Figuring Out Your Why And Branding It with Stacey Lievens

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TBT 79 | Stacy Lievens


Branding is all about attracting your target audience, and the best way to do so is by showing the world why you and your brand exists. In this episode, personal branding expert Stacey Lievens talks about how she supports online entrepreneurs to become the face of their brand. Building brands is all about empowerment, and Stacey believes that people have to be empowered to inspire others to be who they want to be. She introduces their branding platform called The Proof and what the platform does, specifically on bringing a whole different twist on finding your why.

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Figuring Out Your Why And Branding It with Stacey Lievens

On this show, we are looking to have experts and business leaders who are helping you to think and act more strategically, to collapse time, so to speak, even though it’s not possible. By working smarter, we can have more time to do the things that are most important to us and to reach our goals faster. Stacey Lievens is here and she is a dear friend and awesome person, which you’ll get to find out, not from her herself, but she also has done an awesome video that she’ll tell you about that will be launched. You’ll get to know a little bit about her personally. She is an acclaimed Master Craftsman Photographer, author and personal branding expert. She supports online entrepreneurs to become the face of their brand. She has many years of photography experience as well as being a former model. She brings both an eye for detail and a heart-centered focus on transforming the image, the confidence and the brand of her clientele. She’s doing that in a whole new way with The Proof, which is super exciting. She’s going to tell you all about that and all the rest of it. Stacey, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Penny. I’m excited to be here.
I’m excited to have you. I’m sorry I outed you with that. You did your own Proof and it’s going to be up online and you’re going to have to share it with everyone.
I’m excited. I love how it’s turning out. It’s still in production, but I’m proud of it. I’m so glad I pushed myself. I feel like I’m now the plumber without the leaky pipes. I actually drank my own Kool-Aid and I got on this stage. I’m so proud of myself.
Let’s back up a little bit and understand why you’re in a version of personal branding, which has evolved into a whole different thing. When we’re talking about taking back time and we’re talking about people growing their businesses, why is that important to build a personal brand?
It’s because if you’re an entrepreneur or a solopreneur, you think they’re buying your services, but actually, they’re buying you. There’s a lot of competition out there. What’s going to separate you from your competition? Especially if you have a one-on-one service or you’re doing personal coaching or training, they’re buying the personality, they’re buying the trust factor. What better way to introduce yourself to people than to tear away the layers and take off the facade of all the letters behind your name. Let’s hack the credibility issue a little bit. Let’s go down and say, “This is why I’m so passionate about what I do.” We found with so many of our people that it goes back to even a little something that happened in their childhood that gave them the spark. It made them want to go full out, play full out and be an entrepreneur.
We’re attracted to that. They’re so much more attracted to your authentic self and why you’re doing what you’re doing versus all the letters after your name. I would totally agree. I want to feel when I’m working with someone that I connect with who they are and that I can relate with them, not just that they’re the super guru.
You have a style, presence, and your own sensibility in this world. Share on X It’s interesting because we deal with a lot of personal transformation, personal coaches, things like that. They found that even their own story makes them credible. They’ve gone through the trenches, they’ve hit the walls, they’ve hit the hard times. If anybody’s going to hire someone to help them get out of the trenches, why not go to someone who’s already been through it? That’s what we love to do is excavate those stories and put that upfront. Why hide from it?
What’s the why behind this why?
The why behind The Proof is my husband, Dan, who was the genesis for this whole movement that we’ve created. He was so frustrated working with tons of entrepreneurs for the past many years, working in incubators, working in coworking spaces, counseling for small businesses for decades and then seeing them hit a wall. Especially when it comes to this whole digital age and trying to make noise in a very crazy, polluted digital age here. How are you going to stand out against cats on Facebook? How are you going to stand out against the AT&T budgets? Why not create a platform? The platform that we created is called The Proof where we encourage entrepreneurs and wanna-be thought leaders to put their heart and soul on a stage, share it with the world and tell people why they do what they want to do and open up.
It’s not just to open up, it’s even to know what it is that’s there to the why. It takes some digging to understand where it came from.
It does and we have a signature process that walks them through that. It’s about a two-hour process. You get on the phone with us, like a Zoom call, and we excavate your history and capture the true line of why you do what you do. You can get on stage. We have a trick. You’re not allowed to talk about what you do. You’re not allowed to mention it, only why you do it. After you do your three-minute Proof talk, we’ll have a little interview that talks about how your why is now manifested in the world and we can talk about what you do. If you come from it that way, can you explain what you do in the world by not saying what you do, but only talking about the why? That’s a whole different twist that we’re trying to bring forth.
You’re much more attractive when you’re networking that you’re not saying what you do, that you’re maybe making a more heartfelt connection because you can talk about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
It was so fun for me. I came back from a huge convention in Dallas and I met over 800 women entrepreneurs. I usually start my 30-second elevator pitch with what I do and I had that down. After giving my Proof talk, I started sharing my story of when I was a little kid. I don’t want to ruin it for anybody, but there’s a little story about this little Catholic girl that decided to wear a bright yellow First Communion dress as opposed to the white ones. There’s a little fun story attached to that, but I shared that story with so many people and up and down the halls of this convention. I became known as, “You’re the one with the yellow dress. You paint such a cute visual.” It wasn’t a big tragic story or anything, but it was something that painted a picture in their mind and they can see why I’m so passionate about what I do.

