Consistency, Courage And Embracing Your Inner 'Rebel' With Franziska Iseli
Embrace your inner rebel. Learn how to carve your own path to success. Franziska Iseli did just that. Like a rebel, she started her own company and even rode a motorbike from Switzerland to Kazakhstan for the cultural experience. Franziska is the co-founder of Basic Bananas. They are a marketing mentoring organization that provides market training for people. She is also the author of her latest book being, The Courage Map. Learn why having courage and the right mindset is important. Listen to her journey from Switzerland to Kazakhstan. Also, learn why she named her company Basic Bananas – all in this conversation with Tony Martignetti.
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Consistency, Courage And Embracing Your Inner 'Rebel' With Franziska Iseli
Franziska Iseli is an entrepreneur, strategist, winner of the 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and the co-founder of several brands, including Basic Bananas, Moments of Humanity, The Business Hood, and Oceanlovers.
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Franziska Iseli. She is a maverick entrepreneur, leading marketing. and brand strategist. She's a mad adventurer, author and Cofounder of Basic Bananas, The Business Hood, Oceanlovers and Moments of Humanity. Her book was released in May 2021. It is The Courage Map - 13 Principles for Living Boldly. I want to welcome you to the show. How are you doing?
Thank you for having me. I'm really well.
I'm going to give you a chance to share some of the pivot points in your life that have led you to this amazing point in your career. Leading all these amazing organizations and doing such amazing stuff in the world but I really keen on finding out what was the flashpoint or the point in your story that revealed your gift into the world.
I believe there were a few pivot points in my life. With most journeys, there are always a few crossroads where you can either go left or right. Whichever way you take, it will lead you down. Sometimes it's a very interesting person, someone exciting or sometimes you had wished that you had taken the other turn although I believe that there are no mistakes. The biggest pivot point in my life was definitely years ago when my father passed away. Unexpectedly, he had a heart attack and he was 58 years old. It was out of the blue. At that time, I was working in an advertising agency doing strategy for bigger clients.
When that happened, I looked at my life and I suddenly realized that I am mortal. I asked myself what if I died right now? Would I be happy with what I'm doing and with what I'm achieving for people? I realized that I can do more and have a bigger impact if I go out on my own. That's when I left my career and started my first business, Basic Bananas, in 2009. Through entrepreneurship, I can have a deep impact in the world. That's where the other ventures were born out of that first business.
I have to ask because I'm sure people are wondering. Where does the name Basic Bananas come from?
I get that question all the time. It's a marketing mentoring organization where we provide marketing training and mentoring programs for business owners and entrepreneurs. We used to do a lot of face-to-face mentoring but throughout this time of COVID, everything is virtual and it's working incredibly well. When I started this first business in 2009, I had a business mentor because I had no idea how to run a business. I knew marketing, advertising, branding and she said, “Don't call this business Basic Bananas.” Her name was Sharon. I said, “Sharon, I will take a lot of your advice but not this one because I did come from branding. I know branding and this is my strength. I know that I can make this work with the name Basic Bananas.” What she suggested is call this business something like Marketing Institute Australia or something like that.
The name came from brainstorming with my ex-husband. We sat down together and we just came up with all these different names. We wanted something that is reflective of our character and that people would remember. Our two top favorite names at the end were Tango Like A Mango and Basic Bananas. I don’t know how we ended up with fruits. I don't particularly like eating bananas or they're not my favorite fruit even. We came up with the name. It's very catchy. When you have Basic Bananas, names are really good and it sounds good. We came up with the explanation later. What we are good at is simplifying marketing and branding for people. We don't make things extra complicated, also bananas make you happy and banana trees grow fast. All of these combined with what we do is perfect.
I love the fact that there's an element of being a rebel there too that comes up in your story. It seems to run through all the decisions you've made. I hear this a lot when people come around, everyone says this. The advice I'm hearing is this but I'm going to go do my own thing and do it my way. It seems to be true.
