Ep.013 Athlete Story Podcast

Online business success with athletic grit – and Pinterest – ft Rachel Ngom, former all American volleyball player

If you’ve ever thought about staring an online business or leveraging the internet to get your message or services out there then you want to listen carefully to this episode with junior Olympic Champion Rachel Ngom who had to end her sports career in volleyball early due to a severe rib cage injury.

Rachel has been on quite a journey since, but in this episode we talk mostly about the strategy that led her to a successful online business after years of struggling to get by.

We talk about

– How to use the internet to get clients and propose your services

– How to get people to actually find your services

– Why Pinterest and a blog (or other content) works wonders

– How to best stay in touch with and nurture potential clients so you stay top of mind

– What Rachel uses from her athletic background to be strong in business

Yes, athletic grit is on that menu but she also makes some, perhaps, surprising points about for example patience and competitiveness.

You can get the list of the skills from sports that Rachel relies on for her business by clicking the green button and complete it with your own personal ideas. This is a super helpful to activate that athletic grit of yours whenever you lose momentum or start to doubt in yourself.

« I would chose Pinterest – just because it’s going to give you the most return for your time investment. And so you will spend a few hours getting it set up and really understanding the platform. But like I said,  I haven’t touched my fitness blog in a year and it’s still bringing that many leads. And so it’s the lowest maintenance platform out there. »

Rachel Ngom

Former All-American Volleyball Player, She's Making An Impact

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 About our guest

Rachel Ngom has built a successful online business first in fitness and nutrition – and helping other women start their own online business. Her approach is based on attracting the people who are actively looking for what you have to offer using a blog and a Pinterest strategy – in stead of bombarding everybody on Facebook or other social media. She is now one of the go-to experts when it comes to how to use Pinterest for business purposes.

As an athlete, Rachel was on the Junior Olympics team that ended up taking the title. She continued to play as on a college scholarship until she had a career-ending injury to her rib cage.

You can also watch a video version of this interview here.

READ the transcript of full interview by clicking here.

Anja Bolbjerg: How can you best use the internet to join the number of successful former athletes online even if you weren’t the star of your sport? Well, today we’ll chat with former all-American volleyball player, Rachel Ngom, to get a shortcut and a very specific strategy on how to best build a sustainable online brand and online business. So stay tuned. This is Athlete Story, and I’m your host and coach, Anja Bolbjerg, dedicated to helping former athletes like you own your sports career like other people may have an MBA.


If you’re a world-class athlete or simply into sports, I suggest you subscribe to my show right now because I’ll be posting lots more athlete’s stories and chats with world-class sports insiders and experts.

Rachel’s success formula is not about using a household name or some claim to fame or number of followers. That could have been an advantage, but Rachel Ngom didn’t have that from her sports career. What she did have though was her athlete mindset and once she tapped into that, she showed up consistently trusting her ability to learn and improve through trials and errors and getting back up to put herself back out there again and again and again. Just like you, that’s what she did as an athlete to win the junior Olympics and become an all-American volleyball player.

Now, in this episode, Rachel shares a short version of the story and a lot about how she’s making an impact online with a business that’s consistently attracting real buyers online rather than constantly chasing attention in vain on social media. Listen in and take advantage of Rachel’s generosity with her experience as a former athlete gone online business. Let’s welcome Rachel Ngom, from www.shesmakinganimpact.com.

Hi Rachel. Welcome to Athlete Story.

Rachel Ngom: Hey. Thanks for having me.

Anja: I’m very, very happy you could do this. You’ve been an athlete yourself. I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about that and where you’re going now.

Rachel: My athlete background was I played volleyball for a long time, about 10 years. I played in the Junior Olympics. We actually won the Junior Olympics. Competed in China, played in Italy. I was an all-American, got a full-ride scholarship to play at the University of Illinois. That’s where I had a career ending injury to my rib cage, which was kind of a blessing in disguise because I was able to take six months off and go to Kenya and do an internship over there, and then come back, get my masters in social work. Since then, I started my own business. Right now I am working with female entrepreneurs, helping them get more leads in sales with Pinterest. Short version.

Anja: How did you make that move over to social media and Pinterest and all that?

Rachel: Yes. I actually started off in the fitness space back seven years ago. This is crazy. A lot of the success that I had with my fitness business was on social media. I had a lot of entrepreneurs asking me to help them with their social media. Then I just decided that was what really lit my soul on fire, was working with other business owners and really helping them see success. It has been a little over a year since I made that transition out of the fitness space and full force into my brand, She’s Making an Impact. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Anja: That was very fast, but your brand is called She’s Making an Impact?

