Licensed cosmetologist at the age of 18, salon owner at 23 and brick and mortar boutique owner a few years later, Sonja Thompkins proves that if you put the work in, good things can happen. As a military spouse and mother of one, Sonja found herself gradually moving into consulting and coaching brick and mortar boutique entrepreneurs and hasn’t looked back since. Sonja prides herself on her minimalist business approach which helps entrepreneurs build their dreams in an organized, (often low-cost) way.
“My dad said, ‘Listen… If you want it there is a way… It’s called working.’ I was 18 when I became self employed. So literally this has been my life. ” - Sonja Thompkins
I am impressed with Sonja’s “just do” attitude. Being a brick and mortar business owner is extremely difficult in a world of internet stores. In our interview, Sonja reveals how she got her entrepreneurial start, why she skips business plans and what it is like transforming into a consulting coach.
“You can write down steps, you can make a plan… but there comes a point when you just have to start doing.” - Sonja Thompkins
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If I have a secret superpower, it's that I just do. I have an idea, I think about it within myself. So there's like a running joke in my family and even my husband is like, you know, they all know by the time I've said to them, Hey, what do you think about X, Y, Z? They are, the plan is already in motion. And I'm really just asking like, I'm really just asking their opinion. I'm not asking their permission.
Welcome to visionaries where we believe having a positive vision for the future and actually sharing it is the best way to build a brand, grow authority, and live a meaningful life. This show will explore different stories and strategies of the most visionary people today and what they're doing to inspire and change the world. Welcome back to the show everyone. This is Dallin, and we have on Sonja Tompkins. What's up Sonja?
Hey Dallin. Hey everyone!
So give a quick intro to who you are and what you do. Just overview.
I'm a business strategist and a business development consultant for brick and mortar business owners. So I have owned four of my own brick and mortar businesses over a course of like 18 years. And I married into the military. And so that posed a bit of a logistical challenge operating brick and mortars. I, I was at home doing all the things I didn't like to do about being a, an entrepreneur, which was like paperwork and taxes and payroll and not actually being in my environment, you know, serving my customers and, and, and doing the things that I do. That once we brought the little Prince into the world, it was like, you know I'm, I'm done. But I still wanted to be amongst the industry. I owned three clothing boutiques for women and my other brick and mortar business was a full service salon and day spa.
So beauty and fashion is kind of my background. And I, and I wanted to still be a part of that but didn't want or didn't have the, the capacity at that time at least to, to do that in the same way. So it was just a natural progression into consulting and coaching because I was doing it for free and I was like, yeah, maybe I can do this, not for free now. And that's, that's kinda how I became a consultant. I've been doing that for four years and other than that which that's enough, right. But I'm also a homeschool mom and a bit of a minimalist, so that's the short version. If that was quick enough,
Yes of course that was quick enough. Let's get more into that. So I definitely, I, I love that you mentioned you're a minimalist. I love, I love those kinds of topics and also let's jump back before, you discovered and before the little ones came along.
Oh yes. One. yes, yes, please. No more.
You know, where were you at before that? And and so I guess let's get into it. I mean, you, you said you were operating different boutiques. Do you found that you're always kind of entrepreneurial?
Oh, yes. Yes. My, my very first entrepreneurial pursuit. I was probably 11 or 12, maybe 12 or 13, because I was a, I was in middle school. And I realized that I don't like the word no. My parents were not interested in buying the many things that I desired. And the word no was being said often. And you know, my, my parents, my unbeknownst, I mean I know this now, but as crazy as it sounds, I did not realize how many people before me and my family were entrepreneurs, but my parents always had, as they called it, like a side hustle. So that was always around me. But I remember my dad sat me down when I was like 12 or 13. He was like, listen, I'm cause at the time starter jackets were a thing. Okay, I'm 41. So for those who are listening with like, what is that?