I think one of my strengths is that I'm quite irreverent. I definitely have made some of the biggest decisions that people would never have agreed with at the time, even my teams. I've made decisions in the business where my teams would have said, “That's not what we would do.” When I feel it strongly in my gut and my intuition, I make the decision and then later people would see it like, “Now I get it.” My past mentor would go, “I get it. I'm glad that she didn't listen to my advice.” Being a bit of a rebel and carving out your own path has served us really well.
l'd love to know more about the early days of your entrepreneurial adventure. What mistakes did you make? How did you get off the ground on your own?
The first eight months were definitely quite challenging especially it was the first business and I've never run a business before. I certainly have to learn all these things. I have to learn bookkeeping, paying taxes, invoicing, managing clients and putting in place systems, even creating websites. This was in 2009. I've always known that it's more important for me to play by my strengths. This is a really good tip that I always impart with the readers too. I always knew that if I play by my strengths and outsource my weaknesses such as building a website, etc., I will be able to grow this business a lot quicker which a lot of people do when they go, “I have to build my own website and design my own logo.” No, you don’t and you shouldn’t. You should use your skills especially in the beginning. You have to focus on making sales. In the first eight months, there is a lot of savings to fund this business. I knew that we use the savings that we have with my ex-husband and we hustle really hard. If it doesn't work and if we never get ahead, I'll just go get a job again. I was in a fortunate position that it wouldn't have been super hard to get a job again, which is a little bit of a privilege. I had that backdoor but I didn't want to go through that because I don't like working for someone else. This strategy, in the beginning, was all about building our networks and connecting with people.
Play by your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.
Now, we have a team of 32 people. We have our teams in different countries, operations in different continents and still the same initial principle applies. That is, “Always leave with value.” How can I add value? How can I provide something epic for people? Without focusing on money, even though we needed the money in the beginning, how can I add value? We did that for eight months and focused on helping people. I did a lot of pro bono work in the beginning to get these case studies, show people that this works and people get results. It started to snowball. It took about eight months to gain that momentum.
Once you start, you have to be consistent. I remember our first mentoring program, we ran a workshop and I think we had 2 or 2 people sitting in this workshop. One of them was my mother-in-law, one of my friends and a stranger. There's one person that could have been a potential customer who didn't become a customer. That was the first session, three people. The next session, maybe we had seven people. The next one, we had ten. Until we had hundreds of people years later. It's just consistency and always leading with value.
I see something else in your leadership that's showing up and it's also the title of your book, courage in the consistency, keep on coming back and showing up.
It's about showing up for yourself, your teams, and your customers. It's also one principle that I embrace. We have a culture book here at Basic Bananas we use for the team that has team principles outlined and what's this culture all about. We have a very strong culture. That's always been something I've been very focused on because I know that we can't do what we do without an epic team and a great culture.
One of our key principles and something that I've embraced from the beginning is to embrace failures. In fact, if we don't ever fail, it means that we're not trying hard enough. Be okay with failures and don't beat yourself up. I never beat myself up about failures and I fail a lot. I don't even have examples because I don't see it as a failure. I've tried and this didn't work but I've learned something. I want my team to do the same. If we never fail or we never make a mistake, I see it as not trying hard enough.
The mindset you have is so strong and that's what drives you forward. Was that always in you? Do you feel like there was a point where you had to build that?
I definitely wholeheartedly believed that mindset is almost everything. Not everything because you also need to know strategy, your stuff and you need to deliver. I see this with people we work with all the time. It comes back to mindset. At the beginning of the business, I’m quite focused but I'm thinking where it came from whether I learned this somewhere or how it came about. It's very interesting because when I think back to my childhood or if I look at my parents, I definitely didn't have that example. I didn't model this from my parents. I know for a fact that they have quite different mindsets especially my mom who is amazing and I love her dearly. We're very different in that she has a very pessimistic mindset. I think adapted a little bit more but for her, it was always growing up and the glass half full half empty. For me. it was always half-full. I see someone who I love so much who has this view on life that I don't feel is serving and then I just went the complete opposite way. I'm not sure.
It’s amazing because you have such love for her. I'm sure that was ingrained but seeing her not living her life as fully as she could because of the mindset and that had turned your thinking around.
