Welcome to the show! Thank you so much for joining me.
Do you want to introduce yourself a little bit and tell the listeners what you do?
Sure. I will gladly introduce myself. I am Monique Floyd, AKA King Moe. I started my entrepreneurial career as a personal branding photographer, specifically for women. Full service: hair, makeup, wardrobe, stories, location, everything – I’ve got you covered. I've recently been, due to COVID, transitioning to offering online courses. I have a best-selling course and a movement called Love Your Self(ie). It's all about amplifying your beauty, your voice, taking up space, building your confidence and putting yourself out there to represent your business, your brand, or just yourself, your selfie, you know? So that's me in a nutshell. There’s so much more to it, but I’ll leave it there right now.
I definitely want to talk to you about your Love Your Self(ie) movement and your course and how you transitioned through all of that! But first you want to tell me, how did you get into photography and being a creative in that sense? Have you always been creative? What does that journey look like?
So I'm an only child, number one. So my imagination is on steroids. I have always been a creative. I'm super, super right brain, even though I can function left brain. I left that world years ago though. But yeah, I started taking pictures. I was always the kid with the camera growing up, and even worked in a store that developed film in my teen years.
And so I've been doing styled shoots with hair and makeup and wardrobe since I was a teenager. But I didn't have clients, I had little cousins. I basically bullied them into being my clients, being my muses, and then I would do their makeup and I would do their hair.
Now, granted, I was maybe 14. They might have been seven or eight, whatever works. And I would take their picture. I would style the shoot, I would do everything, and would take them outside to do a photoshoot. But for me that was something that I did for fun. I never thought about doing it for a career. It was just not something that was ever talked about. It was like, “you go to college, you get the job, the house, the marriage, all those things.” That's the route that I took. But in my thirties I woke up and decided that's the stuff that doesn't make me happy. That stuff doesn't fill me up. I need to get back to my creativity, back to the right side of my brain.
And so what did that kind of look like? Starting to turn it into a business? Did you literally just wake up one day and think, “okay, screw this”?
Close! Almost! That's kind of how I roll, but not quite. So I had been in the nuclear engineering world for almost 14 years as a graphic designer for science projects for the government. I worked on science projects for the government – like serious science projects for global projects that the government worked on. And I got furloughed in 2013. One of the happiest days of my life. I was already shooting and I actually had my camera at work with me that day and had been outside shooting rose bushes in the front of the building. I came inside and I had a voicemail and it was HR. They asked me to come upstairs. I knew what it was because they had been doing layoffs and furloughs for a while, so I got caught in the last round or close to the last round. They asked me to come upstairs. I walked upstairs, and they gave me my pink slip.
I shook their hand, thanked them, I went and got my shit, and I never looked back.
I was already shooting on the side, I was already doing it as a hobby. And so I just basically made up my mind, made the decision that I was not going back to corporate. That this was like my out, this was like the gift that they gave me. And I've never looked back.
Now granted, I didn't know what I was doing. I could take pictures, do styled shoots but the business side of it, I have a lot to learn.
“I shook their hand, I thanked them, I went and got my shit, and I never looked back.”
I totally understand that. When I started my business, I quit because it was a terrible environment and I was like “nope, not doing this anymore!” So I quit. And I had no idea what I was doing business-wise either.
You learn as you go.
You take the leap and then you figure out how to walk.
And the parachute opens. Or maybe it doesn’t, but you know, most of the time it does.
So when you first started that business how did you start that? Did you do any branding work for yourself at the beginning? Or did you just kind of start shooting, and start charging people? Tell me about that.
I'm thinking back. So when I first started, I actually took workshops with different photographers. Well, one specific photographer, because I thought I wanted to do weddings. Realised that was not my thing – I did a couple of weddings, I'm like, “no, this ain't it.” And then, I invited my older cousin, (look, back to the cousins!) over and I was like, “just have some fun with me. Let me do your makeup. Let me dress you up.” And that's how it started – a dress up session with another cousin, again, almost 30 years later. And that sparked something in me. It was the back and forth I had with her, seeing her light up, and then her seeing me light up. So I knew I wanted to work with women. From that point on I knew I wanted to work with women and be a part of their ownership and empowerment process.
