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The Storyteller Series: 7 stories with Karen Duncan, Social media trainer


“Showing up” on social media as a solo business owner can feel as uncomfy as riding the log flume at a theme park, then spending the rest of the day soaked to the bone (think of the chafing… *shudders*).


Which is why, when I spoke to social media trainer Karen Duncan, the brains behind PonyPonyPony courses, I was fully expecting her to give me the finger-wagging spiel on why I need to get better at stepping out of my comfort zone. 


But, within 5 minutes of our chat, I realised she’s not a pointy-pointy, hook-spouting, biz influencer who has Zuckerberg on speed dial (obvs). Because, she too was “dragged kicking and screaming” to social media as a way to grow her business. Well, I can hard relate. Especially as I spent yesterday batch-creating Reels in front of my one good window (and if you’re not already following along my rebrand journey, please save me from myself and drop me a cheeky DM). 


Karen’s approach to storytelling, social media, and solo business-ing is so refreshing - you might just want to ride Tidal Wave after all...


Seven Stories with Karen Duncan



Karen Duncan social media trainer holding a rainbow umbrella



 

Can't wait? Skip ahead to: 



 


 


Before we get started though… 


The prologue


Karen Duncan, the social media + creativity trainer behind PonyPonyPony, is like a breath of fresh air. Because unlike other social media… let’s call them enthusiasts… who wax lyrical about posting 4x more than you would normally check your phone, she’s a believer in leaving social media shoulds, woulds, and coulds, at the door.


Storytelling Style


Her approach is rooted in comfort. Her students are business owners who aren't always comfortable sharing their story, some even feel like what they do isn't particularly interesting/special/post-worthy. To get them beyond that feeling and a sense of well, who on Earth do you think you are prancing around on socials? her philosophy is to find a way for people to get into their comfort zone - not fighting against crashing waves of discomfort.


 

The Origin story


"Can you share the story of how your business began?"


It was completely by accident. I used to do silversmithing, I had a business making jewellery and things like that. And I had to learn to use social media because otherwise I could only sell things locally. So I was dragged kicking and screaming to every social media platform and eventually got to the point where I went, oh, this is how it works, this is what it's for, this is how you can use it. But that took me a while. 


Then one day at a crafter’s skill-swap group, run locally, we were at the pub and someone asked me if I could run a thing to help others figure out how to use Facebook to promote their business.


And that’s how “Pony, Pony, Pony” started. From there, more and more people reached out for help on “the social media thing”. So yeah, wasn't the plan, happened by accident, but I've bumbled my way into it and it's working really well to be honest!


The Storytelling Philosophy


"How does storytelling play a role in your business? Can you describe your philosophy or approach to using stories in your work?"


The big thing for me is helping people to find their stories. People do extraordinary things, but because it's their every day it's so normalised. Then you assume “oh, people don't want to know about me”. But, they do. It's become normal to you, but to everyone else what you’re doing is absolutely extraordinary. 


I think it's really important for me that people are able to find a voice and give themselves permission to share things. If you’re creating, you’re a creator. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. You have the power to express things as you without thinking “do I have the right?”. 


The way we get there, and my storytelling philosophy is, to find a place of comfort. Forget the thing when people say “oh, if you’re in your comfort zone you’re never going to grow.” That’s not what I’m talking about.


We know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that if people don’t feel comfortable, they can’t explore things because their head’s too full of dealing with everything else. So, once people are comfortable, once you’re happy doing something and you’ve had a response, like maybe telling a story on a Facebook group to a small group of people with a shared experience, then you can put it out a bit further. And each time, it’s a bit easier. Each time your perspective has changed and what you thought was the story, wasn’t quite it.


It’s only in exploring it, you can process it differently and maybe then feel comfortable with sharing your story more publicly. 



Karen Duncan social media trainer typing on a laptop in front of a brightly-coloured wall

The Key Plot Point


"Can you share a key moment/experience in your business that led to a major change? How did this moment shape your business?"


I was in a networking meeting and someone said something really offensive without realising. It really made me realise how much microaggressions can affect people and how I could do a lot more to include people and to be more conscious of what I'm saying. It made me reflect and think that I need to stand up and do a bit more to support other people.


And that has changed a lot of things, from changing the font of my logo to a dyslexia-friendly font to actively taking a stand to do as much as I can to support different groups of people. It was also a big point where I went, you know what, I'm so naive about some of the problems some people face, I have a lot to learn and I’m willing to educate myself. 


Because I’m a flamboyant introvert, I’m very aware there are some people who have an amazing point of view, but don’t feel comfortable to express it. So, now in my group workshops, I’ve changed the way I approach things to make sure everyone has the chance to speak in a way that works for them.


The Daily B Roll


"If I was a fly on the wall in your business what’s the one thing I’d see you do the most?"


Games! All the games… video games, role playing games. I love gamifying things and having space to be creative in a fun way, to say, “you know what, I'm going to take three hours out to pretend I'm a hobbit with my mates and it's gonna be great”.


Karen Duncan smiling in conversation with someone else

The Rising Conflict


"Is there anything that’s got in the way of your business success? How did you overcome it?"


Yeah, long COVID. It's the worst. Wouldn't recommend it. Just dreadful. Still going. I think it's been coming up for two and a half years now. Whenever I do something too energetic, even now, I’ll be wiped out afterwards. 


It’s really taught me to slow things right down and be more intentional with where I’m putting my energy. I have an app that measures my heart rate to see how fatigued I am, and it helps me put breaks in, whereas before I’d be running around trying to do it all and then get sick after. I used to have a really long to-do list, with tasks going on forever. And now I’ve switched to a ta-da list, where it’s just three things in a day and anything else is a bonus. It’s been a big mindset shift, but it’s been so useful, so I don’t overload myself.


The Conversion Story


"What story about your own business or services resonates the most with your audience? Why do you think it has that impact?"


My approach is faff-free. I’m not an influencer. There’s definitely a place for them, but I’m not one, even though I’m in the business of social media. I also tell people you don’t have to be perfect, or try to be someone you’re not. Not everyone likes video, if being on video makes you sweat, you’ll be miserable. I think people connect with that and they find it quite refreshing. 


And also when I say “Pinterest is the best”. It’s like social media for introverts and people are always curious about it. On other platforms, you might say: I've written a blog, here's my blog, it's over here, it's about this, isn't it great? But on Pinterest, it's more like: here's my blog, this is what it's about, have a look if you fancy, fill your boots, off you go. It's more hands off.


Karen Duncan social media trainers pictured in the grounds of a heritage house

The Story That Stuck


"What’s a piece of advice/lesson you’ve received that you’d happily share with other small business owners?"


Don't fake it until you make it. So many people suffer from imposter syndrome at the best of times, and if you’re pushing something forward that's maybe steps 10 ahead of where you are, that's a big gap to psychologically fill. Just keep taking those small steps. Don't pretend that you're somewhere you're not, but keep moving forward. 


 

Want to find out more about our Storyteller of the month?


Head to: Karen Duncan's


 

Are you a solo business owner with a story (or seven)?

Want to be featured on Season 2 of the Storyteller Series?


Join the waitlist 👇





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