Posts in Small Business
BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands
BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands by Swell Made Co.

BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands by Swell Made Co.

Creating a strong brand is more than having a great logo and well defined products or services. A brand is about how your customers feel and what they say when they interact with your brand. Be bold, be you, be different and develop your own style and voice. A distinct visual style, a unique voice, and consistency are key to creating a strong and memorable brand. The process can be uncomfortable, but it's necessary. Look inside before you project your brand out to the world and it will guide you in creating a brand that you can stay true to.

As a designer that works with small businesses to develop brands, I've seen the benefits countless times for my clients. There's nothing better than seeing a small business start strong with passion and vision, great products or services and a solid brand. These are the 3 must haves for all strong brands:

Visual Style

While your visual style isn’t just a logo, it’s a solid place to start. Invest in a great logo and use it everywhere (almost). Integrating your brand means extending your visual style (and voice) to every aspect of your business. From packaging, photography style, postcards to your email campaigns and everything in between. Truly. Think of everything as something that can be branded. It can be subtle.

Tip - Use style guidelines and well designed templates for your marketing materials. Having the same colour palette, logo, type, and general look and feel throughout will set you apart and save you time. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent. Don't be afraid to "police" your visual style and when in doubt, keep it simple. 

Voice

Create a unique voice that reflects your brand. This is just as important as your visual style. They actually go hand in hand. Your voice isn’t just copy, but how it sounds in your consumer's mind and how it makes them feel. This voice should be applied to all written pieces from social media posts, email campaigns, product descriptions to bios. Your voice inspires visual imagery as well. Don’t be boring. Be bold.

Example - An example that I love about voice by Ann Handley, goes a little something like this. You have a hotdog and you're about to use the condiments. You can say "Give me the mustard" (authoritative), or "Can you please pass me the mustard?" (standard, but polite), OR "Pardon me. Do you have any Grey Poupon?". Great, right?  

Consistency 

You can have a distinct visual style and unique voice, and mess it up here. Consistency of your brand is paramount. Once you define your visual style and unique voice, stick to them. Seriously. Of course, they will evolve over time; but being consistent is the most important part of developing a strong and memorable brand. It may be tempting to add another font, a new trendy colour, or a new message; but it only adds confusion for your customer. Go back to your style guide and ask yourself if it’s a good fit.

Tip - Hire a trusted pro to guide you through the process and bring you brand to life. A good designer will help you launch your brand confidently. Better yet, they’ll empower you with tips on how to drive it forward consistently.  

Now it's time to flex your branding muscles and do a little exercise. Again, branding yourself is a big process, but this will help you get a good start. Think of it as a warm up.


Exercise

  1. Describe your visual style. Write down simple words. Edit down to a few.

  2. Describe your business and how it makes your customers feel. Again, write down simple words. Edit down to a few.

  3. Define your brand messaging. Using the edited words you collected above as a guide, what are the key messages you want to share about your brand? Be thoughtful, concise and develop your voice. Your brand messaging should consider the following: Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What is it like to deal with you?

  4. Define your customer. Don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think by doing research. Your branding should speak to actual customers, not “dream customers”. Knowing them will help you define your brand and messaging.

These questions are inspired by a process Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes, suggests when it comes to voice and branding, and from Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press on visual style and branding.

Thanks for reading! If you'd like to chat about branding for your small business, get in touch. I'd love to help! You can see some of my recent work here

Confessions of an Entrepreneur - Loneliness
swell-made-co-confessions-entrepreneur.jpg

When you're an entrepreneur, working on your own can get lonely. It’s true. Especially if you work from home. It doesn't have to be! Here are some tips to combating the entrepreneurial blues and places where you can cowork with real-live people in Toronto (and beyond).


Cultivate an Entrepreneurial Community

Whether you join an existing group, or surround yourself with a select group of fellow entrepreneurs; they're the ones who will understand the feeling of loneliness. They'll also appreciate and respect the challenges and dedication it takes to run a business on your own. Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs is a positive way to feel like you're in it together, and you'll be able to support and learn from each other as well.

That said, it's important to prioritize those relationships. You can't be friends with everyone, so don't try. Invest in good relationships and friendships. You only have so much time. Make it count. How does the quote go? “Leave the table if love (or respect) isn’t being served”. Doesn’t that go for a lot of things in life? Edit.

Take a Break

While your hustle is not in vain, don't forget to take a break every once in a while. Entrepreneurs are busy people, but remember to do other things you love too. Yoga, getting outside, traveling, reading, hanging out with friends. Whatever it is you need to decompress, is important for your mental and physical health. Recharge and come back feeling less lonely after connecting with your world again.

Work with Others

Finally, a lot of entrepreneurs that work solo, also work from home. Get out of your physical comfort zone and work in a coworking space. You'll connect with other entrepreneurs (socially and professionally) as mentioned above. Below are some of the best places to set up a workspace for a day, or on a regular basis in Toronto. They all offer flexible types of memberships, plus events to help you get out there and crush those goals.

Make Lemonade

326 Adelaide Street West - 6th Floor

New to Toronto is Make Lemonade. A workspace dedicated to women. The design-forward coworking environment is tropical and bright. It's a space meant to inspire and support, with strong coffee at the ready and spaces that include board rooms, phone booths and even an outdoor patio. They encourage a community of women to make some magic and get sh*t done! Make Lemonade also offers events for female entrepreneurs from goal smashing to self-care for startups. Photos from Make Lemonade.

Breather

Multiple Locations / Multiple Cities

Need a space to breathe between meetings? Or, maybe you need a space to host a meeting (small or large group). Breather has various locations around Toronto and in other cities like New York, Boston, Ottawa and Montreal where you can set up shop for a few hours, or a whole day. The spaces are beautiful and welcoming. Just think of it as an Airbnb for office spaces. Photos by Breather.

Love Child Social House

69 Bathurst Street

Love Child is a coworking and social space for entrepreneurs, creatives, events, workshops, and nightlife. They believe collaboration is the real mother of invention, so they created a workspace designed for connection. With memberships that include social events, you'll never feel alone in this fun space. Photos by Love Child Social House.

We Work

Richmond Street and Bloor Street

The global coworking chain has cropped up in Toronto with locations on Richmond and Bloor. Featuring a cafe, group and individual work areas, this dynamic space is well-known around the world for being a comfortable place to set up shop. With a focus on humanizing work and helping you grow, they've thought of everything. By grabbing a membership you'll be able to set up in a familiar space no matter where you are (almost, there are 59 cities). Photos by Toronto Life.

The East Room

50 Carrol Avenue

Located in Toronto's East End, the East Room offers a stunning coworking space with services catering to freelance creatives and small businesses. Packed with curated antiques, this space is perfect for photo shoots (or just feeling inspired), individual and group spaces, mail services, etc. Membership applications vary offering a more casual workspace to something more permanent. Photos by The East Room.