That was a whole thing where these NBA or NHL, like lo, you know, professional teams had jackets and like they have the jerseys now, but it was all about the jacket. And I wanted one, it was like $300 and my parents were like, absolutely not. And my dad's like, listen, we're not gonna be buying all this stuff, but if you want it, there is a way you can do it. And it's called I'm working and it's called and it's, and it's a, it's okay. And you know, Sam's had just kinda hit the scene, at least in Missouri where I'm from. And he took me to Sam's and I got a box of like assorted candy bars and he's like, listen, this is how much we pay for this box now this is how much you should sell each one for. And that's a profit and you save your profits, that's your income and that's how you can get the stuff that you want. And I did that and I was hooked then an entrepreneur as a PR, as you know, as an adult, I was 18 when I became self employed. So literally, this has been my life.
And you haven't looked back. I mean, if you're starting at 18 I mean it's, so did you nix the whole college experience and you just went straight to building your own thing?
No, I did attend college for a whole semester, you know, you know, so involved. I was I enjoyed college though that one semester, but by that, by the time I went to college, I kind of had already started down a a trail or, or, yeah, well, I don't know the word I'm looking for, but I had already got started a path for myself and knew that I was going to be an entrepreneur. I didn't necessarily, I think that I would do it my, my entire life, but I knew that's something that I wanted to do. And again, I, in my, in my mind, I kind of always liked that was gonna always be like, Mmm, extra money or a side hustle. But I didn't realize it was going to be, you know, my full time
Thing. And so I went to college, I went to Columbia college of Chicago. I studied film production and dance my whole life. Every, nothing about my life has been traditional. I'm, I'm a person you can't put into a box. And I enjoy that because they were very like hands on. About their approach to learning. And so I enjoyed that, but it was literally in my mind, it was getting in the way, me spending time doing that was getting in the way of me opening my first salon and that's, that was my goal. And I was, before I had even left, I was licensed as a cosmetologist at 18. And being in, in, in college for, you know, six hours a day was that in my mind, that was getting in the way of me getting open, getting my business open. So I was like, yeah, no need to wait. And literally at that, at that age of 18, I was, I was smart enough to be like, this doesn't make sense. This is costing $40,000 a semester.
Yeah. That's powerful to recognize because not many people recognize that in the same way. Obviously there's still that there's still that recognition that people are like, I'm spending too much for college, I'm going to be in debt. But it's that recognition that it is getting in the way of what I can be doing right now. You know, like it's that opportunity costs, what I can do doing right now that will provide better results for the short and long-term and in college isn't necessarily the answer for everyone. It's not that people need to realize, recognize that.
I think now maybe in the last five years. And I think going forward, so I'm, I think I'm one of the last part of that last generation where, you know, people really believed, Oh or that it was even a thing. Cause I, I do believe that college and having a degree that was super important and that was the thing you needed to have for a you know, for a span of time in, in, in our history period of time,
But I think I'm part of that last generation that was like really, you know, and so now I think you get, you have more people who are noticing it, you know, now or in their families are more supportive. But I was, I was lucky in the sense again that my parents, my mother worked in corporate America and I emulated a lot of what she did. We could talk about that in the podcast. I'm sure a lot of funny stories about that. But she worked in corporate America, but on the weekends she had a side hustle and she sold like - and things like that for you know, the, the brief cases and things like that. And my father was more like blue collar. He worked for the street department in St. Louis, but he always, you know, was he had a pickup truck and he was helping people move on the weekends and things like that.
So I had parents who we're like, listen, whatever it is that you're you want to do, that's fine. As long as you're taken care of and you're good, we're good. You know, they weren't super like pushy on, you have to go to college, you have to go this route. So I'm very grateful for that.
Yeah. Well, and that's, that's important too to realize too, because what I have found with people's own journeys is there's a lack of self awareness around not only what they want, but what's stopping them. And oftentimes what's stopping them are those external influences of family, friends or professors or you know, what it may look like there. And not to say that every, you know, I'm deaf. There's plenty of nurturing parents and families like yours, but not everyone has that, especially in the new way that entrepreneurship isn't being viewed, you know, in the modern world of the modern working world. And uh, but, but that self awareness is so important to recognize in the fact that you caught a lot of that early on and you were nurtured too to help recognize that as incredible. Yeah, go ahead.
