How to Build Your Own Brand and Secure Your Bag During the Coronavirus Crisis

The global COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly upended the U.S. economy and disrupted the lives of millions of people around the world. Most states have issued mandatory stay-at-home orders, while non-essential businesses have been closed down by local governments and Americans are being urged to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. For many, this is a moment of anxiety and uncertainty. For others, however, there’s a silver lining. Even in the wake of mass devastation and disruption, the unprecedented crisis, perhaps, is a moment to reset, recharge, and innovate.


According to the co-founders of the Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) Retreat, an annual conference that attracts thousands of millennial entrepreneurs and creatives of color during Memorial Day weekend, now is the time for brands to recalibrate and flex their creative muscles.

Rather than canceling the retreat, which was scheduled to take place in Miami next month, the BYOB Retreat has been rescheduled for August 15-16. However, the team is giving guests the option to transfer their tickets to 2021.

“The excitement is still very high,” said Redell Spinks, co-founder of BYOB Live. “With the pandemic going on, everyone is still looking for opportunities to travel and engage with others, but be cautious,” he added. “The virus, though it is spreading across the country, I think people are still excited about the opportunity to hopefully have this retreat take place.”

Kela Walker and Karen Civil at the 2019 BYOB Retreat

Although many businesses have been forced to pivot, new challenges will inevitably spark new solutions. As a result, the BYOB team says now is the time to create new ways to deliver your message, connect with your audience, and generate income.

Here are some other ways business owners, bloggers, and influencers can build their brand and navigate during this time of uncertainty.

Build Your Brand

Spinks advises people to use downtime to work on passion projects. “While we do have this idle time, I’ve been encouraging people to just work on your craft,” he said. “Everything from refining skillsets to saving money to pouring into other people.”

He also emphasized the importance of “keeping your lines of communication open” so that “when we do breakthrough this pandemic, your relationships are still there with potential opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Nguyen, the co-founder and face of BYOB Live, says the pandemic has emphasized the need to create forward-thinking businesses and brands.

“In the agency world, especially for web and developers, there’s a saying now “mobile-first” is how you build things. Of course, you still do it for desktop and such, but the idea is the future is mobile and you must create for mobile-first because the trend is obviously there.”

“The most important skillset at this point is your mindset, strategy, and creativity. When nothing else works, that’s your God-given talent.”

Andrew Nguyen

Stay Creative

Nguyen admits that building a brand in the midst of a pandemic is “tough because this situation is not normal and was not easily predictable.” However, on the other hand, “in every situation or problem there is an opportunity or solution,” says the Hampton University grad. “It will require much deeper thinking, deeper strategy, deeper understanding of new human behaviors and lifestyles.”

The former DJ-turned-marketing guru continued, saying the coronavirus is also a test of character. “This is where of lot of tried and true entrepreneurs are really going to be tested, but those tests reveal the power of your leadership,” he said. “The most important skillset at this point is your mindset, strategy, and creativity. When nothing else works, that’s your God-given talent.”

Get Your Business in Order

Nguyen suggests that entrepreneurs use this time to “take a step back to evaluate how your business is being affected by the situation [while] looking at what are possible ways [to] address some of the pain points that we’re incurring now,” he said. “There are a lot of different opportunities to reflect on your business process, your system as a whole end-to-end, and how you can mitigate certain pain points.”

He added, “Make sure that all of your things are in order first, whether it’s personal, whether it’s cash flow, whether it’s team, whether it’s cutting costs.”

build your own brand
2019 BYOB Retreat

Think Long Term

Rather than rushing to pump out content, Nguyen says now is the time to observe and assess the market and use that intel to plan and execute a long-term plan to stay in business.

“[It’s about] not always having to be the first to execute, but be the best,” he said. “That requires you to make sure all your ducks are in a row [and] make sure you know what the market is doing,” he continued. “Don’t rush, make a plan. Execute when you’re really, really ready to execute.”

Be Sensitive

There is no denying that COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as the virus continues to spread and fatality rates increase. Hence, he says, be mindful of creating content that is sensitive to the current climate. You can tell a story, “but create captions that are in tune with what people are feeling,” said Nguyen, a former customer management senior associate at Pepsi.

“It’s all in how you continue to produce and share,” he said. “Make sure that people are aware that you’re doing your job, but you know what’s going on in the world.”

2019 BYOB Retreat

Expect the Best, But Plan for the Worse

He went on to stress that preparation is key in good business execution.

“For me, I see Plan B, C, D all the way through Z,” he said. “I’ve never even come into any situation saying, ‘hey, look, plan A is the only option.’”

He continued, “Nobody wants to end up in a situation where…you canceled and you don’t even have a plan on how we’re going to refund people,” he said. “There needs to just be contingency plans for everything” or else you run the risk of  jeopardizing “the brand trust that the business built over the past two, three, four years.”

He also advised that entrepreneurs include a clause in contracts that protects their assets and liabilities in the case of a crisis. For example, he pointed to the Wimbledon tennis championship, which will receive a $141 million pandemic insurance payout since they canceled their 2020 event. According to Yahoo, the organization purchased pandemic insurance following the 2002 SARS outbreak and has been paying a $2 million pandemic premium every year.

“We all have different types of insurances, some mandatory some not so much, but times like this definitely make you think deeper in terms of what may or may not happen in the future. It takes a lot of discernment and faith to know how to operate a business for the future.”

Diversify Your Revenue Streams

One of the biggest business lessons learned from the pandemic is the importance of diversifying your revenue streams by creating different arms in your company, says Nguyen. “This is truly a time when diversifying will help you stay afloat more, especially in several different streams because while one might take a hit, the others are still sustaining if done correctly.”

He continued, “I really think companies — especially those such as event companies — need linear business streams that coincide with their business model and expertise. It doesn’t require lots of extra work or resources to put together because the bulk of the IP is there, however it’s an obvious business stream that can help grow and diversify the bottom line. This could mean having an educational approach, digital component, various partnerships, and joint ventures.”