The Cinderella Guide to Radically Transforming Your Business

image of glass slipper

I grew up hearing the story of Cinderella, whose cruel stepmother forced her to work as a servant in her own home.

She spent her days tending the fire, washing and cooking for her evil stepsisters. She dreamed of a better life.

By the end of the story, Cinderella is queen. Her name is synonymous with radical transformation — going from the cinders to the palace.

Think transformation only happens in children’s stories? Cinderella’s metamorphosis follows a series of steps that can help you transform your business if you’re willing to give them a try.

They don’t require a fairy godmother, magic, or a bewitched pumpkin, either. Just a change in attitude, and the audacity to believe you can go beyond your present circumstances.

First you’ve got to want it

Cinderella’s life started out just fine, but her mother died, her father remarried, and her new step family decided to relegate her to the kitchen.

She could have thrown in the towel and resigned herself to her fate, but she didn’t.

When the prince decided to throw a party and invite all the women of the kingdom so he could choose a wife, Cinderella was determined to attend.

It was a long shot. She didn’t have time off, she didn’t own a suitable dress, and her manicure was probably a nightmare. How dare she attend the ball?

But she was determined. And wanting it badly enough is half the battle, both in business and in life.

Because transformation is hard. If you’re going to make the change, you’ve got to want it enough to put up with some growing pains.

If you’re not getting engraved invitations to the ball yet, do something about it. Don’t just sit there and mope. Come up with a plan.

Then you have to look the part

Her stepmother and sisters laughed at her when she suggested she’d like to go with them to the ball. She was dressed in rags, and dirty from head to toe.

As soon as they left — and with the help of a little magic (this is a fairy tale, after all) — Cinderella found herself wearing a spectacular gown.

Here’s the interesting part: as soon as she had the gown on, no one recognized her. Dressing the part transformed her so completely she seemed like a different person.

Perception can create reality. If the way you present your business looks a little shabby, what can you do to dress it up? What can you do to look like the business you want to become?

Dressing the part means polishing up your website so it’s easy to use and looks professional. It means writing in a voice that’s targeted to the market you’re trying to reach. It means claiming your authority and behaving with dignity, instead of the usual attention-seeking idiots that clog up our twitter feeds.

And it means being bold enough to do something like wearing glass slippers so you’ll stand out from your competitors.

Stand up for yourself

Cinderella made an extraordinary impression at the ball. The rest of the attendees wanted to know who she was and where she’d come from.

But in fairy tales all magic comes with a price, and this story is no exception. At midnight Cinderella’s transformation expired, and she returned to her dirty clothes and former life. As she ran from the castle, she left behind a glass slipper.

The prince set out to look for the owner of the slipper. When he got to Cinderella’s home, her evil stepmother and sisters didn’t even want to let her out of the house.

Cinderella approached the prince anyway and asked to try the slipper on. It fit perfectly, of course.

If she hadn’t stood up for herself, she never would have arrived at her destiny. She spoke up and claimed what was hers. She was her own best advocate, and she became queen.

Sometimes in order to get where you want to be, you have to be willing to defy the people around you who don’t think you can do it. And you have to be willing to ask for what you want.

It starts with believing in yourself and your own dreams. And you may need to reconfirm that belief over and over to get where you want to go.

What’s your Cinderella story going to be?

You might be ready to grow your business larger than it has ever been. It doesn’t take magic to get there.

In order to make the transformation, you have to want it badly enough to put up with temporary sacrifices.

You may need to defy those around you who aren’t supportive. You’ll want to dress the part before you’re quite “there” so others can clearly envision you in your wished-for role.

If you do these things, I can’t promise you you’ll marry a prince. (That’s not really what you wanted, was it? Most of them aren’t much of a bargain these days.) But your business will have a Cinderella story, and that’s worth working toward, don’t you think?

About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small businesses grow with great design and marketing tips. Learn the basics with her free Design 101 e-course at Big Brand System.

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Reader Comments (64)

  1. says


    What do you know? This piece is very interesting. Imagine putting wisdom you find in classics like:

    1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or
    2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Then popping that advice within the wrapper of a fairy tale like Cinderella?

    And there are other fairly tales you could have used:

    1. Perhaps the boy crying wolf (i.e. look at my great products)?
    2. Or Chicken Little baking the bread (i.e. the chief worker on an Internet joint venture product)?
    3. Or the Pied Piker playing the magic flute, to entice the rat away. (i.e. he never got paid for his services from the big, bad company).

    The list is endless.

    Great imagination and creative writing in today’s piece.


    • says

      I agree with you Randy this piece is very interesting. Pamela inspired us by making us look back into the story of Cinderella with new set of eyes and relate it to our to our business.

      In one of my blog entries, I encourage inspirational speakers (and leaders!) to choose stories that breathe life. This is true for bloggers. This is true for anyone who intends to realize his or her purpose in life.

      And Thank you Pamela for sharing your beautiful thoughts today.

