Branding Yourself and Your Business

By Marisa Sundin of English Country Paper Co.

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So, you’ve finally started a handmade business! Congrats on taking the first step. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

You’ve just opened up, you love being your own boss and you’re making the products of your dreams… but sales aren’t coming in. It’s hard to drive traffic to your shop, and your word-of-mouth referrals are almost nonexistent.

Anyone find themselves in this slump?

Not to worry! There’s a fix to this: all you need is a unique and consistent brand. I’m here to teach you what your brand can be, why it’s so important, and 5 steps to branding or rebranding your own handmade business.

What is Branding?

So what’s a brand? Your brand is the personality of your business. Just like people have attributes and traits that make them unique, so does your business. Maybe you’ve got a really big personality, and are a little crazy and wild. Maybe you’re more introverted and down to Earth. In most cases, your shop’s personality is an extension of your own. It’s only natural that the products you design and create reflect who you are; so will your brand. For bigger companies and brands, their personality has more to do with their marketing and the words they use to attract customers to their products. We’re going to employ the same idea when creating our own brands.

What kind of first impression do you want your brand to leave? People will often remember their first interaction with you and decide in that moment whether they like you or not. You may be thinking, “Well I want everyone to like me.” The simple truth is, everyone has different tastes and it’s never going to happen. But that’s a good thing. You want your brand to be polarizing; people should either love it or hate it. And for those who hate it? They were never going to be your customer anyway.

Why Does It Matter?

So why is all this important? Creating a brand is what helps your shop stick in people’s memories. If someone is browsing the internet for say, a bohemian style dress, and they find an online shop like Free People that carries all the boho looks of their dreams, they’re going to remember it next time they’re shopping, and likely follow the brand on social media to keep up with them as well. If they find the perfect boho dress in a shop that carries Brooks Brother’s style shirts and 90’s era neons as well, it’s going to look a bit like a garage sale to them. They may buy the dress, but they’ll likely never shop there again, because they don’t even know if that shop will continue to stock the styles they love. See what I mean?

Branding drives your ideal customers to you and repels those that would never buy from you. It makes you stand out from the competition. By creating an amazing first impression, those buyers are likely to become repeat customers, and share you with their friends. That’s two wins in one, right?

Finally, branding helps position your shop in the marketplace. If you want to sell luxury items at top dollar, your brand has to evoke the kind of sophistication that attracts those type of buyers. Just think of Tiffany & Co. for example. Do you think they would have the same type of success if their signature boxes were neon orange? Every little decision you make can impact the type of price your customer is willing to pay.

So, how do you go about creating your one of a kind brand? Almost everything you create for your shop is an extension of it: your website, your logo, tagline, business cards, social media profiles, even the name of your shop can be branded. All of this works together to create something cohesive and memorable. And it’s not that hard to get started; there are 5 key things to consider:

5 Steps to Create Your Own Brand

1. It’s all in the name

Your shop’s name is one of the most important pieces of the branding puzzle. It should reflect who you are, the types of products you sell, the prices you charge and the story behind your business. That’s a lot of pressure, right? One example I like to refer to is Urban Outfitters. Without setting foot into their store, you know that they sell clothes that probably have more of a street style to them, which also narrows down the type of people that are most likely to wear those styles: millennials. See what I mean? There’s a story in a name. My biggest piece of advice: don’t name your shop after yourself. It can be hard to separate yourself from your business later down the line, like what happened with Bobbi Brown and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.

2. Colors

Branding starts with the right colors. What kind of emotion do you want your shop to evoke? Is it playful and fun? You may want to choose brighter colors like pinks and yellows. Is it sophisticated and modern? Blacks, whites and greys may be more right for you. Make a list of some bigger companies that sell products similar to yours. What colors do they use? If you have no idea where to start, choose a shade of blue. It’s a color that sells every time and evokes feelings of trust in buyers.

3. Typography

Fonts tell the same story as colors. Can you name a more polarizing font than comic sans? Probably not. In most cases, you’ll want something clean, simple and easy to read. If your brand is more girly and fun, you may want to go with a brush script. If you’re trying to strike a more personal chord, go with a font that looks more like handwriting.

4. Logo

Now that you have a name, colors and fonts, it’s time to create a logo! This may sound daunting, but I promise you don’t have to hire a graphic designer. I suggest using Canva to quickly whip up a logo design of your own. They have templates you can work off of and everything. Give it a few tries—keep it simple and memorable!

5. Your Words

The first four items on this list are what really set the tone for your brand, but I wanted to point out that every time you write something for your business, you must act as an extension of your brand. Your product descriptions, your Instagram captions, the handwritten note you include in each package—everything you write should be said in a tone of voice consistent with the type of impression you want your brand to make. For an example, just look at the differences in the captions of Instagram posts by Bulgari and Claire’s. Both are jewelry companies, but their branding makes them polar opposites.

I hope I was able to give you a look at what branding can do for you! It helps you become more memorable, helps you stand out from the competition and it positions you in your marketplace.

And just remember that branding is a process. The brand you create right now will grow, evolve and change over the years, and you may end up with something totally different than what you started with. That’s okay! I hope that helps take some of the pressure off of making these big decisions.

Think it over, let it simmer. Don’t force it. And remember, even if you can’t come up with all your ideas right away, you’re still in a better place than you were before you read this article!

Hi, I'm Marisa! I started English Country Paper Co. in 2016 after my first semester of college, when I fell in love with bookbinding and entrepreneurial marketing. This company has been an amazing way to pursue both a passion for art and a career in business! Based in Michigan, I create innovative designs that are always Earth conscious and high quality. I strive to create notebooks and journals that help my customers slow down and focus on mindfulness and self-care throughout the journaling process. 
Kiley Bennett