Positioning Your Business with Tara McMullin

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We asked some of our Paper Camp alumni who joined us at Business Camp to provide recaps and highlights from some of their favorite conference sessions.  Debbie Lee of penelope’s press jumped on board with her top takeaways from Tara McMullin’s session, Perception is Reality.  We love Debbie’s recap, which dives deep into her takeaways, as well as actionable items to incorporate into your business.  Thanks Debbie!

Top Takeaways from Tara McMullin

By Debbie Lee

A few weeks ago I had a little getaway to Manhattan Beach, California for Tradeshow Bootcamp’s first ever Business Camp.  How is this a “getaway” when it’s a business function? When I leave the kids/husband, household chores, and errands behind to be surrounded by, converse with, and be inspired by like-minded entrepreneurs that want to take their businesses to the next level, that’s a getaway!!

When I first started my business nearly six years ago, I read many blog posts, interviews, and words of advice that filled the interweb from business strategist, Tara McMullin.  So when I was asked to provide a recap of the first exceptional speaker of the day, I couldn’t be more excited to hear Tara speak in person and later incorporate the takeaways into my own business.


Here are my top takeaways from Tara Gentile:

1.  Perception is reality — Tara opened up with the narrative of her own business and how she found herself at a business plateau– working harder and harder and either getting the same or less in return.  According to Tara, it’s at this plateau that many business burn out. She continued to talk about her career and it was while she was in her perception death spiral that she realized that she was keeping herself from where her business could be.  Your business must match the way your customers perceive it. You must believe your own hype, because perception is reality, and Tara was denying her own reality. You may think that your business is small, that you are just a small solo entrepreneur with a small business, chugging away, doing the daily grind, but if you think your business is small then you will make decisions to keep your business small.  Meanwhile, your customers think you are big, that your business is awesome, and that YOU are awesome. You need to change your mindset and believe in the perception of your own reality.

2.  Don’t make decisions for the business you have, make decisions for the business you want to have — I found myself furiously writing quotes from Tara, such as “make decisions for the business your customers want to buy from” and “the decisions you make create the business you want now, not later…”  You must have a set strategy of where what you want for your business and in doing so, every decision you make, from product offerings to price to website design, will all come more easily and will bring you closer to the business you want to have.

3.  The decisions you make position your business for success —  Positioning is knowing the difference between the different brands within your industry, “it is the set of decisions you make to create the perception of the business you want.”  Tara gave the example of Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and Nordstrom– making note of how each of these brands are different and that the decisions made for each brand is intentional and based on the position the company wants to hold in the market. “Every single decision made for your business needs to be intentional, you must be pro-active and not reactive”, says Tara.

4.  Follow these 4 steps to position your business for success

step 1.  Define the market:  Markets are conversations. Listen to the conversations taking place and decide which conversations you want your business to be part of.  Examine the different brands within your market, from the low end to the high end. Where does your business fit along the spectrum? Think about how your customers perceive your business and what kind of words they would use to describe your business and its position in the market.  Tara asks, “is the way others perceive your business in line with how you’d like your business to be perceived?”

step 2.  Merchandise for the future:  “Ruthlessly audit the way you present your products and how it represents your business… be ruthless, because your customers or potential customers are ruthless..”  Make intentional, proactive decisions– from you website design/layout, your wholesale catalog, tradeshow displays, product packaging, etc.– all of the decisions you make regarding your business tell a story… show your customers this story through thoughtful, intentional merchandising.

step 3.  Select complementary partners:  Choose wisely who you associate your business with.  Who you partner with reveals a lot about your business.  For myself, I think about this all the time for my business, from which stores I accept to carry my line of goods to who I “like”,  follow, and converse with on social media.

step 4.  Price to tell the right story:  “How you set up your entire business dictates price”– this reminds me of the old adage, ‘ you get what you pay for’.  For example, when you enter a high end store, you expect everything from the product, to customer service, and packaging to be line with the price of a high end product…. conversely the same goes with a low end store and product.


There you have it, so many good takeaways to think about, use to evaluate with, and incorporate in your business!  Tara said that when she changed her mindset, started thinking big, and made bigger promises, that is when she saw a 130% growth in revenue. I had a lot of “a-ha” moments throughout Tara’s talk and since returning from Business Camp, I’ve hit the ground running!  Business Camp was an incredible day packed with camaraderie, inspirational stories, and a great launching pad to take my business to the next level! Thank you Proof to Product!

Debbie Lee, Owner of  penelope’s press

Debbie Lee, Owner of penelope’s press


About Debbie

Debbie Lee is the proprietress of penelope’s press, a letterpress boutique based in woodridge, illinois. penelope’s press’ signature style fuses modern and classic using simple design, clean typography, and hand drawn illustrations.

Find Debbie at these social media accounts:



Connect with Katie Hunt

Katie Hunt is a business strategist, podcaster, mentor and mama to four. She helps product based businesses build profitable, sustainable companies through her conferences, courses and coaching programs.

Website: prooftoproduct.com  |   Instagram: @prooftoproduct

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