So that's how I branded myself, as a beauty photographer initially. And then years later, I incorporated personal branding. I basically applied that same formula to my personal branding work – dug a little deeper with their business, their audience, like all that kind of stuff. And just kind of rolled with it from there.
My brand is still evolving because I'm still evolving. So as I evolve, as I level up, as I transform, so does my brand. I got stuck for a while a couple of years ago because I was growing but my brand wasn’t, and I just felt stuck and boxed in. But I finally got past that now.
And how did you do that? What got you through the feeling stuck?
I think more of myself, I realised that I had branded myself into a box. I branded myself in a box that was only a small part of who I am, a small part of my personality. So I felt restricted whenever I wanted to express myself any other kind of way.
So I took a full year off in 2019 just to get an alignment, get clarity on what I wanted to do. Not what I “should” be doing or how I “should” be branding myself, but what I actually wanted to do, what I wanted to stand for. And when I wanted to post, what that looked like for me. And here we have it.
“My brand is still evolving because I'm still evolving.”
And now you’ve come back with a vengeance!
I’m back with a vengeance! I’ve been King Moe for years and years and years and years, but I had a whole other page just for King Moe with her shit, because I didn't think my audience was ready for King Moe. And I had been cautioned against showing King Moe to my audience by a coach. She actually cautioned me. And it didn't sound right, it didn't feel right. And I straddled the fence with that for a while.
And then I remember thinking, “I'm not about to be two people. I just have to be myself.” And so I incorporated King Moe into my branding and things just took off from there. So being more of myself actually helped me reach more people.
“I'm not about to be two people. I just have to be myself.”
I love that so much. And I love that that's what's obviously given you more confidence in moving your business forward, but I'm sure it's also brought in more people who just want to work with you as you are.
Most definitely. That connection is there.
So when people worked with me one-on-one, before I let all that other stuff go, they got me but they were always kind of surprised to get me versus what I would put out online. So if you worked with me one-on-one you got all of King Moe and they would just love it. But online, it was very polished, very proper, very, not me. I'm only polished and proper like this much of the time.
You want that brand experience to be consistent, right?
And how can they? How can you be consistent if you're only being yourself part of the time and pretending the rest of the time?
I’m sure it was, like you said, surprising for people to see you online and then meet you in person and realise these are completely different people.
But now it's like, “oh, well I know who King Moe is. I've seen all of that online and I love it. And I just want more of it in person!”
And the crazy thing was, I was doing the opposite thing that I was telling my clients for years. I told my client, “just be all of yourself. I want to put all of you, all of your emotions, all these things!” But, just like a lot of people that are in the service industry, what do you do for your clients, you don't necessarily do for yourself. So that was my issue. So finally, I got in alignment with myself and adopted the same things I have been teaching my clients for years.
You’ve gotta practice what you preach!
That part, that part. It has been, it's worked out amazingly, like amazing.
“How can you be consistent if you're only being yourself part of the time?”
On your website at the moment you describe yourself as a “plant mother, light manipulator, untamed vibe feeler, big laugher and motivational be-er”, which is amazing. So how long have you kind of been living and owning all of who you are, and how have you been sort of building that reputation as King Moe?
Fully owning it in my brain, in my real life forever. Online and in my space for two years. Two solid years. But I took a full year off last year, and really incorporating it into what I do and my messaging and the visuals really started in 2020. Because, like I said, I had a whole other page. A lot of my clients followed me over there too, but it wasn't my business page. So basically I just merged the two. I actually deleted that page and merged the two. And even my following, engagement, everything has just grown organically ever since.
It just shows what happens when you do fully own who you are.
Step into you. That's where the magic really is. So that's what I teach my students in my course. And of course that's what I still teach my clients: that is where the magic is. That's what people want to connect with.