I'm going to totally agree. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. No, no, no. But I totally agree and I think that that's what's lacking still lacking in the world is that, is that people really don't have a lot of self-awareness. I almost think nowadays it's almost harder to have self awareness because there is, you know, it used to just be your family, your friends, you know, people that you surrounded yourself with, you know, or that you had some kind of physical contact with. It was school, work, extracurricular activities. But now with the advent of social media and internet, you know, there's so many outside distractions or influences that people, I think it's harder for people to tune into their, their self and, and listen to that. And so, you know, I mean that's a big part of my journey with my clients is helping them stay there.
Oh, that's powerful. Well, and you know, and that's, that's a big element of the mindset coaching that's necessary in this world. And, and I think a lot of us need to slow down. And I'm just like, right now that the time we're recording this, I'm thinking about that a lot around how can I slow down even more so way I can speed up in all the right ways. Oh. And I think, I think we've got to recognize that cause sometimes if we don't, we'll be forced to slow down into have those epiphany's or those moments that we are forced to develop self awareness. Yes. And, and that's usually from forces that are not from ourselves. Absolutely. Because we need that sanity. And often times that comes in the form of burnouts or of working too hard or going down the wrong path that just doesn't turnout.
What have you found worked great for you to further you along becoming an, a more success entrepreneur. What were some of those steps?
Uh just doing, doing like that for sure. If I have a secret superpower, it's that I just do, I have an idea, I think about it within myself. So there's like a running joke in my family and even my husband is like, you know, they all know by the time I've said to them, Hey, what do you think about X, Y,Z ? They are, the plan is already in motion. And I'm really just asking like, I'm really just asking their opinion. I'm not asking their permission. I'm not asking, you know, my husband's like, why do you even ask me? You're already doing it. Like he knows by the time I'm talking about it, it's already in motion.
So for me, it, that has been one of the biggest attributes to me being successful is when I, when I have an idea, I think about it myself for a short period of time. You know, not too long where I talked myself out of it because that's a real thing. But once I, once I decide, you know, I just start doing and I look for ways to get it done. Again, nothing about anything I've ever done has been conventional and so I without knowing it, you know, just by doing the different businesses and saying, okay, what this is going to cost me $25,000 business, you know, my loose business plan because I never ever sat down and did a traditional business plan. I liked, again, who's got time for that?
Uh, you know, you know what's so funny about that? Sorry to interrupt. But you know what's so funny about that, that traditional business plan, when I first started, and this is like a previous business or two ago when I first started getting into it and not understanding all that the pieces you need to build, especially an online business, I literally went to go Google like a business plan. And that's what I got told in school is if you want to start a business, you've got to create this whole business plan and then have every single moving piece figured it out before you go launch. And it was just like, it's overwhelming. There's like a, it's
Great, you know, it's great at the think about all the time they had like, here's the step by step guide. But it was just so thorough and, and I think that's I mean I still find myself in the trap of over-planning okay. Sometimes we're like, I think when we're over strategizing over planning, then we get stuck in that constant development mode, but never execution mode. And and where have you found I guess a great hack? You know, you mentioned like just implementing and doing, doing, doing what, what's that shift for someone to take that new identity so to speak, that helps them do more or like not do more but just be doing versus not doing?
I think it's different for every person. What works for me, you know, may not work for someone else. And again, this is why you have to be self-aware. This is why you have to have those moments where you're, where you are with, within yourself. Um but I would say, you know, you, you can write down steps, you can, you can make a plan, but there's, there's a point where maybe you need to look at your plan and you know, maybe you set a date, you know, dates are good. I do like dates because then you can kind of gauge for yourself. So maybe you know, for some people who are typical people who over plan and, and strategize, maybe it's two weeks, you know, of planning. Like, I will give myself two weeks to plan and whatever I have planned at the end of those two weeks, I have to pause the plan and then just start doing, I need to at least start executing the first couple of steps that I planned out.
If you're someone who's a little more okay, you know, things are rolling and let me get, you know, let me get going. You know, I think you do need to have a plan, even if it's just a loose plan or just an outline. And that's kinda been my thing. It's just more of an outline because for me, details, I, I suffered from anxiety also. And your listeners may not know that, but I suffer from anxiety and so for me, I'm getting too deep in the details can be a reason why I stop or, or don't, you know, go after it. And so I try not to get bogged down in too many details.
