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Personal Elevation™ Close-Up: What Shelley Sharkey Can Teach You About the Correlation Between Your Personal Brand and Your Businesses Brand 

It has been four years since I opened my email and read that first message from Shelly Sharkey. While I was familiar with her reputation as the owner of a local women’s gym, Miss Fit, we had never had the opportunity to meet. But on June 13, 2013, she reached out to introduce herself, let me know who had referred her and let me know her intention with possibly working together, “I'd really like MissFIT to grow and be recognized as a high-quality service brand. I know in order for that to happen, I also need to reflect that image.”

Pause for a moment.

Please go back and reread that last line because Shelly understood from day one, what so many women fail to recognize. There is an absolute direct correlation between her personal brand and her organizations brand. And, she was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they were both in alignment.

From the moment, I walked into her facility and we began our bi-weekly brand strategy sessions, I was blown away. Shelly embodied what it meant to be Undeniably Fierce. She was smart. Savvy. In control. She was also young. But her youth hadn’t gotten in the way from her climbing the ranks of a gym in which she worked as the manager and then turning around to buy it.

She was adamant about investing in herself and took classes and worked with people who helped her elevate her skill-set in the gym and in the office. But here’s the thing. Like so many Boss women, Shelly couldn’t see how ridiculously fierce she was. She was blind to it. But she was adamant about helping her brand become a high-quality service brand.

A few years ago, I heard someone say that you can’t compare someone else’s front stage to your back stage. Meaning that most people know how to show you only what they want you to see—the good stuff and you are never privy to the hot mess behind the curtains.

For the past four years, most people had no idea that the beautifully talented trainer on the stage was dealing with a crazy landlord, juggling staff personalities, and trying to make payroll. She paid the price of being the boss. Yet, she persisted.

Shelly Sharkey knew that she had what it took to provide a health and wellness oasis that her community needed. A place to help motivate, inspire and unleash the potential of every woman who walked through her doors.

But she also knew from early on that to do that, she had to be that. And so that is who she became. Shelley Sharkey is in the process of opening a brand-new studio in the historic Ellicott City,MD. Here is what you can learn from her:

1.     Elevate Your Mindset: There is no way to emphasize the amount of time Shelley puts into making sure that her “mind is right.” The moment I mentioned a book or resource, she was writing it down. She was always open to looking at things a different way and she recognized that it was imperative for her to be cognizant about her thoughts.   

2.     Seek Outside Sources: You are not a “jack of all trades,” so stop acting like one. Make sure that you partner with the right people in your life to fill in those gaps. Shelley fundamentally understood where she was strong and where she was not and she adjusted accordingly. You should do the same.

3.     Keep Your End Goal Front and Center:  The reality is that owning a commercial property is not easy. Shelley had to endure a lot of gut-wrenching nights and situations, but she knew what she was working toward. She preserved and now she is about to debut her dream studio in the heart of what Money magazine rates as one of the “best places to live.” Not bad.

Check her out:




Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or


The Elevated Image: Stop “Playing a Professional.” It’s Time to Become One.

Let’s call her Anna.

On paper, she was Fierce as hell.

Two Ivy-League degrees.

Fortune 500 position.

She spoke two languages.

And had, P&L responsibility. However, no matter how hard she tried, she felt stuck and as if she wasn’t getting the traction that someone with her background and “track record,” should be getting. 

So, she called me.

Within moments of meeting her, I identified the problem. Bottom-line: While there was no disputing the fact that she was Undeniably Fierce.  She didn’t recognize, own or exude it.  

Like many others, Anna believed that being great at her job, having those Ivy league degrees and delivering results was enough. She was wrong. Chris Rock once said, “you can’t really get credit for doing what you are supposed to be doing.” While her “compensation package” paid her handsomely for “being good at her job and delivering results,” it became more than clear that was where “love affair with her ended.”

Anna was frequently overlooked for internal opportunities. She was never asked to “represent” her organization even though she was the undisputed subject matter expert and she had been by-passed twice for a senior level leadership training program.

She wanted to know why this was happening and what she could do to turn it around. Where did we start, with taking control of her personal brand?

Like it or not, you have a personal brand and it is either working for you and moving you closer to your goals or against you, always. For too long, Anna didn’t recognize that her reputation was developed by much more than how she handled her “job requirements,” and this oversight caused her to miss out on a lot.  

My challenge to Anna was to hop over into the driver’s seat and take control of her reputation.

It is also my challenge to you.


Not when you get a promotion. Earn more money. Have more time. Finish the next project. Graduate from school. Get another certification. Hire a coach. Read another book. Or get laid off.


Ask yourself, the following questions:

·      What are you known for?  

·      Where are you headed?

·      What stands between where you are now and where you want to be in the            future?  

·      What do you need to put in place to move your brand forward?

·      Who do you need to have on your team to support you on your journey?

Many of us have been hoodwinked. Led to believe that the right school, company, certification, opportunity is going to change the game for us. But the reality is, the game changes the moment you decide to stop acting like an amateur and playing like a professional.

