Ask A Small Business Owner: Brand Building 101

Welcome to the very first edition of Ask a Small Business Owner. Small business talk is my jam: I could spend hours waxing poetic about bookkeeping software, distribution techniques, and wholesale successes (and failures). As founder and creative director, I get asked a lot of questions about building a business. I thought it was time to aggregate these questions into one handy, public forum where a community of small business owners can come together and ask their burning questions like "how do I get into my dream store?" and "what do I look for in a first employee?"

Today, we're tackling brand building - creating a foundation and taking yourself from a maker to something more.

If you have questions, you can reach us at We can't wait to hear from you!

Q: What are some tips for a new business entering the natural beauty and aromatherapy business in terms of growth? For growth, I refer to both getting your first new wholesale accounts as well as bringing in new potential customers. Essentially, putting your name out there on both sides of the spectrum, retail and wholesale.

The work for this starts far before actually contacting a new store or customer – it starts at your product level. First and foremost, identify what need in the market your product fills. Knowing this need helps you a) know which customers to pitch to and b) how to pitch it to them. In a crowded marketplace, like candles or natural products, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.

How does your product differ? This is what you sell people on.

After establishing that, you create the brand image. This is what people are buying into – they’re not just buying your product, they’re buying what your product will bring them.

These things may seem random, but it’s like the foundation of a house. Knowing what your market is and what your product has that’s different makes it easier to sell that product. Creating images and telling stories of your brand help your customer know your brand is for them.

I’m a big proponent of using free advertising until it’s maxed out – so social media, especially Instagram, is a crucial tool for getting your product in front of people. Use hashtags, cross-promote with other brands, and engage in your community – this will all grow your brand. Follow the stores you want to be sold at on Instagram – not in a spammy way, but to genuinely connect with them. When you reach out to them later, it doesn’t feel as much like a cold email.

I’d also recommend selling at in-person events, whether that’s craft fairs, farmer’s markets, or pop-ups. This creates your customer base for you and is a great way to meet stores in the market for product like yours.

Q: I'm a maker. I have always loved painting primarily, and I have always had a dream of being a successful small business owner and getting to work from home in my own studio, creating things to share with people around the world.

The struggle is, is that I get great ideas and inspiration, whether it be crocheting chunky knit blankets, hand poured soy wax candles in vintage votives, clay bead necklaces, I spark an interest and try the art of making so many new things (one at a time) that I haven't done before. And then it fizzles out. Mainly, after I put in hard work and I'm not seeing the amount of sales I was anticipating, etc.

What would be your best advice, of where to focus and start - to be successful and for longevity?

I can relate so deeply to this question, because I was there myself! If you take a look through the old products on our etsy page – where this all started – you’ll see I used to make a lot of different things. I pretty much threw things at the wall until something stuck, and the thing that stuck was candles. I’m not telling you to make candles – but I am telling you to see which of your product is the one that sticks.

This is part of the difficulty of being a maker – you learn a new skill, and you’re like “hey, I should sell this!” I love the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none”. Sure you can sell it – but should you? This is a moment when you need to chose if you want to be a maker, or you want to be a brand.

Yes, I know the word brand is cheesy. But a brand is recognizable. People know why they go to their favorite brand – they’re the best, they’re the coolest, they source from the most interesting areas.

When you sell a lot of different items, it can muddy the waters for customers – what do people go to your store for?

The idea of creating a brand is daunting, so start here. Come up with a tagline – a short, one sentence description of what it is you sell – that defines what people will come to your shop for, and only work within that spectrum. It sounds limiting, but I find clear boundaries are the best way to get creative.

From there, make sure everything that sells your product – from the props you use in photos, to social media posts, to craft fair displays – tells the story of your brand.

Another cheater way to create a distinct style? Work within a color spectrum – it instantly ties things together. Imagine your etsy shop as a real storefront, and that will help you curate what items belong there, and what don’t.

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1 comment

Thank you so much for sharing! This really helped me with how to approach my branding. I’m currently putting in the hard work to try and launch my candle business. Some days I feel lost on what to do next in this process, so any true advice from someone that has/is living it helps me a ton.

Lutece January 20, 2017

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