  2. says

    This is such a good post Pamela! “Cinderella approached the prince anyway.” I love it! Does this mean there is real value in fairy tales after all! Certainly there is with the interpretation you gave this one! Bravo!

  3. says

    Take charge and say i am going to make it no matter what I face..Yes the road is tough and people are in your way of success..but you have motivation and that’s what counts..

    BTW Brian..Can you can contact me on my contact page..Its very important..I need your help.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. says

    I believe in the Cinderella story and I think that with hard work and determination, you can achieve anything you want.


    PS: Such a great post, Pamela. As always.

  5. says

    Interesting post. Transformation is hard is a very good point, but then Cinderella didn’t work for her transformation – she just waited until it was handed to her on a plate…

    That said, your interpretation is far more inspiring than mine (and it’s been a long time since I’ve read Cinderella!), so I’ll go with it!

    • says

      She didn’t work for it? You do need to go back and read the story. She slaved for her step family, but never gave up her dream. I think she more than paid her dues.
      And I loved the post. Thanks Pamela

  6. says

    Fantastic interpretation and interweaving of motivational, inspirational thoughts! I loved that you turned the Cinderella story into something very that was fun to read!

  7. says

    Thanks for the gerat post Pamela! My husband and I just started an e-commerce business and we can always use great advice-and when it’s wrapped up in a great package like the Cinderella story…well, I just can’t resist it!

  8. says

    One other common interpretation is that beauty is more than skin-deep.

    Underneath those rags and that filth, Cinderella was hot.

    All of Pamela’s advice will come to nothing if your product or service is still just an ugly sister’s pimple…

  9. says

    Is viral marketing about how to make a glass slipper?

    On behalf of my fellow princes, we object to the parenthetical expression in your final paragraph.


  10. says

    Your overlay of a fairy story on the possibility of “Dream and Do” in business inspires me. I am wearing a new pair of TOMS shoes today. I’ll pretend they are my glass slippers and go to the ball now!

  11. says

    Great post! I really need to hear this today and be reminded of the goal! (Glass slipper AND the prince!) :)

    Also, the ‘don’t give up’ part,….seems things aren’t happening as fast as I would like,….but all great things take time, right?

    Thanks again!

  12. says

    I really like the part about “Perception can create reality.” In the communication world, people tend to go further and say that perception IS reality. This is a great advice, especially when you look at it both ways.

    If you act as a sucessful person, it will automatically affect positively your own attitude. This in turn, affect positively the impression people have of you. It’s a win-win-win-win-… situation.

    Great post Pamela!

  13. says

    I think it’s true that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. It gets better from there. You don’t have to get it right (right away) but you DO have to get it going. From there, proceed in small stages. I like to look at this entire endeavor over a 3 to 6 month period of time – anything longer is too long (because the internet just moves to fast), and anything short of that may be a goal that is to big to do alone (assuming you’re going it alone).

    Just like in Cinderella, the process of transformation can undergo distinct stages, and it might be good to view your business the same way (or create your own stages):

    Humiliation (unhappy cinderella) – think of this as “My business is going nowhere,” or “I don’t have a business (yet).”

    Transformation (the magical effects of wanting something really badly) – think of this as the “real work” that is to be done. There is no magic involved, but in hindsight, it’s your story, you can rewrite it replete with magic. It’s your game to create :-)

    Excitement (the vision of dancing with the Prince) – think about your master funnel plan: great content, traffic, leads, sales, authority. That gets me excited. You?

    Happiness (Cinderella reunited with her true love & whisked away to a wonderful life) – It’s your story, how does it get written?

    Nice post Pamela. Thank you.

  14. says

    Enjoyable post Pamela.

    I have mixed feelings on the whole Cinderella story. The Cinderella mindset can be a trap. Many people see themselves as noble and heroic figures based on good intentions. The universe doesn’t reward good intentions.

    Maybe I’m a grumpy old codger, but it seems many of today’s youth have been raised on fairy tales and see themselves as deserving of that happy ending. Some remain stuck living in the middle of the second act of a three-act hero’s story, feeling resentful that things aren’t going any better.

    Anyways, loved your positive spin on Cinderella and your messages of determination, presentation and defiance of limitations.

    Joe 😀

  15. says

    Interesting parallel to a story that everyone knows from childhood, even if you can’t personally relate to the story. Transformation requires commitment but the end result makes the work worth the dedication. Thanks for the reminder!

    Deborah :-)

  16. says

    I started my blog about 2 months ago and I was searching for who to follow and where to sample ideas. Heaven knows the long hours i spent searching. Thanks to one of those encrypted comments by people or machines (I deleted the comment because it made no sense). I don’t know why I bothered to click on the available link but – it led me to Tony D. Clark’s blog last week. Immediately, I knew that I had found my gold. It’s from that blog that I registered with copyblogger and here I am.

    Just finding you guys makes me to know that I will make it. Thanks for the Cinderella story. If you know where Tony is, my regards to him and I would appreciate it if he would drop me a line. Thanks Tony and I hope that I will have the opportunity to meet you and maybe the team one day. I’m using your tips to restructure my blog.