Rachel: Yes.

Anja: Right. Let’s say this is all completely new to you? You hardly know what a blog post is or at least you don’t know how to get started writing one. Where would you get started if you want to be the go-to expert on, I don’t know, tennis fitness, for example?

Rachel: For sure, I have a ton of resources, blog posts, free content on my website so you can just go shesmakinganimpact.com. I’ll teach you how to write a killer blog post. I’ve got a free Pinterest master class. I’ve got everything there to really help you get started.

Anja: Excellent. When you first got started, I think you were doing network marketing?

Rachel: Yes, network marketing.

Anja: You were basically selling products and having other people help sell those products for a fitness company or is a nutrition company I think, right?

Rachel: Both, fitness and nutrition.

Anja: Right. Now, that’s a very popular way for athletes to [chuckles] make some extra money when they retire?

Rachel: Yes, for sure.

Anja: Did you start that whole business by creating your Facebook page, and then you see this is working, this is working until the algorithm changed, the algorithm meaning how Facebook chooses to show your content to people. Then from there on you figured out, “This is not the good way.” Or did you start all the way out person to person and more physically or were you directly up onto the–

Rachel: [chuckles] I did everything under the sun to try and have success in my network marketing business. I failed for a good two years before I learned how to actually use Facebook the right way. I sucked. I did cold calling, I bought leads, I did person to person, I tried anything. I’d hosted fit clubs, I did everything. It was when I learned how to use Facebook the right way, that’s when my business really took off. It was a matter of just being relentless and just trying something else.

I was like, “This cold calling thing, this does not work. I have to try something else, try something else, try something else.” Then I finally found something that worked until it didn’t. I said, “Okay. That was great, but now we have to find something else.” That’s when I found Pinterest.

Anja: What you’re teaching people, if we can put it like an athlete perspective to it. If you try to imagine you’re an athlete or former athlete who wants to get more speaking gigs or get booked for a conference or maybe even find sponsors or– Just put yourself out there and make your story be heard. How would you go about doing that?

Rachel: Oh gosh. Well, I think the biggest thing is having a personal brand. Building your personal brand, we use our blog for that and now our podcast. It doesn’t mean you have to be a blogger necessarily but it means having content. It could be from a podcast, YouTube channel, something that you’re putting on your blog. Pinterest drives traffic to that blog and that’s just going to help you get more eyeballs on everything that you’re putting out there.

We use Pinterest as the lead generation to get people to see the content that we’re creating. From there we can get them onto our email list and then market products and services to our customers.

Anja: Why would you say Pinterest was better for this than other social media where more athletes on Instagram and Facebook?

Rachel: Totally. Yes. In my fitness business, I actually built my Facebook fan page to over 50,000 followers, my Instagram to over 20,000. It worked really well until the logarithm changed and then all the traffic I used to get was completely gone. I was scrambling trying to make things happen, and that’s when I stumbled upon Pinterest and blogging.

I just started creating content, putting it on Pinterest. I didn’t have this huge strategy behind it, but I noticed that I was getting a lot more traffic to my website. I’m like, “Where are all these people coming from?” I saw that there were over 34,000 people per month coming to my blog from Pinterest. The crazy thing is I checked my analytics, it’s been about one year since I actually touched that blog, uploaded any content, did anything on Pinterest. Literally, I haven’t done anything with that business. The traffic has actually increased from Pinterest over that year.

It’s just a way for you to get in front of so many more people. It’s a way for you to work smarter because whenever you post something on Facebook and Instagram if part of your audience sees it like 1% it’s gone within 24 hours. You’re working so hard to create new content all the time it’s kind of like that rat race. You could work so much smarter just by putting your content up on Pinterest. Literally, stuff that I posted and I saw one from April 2015 is still bringing traffic to my site.

Anja: That’s amazing.

Rachel: So cool.

Anja: Well, I guess it’s also– When you post on Instagram or Facebook you, well, that’s at least my experience, I don’t always see what I want to see. I suppose that the people who see what I post may not even want to see what I post. Whereas on Pinterest, people are searching for things and that’s how they find you. Right?

Rachel: Exactly. That’s why it’s so powerful. Pinterest is a search engine. It’s really not like another social media platform. If you can get in the head of your ideal client and figure out what they’re searching for when they get on to Pinterest, when they search for that, they can find you. Myself and a bunch of my clients who have gone through my course [unintelligible 00:09:00] purpose have actually dominated the intermittent fasting space for women because this is such a good niche on Pinterest. When people are searching for that they’re finding us.