I can’t even ask you that because you’re going to save it so that they can see it later. Without telling the whole story and divulging that, what was the key message or the key learning that you got from your process?
It surprised me and I knew what to expect. When my husband sent me down and put me through the process that he puts through hundreds of people, I tried to show up what we say as spiritually naked. We’ve had people that walk into our process and say, “I know my why.” We’re like, “You think you know your why. We’re going to dig and find the story that you’ve never told anybody else and we’re going to give you a reason to share that with the world. We’re going to make sense of it.” When my husband pulled out this story about my childhood and how I was given this space to comfortably stand out in the world, I wasn’t even trying to stand out. I was just trying to match my devotion to Jesus with a beautiful dress. My heart led me to choose this beautiful bright yellow dress. As I say in my talk, I look like Big Bird in a sea of marshmallows.
Taking the innocence of this child and being brave enough to stand in there and say, “This is how I want to marry Jesus,” for the little cute little Catholic girl. How that manifests coming forward is that I had been trying to help people fly their own freak flag for years as part of personal branding. Why would I want to make anybody else look the same? It’s so fun. That’s what I was so attracted to in my teenage years and in my twenties. How I chose the career I’m in now is because I care that people try to dig into their heart and match their devotion to what they do and stand out.
It’s so powerful to dig down and understand what you stand for and why you stand for it and be able to declare it at the end. There’s no going back. You are even more. Now that you did your Proof and you went through this process, do you find yourself even more passionate and driven in that area?
It makes sense. I don’t know if any of you have ever felt stuck or you feel like sometimes you wake up and you question, “What am I doing?” Every day we have moments.
We’re constantly dealing with that as we have our successes and our failures and how we want to respond to that.
What’s happened to me was I have found myself more in flow. I’m more kind to myself and I realize I’ve been set up for this my whole life. This has been my own little contract moving forward. I’m exactly where I need to be in this life. It gave me confidence. It makes me smile because at Proof talk, we are trying to be this hub of inspiration, this portal where you can go get inspiration. We help you try to be that thought leader that can give a piece of wisdom that you’ve carefully curated throughout your life. Let’s put that on a platform where we can share that with others. I feel like I’ve empowered myself to now inspire others to go be who they absolutely want to be. There are no apologies. There’s no copying your other mentors. There’s no trying to model yourself after somebody else. You have a style. You have a presence, you have your own sensibility in this world. My job is to help you find that and carefully craft that into a brand. I feel like I have more drive and passion now that I’ve done my own Proof talk.
People are buying your personality; they are buying the trust factor of your brand. Share on X Coming back to the time element in focus, with that more passion and drive, when you’re in the flow, do you find yourself less distracted and more focused on what’s most important to you?
Yeah. Do you know what’s more interesting? I feel like the copy is dripping out of me now. When I sit down to write copy, it’s flowing. I feel like I’m more connected to what I’m meant to do in the world. The words I’m choosing, the way it’s landing is more congruent. I’m nonstop. It feels great.
I often talk about in some of my talks about how we all have 24 hours a day and there’s a difference between those days that you feel like you’re in the flow. As you said, everything comes out and works and it gets done and you’re onto the next and so forth. I always ask the audience, “What is that, 95% of the time?” Everybody laughs. It’s like, “Who’s had a day that it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts and you were distracted and disturbed and got nothing done on your agenda all day? What percentage of the day is that?” It’s the same number of hours that we have both of those days. What’s the difference? What do you think the difference is in terms of being focused and being able to block out distractions?
Honestly, I have to hack it myself. I have to set my calendar. When Dan and I have specific duties, I work with my husband. We work together. We will block out the calendar. We blocked out between 12:30 and 1:30, content calendar. We knew to stop everything and work on our content calendar. For me, it’s managing the time and being very smart about it and giving yourself that specific time block, not moving it up, not moving it back. Start and stop at 12:30 and 1:30.
Schedule. I was trying to link it also to the fact that when you’re connected to what you stand for, you do stay more focused because you don’t care about the squirrel that goes out there. You can stay on time because in that hour, you’re connected. You can be more purposeful and once you put it into action by blocking it and making sure that you know what you’re going to be doing when, the flow is being able to combine all of those things together.
Congruency will give you a structure, and that gives you freedom. One of my mentors always said, “Structure gives you freedom,” and I’m a huge advocate for that.
Maybe they say that to you too, “You’re so structured.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” I’m structured because I have to be, because I’m the first to go, “Squirrel.” If I’m not focused, I can easily be drawn into so many different directions.