Hmm too many details that's so good. I think, I feel like too, I mean this has been an epiphany for me in the last few months and I'm constantly trying to be more aware of this is when we're either forced to or we decided to slow down or just decide to just start doing. The right things is we have to learn how to simplify. And I think that's where the themes of minimalism could come in. Focusing on what's essential, especially, you know, in our business, cause it, if our business does not become the focus on the simple
Things that get the biggest results, then we're going to find ourselves, Oh, the stream with too many paddles to use just the one paddle we need. And, right. And I think that's where a lot of us get stuck in. I mean, what, what are some other, I guess, through direction that you would give someone who [inaudible] it feels like they are in this stuck. Yeah, I'm trying to deal with this overwhelm.
Sure. So for me and, and what I teach all my clients that I work with. So I created a signature method just again by me doing and, and over the years, my experience is, you know, I look for, Mmm, where, where you get stuck in, there's like, Oh, well I can't do this until I have that. No, yeah, look for the window. You know, and if you don't see the window, make one, you know, kick a hole in the mall and just start where you are.
So I mentioned earlier, like I didn't do the traditional business plan. I didn't. So because I didn't have a traditional business plan, I didn't take out business loans. And actually I'm a, an advocate for not doing that. I have yet to have anyone that I've worked with and who were, who were starting a business, not be able to, I have not worked with a client that I could not help them start their business with what they have right at the moment that they contacted me. Like it could be $300. That's what I have to start my business. And it's been successful, you know. And so I say to people where like, well, I'm stuck. I don't know if you're stuck, but you may have hit, you may have hit a stopping point and that's normal. But then start looking for other routes, you know, and I think once you can develop that skill or if you are, if you can't, if you can work with someone who has that skill, then you'll get a lot further, a lot quicker because the blocks will come and the stopping points will come. That's just part of it. Um, but knowing how to maneuver, you know, around those, again to keep going, I think it is, is critical to any anybody's long-term success
What is that one thing in your life that motivates you to show up in your business? To serve other people? Like what do you, what do you, what are you looking to accomplish from all this?
Okay, so two things. Freedom is, is probably number one. It's huge. I like being able to two, you know, just, I, I love being able to be me. So, and that's true freedom, you know, so many people were like bogged down into 'em. Again, boxes, positions, titles. And I, I just like being able to be me and that evolves all the time. And so being an entrepreneur or having that mindset allows me to evolve however many, you know, however many times I need to or, or, or one, two.
And then the other thing that motivates me, Mmm. And my business and personally Mmm. Is that I'm a, I'm a, I'm a helper at heart. My purpose is to help and what I K two find out and learn more about myself. Once I came out of the, the actual brick and mortar part of the businesses was that all of my businesses have a common theme. And that's been that I am, I'm a helper. And that those were really just my, my vehicles. You know, that the ways that I was able to help people. And so it didn't matter whether I was working in the boutique or, you know, styling someone's hair or, you know, consulting, I'm still helping. And that really motivates me. Being able to, to, to allow someone to taste of the kind of freedom that I get to have, especially if that's their goal.
Like I'm, I'm literally changing lives and not to, you know, that sounds really heavy. Even when I say that I kind of pause there cause I don't like to say that, but it's the truth. Like I'm getting to help people change their lives in a, in a positive way. And that's, that's super impactful. That's, that's, that's everything.
Yeah. That is so impactful to, to have that recognition of how that value is provided. And you know, and I think that's something that a lot of us could feel trapped too, is not being able to recognize that that value is created by the business or the, the things that we provide. Oh, by way of what we offer. I mean, I, I've found that for myself in some past jobs I've had where or, or even things, yeah. Things I studied too, growing up is a
It's hard to recognize that end result or that value that's providing for someone else or for yourself. And then it's like, and then it kind of leads me to ask a really powerful like introspective question is, well, you know, what is this all for? Like, if, if I, if I'm going to be if I'm going to be happy with this, am I going to be happy with this in the next 10 years or the next 50 years as a result of doing this thing for, for all that time? Is it helping people out? And and because to me that's kind of a big part of what life is about is the more we can serve people to help them live better lives, more positive lives and, and yeah. And to me that like, that's a big, as far as like part of my dream too, like that that gives me a sense of value is creating fulfillment through way of how we can serve other people.