  17. says

    That’s a great metaphor. You are right, one of the biggest mistakes people do that prevent themselves from achieving their goals is not willing to make temporary sacrifices.
    Keep up good work,

  18. says

    Hey I love the post, headline really caught my attention and the read was great. But seriously reading the real points in the post, its what we all know but sometimes forget. The going without and sacrifice bit is just so true.

  19. says

    Pamela, aloha. Loved what you did with Cinderella and the analogy for business. I am busy sharing it with the world. Twitter and facebook already have it; off to LinkedIn. Mahalo. Janet

  20. Mary Gander says

    Thank you for this inspirational interpretation to remind us beginners that determination goes a long way!

  21. says

    Great contrast, Pamela. Having faith in yourself is one of the harder things to overcome. I was primed for disappointment when I first started out, buying into every ebook that promised to make my life easier, and then didn’t. It took a while before I realized this is actually hard work, but when I started seeing my business as an actual business, the things that used to disappoint were suddenly rewarding. It’s a transformation that happens with perspective.


    I share your sentiment. If I had found this place 3 years ago, I might have saved myself a lot of time. As long as most of us end up over here in the end.

    • says

      “When I started seeing my business as an actual business …”

      Isn’t that the truth! That’s the moment when everything starts to move in the right direction. Until you treat it as an actual business it won’t be one.

  22. says

    I agree; the battle first begins with that space between your ears. How bad do you want it? Once you have determined that either go for it or save yourself some heartache.

  23. says

    Pamela, your point about perception and reality, reminds me of something a friend said to me the other day: you only get one chance to make a good first impression!

  24. says

    “Once upon a time, there was a great blogger named Pamela Wilson. . . . . . . and she lived happily ever after.”

    I wish I’d written this post. Brilliant.

  25. says

    Most people are lost in terms of starting an online business. They miss the most important parts in not doing the research about their industry and not being passionate about the business that they start

  26. Leslie-Ann Drummond says

    Thanks Pamela for a great post. Most of us think fairy tales portray women as passively waiting to be rescued by the handsome prince…but you’ve shown us how assertive Cinderella actually was and that she exemplifies having self-belief and a ‘go for it’ attitude. That’s a great lesson for young (and old) women everywhere. I’ve never thought in terms of the ‘prince’ being a metaphor for a ‘goal’, so thanks for that shift in perspective.

  27. says

    I love the line “Cinderella approached the prince anyway”. It reminds us that we need to grab open the door of opportunity when it presents itself, and the only way that you can dare to do that is to start believing in yourself, because if you don’t you’d probably see it even if it’s already right under your nose.

    -Angela Giles
    Social Media and Publicity DIVA

  28. says

    I think the key is to realize that you are only limited by your thoughts. What is so encouraging with our industry at the moment is there are no limits and imagination is King…or in this case Queen! Thinking outside of your box that we all have created is the first step, I believe in mastering yourself and your business. The future is certainly exciting.

  29. says

    I’d say this is an excellent blog!. It is content and execution done wonderfully. I can probably say that for you to be rich, you have to “dress the part”. However, if i throw in a little story by the side such as the ever popular story of Cinderella, it takes the “ho-hum” out of the article and makes it a more interesting read.

  30. says

    I love the imagery of this. I think another aspect of Cinderella’s story is that she utterly delighted in the process. She truly appreciated being at the ball and had a childlike eagerness about it. She wasn’t pushing against or MAKING anything happen. She was just allowing it to unfold. I think that chilled out attitude is a big help in succeeding at anything.

  31. says

    Hi Pamela, the title tells everything you have written in this article. Wonderful article I must say. Running a business is not an easy one, we will face many obstacles. But if we stand strong then our growth is inevitable.

  32. says

    hi Pamela

    As a lover of childrens stories, a great analogy here.

    I think you point the make about “wanting a change” is possibly the most important of all the aspects you’ve considered. Unless the desire to change is there (and it doesn’t really matter what needs to change – personal, business) – the status quo will remain in place and nothing will ever get any better.

    The best way, for me, of addressing this reticence to change is to break it down into “baby steps”. Trying to take one big leap from where you are now to where you want to be is difficult and daunting. Having the baby steps means that you achieve things faster and can see results.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Very true. There wouldn’t be much of a story if she’d accepted her fate and plugged away at cleaning the cinders from the fireplace every day, would there?

      I agree with you on the baby steps concept, too. It’s something I’ve had to re-learn many times.

      If I look at my projects and goals in their entirety I feel overwhelmed pretty quickly. But when I break projects down into manageable tasks, a lot gets done.

      Thanks for the comment, Barney.

  33. says

    Love it, love it, love it!
    I think this is my favourite blog post ever!
    I don’t have my own business and I’m blogging for fun at the meoment but I can still identify with the story and the transformation advice and apply to other areas of my life not just business.
    thank you, look forward to reading more of your work soon!

  34. says

    Using an alaogy to bring your point across is a great way for educating people. I for one get it. Truly an inspiring post. Thank you

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