Most entrepreneurs really need to focus on personal branding, as oftentimes, they are their business. I’d like to introduce to you Christine Kalafus, the principal designer and owner of Stitch Design Studio who has learned about branding her business and herself from me (in person and through my newsletters & blogs). I recently asked her about what she had learned and how that knowledge contributed to the success of her business (growing from a home-based business to a commercial location). It is an excellent example of how executing the strategies discussed here can be put into action.
Read this story and you will find that Christine embodies these concepts:
- Be clear about who you are, what you have to offer, and who your target audience is
- Be confident that you have something amazing to contribute
- Be connected to key influencers who can help you and whom you can help
- Be dynamic in ever adding to your brand
Christine paid her way through college as a licensed insurance agent and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the University of New Haven. She was successful in the insurance industry, which made it hard to quit. Sometimes, excellent pay and benefits can cause inertia that can keep us from fully expressing our personal brand. Nine years after college, by then married and the mother of 3, she made the leap to pursue her passion. For three years, she apprenticed and worked for an in-demand seamstress who had agreed to train her.
But she still felt that she had more to offer, so she signed up for a class at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. (That’s where she met me; I have been teaching as adjunct professor for branding and marketing there for several years). “That’s where I learned about focusing on one thing; you can’t be diverse. You have to understand what your specialty is because that is what is going to carry you.”
She started working out of her house, networking with others and doing great work. She was in a new town but word quickly began to spread about her upscale designs and accessible nature. “I remembered our conversations about networking, partnering with people and the importance of prominent placement, and that definitely helped me build my brand. Through my networking efforts, I had the opportunity to design a window treatment for a set of balcony doors in a new space in an upscale, New York-style hair salon that catered to the same type of high-end clientele that I was trying to attract. As an immediate result of that work, I got five new clients who also referred me to others as well. Aligning with the owner of the hair salon was really a big break for me. She turned out to be a key influencer, as hairdressers are like bartenders—they know everyone in town! This woman is a successful business woman who is very well-respected in the community. That really launched me as a newcomer in town.”
When an opportunity came along for a fabulously inexpensive retail space, she had to overcome fears about taking her business to that next level. But she made the space her own, immediately putting fresh flowers out front and making sure her sign was just the way she wanted it to be (being authentic and expressing her brand naturally!). The adjacent storefronts had been vacant, but the power of her brand attracted other businesses to soon fill those spaces as well.
Christine is continually looking for ways to expand her brand and find more ways for people to engage with her. She has recently added event marketing to her brand-building activities. She now offers one-and-a-half hour sewing classes to teach girls the proper techniques for how to sew. She is branching out and trying new ways to build her brand by getting the moms in the door. Christine admitted, “When I first decided to have the classes, I wasn’t sure if it would do anything for my business, but I thought, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.” As it turned out, the mom of one of her first students had just moved to the area and needed her entire house to be redone.
Whether you are in a corporate situation or an entrepreneurial venture, you can leverage the same branding principles Christine exemplifies. Ask yourself, “How can I put these concepts into action in my own business life?” If you’d like, we’d be happy to help you answer that question. If you would like to find out more about Christine Kalafus and her luxurious soft furnishing creations, visit www.StitchDrapery.com or her blog at http://homecouture.wordpress.com