I'm curious to, to change gears a little bit with the minimalist side of things, how does how does your minimalist lifestyle relate to your business?
Um well, one of my signature strategies is showing people how to start their business again. Like with what they have and you know, not taking out the loans and yeah, sure, all of this stuff is available to you. But why, you know, why, like, you know, other than fulfilling like some personal or even external expectation that in order for you to start, you need to have all those things. Actually you don't actually, you, you just, you, you don't need all the things you can start with what you have. And so that's kind of like where I take all of my clients through. Initially. And I've had people come to me and have, you know, Oh, I've got a $20,000 budget to start.
And then I've got people, like I said, coming to me with $300, and I can work with any of it. And I'm probably, I probably get teased a lot by those clients who have made with the larger budgets, the start because they're expecting and they're almost like determined to spend all of that money. And I'm the person and I'm saying no, like, no, you don't need to do that. Like, no, let's, why don't you, you know, scale down a little bit and start and they're like totally blown away by that, you know, because, you know, the assumption would be, Oh, you know, again, this is what my business plan said I need to have. And I'm like, listen, my business plan, my loose business plans at 25,000 to start my salon and I did it or less than 12, you know, so, Mmm. It, it just, it shows up in ways like that.
It also shows up in ways, and I'm a big advocate for niching down. And I know a lot of, you know, in the online world as a whole debate on, you know, you should be super, super niche or you know, people who are creatives especially feel like maybe they are hurting themselves, Mmm. Or suffocating even if they niche down too much. But as a, as a, as a minimalist or a person who is on that journey, you know, again, too many things happening all at once becomes clutter. And most people, some people can manage lots of different tasks and ideas at once. But those people are a lot more rare than the people who actually, who think they can't. You know, a lot of people think they can. Oh, I can do, you know, cause I like this and I like that.
Well, we all love a lot of things. You know, when you're in your golden years, if you're looking back, are you really excited that, you know, you pursued 500 things sort of, or was there one or two or briefings that you know, really yeah. Like you're super proud of and that our legacy, like things that need accomplished. Yeah. Yeah. It's 100%. How have you helped people also obtain that? Well, okay, so I have a client that I work with. Actually we just wrapped up about six months of working together, but she came to me in October and she basically had a concept an idea and that's all she had. Oh, that was it. I want to open up, you know, I, I want to do fashion consulting and I also want to sell things, you know, so when I'm doing this consulting, I have pieces available for them to, to purchase, you know, and they don't have to go anywhere else.
Okay. Awesome. That was in October. She wanted to have, she wanted it to be open by Thanksgiving by black Friday. And I was like, I can go as fast as you can go, so if you, if you can, if you can implement as often as we discuss what needs to be done, we can do it because I've done that, you know, so I've done that by myself. And so sure enough, she was just like one of the best type of clients, you know, someone who was very dedicated and serious about what she wanted to do. And it wasn't that it was super easy or anything like that, but Mmm. She came for, for strategy and advice and mentorship and I gave her that and she implemented and did the work. And by Black Friday she was open for business. She had our first pop up event.
So we launched her business with, so she's an online boutique, I'm sorry. And one of my suggestions to her was, you need to do something in person to launch this thing. That's what's going to get you some results quickly. And she did that. I helped her plan out this in-person pop up event and her first event, it was only four hours long and she did almost $5,000 in sales. And she was a little sad about it cause she wanted, she wanted 10,000. I'm like, girl, are you like, I'm glad you were shooting for all of that, but listen, you have just like, you have rock this to be, to go from not even a you know an EIN number or a tax ID number to, you know, fully legitimized business, you know, in person event, you know, built up social media and $5,000 in sales in a four hour period of time.
