Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum and new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?
I’m back with another installment in my “Where Are They Now?” series and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!
SAY HELLO TO SARAH OF JAMES VINCENT DESIGN CO.
This week I’m thrilled to catch up with my Brick House Branding graduate Sarah of James Vincent Design Co.
Lucky Break: Why and when did you originally launch your company?
Sarah: I started my company in 2013 after the birth of my first child. I was not a fan of the clothing that was available for babies/children and decided to make my own. Several people told me that I should sell the things I was making for my daughter so I took my last $40 (hard times during that part of my life) and bought fabric, opened an Etsy store and when the first piece sold, I used the profit to buy double the fabric, and so on.
Lucky Break: At what point did you know it was time to further explore brand development?
Sarah: A friend of mine had introduced me to Lela Barker via Periscope and I would listen to her daily while I worked from my home studio. As a momprenuer I wanted to soak up all of the knowledge I could on how to build a better company, and Lela quickly became like a mentor to me. After hearing so many other people comment on how she helped them take their businesses to another level via branding I decided to take my tax return and jump on the Lela train. There were SO MANY other small shops popping up at this time and many were basically knocking off what I had been doing. It was breaking my heart as well as hurting my business. I knew I had to do something big to set my company apart from all of the knock offs. Lela made it clear to me that branding was the only way to do this.
Lucky Break: You didn’t necessarily undertake a “rebrand” in the traditional sense… there was no renaming of the company, no new logo, etc. Instead, we focused on refining your product collection, understanding what the brand is all about, and raising the bar on the product photography. How has that helped the brand?
Sarah: I started my company making rompers. As a small business, I needed money not only for my business but also to put food on the table, so when people would send me special requests to make custom pieces or “you should make this or that”, I would say “okay” to everything, and ended up overextending myself. I lost sight of what my brand was all about. Lela, via Brick House Branding, helped me get back in my lane, and take my company back to the bare bones of where it started and why my customer base fell in love with my company in the first place. I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and simplified my product collection.
Lela helped me narrow my scope & figure out what my story was. Through a LOT of research, I was able to locate a local photographer who was new to the area and whose photography gave me life. Thank the gods that she was willing to work with me and that we had a mutual love for each other’s talents. Her photography helped me take my brand to another level and set my brand so far apart from all of the copycat brands that I was being suffocated by at the time. Her photography style compliments my brand vision so well, I never would have guessed how much of a difference that would have made for James Vincent Design Co.
Lucky Break: Can you share a few decisions that you made about the brand during the Brick House Branding experience?
Sarah: I decided what styles to keep and toss. What pieces were the money makers, which ones weren’t yielding enough profit, where my price point needed to be, what voice I wanted to use for my company, what story I had to tell to be able to get people to relate to my company – how to make them FEEL something and be able to connect with my brand as more than just kids clothes, but kind of a way of life. I learned how to align myself with other brands who are making/doing things other than what I was making, but who collectively fit the overall culture of my company. How to choose my packaging to give my customers another experience as opposed to just a USPS package – unboxing is really the only experience they get to have with online businesses other than your online presence – you have to make decisions on what you want their unboxing experience to be like.
Lucky Break: Within the BHB program, I introduced you to Kiva, a nonprofit supporting entrepreneurs. In fact, one of our Expert Interviews featured the director of the North American program, who provided insight into how to successfully fund a loan. You recently tagged Kiva into the ring to help raise $8,000 to expand your company. How has it helped propel your business forward?
Sarah: I was so hesitant in attempting to get a Kiva loan. It’s nerve-wracking because if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get the funding. I was naturally so nervous that I wasn’t going to get funded, and the fear basically stemmed from the potential embarrassment that would come from that if I hadn’t. Once I started my Kiva loan process I was so blown away by how many of my customers and my community rallied behind me and the amounts that people offered. It was incredibly humbling and gave me all the warm fuzzies!
I was able to purchase the fabric needed to run my biggest fall/winter campaign, I was able to order my first wholesale fabric order and that opened me up to be able to get an account with a large fabric company that I wasn’t able to work with previously, because the fabric minimums are pretty intense. I was able to hire an artist to help me create a custom print for my company which further set my brand apart so that for once no one could buy the fabric I was using. I was able to hire two local seamstresses to help me with production.
Lucky Break: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?
Sarah: My perception of my brand has evolved tremendously since the BHB experience. Before BHB I knew what I wanted my brand to be, to look like, but I had no way to wrangle my thoughts to be able to implement all of the things I wanted to portray through my brand. I didn’t have a strict focus on what I was doing.
My photography was so weak, it was all I could afford, all I had at the time, and it was not good at all. What potential customers were seeing and what I wanted them to FEEL were so far apart. BHB really helped me mature in my company. It took my company from LOOKING like a one woman show to the point where now, even though I am still pretty much a one woman show – with two part-time seamstresses – people assume just from my website, social media presence, the look and feel and story of my brand, that James Vincent Design Co. is a larger company than it is.
I say sometimes that I have “outbranded” myself. There have been times that customers send emails asking if I have this or that in our “warehouse” – which doesn’t exist. My company looks and feels like a much more substantial legit company now having gone through the BHB process, and I love that.
Lucky Break: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?
Sarah: I really underestimated the BHB program. At the time I had a 2 year old daughter and just had my newborn son who had several health issues, my husband was traveling for work constantly, and I was a one-woman show. I was basically a single mom working from home with two babies and LIFE. I was not prepared for the amount of work I had to do in this program. Not just physical work but the MENTAL work that was required and how deep I had to dig to pull the information out of myself and onto the worksheets.
The branding process, at least in Lela’s classes, is not an easy one. It requires so much thought. For someone like me who felt so overwhelmed just in life on the daily, it was a lot to handle. But this branding process is exactly that, a process. There was so much amazing info and so many good examples and interviews in the program to really help me jog my brain and helped me to get to the places mentally that I needed to be.
This program is an investment, not just of your money, but your TIME. You need to set the excuses aside and make the time to walk through this course with Lela and your classmates, sometimes that was midnight to 3 am when the kids were asleep and yes I was tired and yes I wanted to rest, but I also knew that I had to do this for myself and for my business.
Also, being a brand that had already been established for a few years prior to starting BHB, it required me to really pull back all the layers, and kind of start over which I honestly think was harder than just starting from scratch. I really wish I gone through the BHB program before I started my company. But since I wasn’t able to do that because I didn’t know about any of this when I started my brand, it was a very intense project to dive in to, and ultimately I’m so glad I did. I honestly need to go through the program again to further my brand, which is something I plan to do again very soon in my own time.
Thanks for catching up with us, Sarah. We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you and James Vincent Design Co. … We’re cheering you on!
If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2019, then I hope that you’ll consider joining me in the winter semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship 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 now open through October 12!