Studying good branding? Start here…

good branding

Can I be honest for a moment?


There’s a lot of really mediocre branding out there. 


I’ve spent some time meditating on why that is and I think it boils down to two essential things:


1. Many of us sort of fell backwards into our business, which means we skipped some of the critical work of brand development: thinking critically about our target audience, understanding where we fall within the marketplace, cultivating meaningful differentiation.


2. Resources are limited and we’re cobbling together our brand development on a shoestring budget.


Does that feel familiar? I imagine that it might. One of the most important things I think that we can do as brand owners is to immerse ourselves in the study of extraordinary branding. It widens our scope, helps us step into a new mindset, and raises our personal bar. All good things…


If you’re in search of creative brands who are hitting it out of the park, then I’d like to introduce you to 36 of my personal favorites. These brands- many of whom are small + mighty with artisan roots- offer fertile ground for inspiration. I’m drawn to them for four primary reasons:

  • They know who they are as brands.
  • They have a deep understanding of their target audience.
  • They’re not afraid to let their personalities shine.
  • They bring the heat when it comes to presentation, putting their best foot forward with stellar graphic design + outstanding photography.


I encourage you to carefully study brands both inside and outside your product category. Instead of looking exclusively at brands which share an aesthetic that resonates with you, explore new brands and see if you can ascertain, simply by looking at their websites:


Who is this brand trying to attract?


Dig deeper: what clues (text, images, packaging, price, product design) lead you to that conclusion?


How do all of the pieces mentioned in question #2 come together to create a cohesive whole? Does anything feel out of step?


What can you learn by watching these brands in action?




Laurel Whole Plant Organics

May Lindstrom

Juniper Ridge

S.W. Basics

Madame Scodioli

Tata Harper




Rifle Paper Co.

Emily McDowell

Lovelane Designs

Freaker USA

Cards Against Humanity





Betsy & Iya

31 Bits

The Giving Keys

Upper Metal Class

The Brave Collection

Figs & Ginger





Big Spoon Roasters


Jeni’s Ice Cream

Fat Toad Farm





The Wooden Palate

American Heirloom

Hedley & Bennett

Farmhouse Pottery

Coral & Tusk

Byrd & Belle






So Worth Loving


Johnny Cupcakes

Heart of Gold Apparel



I’d love to hear from you! Which brands resonated deeply with you? What stood out for you about them? I hope you’ll drop a comment below so we can chat about it.


If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2017, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 8-week brand development incubator dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment is closing in just a few days, but there’s still time to grab a seat… I’d welcome an opportunity to work with you!


Thinking about hiring a designer through Fiverr or 99designs? Please think again…

Fiverr or 99designs

Fiverr or 99designs


When I first started my business, I was a severely resource-constrained single mother, which is a gentle way of communicating to you that I was horrifically broke. Launching a brand is an expensive endeavor, and I often hear from my clients that they’re feeling the financial squeeze that frequently becomes the hallmark of the first few years of the entrepreneurial journey. While I’m all for bootstrapping and pinching pennies where possible, I’ve learned that the graphic design that represents your brand is not an area that’s well-served by cutting financial corners.


Many of the brands that I work alongside are consumer packaged goods. Think: beauty products, candles, gourmet foods, etc. The graphic design that surrounds all of our brands- regardless of product category- plays a significant role in both the efficacy of our marketing efforts and the determination of value that consumers attach to our products. That perception is critical for every brand (I’m looking at you stationers, jewelers, ceramicists, apparel designers…), but it’s especially important for these packaged goods.


As they shop online or in-stores, consumers have no way of ascertaining how delicious that granola will taste, how restorative that eye cream will be, or how strongly that candle will smell. They actually take all of their cues from the packaging design. Design influences the kinds of fans the product will attract, in what stores it will be sold, and how much you can charge for it. These are critical facets of your brand, and they shouldn’t be left to chance. But that’s precisely what you do when you hire designers through 99designs or Fiverr.


But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Pause that thought for a moment…


Fiverr is a platform where you can hire anyone to do almost anything starting at just $5. It’s ripe with peeps in search of design work. 99designs is a bit different: it’s a graphic design marketplace where you can post a project, host a contest, and attach a pot of money as the prize. Designers submit work, you pick the winner, and they score the sum of money you offered as bounty. The higher that sum, the more interest your project will illicit and (theoretically), the more submissions you’ll have.




Lucky Break clients often share that they’re planning to pursue design through these platforms and- when they do- I immediately flip the switch on my blinking neon “danger” sign and caution them against proceeding in that fashion. Here’s why…



The Lucky Break Calendar – January 2017


Ahhhh, January. You can practically feel the resolutions filling the air for this to be the best year yet.  If you’ve taken my advice, you’ve spent some time these last few weeks digesting all that was 2016 and are now preparing for all that will be in 2017 (need help with that? I know just the thing).

The Lucky Break team is deep in preparation mode, too, as we prepare to launch my GMP, BHB, and LBU classes this month.  We’re working hard on some new things coming down the LB pipeline this year, too, and I can’t wait to share those details with you soon.