“Step into you. That's where the magic really is.”
For sure. So tell me a little bit about your course. So you said that that started because of COVID and everyone jumping online. Obviously you can't do photo shoots right now. So tell me a bit about the course and where that came from and how it's going.
Well, I have been wanting to transition into the online space for years, I just didn't know how to do it. And I was only thinking like “I'm a branding photographer, I'm a makeup artist,” those were the only two lanes I gave myself. Like totally limiting myself. Totally limiting my opportunities. I didn't even realise it. So when COVID hit, it was actually a blessing in disguise. Not to take anything away from all the tragedy and all the loss. But me personally, it was my time to be in the incubator. I was like back in an incubator because I had already planned to come back in 2020 and just go hard for 2020 – little did I know?
So the first thing I did – I couldn't even work with my clients, so I actually reached out to clients and I started a Facebook group to help them with little projects that they were working on. Since I couldn't photograph them, I could give them tips and tools on how to do some stuff there, until, you know, I was able to shoot again. So that basically opened the door for me.
That was my first course, even though it wasn't a course. It was just a Facebook group, but I was teaching. I was teaching what I knew and I'm helping them do shoots at home. And then I joined the group that I met you in, the We Should All Be Millionaires group. And there was a challenge in July. It was a 10K in 10 days challenge and I participated in the challenge.
So I polled the group to see – I'm like, “I don't know what to do. This will be my first official course.” And it was like 300 responses! I mean, I'm exaggerating, but there were so many responses. I was like, “I'm a makeup artist, I’m a photographer, I'm a growth guide, what could I offer?” And somebody posted, “if you can help me take a better picture of myself, I would love you” or something along those lines. That got me to thinking. And here I am – I would take selfies just to take selfies. Like my best friend has been teasing me for years because I'm always taking selfies. So I perfected the art of taking selfies and as a photographer and a makeup artist, with like angles and things like that. I mean, it's a no brainer. So I created the course.
I actually sold the idea. I didn't even have the course created when I launched it. I sold the idea and I filled in all the gaps when the course actually launched. And when I tell you this thing grew wings and feet and everything else. It just went crazy. I had people in my course from all over the world, all over the world. My first official course, and I'm just riding this wave. I'm teaching these women. I'm seeing them glow up and gain confidence and put themselves out there and step into their visibility and their voice. It is life changing. That is why it's a movement. And so much more than a selfie. I tell everybody it's not about being vain. It's not about like showing out, it's about showing up. Showing up for you, showing up for your community, showing up for your business, your brand, like those types of things. And the transformation that I saw in the women in my group left me in tears for multiple days. Like tears, like them good cry.
It's amazing. It's also a way for me to continue to live my mission just in a different way. Amplifying voices and beauties and brands and helping women take ownership and really step into their power. Like that's my thing, stepping into their power and giving them permission to be all of themselves when the world tells them not to be. Like, that's what I'm here for.
I love it. And amazing that that's what you were doing anyway. That was what you were doing with your brand photography, right? But now you're doing the same thing, but with a completely different product or service. I think that's what’s so amazing about when we know what our purpose is in life and what we're trying to do. It doesn't matter how we do that or what product or service we do. It just comes through in everything that we're going to do.
Yeah, it does. And that's the thing, like I told somebody in my course, I'm like, “no matter what I do, I get the same reaction and the same results.” Because like you said, it comes through in everything that I do. I'm always here for the woman. I'm always here to help her with her voice, to help her find her voice and her visibility. Like, that's just, this is who I am. I've always been this way since the top.
Yeah, and you always will be, right? I'm sure if you have the course or you do another program or you completely change what you're doing it'll still be about that same mission.
That'll be the thread that connects everything.
So how has that transition been on your end from being a brand photographer, to being now a course creator, and how has that affected your brand and how that’s growing?