That could be. I'm trying to think what it was. I like doing experiments like super random stuff. I've always been intrigued by human psychology and I started a little bit of Psychology in school and I did a few experiments just to test these things. A few years ago I wanted to test if this mindset thing is still true and if your mind can dictate a little bit in your body, how you feel and how you show up physically. I decided to run the New York City marathon without training. I'm not a runner. I didn’t even have running shoes.
It was just a coincidence that I was in LA for a conference I was speaking at and then two weeks later, I was meant to be in New York. I realized I did want to take a marathon off my bucket list but I never wanted to train for it because I'm not a runner. I don't love running that much. I went onto Craigslist and found someone who sold me their tickets who was injured. I was running in someone else's name Shalom or someone. I bought my running shoes and went for it. I knew that the only way I can finish this marathon is if I use my mindset and I tell myself that I got this the whole entire 42K. I don’t know in miles how much it is and I finished it in under four hours. That was an experiment.
When I was in high school probably 17 or 16, I did a psychological experiment with one of my friends to see the psychology of people and how mindset works. We dressed my friend up in this fancy outfit like a gala dress in the middle of the day. We went into the City Burn. It’s the capital city where I grew up nearby in a village and she walked around the city going nuts in her gala outfit, banging her purse against walls and acting weird. These people like to stare.
We just wanted to see how people are reacting to her? We did a few experiments where she would be dressed up super nicely, acting normal and going to a shop. How is she treated? How about if she wears clothes that are maybe ripped, not looking very good, and she goes into a shop? How do people react then? It's experimenting like that that we did and we observed what’s human behavior. I guess that all helped a little bit with forming your own mindset.
I love that story. It's so amazing. It's really remarkable how people's view changes when you act differently. There's an element of people will mirror their reaction based on what you do. You act out, they want to act out. There's a lot of different things that are happening there.
People are judgmental. We all are. I'm sure I am too.
I have to ask since we're on the mindset topic, what went into the mindset of your travels around through the Middle East on a motorcycle?
I had this best, worst idea, which I have a lot of. This was years ago, I was thinking, “How can I push myself harder? How can I push myself mentally, physically and emotionally harder? I wanted to grow more. I knew I can do that if I push myself in some ways. What's something crazy I could do?” I could climb Mount Kilimanjaro or I could maybe try Mount Everest, not the whole top but go do that trek but I don't really like the cold too much. What else can I do? I don't even know where this idea came from. I must have read something about Marco Polo.
Marco Polo is an Italian merchant in ancient Italy that was traveling along the Silk Road from Italy to the Middle East and into Asia. It became this trade road that people used. I thought, “What about if I ride a motorbike from Switzerland, my home country, along this road into Kazakhstan and I wanted to go through Iran? This will be an interesting experiment because it will be challenging physically.”
Now I'm quite a good motorbike rider but back then, I was average and I don't know about motorcycle maintenance. I will be a little bit exposed to people's help when I break down and also mentally being in my helmet for 8 to 10 hours a day just alone with my thoughts would be interesting. That's the reason why I wanted to push myself. I wanted to re-think a few things in my life too so I headed off into the sunset.
What are the thoughts that came up for you? You don't have to get into every detail but a book came out of it.
The first journey I was with one of my friends, Mike Klein and he asked me very last minute, he said, “Can I come with you?” In the beginning, I’m like, “I want to do this on my own,” and then luckily, I came to my senses and I said, “Of course. You can join me.” He's always wanted to do this but never had anyone crazy enough to join him. I did say yes to him joining because he knows motorbike maintenance and it was good to travel with a man in some of these countries. He observed my behavior and interactions with people. He said, “You should write a book on courage.” It was his ignition. I've had this idea ages ago and I did a program for Mindvalley on being bold.
Always lead with value.
