Being True to Yourself with Sunny Bonnell

Being True to Yourself with Sunny Bonnell

Have the right plan in place. Don’t stray from the norm. Be conventional. It seems like there are rules behind everything that you do in business and in life. But what if we took those rules and turned them inside out? What if you started being true to yourself, instead of to what society expects of you?

Being True to Yourself

My guest today knows how important being true to yourself is – it led to her finding success after taking a big risk. She is Sunny Bonnell, co-founder of The Motto Agency, a creative marketing agency. Sunny is also the co-author of Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different. Her book details the problem with playing it safe in life, and addresses seven “bad” traits (Rebellious, Audacious, Obsessed, Hot-Blooded, Weird, Hypnotic, Emotional) and how to use them to your benefit. 

The Start of The Motto Agency

In the early 2000s, Sunny and her future business partner Ashleigh Hansberger were both in college. Sunny was going to school to become a veterinarian, and she was a musician on the side. She taught herself how to design and create band posters and album covers for her bands and others in the area. Little did she realize, teaching herself design would change her future. 

Listen at 4:20 where Sunny discusses the beginnings of The Motto Agency. Sunny and Ashleigh dropped out of college together and chose to avoid what they viewed as a “boring” life. They thought about the type of agency they wanted to create, tore up the rule book, and started The Motto Agency with just $250 in the bank. Now, nearly 15 years later, they are continuously recognized as one of the top branding agencies in the country for startups and growing brands. 

What is the Rare Breed?

In Rare Breed, Sunny and Ashleigh tell many stories from their years in the industry. They discuss that one of the most important things they’ve learned is that what they thought was a weakness is actually a strength. The same reasons that people were firing them is the same reasons that others were hiring them. 

At 8:30, Sunny discusses the importance of being true to yourself. A “rare breed” is willing to lean into all of what he or she is, even the parts that society has made quiet. You aren’t as “weird” as you think, and suppressing your voice will never find you the life you want. 

Are You on the Right Path?

Life moves quickly. As the days, months, and years go by, it can be difficult to self reflect and ask yourself if you’re on the path you want to be on. 

At 12:35, Sunny speaks about a fear that many have when it comes to looking at their own lives. We spend so much time being who others – our parents, classmates, and society – want us to be, that we don’t take the time to zoom out far enough to ask ourselves the important things. She views Rare Breed as a call to arms to remind everyone that it’s good to be weird and different.

The Sum of Others

At 15:15, Sunny says “we are the sum of everyone who has ever touched our lives.” While this is true in business, it is even more important to remember in life. Many of us are silenced by family members and friends. If we are silenced for too long, we may never think to question if we are doing all that we can in and out of the office. 

Finding Your Strength

One story Sunny tells in Rare Breed involves the early days of The Motto Agency. Listen at 17:55 where Sunny speaks about a time when integrity meant more than money. She and Ashleigh met with a CEO and marketing director for what could have been a $300,000 job. After listening to the CEO talk down to the marketing director, Sunny and Ashleigh decided to leave the meeting. 

The next day, the pair received an email from the marketing director, telling them their courage helped her find her own. We have all been in situations where we later wish we would have spoken up and defended ourselves. As Sunny says, we burn ourselves to the grit because we are afraid to be punished. Being true to yourself means being strong enough to never compromise yourself and your values. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Sunny, where we discuss who her favorite rebel is.

If you liked my interview with Sunny, you can download more episodes of The Profit Express to help you on the road to success.


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