Over the past many years, I’ve questioned myself definitely. When you know that you’re on target, it gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and to get focused and to add those bits of structure that are going to support your business.
The Proof sounds like a TED Talk. Tell us the difference between The Proof and where you’re going with The Proof and TED.
We get compared to TED all the time and honestly, I’ll take it all day long. It’s a different platform. Of course, we want to be inspiring like TED is, but we also want to be consumable. We are in little three-minute nuggets of inspirational talks and we have a specific formula that we use for that for our Proof talks. All of them start a certain way and end a certain way. In the end, there’s always a gift for the audience.
These three minutes specifically focus on the why behind the what. TED is the big idea we’re sharing. We’re the why behind the person who had the big idea. Why is this person so passionate about what they talk about? Wouldn’t that be interesting? What happened to them and their childhood or a defining moment? What’s a loss or a win in their life that made a difference, that they can now share and be inspirational but they do it in a way that you can hear it in a few minutes? Our goal is when you’re scrolling through social and you see our signature brick background, you see someone standing on that stage and you go, “There’s a Proof talk. I’ve got three minutes. Let’s get inspired.” That’s our goal.
Who’s your target audience? Who is somebody who is best suited for a Proof talk?
Our target are entrepreneurs and aspiring thought leaders. The reason why I add aspiring thought leaders is that we’re having some people that want to leave a legacy. They’re retired. They don’t have an interest in plugging a business, but they just want to say something out in the world. I call them thought leaders like I would call anybody else because they have a thought and they can share and give to the world, that’s leadership. Being willing to stand on a stage, grab a microphone and share what’s in your heart, that’s leadership.
I don’t remember whether we shared this before because we mastermind together and different things. I could totally see this have huge value for leaders in bigger companies because they’re so disconnected. Maybe they’re connected with the next level of management, but there’s such a disconnection. Now, the big discussion is about engagement and how people are disengaged. I wonder if the CEO in the top C-Suite, if they didn’t actually do something like this and provide a Proof talk for that type of thing. Maybe you do it internally for companies and have them see the heart of the leaders and why building this business is important. I believe their employees would shift with some other measures. They could shift from being transactional employees and to be more in ownership when they can connect with the leaders at the why level. What do you think about that?
You can dig into your heart and match your devotion to what you do and stand out. Share on X I absolutely agree and that is definitely on our radar as one of the big goals that we’re going to be setting for 2020. It’s reaching out to these businesses because you’re right, it improves company culture. It improves the mood of all employees. It’s great to get to know the deep-seated why behind these people that set up in these C-Suites. Come join and get down and share your why with them.
I forget what the statistic is exactly, but something like 80% of people leave a company because of their manager. It’s a lack of connection. When people know your heart, they’re so much more open and assuming positive intent, which is everything. I would love to see more of that in organizations.
As we roll out The Proof brand and as that starts getting more traction, I feel like I’m so honored to be on this show with you because you’re catching us in our infancy. We’re a brand-new company and we’ve only had six events so far. We feel as we grow this brand, we want it to stand for truth and authenticity. Whenever you see that, you’ll go, “I want to hear what they have to say because these people are getting real.”
I know you’re booked out for the events that you do have planned for 2019 and into 2020. You’re in your infancy, but you’re going to be exploding fast.
Thank you. We’re even doing what’s called Pop-Up Proofs. We’re going to Amsterdam in October and San Diego in November. Boulder came calling, so we may be going to Boulder in 2020. We’re excited to see and we’re in the flow. We just keep focusing on what our heart’s mission is to let these people be seen, heard and recognized. We stay congruent and focused. I stay true to helping people find their own version of a yellow dress. If I stay focused on that, we’re going to be open to the flow of whatever comes our way.
Is there anything else that you think people need to know about The Proof or about what it is that you’re doing? What are any tips that you could share with them that you wanted to share?
We launched a new website, so people want to go to You can see and have any of the questions answered. If people want to reach out to us, of course they can reach us on the website. We are committed to people sharing their truth and their heart and we want to create a safe place for them to do that. When people come to us, we help them craft their story. We help them dig it. We help them craft it so they feel comfortable. They don’t feel like they’re left to their own devices. When they come for the dress rehearsal, we let them rehearse it and feel comfortable on the stage before they even deliver it.

