Brand it and they will come

When Laura Zander, co-founder of Jimmy Beans Wool, took the stage at TEDx conference last year, her story was recognizable but still rousing: 

An accidental entrepreneur starts a business... works really hard... expands online... experiences meteoric growth... gets featured in TV, newspaper and magazine articles... aims to become a $100 million business... and then entreats her audience: 

"Dream big... and your imagination can take you places that you never quite imagined." 

The trouble is that Laura began spending so much time and money dreaming big—and spreading the gospel of the Jimmy Beans brand—that her online yarn and fabric business began to unravel, as this candid case study in The New York Times reveals. 

Before long, Laura and her husband had run out of money and started paying employees out of their own savings. The couple now recognizes it's time to get back to basics—yes, literally, to "stick to their knitting."

The founders aren't the first to fall victims to the "brand it and they will come" trap—and fawning media stories and sexy conferences make that Brand Illusion even more alluring.

I hope the Zanders' honest story helps more entrepreneurs shed their obsession about building brand buzz and get back to the hard work of building a business.