If you can understand keyword terms and search engine, it’s brilliant.

Anja: I’m going to try and not make it too technical.

Rachel: For sure.

Anja: If you were to, let’s say, try and get booked to come and tell your speech and get paid for that, what kind of things would you post and how would you go about doing it?

Rachel: If you’re talking about like an athlete, what’s their niche? What are they doing?

Anja: Well, let’s say it’s a tennis player who has retired but wants to still leverage that maybe they have a little bit of a household name and they have a good athlete story. They know how to talk about, for example, resilience and overcoming obstacles and they want to pitch that so that they get a speaking gig in a corporation or a bigger organization and make a bit of extra money off of that.

Rachel: In terms of pitching, I don’t do any pitching with Pinterest. I would be privately reaching out to somebody via email or even direct mail to get their information or to get on their radar. Even Instagram direct messaging. In terms of Pinterest in generating leads, it’s more for building your email list and actually making sales not necessarily getting media and publicity attention. Although it’s possible, but that’s not what I use it for.

Anja: The idea is to get people on to your site and then capture their email?

Rachel: Yes, exactly. It’s just a matter of knowing who are you trying to attract and what are they searching for. So that when they search for it they find you.

Anja: All right. Let’s go back to building a brand. If you want to build a brand as an athlete or a former athlete and maybe you don’t have a huge number of followers on Instagram or Facebook or maybe you don’t even want to go that way, can you build a brand using Pinterest?

Rachel: For sure. You want to help people and solve a problem that they have. You can do that with your contact. If someone is searching for something and they find you, they land on your blog, let’s say you write a blog post, it could be about athlete nutrition or whatever it is that you want to talk about, and they read it and they think, “Wow, that was so helpful, how else can I learn from this person?” That’s when they start looking around how can they work with you, how can they get on your email list? You really start to build a relationship with them that way.

Anja: Let’s say you can maybe write one article or blog post a month because that’s all the time you’ve got. Can you still get enough interest on a thing like Pinterest by I don’t know, posting different things that lead to that same article?

Rachel: Totally. I teach with within my course to actually create at least five different images per blog post. That way you’ll have more contact that you can be publishing. You could create pins that have different headlines that are leading to the same blog post.

Anja: For example, I’ve been running a website called Strong Skier-

Rachel: Nice.

Anja: -for many, many years. I have a very nice in-depth blog post there about core training for skiing or balancing and all these kinds of things are hard to prepare for skiing. Instead of constantly trying to find new angles to more or less those same things and write a new blog post, I would keep those blog posts there but then renew the doorway through Pinterest through those five–

Rachel: Yes, you totally could do that. I do suggest creating content on a consistent basis because you’re building an audience and that audience is looking into you to be consistent, in short, for them. In terms of bringing new people to your sight, you could totally be doing that and just creating different images and using different headlines, but you want to make sure that you’re nurturing your current audience too.

I suggest blogging every week if you can, but maybe you do it twice a month if you can or once a month but ideally, you’re doing that on a consistent basis and just adding a lot of value within that one blog post.

Anja: Right. If you’re already on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and you feel like, “Okay, this isn’t enough,” what would you choose and how do you see the future of this whole social media marketing brand– [crosstalk

Rachel: I would choose Pinterest just because it’s going to give you the most return for your time investment. You will spend a few hours getting it set up and really understanding the platform, but like I said, I haven’t touched my fitness blog in a year and it’s still bringing that many leads. It’s the lowest maintenance platform out there. If you’re going to do two platforms, I would do Pinterest and YouTube in conjunction with your blog because those are the search engine platforms. That’s where you can really control how people are finding you because they’re searching for something and then they find you.

After that, I would probably do Instagram just because of Instagram stories and you can build a relationship with your audience there. I don’t really use Instagram to get new leads into my business. I take the leads that am getting from Pinterest and then through our email funnel, we have emails that we send to them, I tell them to go follow me on Instagram because I provide different tips and resources there. I’m using that as a place to build a relationship with my people.

Anja: That makes perfect sense to me because you’re in an environment where people actually are looking for things.

Rachel: Yes, exactly.

Anja: Now, we’re trying to build our emailing list. How often do you need to email people to stay in contact with them and get that relationship going?

