Erica Bishaf Strategy/Market Research Consultant
After starting a family Erica quit her high paying corporate job to strike out on her own. Learn how she created a successful strategy and market research consultancy.
What's your background and what type of services do you offer to clients?
My background is in market research and my undergraduate degree was in social psychology. I always thought that I'd go the PhD route, but a turn of events landed me right in the middle of corporate America. The grad student with whom I worked on various research projects with sent my resume to Kraft Foods and I was offered an internship. While interning at Kraft, I helped to launch Easy Mac and realized that money can be made in research as opposed to the life of an academic. From there I had roles at Nielsen, Kraft (again), MillerCoors, Nestle USA and Kimberly-Clark.
In each role, I gained different types of experience. I worked 15 years in shopper & retailer insights, consumer insights and innovation both domestically and globally. In 2015 after my daughter was born, I was confronted with a requirement to travel 50% of the time. I was not on board with that plan, so I decided to go off on my own and start my own strategy and market research consultancy with a focus on small to medium sized businesses and start-ups.
My consultancy offers custom work for my clients. I've worked on brand positioning development, attitudes & usage understanding, experience enhancement for participants at trade shows and exhibitions, due diligence work for private equity firms, strategic growth work for businesses in their infancy and segmentations. Additionally, I am a moderator, so I'll conduct online and in person IDI/group conversations.
What motivated you to start your freelance career?
Besides the birth of my daughter, there were several people in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry who mentioned to me that if I ever went off on my own, they would hire me. That was enough to support the leap of faith I took when I quit my high paying corporate job for the unknown. I have no regrets and thankfully, business has been booming.
How do you find and attract clients?
That's a funny one. I've only prospected one client and I won them! I saw them pitch their product on Shark Tank and I knew that I wanted to work with them. Other than that, it has all been word of mouth. If I had to prospect, I'd probably contact all of my favorites on Shark Tank as well as reach out to my LinkedIn network.
What advice would you offer other freelancers that are just starting out?
Give yourself a year before fretting. I had a fantastic first quarter when I started and then nothing. Nothing as a freelancer is terrifying. Cash flow becomes a source of stress. I received a call from a client mid-summer and they provided me with enough business to provide enough income for the rest of the year. If I had given up, then I would have missed out on other opportunities.
I recommend having a strong network and enough experience to be credible prior to going on off your own. Although I often wish that I had started my consultancy earlier, I learned a lot from all of my roles. You need to have a tough personality to be an independent. Your clients may think you are a genius or hate your work. Just know and always feel confident that you provided the right solution to the business issue.
Also, make strategic partners. I have a designer who helps me with infographics and I have a partner who will help me with overflow. I rarely say no to a client even if I’m busy. Remember, if you say no…they will find someone else. Good Luck!
Where can we go to find out more about you and your business?
I don't have a professional website although I know that I need one. You can check out my LinkedIn page.