Words by Kira West
As we spend more time at home, now more than ever is the perfect time to start that one thing you’ve been putting off, or invest time in building your own great ideas. Lately I’ve heard from more and more people that they want to start a brand or business but don’t know where to start. As someone who has done it I have invaluable experience and there are so many things I wished I’d known along the way. I’ve learned a tonne of useful takeaways (sometimes the hard way!) that I’m now excited to share with you.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I’ve always been entrepreneurial in a way. I was that kid in fourth grade that was always selling something. I vividly remember starting a greeting card business as a kid, using magazine clippings and clear tape to create the cards I sold to my classmates. Fast forward to college and I spent a lot of my career working on independent projects and studies. I was fascinated by social entrepreneurship and the way that companies could make money and also make an impact.
Despite my love of the entrepreneurial approach, when I graduated from college I decided to join the workforce and work within the hospitality industry. I knew that one day I’d want to start something of my own, but felt like I needed more formal training first to figure out what that thing was.
I worked full time in hospitality, but simultaneously kept my college consulting skills sharp and did a lot of project-based work with start up brands that needed marketing support outside of my full time position. It felt like the perfect way to dip my toe towards the idea of starting my own brand, by being able to teach and learn from those already doing it.
BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Towards the end of my time in my first hospitality job, I realised that I was unhappy and needed to find a creative outlet. I was between clients and had been helping them with their digital marketing plan and social strategy, so I thought why not use my marketing knowledge for myself and my own personal brand?
I started to get a lot of the same travel and fitness related questions in person and via my social media page, so I decided to focus on catering to this audience by launching a blog. I was so excited to start my ‘brand’ and launch my blog ‘ByKwest’. However I thought the success would come overnight, and it didn’t. I’m not the most patient person, but I continued to put in work, pushed myself to network with others and focused on consistency, knowing it would all pay off. After a while it did, and I’m always so thankful for those that have been with me as a community member or social media follower from the beginning.
4 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED MY OWN BRAND
Start before you’re ready
There is no perfect time! Get those ideas down, create content and start building your community.
Trust your research
Know that you’ve done the hard work to understand your concept and the potential audience of the brand you are launching.
Network, network, network
As they say… it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! Network with everyone and anyone, you never know who you can or who will help you down the line.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously!
It’s challenging and sometimes daunting to put yourself out there. But don’t overthink it! Building your own brand is also supposed to be fun and if you’re passionate about it then that will shine through.
LAUNCHING MY OWN PRODUCTS
Fast forward to 2020 when the world turned upside down (thanks Covid) and I knew I needed to take my brand a step further. I was interested in launching a physical product, but didn’t even know where to begin. I’d toyed around with multiple ideas until I was able to settle on a way in which jewellery could combine my love of travel and my love of the world.
With the help of friends, family and a creator incubator I was able to launch Made ByKwest in April of 2020, giving back a portion of sales from each piece to non-profit organisations I believed in. For months after launch, I worked hard to get everything right - from supply to packaging to marketing. Honestly it’s still not all perfect, but I’m following the same steps of hard work and consistency that helped me the first time around. And I’ve got to say that it’s starting to pay off.
It’s not easy to start a brand and it’s even more challenging to start a product-based business. But it’s also exciting to be in control of your future in such a powerful way.
7 ENTREPRENEURIAL PRINCIPLES TO LIVE BY
There’s so much I’ve learnt about starting a brand and business, but TMI can be overwhelming. If I could share the most meaningful entrepreneurial tips with regards to starting your own brand, they would categorically be:
1. Know Your Niche
Focus on what makes you and your idea unique as well as who will be most interested as a consumer.
2. Get Feedback
I used friends and family to get ‘focus group’ style feedback from trusted sources that allowed me to get a bigger picture and avoid the ‘echo chamber’ effect.
3. Be Patient
Good things take time, so know that you may not get it all right overnight. Having a business plan is key and it’s an integral part of the process, but know that you cannot figure it all out before you start, even with a solid business plan done.
4. Ask for Help
I’m trained in marketing and social strategy but graphic design isn’t my forte so I hired a friend to help make my dream logo a reality.
5. Aim for Progress, not Perfection
As a newcomer, no matter how much you prepare, you will learn many things as you’re going. Understand things won’t be perfect but you’ll get better with each challenge you overcome.
6. Endurance is Everything
When you’re your own boss it’s all too easy to work all day and night. But the ‘hustle hard’ mentality won’t serve you in the long run. Don’t let self care slip, as when you feel good, rested and rejuvenated, it’s easier for your business to thrive. It’s a marathon not a sprint, so pace yourself!
7. Follow the Joy
If you’re struggling to figure out your passion or where your brand should be rooted, dig deeper into the people, places and things that bring you joy.
As an entrepreneur, you can get discouraged and honestly lonely at times. But knowing your “why” and seeing your vision for the future will keep you going. And don’t feel you have to quit your day job straight away to be an entrepreneur. It is possible to do both initially - especially with flexibility of working from home. So if there’s an idea you’ve been sitting on, what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to start putting those wheels into motion.