A self-proclaimed nerd, you can find Alexia on social media sharing her favorite books or dropping knowledge bombs on everything from business to life. She has built her own company, Capitalize Social, from the ground up and has no intention of slowing down while also starting other ventures. She teaches the world about social media marketing from Capitol Hill all the way to Hollywood. I sat down with this #GIRL BOSS, who is all about helping other people reach their goals, and talked beginnings, balance, and living in a social media heavy world. After we finished talking over personalized pizzas (mmmm), we explored North Hollywood and Downtown LA for a photoventure. No matter what gender of BOSS you are, I know Alexia’s words can inspire you to get up and start working on your dreams.
How did you get onto your current career path? I went to Elon University in North Carolina for undergrad, where I double majored in International Relations and Spanish. I knew I wanted to go to grad school at some point. I was interested in government and Foreign Service work; anything that had to do with international relations. I started meeting with my old professors to find out my real interest. I just didn’t feel like I knew exactly what that was yet. After talking to one of them, she said it really sounded like I was into communications and reaching different cultures. She said, “actually I know someone who works at American University and he has a whole research center focused on that.” So I started looking into American and liked their programs. I went to visit for some event, and I met [the professor she was talking about]. I ended up getting a job working at that research center while at American for grad school. It’s interesting how everything went together.
Around that time was the Arab Spring. Twitter was being used for revolution. It was starting to be a big topic in the news and was relevant to what I was doing in school. I started researching and saw there was so much academic work around social media. I was like, “what’s scientific about this? It’s just people talking to each other.” Then I ended up doing a social media plan for the research center. That’s really kind of how it started. For my big project to graduate from grad school, you had to work with a business from your area (Maryland) and improve upon it in some way. I created a social media plan for a realtor. Within a month, he had gotten an email from a guy in Denver, Colorado [who said he] noticed a really good online presence and wanted the realtor to sell his mom’s house. [The realtor] got a million dollar listing specifically off of [my social media plan]. To this day, he’s still one of my clients.
He started talking about me around town and other people would reach out to me like, “hey, I heard you do social media stuff, help me.” And when I did graduate from American, I figured I should just turn this into a business.
How did your business start growing? There’s a very thin line between self-employed and unemployed. So you know, I wasn’t really growing; I was just doing the same stuff. I was cruising along, freelancing. Finally, in January 2013, I had an 8 hour brain storming session; how much it would cost to do this, what do I need to learn? Then I had to research all of those things. I wasn’t into business, so I had to go in and learn a lot on my own. So much of it was a learning curve. As I was changing my systems and process, all of a sudden it was like, “ok, how do I change the prices on my clients and tell them that we’re going to have to do things differently?” You know how when you’re just starting out with something you’re willing to do anything for anybody? You just want to get your business out there? I’d agree to do this and that for $500 and then [think] “why did I agree to that cause now it’s taking me days and weeks to finish?” I [was] miserable.
Talking to people about my business was also a reflection of how confident I was in my work and myself. There was this Power Conference that I went to in Maryland. My biggest problem at the time was how to price myself. One of the workshops was on that topic, so I went to it and took crazy notes. Literally the next day I had a meeting and, instead of saying whatever [smaller price I usually said], I was like, “yea, I do blah, blah, and blah; and it’s $3000.” I just said it super confidently, and they were like, “okay, cool.” I emailed the lady who had taught the workshop and was like, “this actually worked, you’re right!” It’s really about stating things with confidence.
Being a self-starter, did you have any mentors? One thing I would like to have is a real mentor, someone that I could directly ask them, “Hey, would you be my mentor?” You know what I mean? I just have a lot of people I look up to, [like] those professors. Right now, I have a lot of virtual mentors; the stuff I listen to all the time, like podcasts, where I get all my information and learn new things. My favorite ones are The Smart Passive Income podcast from Pat Flynn. In every interview he’s talking with someone about business development, like how to build an email list or different things with marketing, [etc.]. I love listening to people’s stories and getting ideas from them. Another one that’s less technical is The School of Greatness from Lewis Howes. Outside of that, it’s my reading. Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill, The Alchemist, The Richest Man in Babylon, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. I always have to have some book that I’m [reading].
I’m [also] a nerd and a big researcher. I’m one of those people where [if there’s] anything I don’t know, I’ll always look it up. I’m big with vision boards, too. I’m pretty sure I got the idea from a podcast or read it in one of my books. It was really cool to do because it made me think. It made me have to define some actual goals, you know? I don’t think a lot of people do this part.