I thought this could be an interesting topic for my next book. He ignited it. This time in my helmet, I just thought a lot about courage, what it means and what are the principles. Two things came out of this journey. One is courage, what are the principles of courage and how can people apply this in a very practical way. The second thing that came out of this journey is moments of humanity, which is one of our ventures, not a business where we make money. It's a movement to connect strangers through kindness because I found that there were infinite moments on this journey where total strangers were kind, helping us, taking us in and offering a bed in their house, giving us tea, helping with food or anything that we needed help with. People were kind.
I love that you share this because that's the thing that we need especially in places where people are not feeling that their first bias is towards us that we need to fear what we don't know.
The media is not helping. This was before COVID and before things blew up. This was in 2019. I wanted to go especially to Iran and I was going on my own because my friend is American and with an American passport, it's not a great idea. I got my visa, my Swiss passport and I headed to the border of Iran. It took three days to go through Armenia to get in. The reason why I wanted to go through Iran on my own as a woman is because I wanted to show people how a lot of the things we hear in the media about any culture are just blown out and only picking the worst. We never hear the media talk about the good things. That's not called good news media. We should have that and some people are attempting that but people love to read the bad news. I wanted to show that we need to make our own opinion. We can't take a few incidents, blow that up and charge a whole culture based on some of these things that we hear.
You reminded me of a book that I haven't thought of in a while. It's called Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves of all people. Rick Steves does a travel show. It's dated but Travel as a Political Act is a fantastic book because it's about taking a different view on how we travel especially Europe has just a different way of being. When you're in the US and you travel, sometimes you're not as open to seeing through the lens of how the people in Europe or different cultures are. You have to take a chance to step back and say, “How could I see things differently?” That's how I approach it.
It’s not your fault. It's how you guys are being conditioned by the news and by the media. I looked at some numbers about freedom of speech and how much the media is controlled. You guys are not completely independent that the media is controlling a lot. It's not completely your fault but that's why we need people that are not by talking about it but by living it, showing that we're all the same. We're all human. We need to accept each other exactly how we are no matter what religion we are. That's something else I learned on this journey. I traveled to a lot of Muslim countries like Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
A lot of them are Muslim at high population percentages. As a woman, I am not religious and I wasn't wearing a scarf. I was riding a motorbike which women in some of these countries don't do. People were welcoming me with open arms. I never had anyone that wasn't nice because of my different cultural and religious background ever from kids to adults to grownups. I had one kid and he told me a little bit about his religion and Allah. He asked me about my religion and I said, “I believe in stars, bees, sunshine, the universe and the ocean.” He was completely accepting of it and that was amazing to witness.
There are many things I want to talk about. I'm just conscious of the time we have. The thing I would love to know more about is if you are looking back, what have I learned in my journey to getting here to where I am at this moment? What would I advise people who are following the same path or similar path of what I have? What three pieces of advice would you give to someone on a journey?
One is taking the shots. There's a quote that I'm paraphrasing by Michael Jordan and he says something along the lines of, “I will only ever fail the shots I didn't take.” It's the same with life. I felt the same with my journey. It's about taking the chances, just trying and going for it. If it doesn't work as I mentioned earlier, it's okay. Failures are cool for people to be okay with making mistakes and forgiving themselves. The second one is being okay with imperfection. It's one of the principles in the book because sometimes we use perfection as an excuse to not take action. Sometimes we wait for perfection, we strive for perfection and it makes us not do something.
For example, I see this with businesses all the time. They might say, “I can't go out and pitch for work because I need to wait for my website to be perfect. I can't have this conversation with interesting contact because I don't have a business card.” Those are all excuses. It's better to go out and take imperfect action than waiting for perfection. I saw an interview day with Elizabeth Gilbert. She had this one character in the book and she said, “I don't connect with this character. it's a bit lame. I don't really like it so much but it's all I got.”
Embrace failures. If you don't ever fail, that means you're not trying hard enough.
Her publisher got the book and said, “You need to flash out this character. It's a bit lame.” She’s like, “It’s all I got so we're going to publish this book exactly like it is.” They published it and some reviewers said the same thing. She said, “I knew that the reviews would come back and say this one character is annoying. It was all I had at that time. He was perfectly imperfect. Maybe if I write this book years from now, it will be better but right then and there, it was all I had and that's perfect.” I feel like people need to do that a little bit more.
