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 VALERIE OF GILDED OLIVE
This week I’m thrilled to catch up with my Brick House Branding graduate Valerie of Gilded Olive Apothecary. Valerie shed her previous name and look and dove headfirst into a Roaring 20’s theme. The transformation is stunning! Welcome, Valerie! We’re so glad to have you here.
Lucky Break: Why and when did you originally launch your company?
Valerie: In 2011, I was working as a Licensed Massage Therapist and learned how to make bath-bombs. I was always interested in skin care, and thought it would be a nice after-care treatment to give my clients.
Bath bomb research led me to discover soap-making and a year later, I was addicted to it, selling my wares to recoup some of my costs. I printed my ingredients on cardstock and wrapped it around the soaps and called them M.H. Brand. I had always been creative, so making soap and even the labels scratched that itch for me. I loved it!
Lucky Break: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?
Valerie: By 2015 I was selling quite a bit, mostly to my massage clients, plus a couple of small, local wholesale accounts.
I made lots of different products. Stuff that I wanted to make, and basically anything anyone asked me to make. I sold on Etsy and at local fairs, and people who were not massage clients would always ask me what M.H. Brand meant.
I changed my name to Lilac & Olive Soaperie and had a friend design a logo and a website. A year later, I had failed to launch that site. It was pretty, but I felt like something was missing.
I was making product like mad, offering way too much, and getting very little to show for it. I couldn’t keep up with the inventory needed for everything I’d been making. Ultimately, in trying to please everyone, I ended up disappointing people instead. With so much variety, I was always running out of something. It was late 2016 and I knew I needed some real guidance. I came across a line from Lela Barker that read, “do less and do it better”. It resonated, hard, and I knew I had found my answer.
Lucky Break: Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.
Valerie: I bought my binders and my sticky tabs and lots of ink for the printer. I cleared my schedule and listened obsessively to the video in which Lela prepares us for the work. I’m a hard worker and I was not at all afraid of it, I felt ready.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was just how emotional this type of work was. Although gradual and gentle, truth be told- it’s a deep, soul-searching dive. I began to have these light bulb moments, and some of them were really surprising!
The work helped me discover the one thing I wanted my brand to be, and why, which resulted in the cohesiveness I’d been missing. I’d say my most significant realization about the brand development process, is that it’s more about discovery than creation.
Lucky Break: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY?
Valerie: I built my own website, using the Shopify platform, which I really like. Wholesale Line Sheets seemed pretty straight-forward to me, so I used what I learned and took care of that on my own, as well.
I like to write, and I was looking forward to blogging, so I wrote all my own copy.
During the course, I discovered that I needed to change my name again (surprise!) and wanted nothing to do with the filing of a trademark, so I hired that out, first thing. Then I used a wonderful graphic artist who designed a new logo for me and helped me create my business cards and all of my packaging.
I thought I was ok at photography, but as it turned out, ‘ok’ wasn’t really what I was going for. So I hired an excellent photographer and I’m so happy that I did! She took beautiful photos that I could have never accomplished on my own.
Lucky Break: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?
Valerie: Probably me. My brain, my own worry. All the small stuff that went awry along the way, eventually got remedied.
For example, the first time I had my soap boxes printed, they used the wrong files and the color was off. The fact that I had to have one thousand boxes reprinted seemed like a big deal at the time, but I’m sure it’s pretty common when you’re dealing with so many files every day. There were website issues, image file issues, email issues, you name it.
Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, and in the end, nothing that truly was a big deal. When in doubt, I learned to just breathe.
Lucky Break: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?
Valerie: It may sound strange, but I feel so much closer to it now. And I think its beautiful. I’m proud to send people to my new site.
I can describe it in one sentence, easy peasy. Before BHB, I was always wobbly on the subject of what my brand was, (I make a lot of pretty stuff?) as well as the subject of wholesale.
I never knew if my products were good enough, or the proper way to approach retailers. BHB was so amazing, I took Lela’s LBU wholesale course as well. Now I feel empowered, knowing what to expect from retailers, and knowing what’s expected of me.
Lucky Break: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?
Valerie: I just recently launched, at the end of September, but I’d consider my launch day very successful! I received several orders, plus lots of messages and positive feedback on my website and products.
I even got a comment on my blog, the first day. That really blew my mind.
I’m getting a lot of messages along the lines of, ‘It’s so YOU!’. I think that’s a positive thing, because I’m only really good at being myself.
Lucky Break: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand?
Valerie: On 7/17/17, I wrote out some goals. I found the paper in my desk just the other day. One of them was to be featured in this blog. Huge win!
Another win is: I know exactly what I’m doing every day now. Whether it’s my blog, newsletter or making product- this experience has made my business so much more streamlined. I know what inventory I need to keep on hand, I’m not just randomly making things. No more spinning my wheels, wondering what to do first, wondering what would be best to make next.
Lucky Break: How did Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?
Valerie: I desperately needed this. I was way too close to my work to be able to be objective.
I could have never done it without the seeking questions Lela proposes. I needed the coaching, the questions to help me figure out where I wanted to go. To help me figure out who I was, as a brand. And listening to others as they went through the same process, helped me understand it better. Sometimes she just gave us pep-talks. And I needed those, too.
Before BHB, I had no idea that it was me running myself ragged. Niching down and doing less has helped me gain significant focus and renewed energy. As it turns out, I don’t have to serve the entire population. What a concept. I like it!
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?
Valerie: I’d say, don’t think you’re going to accomplish this in a month.
Don’t compare your progress to other’s because everyone’s so different, and at different stages. It’s not a race to the ‘finish’ because you’re never finished. Give yourself the time, it’s a process. Trust your gut to determine what’s right for you. Do the parts you don’t want to do. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out.
I learned that rebranding is strategic, it’s about the long game. It’s about putting down a foundation on which you can build, for years to come and that’s everything. Do the hard work now, and everything after will come easier. And be sure to take breaks. Enjoy your family, your friends and your life.
Celebrate small wins, and try not to panic when stuff goes wrong- because it will. When you get tired, remember that tomorrow’s another day. Work hard, stay the course and it will all be worth it in the end!
Thanks for catching up with us, Valerie. We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you and Gilded Olive Apothecary… 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 open through October 12!