Photos by Choate House
Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Kathleen Shannon of Braid Creative & Consulting and & Kathleen. After working in the firm-side of the advertising and marketing world, Kathleen decided to embark on a self-employed journey along with her sister, Tara, and launch their own venture. With a motto of living what you love and doing what you want, Kathleen has established a successful business, blog and mentoring system. Today she shares a bit more about her career journey. Thanks for offering this glimpse into your process, Kathleen. —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I was working in advertising as an art director for 5 years and blogging on the side. Through my blog I was getting lots of fun freelance projects doing branding for small creative entrepreneurs – eventually the drive to strike out on my own began to outweigh the security of a steady paycheck.
A year later my sister, who was a creative director in advertising, decided to jump into the “work-for-yourself” waters and team up with me. Together we started our business Braid Creative & Consulting. It was really scary at first – we don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. In fact, our parents have had the same jobs for over thirty years!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
Both my sister and I had backgrounds in advertising and marketing – and I had developed a passion for working with micro businesses and artistpreneurs during my stint in freelancing and blogging. So we decided to bring our agency experience to this world of other creatives who aren’t always drawing a line between the personal and the professional. We decided on the name “Braid” because it’s about taking all the different aspects of a person and weaving them together to tell their blended story, in a way that gives them confidence and gets them hired living what they love.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
The best piece of advice we received when we first started came from our life coach, Jay Pryor, who we hired to help us navigate the uncertainty that comes with being your own boss after years at a day job. He told us, after three months of almost zero business, that the universe abhors a vacuum and that we needed to create space for our clients. Literally. I had a big chalkboard wall in my office and drew ten big blanks on it with the title “CLIENTS.” It was really scary looking at those empty lines but within a week the chalkboard was filled up with paying customers. To do this day we still use a chalkboard system to track business and set goals.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
It can be really difficult going from a day job where someone else defines your roles, sets expectations, and gives you praise to doing your own thing. Nobody tells you that everybody who owns their own business is making it up as they go. You’re no longer responsible for just showing up and doing a good job but now you’re accountable for all the things that go into growing a business. All the decision-making it takes to start up can feel really exhausting and overwhelming.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I’m going to cheat and give you two:
1. I’ve learned that by being who you are, personally and professionally, you will attract your tribe and your dream clients. For example, I was terrified that by fashioning my hair into dreadlocks I would alienate clients with cash but have found that cultivating the confidence to just “own it” is your biggest asset.
2. Give it all away. The more gifts of knowledge you openly share for free, on your blog for example, the more people will come to you to pay for your expertise.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Recently I decided I wanted to try my hand at bringing what we offer our one-on-one client and ecourse students to a small in-person workshop. It certainly wasn’t a failure but I didn’t leave the experience feeling fully satisfied or energized. I realized that we were trying someone else’s business model and it didn’t quite work for us. And that’s okay.
Failures and barriers are chances to tweak, refine, try again a different way, and narrow in on what you really want to be doing.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
Partnering with my sister, hiring two full time designers and an e-sales manager, getting to work with dream clients and write blog posts for a living – feels pretty damn successful.
But if I could list two experiences that made me feel like “YES! This is it!” they would be:
1. Launching our Braid ECourses for Creative Entrepreneurs (or aspiring entrepreneurs!). The courses take our creative expertise, translate it into useful how-to’s, and make it available to other creatives who want that guidance but can’t work with us one-on-one. So scaling what we love and know best, felt huge.
2. Being hired to rebrand Brené Brown. If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown watch this TED talk. It’s a must for ANY creative who needs to muster up the courage to live wholeheartedly. I did a book review on her must-read Daring Greatly – it caught her eye and eventually she hired us to help her tap into her personal brand before appearing on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. It was a total dream to be able to work with a hero.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
• ReWork by 37signals – this book keeps it simple and proves that you don’t need a business degree to launch.
• We Are All Weird by Seth Godin – this book will give you the courage to get narrow in your niche
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. What is your craft or skill? In other words, what are people actually buying from you?
2. What’s your purpose? Why do you want to do what you do – and for whom?
3. And finally, I’d just like to say that even your dream job is hard work. Are you ready to show up every single day?