Note: The photograph, taken by the Undeniably Fierce personal branding photographer Mary Gardella (, is of my client Tracy Prigmore during her recent personal branding photoshoot. Tracy demonstrates what it means to be 100% clear on the image you want to project and then assembling the right team to make it happen.


Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or




Elevating and Expanding Your Image


The Elevated Image: It’s Time Your Image Matched

Your Next Level Aspirations


Three years ago, the Certified Financial Planner Boards and Standards released an incredibly impactful commercial that is still in rotation today. The commercial highlights the transformation of turning a grungy, long-haired DJ into a skilled and trust-worthy financial expert simply by cutting his hair, outfitting him in a professional suit and teaching him in the latest financial mumbo jumbo.

Not only did it work (people were about to entrust him with their money), it also provided a hilarious confirmation of the “power of perception.”

Image. Matters. And yours is no exception.

The halls of Corporate America are lined with talented, educated and skilled professional women who are blind to the fact that their professional growth has been/ or will be stunted because they haven’t learned how to effectively curate their image.

Too many women dismiss “executive presence,” as a soft-skill that is irrelevant or a “waste of time,” for those with the right amount of talent or education. But they couldn’t be more wrong.  As the owner of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevationä agency, I have helped shape the image of countless professional, executive, and entrepreneurial women, during the past nine years. Throughout that time, I have been shocked to discover how many women have never considered “how they show up.”

Unfortunately, they paid their price.

Do you have any idea how many women have been overlooked for an opportunity simply because the “powers that be,” couldn’t “see them in that role?”

How many women have been held back from the next level because they didn’t exude confidence?


How many women were never “put in a position of leadership,” because they didn’t look like the rest of the leaders? Or, any leader for that matter?

Trust me, a lot.

It’s your responsibility to control the controllable—and your personal brand image happens to be, controllable.  

If we were to assess your current situation, how would you answer:

Does your current image, or brand persona exude where you are now, or where you are headed?

 If someone were to “look you up,” before meeting you, does your digital profile convey or communicate that you are a professional or amateur?  

How much time, attention and intention do you/have you put into building and maintain your personal brand?  

Don’t worry if there is room for improvement, you aren’t alone. However, with just a few small tweaks, you can start the process of taking control of your image and making sure you show up in life as Undeniably Fierce as you do on paper:     

1.     Decide How You Want to be Perceived: First things first. Get clear on what image you would like to convey? What three words communicate the “vibe” you want to project? Now consider if those three words align with your current persona? For example: Maybe you want to portray strength, confidence and trustworthy. Make sure that your day-to-day actions align with someone who embodies those attributes? Then, make sure your image does as well. If those are your three words, when you walk into the room people should sense immediately, you are a “force.”

2.     Hire a Professional Photographer: There is no reason that you should ever call yourself a professional, but have an amateur headshot.  None. It doesn’t matter if you went to one of the best colleges in the world, or didn’t go to college at all, the moment you decide to become a professional, you need to act like one. Having your significant other take a headshot of you after church in your Sunday best doesn’t count.  Neither does waiting until you climb the corporate ladder so that you reach a position high enough that your company pays to have your headshots done. It’s your image. Take control of it.

3.     Curate Strategically: Whether you like it or not, we live in a digital age.  I hope you have learned by now what happens to those that don’t learn to adapt. If not, simply go to Google and type in “what happened to Blockbuster?” Successful organizations understand that to survive and thrive they must be agile, creative and strategic. Successful women are no different. Make sure that everything that “represents you,” is in alignment with the image you are trying to convey.

I tell my clients often, “if you don’t define you, others will do it for you and you just might not like what they come up with.”

Note: The beautiful photograph above is Gayle Lomax, a former client and association executive. Like all my clients, she was photographed by the powerhouse personal branding photographer, Mary Gardella:


Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or


Building An Undeniably Fierce Women Crew

The Undeniably Fierce Crew: Three Strategies to Ensure You’re Surrounded by Boss Women Who are Committed to Your Success!   

You attract who you are.


Unfortunately for some women, that concept is really hard to accept. It’s just so much easier to blame external circumstances for your not knowing “the right people,” “getting the right opportunities,” or “being overlooked altogether.”

Think about how many times you have heard women say, “you can’t trust women because they are jealous, conniving, have ulterior motives or are back-stabbing?”

Is that your reality?

While it is true that many of us have had negative experiences with other women in the past, it is virtually impossible for your experiences with other women to be consistently negative if you are coming from the “right place and space” internally.   

Why? Relationships simply mirror who you are.

The reality is, you won’t attract a power posse of women dedicated to your advancement, growth and success by being someone who is jealous, selfish and always “trying to identify an alternative motive.”

Too often, women who aren’t surrounded by supportive women or who have never experienced the power of having “ride or die,” chicks on speed-dial, willing to walk through the fire for them, don’t “get it.” They don’t understand the significance of having someone who can remind them who they are, when they find themselves both personally and professionally in less than desirable circumstances or someone who actively seeks out opportunities to connect them with the right people and sing their praises to anyone who will listen.

The value is immeasurable to both your personal and professional advancement.

