowed to use your voice and speak your truth, without apology. And more than anything, you’re allowed to be immense and take up space.

  • You matter simply because you exist


The Human Experience

Humans are at the center of everything - society, culture, your business, your marketing, your social media. So publicly sharing anything about the human experience is worthwhile.


Health, Happiness, Home, Work, Love, Family, Earth, Education - it's all relevant and compelling content.


Your post on any of these subjects will never be "a waste of time" or "off-limits" if it comes from the heart.


Bottom line: Every human has value and is worthy of independence, autonomy and choice. We all deserve the same social, political, economic, environmental and political rights, freedoms and opportunities.


Companies, corporations or some leadership try to draw a line between the workplace and fundamental human rights, but these lines are imaginary, and this separation only hurts us in the longrun.


We can't turn our head to injustices that don't affect us directly. We can't sit in silence as the rest of the world burns.


Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance, in the case of a business owner, is PRIVILEGE.


If you’re privileged enough to be able to choose your employment, then be responsible enough to make that choice a healthy and productive one.

If your basic needs are met enough that you have the time and space to be helping others, then it's likely that you also have the space to look wider and deeper. If you desire to stay 'apolitical' know that is from your own fear and feeling implicated given your identity.⁠


Far too many leaders, especially women, make a choice to disengage, disassociate, or devalue from topics that are important to them in fear of coming across as .... (insert any "unladylike " or "unprofessional" adjectives)

  • entitled, opinionated, radical, emotional, divisive, needy, bitchy, abrasive, rash, impulsive


We don't want to say the wrong thing, so we instead choose to say nothing at all.


To be a heart-lead, conscious and courageous leader it means you are authentically you, HUMAN, at all times - personally and professionally, at home, at work, and everywhere in between. It means you...

  • speak your truth

  • own and claim all of your thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs

  • don't water yourself down, shrink yourself or hide yourself

  • do the right thing, which is often the harder thing


And most importantly - you do all of this, despite the risks!


EVEN when it is uncomfortable, even when it threatens your reputation, and yes, even when it negatively affects your business's bottom line.


"Scream so that one day a hundred years from now another sister will not have to dry her tears wondering where in history she lost her voice."

Jasmin Kaur



Embracing Vulnerability: The Courage to Be Seen

Vulnerability is often misunderstood as weakness, but in reality, it's a profound act of courage. For solo entrepreneurs and thought leaders, vulnerability means having the courage to show up, be seen, and embrace imperfection.


  • Authenticity Requires Vulnerability: People don't connect with perfection; they connect with truth. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and watch as deeper connections blossom.

  • Tell Your Story: Embrace failure as a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. Share your mistakes and lessons learned, and turn them into opportunities for growth.

  • Vulnerability Builds Character: When you have the courage to be vulnerable, you cultivate resilience and inner strength. You become more adaptable, more empathetic, and more compassionate towards yourself and others.


When we look up Vulnerable in the dictionary we see “unprotected, unsafe, in danger, exposed.” This is a very masculine, patriarchal definition in my opinion.


So what happens when we shift the definition to a more feminine perspective? One involving speaking your truth, revealing your essence, being authentic, Open and honest.

This requires inner strength, courage, curiosity, humility. A pure presence and a pure heart.


So then, under this lens while vulnerably is still messy, uncomfortable, and full of uncertainty- it can no longer be perceived as a weakness or a barrier to success.

It becomes something more empowered, healing, transformative. It becomes The gateway to creativity and connection.


And that's what the world needs more of, now more than ever, at home, and

at work.


"Vulnerability isn't a hack for virality. It's a path to personal growth, self acceptance, inspiration"

Thomas Strider

They say it's impossible not to like someone you know deeply.

You know someone's story: You grow an attachment

You understand their history: Their decisions appear logical

You've pictured their hardships: You want to like & support them

This is why it's so important to open up in your content:

It's okay to...

  •  be imperfect. This makes you relatable!

  •  share past failures. This shows you've grown!

  • share wins + losses. This helps others get motivated!


Vulnerability is often misunderstood online.

  • It's not about...