And that can be really hard, especially fresh out of college. Mmhmm. [Your goals] always change, too. To anyone, I would say put stuff down and then as it changes it changes, you know, let it move as it moves.
You show on your social media accounts that you write your goals down daily, too… Grant Cardone said, “I write mine every morning when I wake up and every night.” And I was like, “yea that’s OD… But let me get a notebook.” So I got a notebook just for that. He had examples of his goals like “my company brings in this much” along with personal life goals. I took some of his goals and made them make sense for me and what my goals are. I started writing them down in January, I think. I’ve been doing it everyday since. There was one that I [wrote]: “I’m helping build up the youth in my community.” I like working with kids to help them grow up thinking they can do whatever. But the more I wrote it down, the more I was like, “that’s not quite it.” So one day I changed it to “I’m building a network community of entrepreneurs” and it just felt better. So I see what I’m writing, and [as things change], I update my goals accordingly.
There’s this technical thing with your brain. I cant remember what it’s called, but let’s say I buy a Camry. All of a sudden it seems like everyone has a Camry and that I see it everywhere. It’s the same principle. When I write my goals down all the time, it sparks something inside my brain to connect the pieces of what I’ve been thinking about to what I want to do. I’ve really noticed how writing down my goals keeps me in a constant state of looking for the solution or the pieces to make them happen. But also, it guilt trips me in the morning. I’d write down “I have zero debt and perfect credit” as I [in real life] have, well, not the best credit score. I was like, “dang, my friend does do credit.” The next day I write it again and I’m like, “dang, I do have that friend though.” Finally, after writing that goal down for a few days [I called him]. My score went way up in a just a month actually, haha. And that’s the point. I can’t just say I want these goals without doing something to make them real.
Certain thoughts and ideas when you have them often are preparing you for an opportunity. And when you see that opportunity, it’s like you know what you need to do or how to act [on it] because you’ve been thinking about it. If you don’t connect all of the dots, you miss out on those opportunities. There is opportunity everywhere, and you have to be receptive to it. No one is an overnight success, and you never see the things people do behind the scenes to make it happen. I’m always looking for the opportunity to make things happen.
It’s also tough for women because we generally have a harder time talking about ourselves. We don’t want to take credit for things without acknowledging everyone else as well if they played a part. It’s a stat that I’ve heard multiple times. I imagine it stems from the fact that women tend to be more nurturing and service oriented. Sometimes we feel that it’s boasting and a negative thing to accept and enjoy the spotlight. And a lot of people [in general] get nervous about putting themselves out there. For whatever reason, they don’t want to talk about what they like or what they’re interested in or what they want to do; but that’s where all the connections get made.
On social media helping bring more opportunities and connections: I show pictures of myself working and doing things for my business. It shouldn’t always be “look at me, look at me, look at me” but you have to talk about what you’re doing. I think when it’s genuine, authentic, and if you actually have talent in what you’re talking about, you’re positioning yourself as an expert in that area. People see that you walk the walk. You become the go to person when it comes to that topic.
It’s all about how you balance it, too. Anybody on Twitter that talks about themself all day is like uggghhh. But there’s so much conversation going on, you can throw your business in the mix. Sometimes people don’t even really know what I do but they’ll say something like, “I know it’s like social or marketing or something,” and then I’ll just explain it.
With social media blurring the lines between professional and personal networking, how do you, as a woman building her brand, deal with it? I can kind of tell if [guys] just want an excuse to hang out and use business as a mask. You have to balance being firm without being mean. I don’t dislike you, but I’m also not interested in you like that. Sometimes you have to be mean if they don’t get the point. I hate that it even has to be that way. That is one of the hardest things. I get a lot of “let’s go have coffee,” those types of messages. You’d go sit down with a guy and you’re talking to them, and then they start talking about [personal things], and you’re like, “this isn’t a date.” What I ended up having to do is just put up filters… For anyone actually. Not just guys. I do a little research on their business and I’ll give my email address for them to reach out to me that way. Some people never even send anything. If they do, I’m like “great, let me know what your agenda is.” Then they send me an agenda for the meeting. They have to tell me “I do this project or I’m interested in whatever.” I’m not going to meet someone who really has nothing to talk about. This has been a huge time saver. Some people send emails like, “I want to talk about this, this, and this” and I’ll say, “we can just do that one the phone” and cut out the time of going somewhere. Sometimes [meeting in person] isn’t necessary and it can be a waste of time. When you have those filters set up, people take you and your business more seriously.