The third is one of the principles in the book. One of the most challenging also for me personally and that's the principle of non-attachment. Feeling non-attached to outcomes because as humans, we have this sometimes need to be attached to certain things and also outcomes. We might have a plan, especially right now, this principle is perfect. I finished all our quarterly plans with the team for our business and I said to the team, “These are fluid plans. We need to be non-attached to any of these outcomes. Why? Because we don't know what's coming for us. 2020 has been very unpredictable.”
We don't know what's coming at us. If we are super attached to certain outcomes, goals and things we want to achieve, we might get let down. Rather than getting attached to these outcomes or even possessions instead, what I recommend doing and what I'm focused on is I can only focus on controlling what I'm in control of. I can only change what I'm in control of, which is how I respond, act and behave. I can't control if there's another pandemic, the market changes or the weather. I can only focus on things that I can control and not waste my energy on stuff that I have zero control over.
I always save this question for the end and people are usually taken back by it but I’ll ask it anyway. We've been talking a lot about books. Which book has really changed your life or at least how you look at things in the world? I know that people say like, “I wrote a book. That has changed my life in many ways.” Which book has influenced you that you've read?
There are two that come to my mind straight away. I don’t even remember why but I read this book when I was a teenager and I’m pretty sure it changed my outlook on life and It's called the The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’m sure you know it. The other one that I also believe changed my life and I got this book as a gift when I moved to Costa Rica when I was sixteen. My brother's best friend, who was also like my other brother, gave me this book and I still have it now. It's called Le Petit Prince. In English, it's The Little Prince. When I got that book as a gift, I took it with me to Costa Rica for the year and I kept referring back to it. It's just beautiful. I don't remember the message in it. I just know that these two books touched me very deeply growing up and I would give them to any team or adult.
Now I'm inclined to go pick up The Little Prince. I'm going to have to find out how to say it in French because it sounds beautiful. I have to thank you so much for sharing your story. We scratched the surface because there's more to you and the insights are amazing. Thank you for coming to the show. I want to give you the opportunity to share where people can reach out and find you.
The best place is probably my personal website, FranziskaIseli.com. You can find all the links there. There are all of the things that I'm involved in on that website. This is more for business owners that want to learn marketing strategies. We have a lot of free resources on BasicBananas.com. There's a podcast, articles, videos, and a ton of free stuff for people that they can make use of.
Thank you so much.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me and for running this show.
Thank you. I just want to thank the reader. This has been great to have you and I love having Franziska on the show.
- Basic Bananas
- The Business Hood
- Moments of Humanity
- The Courage Map - 13 Principles for Living Boldly
- Travel as a Political Act
- The Alchemist
- Le Petit Prince
- Apple Podcast – Virtual Campfire
- Facebook – Inspired Purpose Coach
- Twitter - @TonyMartignett1
- LinkedIn - @TonyMartignett1
About Franziska Iseli
Franziska, the winner of the prestigious award ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year‘, is a leading marketing strategist with an eagle eye for good marketing and a sixth sense for positioning and branding. She is a true visionary.
She brings the secrets and experience of the advertising and marketing industry to small businesses. No challenge is too big for her, she loves getting people to think bigger and aim higher.
Fun and Swiss quality (Franziska grew up in Switzerland) are a given when working with her. She has an amazing ability to forecast and execute strategies with precision results like a Swiss clock.
A sharp-witted humour and high levels of cheekiness that can bring anyone to tears (of laughter), the ability to speak five languages and a desire to have everything done yesterday ensures Basic Bananas is at the forefront of marketing worldwide.
Franziska is the co-author of ‘Bananas About Marketing – How to Attract a Whole Bunch of Clients‘ and regular contributor to various business magazines.
Being a passionate social entrepreneur and philanthropist, Franziska loves contributing to different social causes.
Otherwise: She loves beach walks, surfing, bringing down the house with her saxophone, traveling, dancing, being creative. She comes up with new ideas all the time, if only there was more time to implement them all.
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