I hope you’ll download my January calendar to keep up to date with what’s happening in my neck of the woods, and that you’ll use it to keep track of your neck of the woods, too. Whatever you have planned for 2017, let’s get to it! And know that I’m always cheering you on.



A look back at 2016…


Life often flies by in a blur, but I love the process of closing out a year and taking two steps back to look at what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown over the last twelve months. After feeling like I’ve been in the weeds, it’s helpful for me to zoom out and gather insights into the year that was. Each year, I compile a little retrospective here on the Lucky Break blog about the year that was…. here’s how 2016 shaped up for me!



look back 2016


LOTS OF NEW CLIENTS: Over the course of the last twelve months, I had the pleasure of working alongside 561 brands who tagged Lucky Break in to help in one capacity or another. This year saw notable growth in a few particular product categories: I’m working alongside more apparel + accessory designers and stationers than ever before. I’m excited not only by the size of my community these days, but by the diversity in the products we make, too.


HEAPS OF FREE BUSINESS COACHING: I streamed live on Periscope 72 times this year, offering more than 80 hours of free business coaching. In the process, I amassed a following that’s 20,130 people strong and those lovely people thanked me by offering 1,889,056 hearts for the effort (thank you!). In 2017, I’m parking Periscope for a bit to launch a new podcast created especially for makers + product designers. More on that soon…


A BRAND NEW CLASS: 28 savvy brand owners joined me for the maiden voyage of my new semester-long brand development program. And I popped the bubbly for 49 more brand owners as they graduated from Brick House Branding throughout the year. In 2017, I’ll be making space for 90 more brands in BHB. Heads up: my next enrollment period opens on January 10 for the spring semester!


RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME GROWTH: I grew the Lucky Break email list by 27%, the company’s overall revenue by 60%, and my team by 33% this year. I was thrilled to welcome Eileen to my motley crew of empire builders last May. That means that there are now four of us working full-time to help you hustle smarter and leaner. Woohoo!


MY BIGGEST BUSINESS PROJECT IN 14 YEARS: I launched my most ambitious project to date with Wholesale Matchmaker. The technical logistics were 837 times more complicated than I ever imagined and I had to temporarily freeze enrollment after 100+ brands joined within the first twelve hours, but… hot damn, that was a good time! Since that launch in June, my team has built a mind-boggling amount of technical scaffolding to support new members, which proved to be a necessity as an additional 100+ members poured into the Wholesale Matchmaker community.  To date, my team has built comprehensive profiles for 2,498 awesome shops that adore artisan goods, and rolled out more than 100 new software features in six waves of software upgrades. We’re a special kind of exhausted, but we’re also incredibly proud of what we’ve built.


TRAVELING + TEACHING + COCKTAILING: I talked my way across the country (again). I was invited to speak at business conference from coast to coast… Ventura CA; Nashville TN; Tampa FL; New Orleans, LA; Greenville, SC; and a few other spots. Meeting entrepreneurs face-to-face is incredibly energizing for me and I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2017. I logged 67,178 miles on Delta this year and I plan to log a few more in the coming year!



Meet the Maker 2016 Roundup – Part 2

Meet the Maker 2016 Roundup Part 2

Meet the Maker 2016 Roundup Part 2


My team and I had a crazy-good time with our weekly “Meet the Maker” series this year! Each Monday, we introduced you to another product-based business that’s creating beautiful things and making waves in the process.

Last week, we shared Part 1 of this roundup series, where we’re highlighting each of the amazing makers who played with us on our MTM feature this year.  Today we’ll wrap things up with Part 2, so I hope you’ll grab a drink and cozy up for another hefty dose of year-end inspiration!


Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

T. Gates Councilor of Burly Stone

high-quality men’s grooming products


meet the maker - this paper ship

Joel and Ashley Selby of This Paper Ship

whimsical illustrations + paper goods


Meet the Maker - Sweet Jenny Belle Bakery

Jennifer Rodriguez of Sweet Jenny Belle Bakery

sweet, edible works of art


bonblissity meet the maker

Elissa Choi of Bonblissity

single-use hand and body scrubs


Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

Melissa Camilleri of Compliment

gifts to uplift


Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

Wynne McCormick of Crowns for the People

beautifully tactile crowns for of all ages


Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

Paul Ocepek of Modern Moose

fun, well designed and affordable home decor products


Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

witty and whistle-worthy greeting cards and paper products


Megan Eckman of Studio MME

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

approachable embroidery for modern stitchers


Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

Annika Benitz Chaloff of Married & Bright

quirky yet delicately handcrafted lingerie


Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

Luke and Abby Hatteberg of Wayfaren

high quality, travel-inspired goods



Ali and Lauren Borowick of Fatty Sundays

gourmet, fun-flavored chocolate covered pretzels


Meet the Maker - Little Minnow

Lizzi and Mary Bradley of Little Minnow

hand-printed and sewn accessories


Sarah Swell Jewelry

Sarah Greenberg of Sarah Swell

handcrafted precious metal jewelry


Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!