Like you've rock this. And anytime I, a, I always tease and say time my clients, win I, win I literally am living vicariously through [inaudible] my clients, especially those who are in the beauty or fashion industries because that's my history. I'm like, Oh, I get to, you know, I get to play shop and, and live with them without having to do the day to day. But yeah, so that's one and I've had a few like that where people have come to me now, she had a slightly larger budget. But then I've worked with people literally who have come to me and I've got $300 and that's all I, that's all I have right now to put into a business. I think I should wait and I'm like, no, you shouldn't. And then so I was able to help another client by showing her, you know, you can do this, but instead of like, instead of focusing on the huge, big end goal, the result for your business, let's just focus on what you can do right now.
And right now it looks like you showing up at the farmer's market. And she was a person who was working on a smoothie business. I'm revamping that and, and getting that going. And I'm like, listen, why aren't you at farmer's markets? I mean, you're like, you're, you're dealing with vegan smoothies and things like that. Why aren't you at a farmer's market? And you live in a warm climate area. And she started doing that and it's been four months and now she's on track to opening up a fool, a brick and mortar because her business has grown that much. So those are the kind of success stories that my clients have had. And they're not people, you know, who, who had it all worked out. As a matter of fact. I mean, people hire consultants because they don't, and they realize they don't have it worked out. But again, that self awareness and knowing that, Hey, I need help in order for me to get this done the right way or expeditiously I think is, is, is key. So those are some of my success stories.
I feel like the, the coaching and the coaching world, I find that a lot of customers or clients their results and success usually reflects that of the coach because we're guiding them based on, you know, it's not the perfect match, but there's still there's that reflection of we coach people along the a similar journey of success that we've taken and have learned ourselves and because we are the guide to their, their own journey of success. So I and so I was just curious for you to kind of break that apart and it was so cool.
No worries. No worries. And I'll tell you something else. I don't know about you, but I definitely have had clients who push me. And when I say push me, I don't mean I've had clients obviously who pushed me in terms of like even my realms or my experience of thinking just because their situation might be different. So now I'm working with a variety of business owners. Mostly offline though. Again, cause that's my jam, the brick and mortar or in, in real life type businesses. Versus online, but I mean, push you in the sense of, you know, helping you recognize your own, recognize or remember your own value at times. I've had some clients that I'm like, Oh, like, you know, or maybe know a couple of, you know, a decade or two older than me, you know, super corporate professional types come from that background, you know, and it's, it's like, wow, can I really do that?
And, and sometimes I, I've had to be reminded by my clients either through their successes with them just flat out telling me like, no, like something you like some, you know, especially if when I first started out four years ago, I'd always be like, well, you know, are you, you know, was this super helpful? And I was just that coach, that consultant that was giving them everything all my time and it took my coaches, you know, my mentors would be like, girl, like you don't have to do all that. Like, you know, they're getting results, you know what I mean? And my clients would be like, no, this is super helpful. This is super amazing. So I don't know if that happens for you, where your clients, you know, pump you up you know, just by their own admission
All of the time. And, and it's interesting too, because to be honest, my main clients are like monetary success wise are further along than me and some would actually and have been my coaches. And so there's that unique position where you're able, you're able to learn from those who have been successful and definitely hit their own set of roadblocks. But and so there's additional yeah, there's additional nuggets that we pulled from that experience of, of serving them. So, yeah, and I mean on the service side, I'm speaking versus the, uh, the coaching and products video, but the, uh, it's, it's a cool experience and an ability to be in is that we're all in this kind of teaching circle, um, of, of influence that we can all learn from one another.
That's for sure. I, I only, so I only surround myself with people that I can learn something from. You know, not to sound self-serving, but I mean you'd have to be, I mean, if you're, if you're the smartest person in your circle, that's, that's kind of boring to me. Yeah.
Yeah. That would be boring. Yeah, totally agree. Well, where can people learn more about you, Sonja?
For sure. You can find out more about me over at sonjathompkins.com So www.sonjathompkins.com/ Sonja has a J there instead of a Y or an I. And you can also find me on Instagram and also YouTube as Sonja Thompkins. I kinda keep it easy for everyone.
Awesome. Well, Sonia, this has been so good. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story on here. Thanks so much for listening. Once again, if you would like to learn more about how you can use your unique message to share with the world through video and create videos that actually are professional and perform, bring you money and all of the results and influence that you want to make, then I invite you to learn more by going to contentsupply.com. Thanks again for listening and we'll talk to you very soon.