It has helped me gain clarity and momentum all at the same time. It has been phenomenal for me, this experience. This all happened since July and I'm already on my second launch. I'm creating courses and creating community. So it's been an amazing experience for me personally and business wise. I'm in the States, so we have social distancing so I can still shoot and style the shoots and just shoot from a distance. But what I love about being a course creator and having content online is I can be anywhere in the world. I don't have to be in one place. So with that said, I decided on a whim to move to Mexico for almost two months, starting in November. So I can be anywhere in the world and still make money and still help and still serve. I'm not location dependent anymore. That has been a goal of mine forever. And now it's here.
You said that this course launch all came out of doing the challenge in We Should All Be Millionaires. Obviously that's kickstarted so much for you. So what are your thoughts on creative communities and how that's helped you where you are now?
I will say this. I didn't have community for probably the first couple of years of my entrepreneurial journey. And I've been full-time self-employed for seven years now. Seven years. I did not have community in the beginning, I was completely a solopreneur.
When community got introduced into my life, things just changed. Things opened up. It was like I had someone to bounce ideas off of. I had someone that was in this with me. I had someone that I could get inspiration and knowledge from.
My first day in the group that we're in, was life-changing for me. I saw people making fifty to a hundred thousand dollars a month! Not to say that, I didn't know that was possible, I didn't know it was that accessible, like that close, you know? And them telling us how they did it. So it's not just a matter of, you know, creating the community and creating the connections, it’s also experiencing the mindset shift. I have been working on mindset for years and years and years, but it's a different thing to be in that environment, to be immersed in it. You just grow, you just grow.
So I actually did a lot of stories on Instagram and I was like, “look, if you're an entrepreneur – you don't even have to be an entrepreneur – if you’re a human, you need that like-minded connection. Those people that pour into you and pull out and vice versa.” And that's what I have found. And it's just been almost magical. It's just been magical. It was the right time, the right group, the right people. And I'm so grateful for it.
Well people say that you become like the five people who are closest around you, right? And that's what I found about We Should All Be Millionaires. When I joined, I was like, “I will pay any amount of money just to be around people who know and believe that making a million dollars a month – which Rachel did – is possible.” Just to be around those people.
Yeah, because when I speak my big dreams to some people I've had to learn that everybody doesn't get to hear my dreams. Because sometimes when I speak my big dreams to people, it can come off selfish or it can come off as indulgent. It comes off all different ways, depending on where that person is in their journey. In this group, there's never a problem with that.
In fact, they'll probably encourage you to dream bigger!
Even bigger! Even bigger! That’s how I ended up in Mexico! I’ve seen these ladies work from all over the world and travel and work. I'm like, I’ve been wanting to do this for years and never been able to pull the plug, never really been in a position to do so. And within a couple of months, I’m leaving!! I’m doing the same thing?
Heck yes. It's not only possible, it’s doable and going to happen.
“When community got introduced into my life, things just changed.”
So you are obviously a kind of branding expert yourself. You have built your own brands, but you also help women to build their brands, and like you said, step into their power through photography. Whether that's you doing that photography or teaching them how to do it themselves. So why do you think that branding is so important?
So for me, branding is important before we get to the visual part. It's just important because it's the vibe, it's the feel. And as my strategy coach says, “it’s what people say about you when you're not around, when you're not controlling the narrative.” So to me, it's important to not only put that out there to show that, to paint that picture for people – especially if you're newer on the scene or if you're pivoting or rebranding or whatever – it's really important to get your messaging out there in an authentic way (We're not doing the should’s, we're not doing the fake stuff, we're not doing the patriarchal stuff) that can connect you with your audience, with your community, and with potential clients. Because you started your business because it was your passion and it's your purpose, but you also want to monetize it and make some money. So people need to see you, they need to know your services and what you offer.
I think sometimes the word brand gets used so much, maybe a little too much, but it's still very important and very valuable, how you want to present yourself. And of course I encourage you to show up with as much of yourself as possible.
“You started your business because it was your passion and it's your purpose, but you also want to monetize it and make some money.”
