Sammi Bivens had no interest in being an entrepreneur.
Although the adopted young visionary grew up in Southern Arkansas with a plan to build a life beyond her surroundings, she didn’t see that happening while running a company of her own. What she didn’t realize was even from an early age, she’d already possessed the grit entrepreneurs need to drive success.
Raised by a relative due to challenges her birth parents faced shortly after her birth, Bivens went on to become the first to attend college in her family, despite having virtually no support. Nonetheless, she managed to graduate in 2009 from the University of Arkansas Little Rock while holding down a full-time job.
With her new Bachelor’s Degree in tow, Sammi set her sights on securing a great marketing job and climbing the corporate ladder but, like most millennials entering the job market during the Great Recession, the job offers just weren’t coming.
“I thought employers were going to be knocking down my door because I’d proven myself in school, but I was definitely in for a reality check,” Bivens shared with Essence.
Unable to find a job in her field, Bivens pivoted and launched Tainted Rose, a unique jewelry and apparel line.
The success was instant thanks to her marketing and branding know-how.
“I didn’t want to start a business,” Bivens admitted. “But with the encouragement of my cousin who’d already seen success as an entrepreneur, I leaned into it and it really paid off quickly because I knew what to do to establish myself as a polished business owner.”
She credited her ability to code websites more than a decade ago as a key attention-getter that impressed customers. She was also an early adopter of social media marketing.
“I knew the power of social media even in 2011, way before large corporations invested in digital branding,” she said. “I gained customers from online interactions very quickly.”
While scaling the business, she sharpened her business acumen and soon started to share what she learned on her journey with other building entrepreneurs.
“People started asking me about start-up costs, branding, marketing and growth plans,” Bivens said. “From there, my latest business, Digital Marketing Maven & Associates, was launched.”
A full-service digital marketing and business development hub for business owners aiming to elevate their visibility, Digital Marketing Maven intuitively speaks the same language as their clients because they’ve been there.
“My background in marketing and building a business from the ground up gives me a competitive advantage, for sure,” she said. “I’ve been there.”
After enjoying immense success (since inception, Digital Marketing Maven has never spent advertising dollars due to their stellar word-of-mouth marketing from happy clients)
Bivens decided to try her hand at a national small business contest while looking through old emails.
“I saw that UPS was holding a competition for small business owners to receive a cash prize and I said ‘why not?’ ”
The 2021 Small Biz Challenge virtual studio event, led by TV host and chef Carla Hall will lead finalists through business challenges to determine who will walk away $25,000 richer and be featured in Inc. Magazine.
Her confidence paid off. She was named a finalist earlier this month and will go on to compete with other entrepreneurs for the top prize. The final winner will be announced on July 29.
The contest is described on the UPS website as an opportunity for Carla and UPS representatives to guide entrepreneurs through a gauntlet of challenges, testing every aspect of their business-ownership skills – from financial strategy to interpersonal communication and more. The small business owner who best demonstrates to Carla their ability to adapt, pivot, and proves themselves unstoppable will be crowned the winner.
The UPS executive team was impressed with her story of agility and perseverance, not to mention her clients are pure brand evangelists.
“My challenging upbringing has taught me the importance of believing in myself and sticking close to a mission,” she shared. “I also learned the healing power of lifting others as I rise. Create your own opportunities. I’ve been told no so many times but if I can do it, you can too. Go out there, and make it happen.”