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Secrets of Success: Sabina Hitchen

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Sabina Hitchen, an entrepreneur, speaker and author. She is the co-founder and Chief Excitement Officer of Tin Shingle, a small business community and buzz-building online platform that demystifies the areas of PR, social media and online marketing through trustworthy tools, resources, classes and articles. Her book Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal, the Revolutionary’s Guide to Living a Life You Love will be out in 2015. You can find Sabina on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @SabinaKnows.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Sabina Hitchen: Interestingly enough, it was never an entrepreneur or anything related to business. As a child I wanted to be an actress or talk show host (to be honest, I believe I actually wanted “to be Oprah”). I don’t even think I knew that entrepreneurship was an option.

When I was in college there were not as many female entrepreneur role models—especially in tech and Web-related fields—being publicly celebrated as there are today, and when I thought of studying business in the traditional sense (getting an MBA) I pictured unhappiness, stifled creativity and bad suits with shoulder pads. Because of this I spent my college years studying history and political science (which I was very passionate about) with plans of becoming a lawyer because I thought that sounded nice and professional and I couldn’t put my finger on my “calling.”

The good news is that in life, in my opinion, whatever you study can be used and applied to other jobs, so as I went from college to a career in education, I always felt like I was gaining new skills and doing things I was passionate about. Each step led me to where I am today.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Hitchen: Each business has its own story. Here’s the short version: In my early 20’s I moved to New York City basically on a whim for my “New York Chapter.” A friend hooked me up with a public relations position–I literally Googled “what is PR” the weekend before I started. Turns out I had a knack and passion for it and within a year I opened my first business, a successful PR agency specializing in small business lifestyle brands and experts.

I never expected to start my own business but after that first year of working for other people I realized I was unhappy in the agency I was working for and felt like I was bursting with ideas that weren’t being used. My parents, both entrepreneurs, made a casual suggestion that I should just start my own agency. I had a bit of a “Jerry Maguire moment,” a couple of the clients I left behind came with me, and before I knew it, I’d started my first business.

The second business I co-founded, Tin Shingle, was born out of the realization that no matter what type of business you own, in order for it to survive and thrive, you have to be able to successfully get the word out about it. [That’s] easier said than done for most entrepreneurs. My business partner, Katie Hellmuth-Martin, and I created Tin Shingle to demystify the worlds of PR, social media and online marketing for small business owners and give them the tools, resources and education to make that happen for them, in an accessible, trustworthy and affordable way.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Hitchen: I don’t think there was ever one pivotal moment for me; I think all of my success both externally and internally (the hardest to achieve) has been an evolution. I will say a couple of the most important moments have repeated themselves throughout my business career in order to get me to where I am today. The first has been learning to trust and stand up for myself, my gut and my business acumen. The second would be a collection of moments during which I removed from my “circle” those who didn’t lift me up personally and professionally. You become so profoundly impacted by those you spend time with, and becoming more selective about that has changed my life in ways that have directly led to my success.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Hitchen: Oh, there are so many I’ve been given over the years by generous and successful entrepreneurs. If I had to pick one I’d say my parents’ advice to “always have several tools in your tool belt” has been powerful for me. That really translates into making sure you’re always learning and expanding on what you can do and master in terms of your business. Keep finding opportunities to add more “tools,” keep building your skillset and your abilities, and you’ll be more of an asset to your business as well as more marketable as a person.

This could mean mastering different and new social media techniques, becoming a QuickBooks pro for your own business and really getting to know your finances instead of relying on others to do it for you or, if you’re like me, studying things like Spanish for Business People or my latest: learning to master iMovie and create my own video tutorials and programs.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Hitchen: I think there are still too many entrepreneurs who isolate themselves from other business owners or fall into an “us versus them” mentality. They see each other as competition when in reality, they should be focused on collaboration and drawing support from a community of their peers. That’s one reason why when building Tin Shingle we made community a big part of our platform. You can grow exponentially when supporting like-minded individuals, not to mention they’re great to celebrate and heck – commiserate with!

Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction for rest of year?

Hitchen: It’s already slowly happening, but I believe that the world of small business and the lifestyle and brand stories associated with it will take center stage more than ever, everywhere from the media to our communities. I like to joke that “entrepreneurship is the new black,” but in all seriousness, Americans are realizing that small business owners are shaping the landscape of our country, they’re creating amazing goods and services, they’re contributing to economic growth and they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

Hitchen: I have a couple that I turn to again and again to keep myself inspired, focused and productive. The first is The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey. There’s definitely a reason it’s been impacting people personally and professionally for decades, and I try to re-read it every year. I am also a big fan of Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. It keeps me focused on what matters in my own life, brings me clarity and keeps me confident while on the oft-challenging road we travel as entrepreneurs.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Hitchen: The guiding quote of my life and business, which is something my father has been telling me since I was a child, is: Life is not a dress rehearsal. I think that says it all. Life is short and unpredictable. Do what you love! Do it now! Do it with your whole heart and go all in!

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.