Rachel: I suggest starting with a “nurture sequence”, and that’s basically the first three to five emails that you’re going to send them after they subscribe. I actually send an email per day for an entire week just because people are subscribing to stuff all the time and if you send one email and then they don’t hear from you again for another month, they’re going to have no idea who the heck you are.

You want to make a good first impression and stay on their radar.

Email them, maybe it’s the first three days that they subscribe but you’re going to stay in contact with them. After that, I email at least once a week. I never go one week without emailing my list just because out of sight, out of mind. I don’t want them to forget about me.

Anja: Right. The nurturing sequence as you call it, what would that include? Just this is who I am and this is how I can help you. Is that where it goes or is it more like personal stories and you’re already writing as if you’re friends?

Rachel: All of the above. Every email has a specific purpose and I’ll have a specific call to action in that. One of the first emails is actually, I call it the “what this does about you” email. I’m really speaking more about my ideal client and about them. I’m like, “Hey, you signed up because you have bigger dreams, a bigger vision, bigger goals, all these things. I’m here to guide you and to help you along the journey.”

Every email, like I said, has this specific call to action. In one of those emails, I might say, “Respond back and tell me what your biggest struggle is right now and what your goals are.” Another call to action might be, “Go follow me on Instagram.” Another call to action might be, “Here’s another blog post that’s really going help you.”

Within our business, we actually use our nurture sequence. We call it a funnel where we are trying to get them to do a specific action. We host a free Pinterest master class. Within those emails, I’m teaching about Pinterest. A lot of times they have common misconceptions why you should use Pinterest. I’m getting them used to the concept of using Pinterest for their business and then within two of those emails, I’m inviting them to actually get on that free master class where they can learn more. Makes sense?

Anja: That makes total sense. Now, this is Athlete Story and so I always try to link the athlete’s story to what the rest of the advises that we’re hearing. Do you feel like you use anything from your athletic background in what you do today?

Rachel: Of course. Oh my gosh, so much. Discipline is huge. Just being disciplined to show up and be consistent, I think that’s really big. Visualizing, so visualizing your success. I remember when I was I think a freshman in high school, my coach actually had us have quiet time before our matches where we would visualize ourselves getting the kill and getting the ace and all these things.

I do that in my business where I visualize the success that I’m going to have. It’s crazy how all that works. It’s so insane. Consistency, discipline, being on time. I’m never late for anything, and teamwork too. We have a killer team and there’s no way I’ll be able to do everything that we’re doing right now without them. What else? That’s the main stuff. I guess being relentless too. You have to be relentless if you want to be successful in business.

Anja: Are you competitive?

Rachel: Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve toned down quite a bit over the past couple of years because I married a very non-competitive person, which is funny because he’s an athlete too. He’s a horse trainer, but he just likes to do it for fun. I don’t even know. I’ve toned down a little bit over the years, but my whole family is super competitive. There’s a game in America called spoons where it’s like a card game and everyone grabs a spoon and we’ve actually drawn blood playing that game with how competitive everyone is. Actually, we’re not allowed to play that game anymore.

Yes, very competitive. I think that’s actually something that could do you a disservice if you are trying to be an entrepreneur because you might be comparing yourself to other people and trying to– when you really should be staying in your own lane and just be better than who you were yesterday.

Anja: How about patience. Is patience a good thing in this game or?

Rachel: You have to be patient. A lot of people, they expect overnight results and that’s not going to happen. This business really took off really quickly, She’s Making an Impact, but it’s because I had six years of prior entrepreneurial experience that I could apply into this business. You’re probably going to suck for years and you have to know that. Like I said, I sucked for two years before I started to really get success and get traction. You have to be patient and relentless. You just have to keep going, try something new, find a different strategy, learn from a mentor, keep growing.

I definitely think one thing that I actually talk about this on my Pinterest workshop is that if you want to be the best like an Olympic athlete, you have to learn from the best. Hiring the best coaches, getting the best strategies, investing in yourself because you invest in yourself to learn from a good coach, right? Why won’t you do the same thing in your business?

Anja: Exactly. That’s why I’m trying to bring all the best people like you on this show so that the listeners and viewers have the best advice out there. Thank you so much for these excellent tips and I hope that’s encouraging people to get something started and take advantage of all this technology that can really help us not stress out too much about it but take the advantages and leave the rest out of the game.

Rachel: For sure. Thank you so much for having me.

Anja: All right. Thank you. Bye-bye.

[00:20:43] [END OF AUDIO]