  • telling sob stories

  • hacking virality

  • airing dirty laundry


It IS about...

  • inspiring others

  • building deeper connections

  • learning lessons the hard way

Be yourself. Be REAL. Be loud. Undiluted, unmasked, unapologetic unfiltered uncut unbothered unadulterated unhinged uncensored


The reason people think it takes bravery to talk about something controversial or uncomfortable is the exact reason why it must be spoken about.


Stigma about certain topics will only go away when less people are suffering in silence, when they're sharing their truth.


"Activism is my rent for living on the planet."

Alice Walker


Conscious & Courageous Business Leaders


If you identify as a "conscious business leader" then at some point you made a commitment to...

  • live a life of purpose and meaning

  • make an impact by serving and inspiring others

  • contribute to the greater good

  • create something bigger than yourself


As a healer or coach, many follow you for the inspiration of positivity, love and light. If your audience is expecting "good vibes only" then you may inevitably lose followers or clients by posting about controversial, hot-button personal or political topics.


But to truly be a positive force in this world, you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.


To truly call yourself a HEALER you need to be able to heal on all fronts, all people and all places.

To truly call yourself a LIGHT WORKER, you need to see the light, and be the light, for all causes.

To truly call yourself a CHANGEMAKER, you need to be an influencer of real and lasting change.


In order to truly live out our higher purpose of changing the world we have to engage with it and protect it - ALL of it, not just the parts that are within our comfort zone.


"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Desmond Tutu


Purpose Over Profit

Today’s consumers believe businesses have power. They think companies are more likely to drive social change than the government or media.

  • 58% of consumers say they only buy or advocate for brands whose beliefs and values they support (Edelman)

  • More than 30% of Gen Z say they've stopped buying from a brand that’s part of a social cause they don’t align with

  • More than 75% of Gen Z and millennials say it's important to buy from brands that celebrate diversity

  • More than 75% of millennials want CEOs to openly talk about the issues they support


In other words, if you're on the fence whether you should "say something" do it.


Your customers are watching you.


The risk: You're going to be disliked, unfollowed and not relatable to others. But you're also going to be loved, liked and magnetic to the ones who adore you.


You aren't here to bend over backwards for the ones that don't get you or will never be happy. You're here for the ones that "get you" just as you are.


You're here to share your gifts and be an inspiration for those who need those gifts, your guidance, your services and skills.


Silence speaks volumes about what and who matters. Having no stance is a stance.


What happens when we put authenticity and purpose before professionalism and profit?


To be a heart-lead, conscious and courageous leader, it means you are committed to using your privilege and platform for good. This means..

  • speaking up about injustices whenever you can

  • standing up for the issues that you care about deeply.

  • sticking up for those whose voices have been silenced or stolen

  • showing up as my full and complete self with all of my passion, my heart, my truth

  • opening up to have hard conversations


Success is not about sales. Success (business, sales, profit) is about SERVICE.


If you started a business simply to make money, then you're probably not in the right line of work. If you started a business to provide solutions and help people with that special thing only you can provide, then you've already succeeded.


How can small businesses make a difference? By being agents for change and accelerators of impact

  • Posting, Sharing, Being visible. Encourage your team to get loud.

  • Creating a culture and environment where people can bring their full selves to work, and openly share how they feel

  • Policy - creating standards and programming

  • Pledging Joining as sponsors/members of human rights agencies and coalitions

  • volunteering, donating professional services,

  • protesting worthy causes.

  • Commiting resources of time or finances


This is your call to action! It's time to let go of old coping mechanisms like staying small, shutting up, people-pleasing, or self-abandonment.


Don't show up and get loud in the hopes of changing minds. Show up and get loud because you CAN, and other can not. So that the people who are more scared than you can see what's possible, so they have an ally and advocate on their side. Baring your truth gives others permission to do the same.


And maybe, just maybe - you will get lucky and change someone's mind. Or in the very least, inspire them to get curious and want to learn more.