And so how do you feel about photography as a part of that? Brand photography – why is that so important?
To me, photography is super important because it connects your voice with the visuals. To me, that is the magic combination: your visuals and your voice. You can have all of the copywriting, you can have all the awesome products, but if your photography is trash, that's what people are going to equate your brand to.
So if I were you I would invest in a dedicated personal branding photographer. Someone that maybe shoots weddings and children and families and events probably isn’t going to be the person to bring your brand vision to life. Now they could be, but more than likely, I feel like you should hire someone that that's their specialty, that that is what they do. That's the lane that they own.
Yeah, definitely. You want an expert who can, like you said, look into what your voice is and the story you're trying to tell and who your audience is and all those things.
Yep, who your audience is and just your vibe in general. Like for me, I like to get a vibe from my clients. I like to recreate those vibes in the stories that we shoot for their photo shoot, because that way, when it's time to post and have a caption and when it's time to put it on their website, it's them. So there's nothing forced or fake about it because it's them.
I'm a massive believer in that pictures are worth a thousand words, right?
Especially in today's society, when like literally a visual can stop somebody in their tracks, or just make somebody keep scrolling. So to me now it is worth more than a thousand words in 2020.
Yeah definitely. People have the shortest attention spans of all time. And so they might not read all the copy on your website, but they might and probably will see those pictures.
They see those pictures. And that's the first thing that grabs them, that big hero image of you.
That’s the one!
A shero image I should say!!
Okay so tell me a little bit about what the best part for you has been about branding your passion and turning the thing you love into a business.
The best part for me is the energy exchange with my clients and the people that I get to interact with and the people that I've gotten to meet over the years. Like that part for me, it’s emotional, there’s a connection there and I don't know, it just feels good. It's hard to describe the satisfaction in what I do. There's this beautiful dance that I do with my clients, whether they're someone that's in my course or someone that's in front of me and I got my camera. There's just this beautiful dance. And it just feels good to know that what I'm doing is contributing to this person's success, their confidence, their life. I don't know. It does something good for my soul and my ego. It just feels really, really good.
And the other thing is having my freedom and flexibility to live life on my own terms and do what I want to do. Like that part. Being able to hire my clients. Like if someone, the energy is off, I'm probably not a good fit, but I got somebody else for you. Like that kinda thing: getting to call my own shots, getting to create my own happiness, just that freedom and that flexibility and that flow.
Like, I don't know if I can ever go back and work for somebody again. Not to say, you know, things happen, you know maybe I would have to go back, but having this level of freedom and flexibility to just be as creative as I want to be and what I want to bring to the world and how I want to serve in this world. Like you can't put a price tag on that.
No. I mean, imagine if you had to go through so much hierarchy and stuff to make your course happen! It might not have ever happened. But you have the freedom. You just said, “I want to do this and I'm going to make it happen.” And here it is.
That's freedom. That freedom that, as a free bird – I consider myself a free spirit, a free bird – like I craved that. I required that and this provides it.
If you could give some advice to other creatives who are thinking about branding their own passion, taking their hobby and turning it into something, and monetizing that, what would your advice be?
My number one piece of advice is do it in a way that feels good to you. Fuck how it's been done before. Period.
We don’t have to make it hard, we make it hard.
Yeah. Definitely. It definitely gets over-complicated and distracting and tempting to do it other ways. No, just do what you want to do and stick to that. I love it.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me. This has been amazing and so much fun, and I just love everything about what you're, what you're doing and how you transitioned. And I can't wait to see how much your course grows even more. It’s already grown so much.
Me too. Like, this is me living my purpose and my passion and it almost brings me to tears daily.
Download the Ultimate Branding Checklist!
I won’t spam you. Unsubscribe anytime.
Take the Stop Dreaming, Start Doing Challenge!
I won’t spam you. Unsubscribe anytime.
Download the go-to guide to logo formats
I won’t spam you. Unsubscribe anytime.
Debbie Millman on rejection, bravery, and the power of small, slow steps.