What are your struggles being your own boss? How do you deal? That’s a good question. I get down on myself sometimes. Not like “man, I don’t want to do this,” but sometimes I get that thought that maybe there’s something else I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not going to hold onto anything. If a cool opportunity [appears], I have no problem moving on it if it makes sense.
The biggest struggle is having to work [on your business] while you’re trying to build [personal goals], too. The biggest thing is having self-discipline because I like sleep, haha. I have to make myself wake up early. But when I do, it’s always super productive. If I don’t start working around 10 or 11am, I’m like, “ugghh, the days almost over” because I have clients on the East Coast. It’s like a little slump for a minute.
What I’m trying to do is build up Capitalize Social to where it doesn’t need me and I can have it run like a standing company. [That way] I can focus more on what I’m starting to think is really more my passion, which is helping people bring their ideas into fruition and talking to entrepreneurs. People are always asking me, “Hey, I’ve got this idea that I want to run by you. Is this a good idea? How can I make this grow?” I really like that but, at the same time, I’m still focused on making my own stuff grow. But I can help some people who are just starting out, or people who just don’t know. I can tell them, “listen to this podcast and look into this book” or “I know a little bit about that, check this guy out.” I like to get people started in the right direction and to get them researching. I don’t want to be a life coach, I just want to help others spark their passions and do something with it.
Another struggle is not comparing yourself to other people who seem to have more success or influence than you do. I may read about or see their achievements and put myself down for a second like, “I should be doing much more myself.” But then I have to step back and keep in mind that [they probably went] through the trenches where I may be now (in the building phases of my business) and that I actually am doing huge things. I should keep that in perspective instead of ever having a pity party. I have to let the success of others motivate and inspire me to keep pushing forward.
How do you balance between your social life and business life? I’m working at any given time. I actually like working more on the weekends, I don’t know why. It seems that when people want to hang out, it’s always like, “man, I’m working.” My schedule is just different. “You work all the time.” Well, I have to. That’s something people don’t understand. If I’m not working, I don’t have anything… for right now in the building stages at least. Or, I’ve even heard, “it seems like you have an endless supply of money.” And to that, all I can say is, “I wish!” Haha, it’s up and down. Everything always works out somehow, even when I plateau. I’m like, “oh, I got to hustle it up..!” This is what I like to do though. If it looks like I’m having a good time, then I am. And I guess I should be thankful for that!
When I do get out, I like traveling. There’s nothing wrong with going out clubbing. I mean, I went out last night haha. But I want to be doing stuff out in nature. I want to explore.
On traveling and social media: Travel is important because it shows you there’s more than what you see everyday. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t travel. I’m fortunate to have travelled since I was really little. My mom is from the Bahamas. It was normal for me to be getting on a plane every summer to visit family. I grew up in North Carolina, and my grandma lived in Memphis, Tennessee. We’d do that road trip, too. In school, kids where like “dang, you were doing all that (traveling to Memphis) on the weekend?” I don’t know why, when I was little I assumed everyone’s life was the same and that family members lived far apart. Then you realize it’s not the same and that a lot of people don’t make it outside of their city or state sometimes.
When I was 16, I went to Romania with a church group. The Bahamas is like a version of Miami or the US, so going to Romania was soooo different. I met this other 16 year old who said, “man, I WISH I could go to school.” She lived in a suburb and couldn’t afford the bus that went into the city to the schools. All I could think about was that I didn’t even want to go to school and that I took it for granted. You start thinking about stuff differently when you see how other people are living.
When I was in college I studied abroad in Spain for a semester. I love going places and not being touristy, just falling into the crowd, and having people think I was from there. That made me feel cool and really why I love culture and chose intercultural communications for graduate school. And I can translate it to what I do now; to developing a communications strategy that connects with your audience. When you start traveling, you really want to keep going. It’s good for maintaining a sense of gratitude, to see how other people think and live.
Whether or not you are able to travel, I love how social media exposes us to different mindsets and people all over the country and world. Not only do I get news firsthand from platforms like Twitter; but I get to see and participate in conversations about politics and social issues as well. Everybody brings their own experiences to the table and we can all learn from, and in some cases teach, each other.
It’s so crazy where I am in life, period! I used to be the worst communicator ever. And somehow I ended up going to school for communication and it’s my job and my life now. It’s just funny how stuff happens.
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