It’s not just for speakers and people who know how to speak. You’re going to hold their hand through the whole process so that whether they’re a speaker already or a novice, they’re going to feel good on stage.
In fact, we even had some of our novice speakers get hired as keynotes through their Proof talks. A lot of miracles are happening all the way around.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing The Proof with everyone. I appreciate it. I know that this is just a piece of what you do as an amazing photographer. You have so many different skill sets in copywriting and marketing and so many different areas. I appreciate you sharing The Proof with us.
Thank you, Penny.
Thank you to the audience being here because without you, there would be no show. We appreciate you. Think about the message here, whether you go onto the website,, connect with Stacey and sign up for your own Proof, or you start to think what your truth is? What do you stand for and why do you stand for it? It is going to help you be more focused and more directed in everything that you do. It’s absolutely worth your time to step back and evaluate this for yourself and see how it can accelerate your success. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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About Stacey Lievens

Stacey Lievens, acclaimed Master Craftsmen photographer, author and personal branding expert, supports online entrepreneurs to become the face of their brand. With over 30 years of photography experience, as well as a former model, she brings both an eye for detail and a heart-centered focus to transforming the image, confidence and brand of her clientele. So much more than just great pictures, Stacey incorporates personalized elements of color, style, posture and personality to create photos that truly capture and communicate each client’s unique individuality to the world. In today’s virtual world, your image is your brand. Stacey makes sure the true you shines through.
A former partner at Visual Photography, a San Diego portrait studio, she dedicated over two decades building and maintaining the reputation of a local business committed to giving back to it’s residents. The F.A.C.E. and Peer Ambassador Programs were designed to honor the thriving teenage spirit. By giving teens the platform to proclaim what their soul stands for, has positioned them as peer mentors and transformed a community. Stacey is thrilled to bring her drive for inspiring humanity to the east coast where she has partnered her new husband Dan in a new venture that provides authentic marketing solutions for entrepreneurs.
The Proof is a live and virtual event to help thought leaders differentiate themselves by sharing their why, inspire others and elevate humanity with their personal story, in a three minute monologue. Stacey’s portrait gifts are once more revealed in provocative black and white images that speak to the soul of each speaker and is highlighted on their web portal Stacey lives with her husband Dan Lievens and his two step-children Stella and Remy outside Philadelphia, PA.

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