As freelance creatives, Bianca and I were tired of getting hired to do work that wasn't addressing the deeper needs of our clients. We were creating marketing materials and brand assets the best we could without information about our client's voice, audience or goals. In 2015, we decided to come together and build a business that could provide more comprehensive, effective support for small business owners.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was being bold and willing to try things even while knowing I'm probably making mistakes and still had a lot of room to grow. I overcame this by leaning on my co-founder. Whenever one of us was overwhelmed, the other stepped up, and vice versa. Another very real daily challenge was learning to communicate with clients and set up a healthy relationship that is conducive to collaboration and good work.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
When we started getting serious about branding, the book "World Famous" had a great influence on us. It's filled with practical exercises and urges entrepreneurs to crystallize what truly sets them apart. It's one of the inspirations behind our own (even more practical!) brand strategy workbook.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Since I've been engaged in one form of entrepreneurial pursuit or another since graduating college (as an actor, singer, then graphic designer), I don't think it was a big surprise for any of my family or friends when I took the leap to starting a company. But there was a stage where I was very self-conscious about having my hours and responsibilities taken seriously. I fought that self-consciousness by just quietly persisting and continuing; living out what entrepreneurship means to me.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I'd say the single most important factor so far is in how my co-founder and I have learned to leverage each other's strengths. Bianca provides big, bold ideas involving our positioning, approach to branding, partnerships... And I work to filter and structure those ideas so they are manageable and executable. As artists, we are also both deeply passionate about our work and our neighbourhood, and I think that comes through to our clients and partners, so word of mouth referrals have provided a steady stream of clients.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I had known the power of strong boundaries, particularly in setting up the dynamic with clients. As a service provider, a huge part of our business is relationships. When these relationships are unhealthy, it takes a huge toll on everyone. I wish I had known that and boldly set clearer expectations so that both we and the clients were better protected from confusion, frustration, and even disappointment in those early days.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
I would advise entrepreneurs to trust what makes them different. Don't try to follow someone else's idea of how businesses or business owners "should" look!