"Whats uncomfortable now, will become comfortable later. What's comfortable now, will become uncomfortable later"

Practice Makes Perfect

Posting for the world to see, especially on vulnerable topics, is like a muscle that must be exercised, and it only gets better and easier with practice and repetition. Try it! And then do it again, and again until you, and your community and society, reap the benefits.


Your authentic, bigger and louder self may scare some away, or worse- it may result in backlash of judgement, fear or anger. But there's an even likelier chance that things could go the other way, actually allowing your content visibility to make a real and lasting impact.


For the world:

  • Bringing and spreading awareness to issues that matter

  • Inspiring curiosity or change in others


For you:

  • Educating yourself about a specific hot-button issue

  • Practicing clear, contextual and complex communication

  • Attracting like-minded souls and kindred spirits who are meant for your

  • Expressing yourself authentically, creatively and therapeutically


For your business:

  • Taking an informed stance

  • Mastering your voice and story

  • Attracting fans, followers and future customers

  • Positioning self as a leader, authority or expert

  • Building your personal and professional brand

  • Gathering data about your audience


Trust me: people are watching. They may see your post and just because they don't click "like" doesn't mean they don't like it. That it didn't make them pause, read and think.


As we know, marketing is one giant experiment. There is on-going trial and error as you figure out your position and place, yourself AND your customer. Slowly and surely you figure out what resonates in the big picture, and what doesn't.


There is no better way to change the world than through the practice of visibility.


Practice sharing what you know, what you've learned, and what you've experienced- with no attachment to the outcome or result. Ignore the vanity engagement metrics such as likes or follows (algorithms have made so many of them irrelevant anyway).


Every piece of content, every post is a touchpoint. Individually they are a drop in the bucket but together they are you, and your brand's, legacy. You're leaving your mark on the world, so make it count.


"We can't save the world by playing by the rules. The rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change and it has to start today."

Greta Thunburg



Courage is not just a desirable quality for leaders but an absolute necessity.


It is the single most important behavior upon which exceptional leadership is built.


In a business world of volatility, uncertainty, and rapid change, courageous leaders guide organizations and their people through tumultuous and advantageous times.


Why is it so essential for leaders to lead others with authenticity and vulnerability? Because it makes leaders relatable and approachable to their teams and others in their circle of influence. Also because it enables them to confront the barriers, obstacles, uncertainties and unknowns of life and business head-on, allow them to see opportunities in challenges and transform the impossible into the possible.


"Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world."

Dolores Huerta


Courageous Leadership Looks Like...

  • Self-Confidence

  • Conviction

  • Integrity

  • Compassion

  • Objectivity

  • Strength in Adversity

  • Flexibility/Resilience

  • Intuition

  • Action

  • Delegation

  • Communication


It means you

  • engage in difficult conversations and address conflicts proactively

  • provide honest feedback

  • tackle sensitive issues with empathy and assertiveness.

  • create an open and transparent culture where communication thrives

  • garner trust, respect, and collaboration among team members.

  • embrace vulnerability - acknowledging and admitting mistakes, limits, holes or gaps

  • lead change initiatives, demanding courage as this often involves disrupting the status quo and wandering outside their comfort zones.

  • challenge conventional wisdom and inspire their teams.

  • do not seek to control everything; you empower others to assist.

  • trust your team members to act autonomously and take ownership.

  • cultivate self-awareness and a strong sense of purpose, Understanding your personal values and principles,

  • view change as an opportunity for growth

  • lead by example, demonstrating ethical behavior, empowerment, and resilience.


Courageous leadership is not a destination; it's a continuous journey of self-improvement and growth.


Allyship, authenticity, and vulnerability are not just trending buzzwords; they're superpowers that can elevate your personal brand as a solo entrepreneur or thought leader. They allow you to forge meaningful connections, build trust with your audience, and create a ripple effect of positive change in your community, your industry and beyond. So go ahead, embrace your BIG energy, speak out for yourself and others, and watch as the world changes, and your business soars to new heights.


"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Barack Obama


 

Erin Ratliff is a holistic business coach and organic growth & visibility marketer serving energy-sensitive, earth-loving, heart-led soul-preneurs, self-starters, and founders with the mission of personal and planetary healing.


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