The Girl Behind The Mouse
When I started City Mouse Media, I had no idea what I wanted it to become. That sounds like an awful way to start a business, but I like to take a freestyle approach to things. I was ready for it to be a real trial-and-error process, and a steep learning curve. And boy, has it lived up to my expectations so far. The pandemic made it particularly difficult to know where on earth the Mouse was heading – my expertise, experience and passion are all in the theatre industry, and the industry was shut down over a year. All I knew was that I liked writing, and performing – disciplines that the government was busy labelling as ‘unviable’.
So, I started making my little brand. I loved the vibe the name gave off, but I just couldn’t quite pinpoint what that vibe was. I thought the logo was killer, but what did it stand for? Time would tell. Plans are overrated, especially in 2021.
One thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want to show my face. There’s nothing wrong with my face – I actually think it’s quite nice. But, I didn’t know what City Mouse Media was yet, and so I didn’t want the brand to become synonymous with who I was as a person, y’know? I wanted it to be its own entity. It all made sense in my head. The case was closed: I wouldn’t show my face at all.
But, as with so many things in business, especially new business, my decision wasn’t founded on any facts. The real culprit behind my decision to remain anonymous was my imposter syndrome. That ol’ serial criminal.
Ultimately, I was insecure about being a young, female, solo entrepreneur. Even though it would be nice to imagine people’s prejudices would never get in the way of securing clients, I was worried that my face alone would automatically brand the business as ‘too inexperienced’. My imposter syndrome was a Canary-Wharf-working, espresso-drinking, blue-shirt wearing business wanker, and he was laughing me out of the office before I’d even put my bag down.
So, off City Mouse Media went into the big wide world, represented by a geometric mouse logo and expressed in collective pronouns. ‘We do the words for you’, was the slogan that boasted the business’s potential. No one needed to know the we was just a me. No one needed to know the office was just my bedroom. Ultimately, City Mouse Media will grow into a company of many (one day), and so pretending there was a team behind the work already didn’t seem totally out of place. But it wasn’t genuine.
As a business owner, I was playing a character I hadn’t even created yet. I didn’t know what City Mouse Media was, so who was I pretending to be? My imposter syndrome had made a vicious cycle, the clever bastard; I would never show my face when I was this inexperienced, and now I was trying to pretend to be a team of people who didn’t even exist – I was an undeniable fraud! And even though I was doing my best to run my business, this fact made me feel pretty crap.
Sometimes it takes a kick up the arse to get you out of your comfort zone. Instagram provided just such a kick.
When Reels overtook photo content as an engagement strategy, I was shaken. What was I supposed to do now? I couldn’t dance around in front of the camera. The answer, it transpired, was nothing. I did absolutely fuck-all for my social media for a month. I didn’t post, I didn’t create, I didn’t connect with others. I just froze. And then, slowly, I thawed, and gave myself a pep talk.
You know the real irony? (Reel irony, haha.) I’m a drama student. I’ve studied acting and performance my whole life. If I’m qualified to do anything, it’s show up on camera and act like I own the screen. So my imposter syndrome relented, slowly. I was out of excuses – I might not like it, but reels was going to be my forte, and my brand was going to have my face all over it.
What I didn’t expect was the burst of motivation making reels gave me. Good things happened when I was shoved out of my comfort zone – I didn’t go viral or suddenly draw in more clients, but my imposter syndrome quietened down, finally. Why shouldn’t I be the face of my brand? It’s my face. It’s my brand. And, given that I don’t totally know where City Mouse is going in the long-term anyway, I can do whatever the hell I want.
It was a limitation no one had imposed except myself, and yet battering it down was the most freeing feeling I’d had since launching the business back in February. And, it turns out I’m a massive camera-whore. I hope you’re all prepared to see my face everywhere now.
I suppose the lesson here is obvious. Don’t be the person who tells yourself no. Be vigilant about your imposter syndrome, and know that it is a liar. Success and growth lie outside of your comfort zone, and any other nuggets of clichéd wisdom you can think of. If I can leave you with one thought, it’s that your business is yours. Be sure to make the most of that.