Remember last year when Madeline Albright was forced to apologize for her comment, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other?” Well, the context in which she made the statement may have offended some (admonishing women who didn’t support Hillary Clinton in her bid for President), the sentiment behind that statement couldn’t have been more “on point.”   

Women must support other women. Truly, that is the only way we are going to continue to shatter the glass class ceiling. But, beyond reaching the corner offices of corporate, non-profit and government, there is an even more profound reason. Having the right women in your corner, can absolutely cut down on the time it takes for you to step into your Fiercest Self—you’re no longer flying solo without a parachute.

An Undeniable Fierce Crew will:

  •  Hold you accountable
  •  Support you
  •  Challenge you
  •  Cheer for you
  •  Cry with you
  •  Expand your vision and perspective
  •  Admonish you when necessary
  •  Help you elevate your requirements

If you already have your power posse in place, congratulations! Leverage them, support them, love up on them and count yourself blessed because with the right people in your corner, you are Unstoppable.

Just ask, Oprah.

However, if you don’t. You are in the right place because I am about to share three things you can do right now to turn that situation around.

1.    Elevate Your Mindset:  Do you fundamentally believe people are good, or that you need to “watch your back,” because someone is always out to “get you?” Are you someone who finds herself constantly saying, “just my luck,” whenever something unexpected happens? If so, I want you to pause right now. Take a deep breath and consider another perspective. You will never attract positive, creative, motivational, inspirational, supportive, savvy, fierce women into your life, if you aren’t one yourself. Why would they want to be with you? I know, I wouldn’t. So, it’s time to pivot and change that right now. First, think about how much you have to be grateful for? Keep a gratitude journal so you begin to see the world through a different lens. Next, remember how dope you are: List your top 10 life achievements (it can be anything) so you can start to embrace your self-worth. Finally, ask yourself, why would people be better off with your life? Write it down and remember it the next time you meet or reconnect with someone.

2.    Be of Service: From this day forward, focus your attention on how can you serve others? Remember, the sooner you realize that it isn’t always about you, the better. Ask yourself, what have I done today to help advance someone else without waiting for acknowledgment or praise? When was the last time you did something for someone else without them asking? Maybe you noticed that someone you know was struggling to identify a babysitter and you could send them three people to consider in less than five minutes to help alleviate their stress. John Maxwell once said that the first question he asks himself in the morning is, “who am I going to serve today?” The last question he asks himself at night,” is who have I served? The quickest way you will build a rock solid and loyal crew is to be a rock solid and loyal person. Start today.

3.     Be Intentional: A few years ago, I was approached by someone I had admired from afar. She asked to have lunch. When we connected, she mentioned that she knew quite a few Undeniably Fierce women, however, she wanted to set up a “mastermind group,” and asked me to facilitate. She wanted to provide a space for Boss women to share, hold one another accountable and work on their goals. That woman was Audrey Johnson, Senior Program Manager at Kaiser Permanente with Supplier Diversity (seated above in pink and blue) and CEO of AudreyLynnJo, LLC.  The group met monthly for six months. Originally there was supposed to be over six participants, however, it dwindled down to three who were 100% committed. Natalie Brown, a human capital consultant and owner of Natalie Brown Consulting Group, LLC and Sheryl Ellison Ponds, who works in commercial real estate and economic development. They met consistently. They shared their goals, ambitions, and the things that were derailing them. They cheered each other. Connected one another and provided a “soft place to land.”  I worked with them for six months in an official capacity. However, they have remained together and I had the honor to be invited to return to work with them last month. Together this crew has traveled to Hawaii (two years ago). Palm Springs the next. During the past three years, the three of them have had a myriad of personal and professional successes along the way, proving how beneficial it is to have the right women in your corner.

Who do you have in your corner helping you advance your goals, ideas and agenda? If you haven’t yet assembled your Power Posse, check out details about how to get started on the blog: 


Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or

If The Solution To Your Biggest Problem Were Behind This Door, Would You Open It?

I’ll bet you probably said “yes.” Or, “of course, I would.” When in fact, it may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Think for a moment about what is standing in the way of you elevating your personal brand, increasing your visibility and playing a much bigger game, right now? Why haven’t you done anything about it—even though you know exactly what needs to be done?

Why haven’t you “opened” the door?

What is the reason that you feel the need to watch another video, take another course, read another book, connect with another industry expert…only to gather all of that information, and do nothing?

Elevating your game is a scary proposition for a lot of people. You feel vulnerable. What I want to do is challenge you to walk toward that scary door. The reality is, there IS a great big door standing in front of you and it is called Personal Elevation. All of your growth, successes, and triumphs are on the other side of it. Until you get the courage to walk up to it, put your hand on the handle and twist it open, you will never be able to escape the curiosity of not knowing “what if?”

Go ahead…walk through it.  

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the Founder of The Personal Elevation Lab, a division of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation Agency. The Personal Elevation Lab™ focuses exclusively on elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of women executives and entrepreneurs: If you are ready to Boost Your Status, sign up for our 30-Day Game Changing Program Here.