Seana reached out to me earlier this year to talk about my 3-Day-Wonder service as a referral point for those clients of hers who did not need all the bells and whistles of a full branding experience. We immediately clicked when we got on the phone and had one of those wonderful conversations that you only have with fellow entepreneurs who ‘get it’. I was also impressed by everything Seana has done, she is a true powerhouse and very smart and strategic in how she runs her business. I particularly love her third top tip, it’s so spot on and something I need to remind myself of regularly. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us, Seana! P.S. Make sure you check out her website, it pops, I love it!
→ Next up is Roland van den Hout from Fuse Hub on October 4, 2018
Seana Peele is the Founder and Creative Director of Brandhabit, a digital atelier offering branding, web design/development, and strategy. Seana has been contracted by nationally and internationally recognized brands for features and collaborations, including Houston Grand Opera, WK Interact, Rezenerate, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Yoga Teacher Central, and Clayne Crawford Foundation to name a few. Seana owned and operated a successful online jewelry brand for a number of years before turning her focus to building a branding agency that collaborates with existing brands to elevate and position their businesses for success and visibility on all levels.
A Texas native who left her heart in NYC, wandered with purpose in Mexico, found magic in Seattle and now resides happily in Denver, Colorado with the love of her life, her daughter, Mila. This is Seana Peele.
1) What is your professional background and how did you get into Squarespace web design?
I have always been a creative and have been fortunate to work across a variety of industries from an events planner at New York City Opera, real estate marketing, public relations for medical spas, an auctioneer at one of the Southwest's most renowned auction houses, and a successful jewelry design business of my own that led to recognition in national publications such as Nylon, New York Magazine, Marie Claire and Elle, amongst others.
My past life as a jewelry designer is what brought me to where I am now. When I started my own jewelry business, before social media existed, I knew nothing about e-commerce or web design and development. I hired a web design company to build the site and in the process dove in to learn everything I could from the web design to the development, the platform, and the maintenance. I learned everything I could about running a product based business, email campaigns, trunk shows, public relations, wholesale, everything. With my success, I began to receive requests from other independent and emerging designers asking for guidance on what to do in starting a business - how to brand, how to organize/structure their business, how to attract their customers, plan their product launches and more. It's where I fell in love with the process of building a brand.
I was first introduced to Squarespace back in 2010 when looking for an intuitive platform for a wellness client that wanted minimal upkeep for her website and ease of use if she wanted to make changes on her own. I have been hooked on Squarespace ever since and continue to recommend the platform to those that prefer to have a platform with less fuss while still maintaining the aesthetics and functionality needed for their individual brands.
Now, 14 years after running a successful jewelry brand, I am doing what I love as the Founder and Creative Director of Brandhabit, a digital atelier. I have a great team of creatives that support our clients from locations around the world. Each of us has the same work ethic and care for the client. We collaborate individually, and as a team, with every client to bring about the best end result for the project that we are delivering.
2) What was your safety net (e.g. a partner, another job, savings etc.) when you first started out and how did that help you?
I was fortunate that I had a great network of referrals right out of the gate and was booked out for 4 months within 3 hours of announcing my business. If you are starting your business without a network of referrals, I recommend have a minimum of 3 months living expenses in savings and start getting the word out about your business. Tell friends, family, former colleagues, anyone! Keep your expenses to a minimum. You do not need to break the bank to get up and running.
3) How many websites did you design during your first year and how did your clients find you? Please share three sites you designed during that time.
Oh wow, the first year I believe I built eight sites in combination with various brand development, marketing strategy projects, and smaller client projects. The first year was a big learning process because I started getting referrals from a lot of clients outside of product-based businesses and took on businesses that specialized in service focused industries such as wellness, home builders, real estate, medical, non-profits and celebrity creatives. Continuing my work with clients in different disciplines really led to me honing my own skills and being able to adapt my approach for each client and their unique offering.
4) Do you have a niche market, or a specialty, or are you more of a generalist?
My specialty is building brand experiences. From initial concept to full brand development and strategy, I look at the big picture. Our branding services include strategy and direction in combination with design and development.
In addition to being creative, I also have a background in sales and marketing and more than 14 years of experience in e-commerce, fashion, beauty, arts, and consulting. My approach is unique in that not only can I see the vision for a brand in terms of design, but I am also able to strategically position brands in terms of sales and marketing strategy. My experience working across multiple and varied industries provides me an understanding of what it takes to elevate a brand for the long term by implementing practices from other industries that are not traditionally used. For Brandhabit, simply doing a logo design does not serve our clients. We provide our clients with all necessary assets for both traditional and digital presence along with ongoing support in strategy and direction to build a successful brand that builds relationships for the long run.
Because I remember what it was like years ago, just starting out and trying to figure things out on my own, we are now offering in-person branding workshops for DIY brands. We have just announced our first Brand Building Workshop in Houston, Texas. Our new workshops focus on small businesses that are looking to DIY their brand but need guidance on how to build a brand experience. We provide a mini-photo shoot with our photographer along with brand guidance directly with me in an intimate group setting of no more than 10 people. We have plans to travel to different cities throughout the year. Great design and strategy should be accessible to everyone and we are excited to add our brand workshops to our list of services. You can learn more about our upcoming workshops here.
5) What are your five top tips for starting your own business?
Break it down. Beginning your own business can feel and be overwhelming. Break down the steps you need to get started and prioritize. I recommend creating a list of only 5 items that must be completed each day with the first item being the top priority. As a single mom, I have learned to allow for the unknown on any given day. Limiting your to-do list provides you space to shift your focus without falling behind.
Do your research. What is everyone else in your industry doing? Pay attention to what is and isn't working and create your own method but also study other industries and see how you can apply their methods to your own business. Many business owners believe the industry standard is to be followed at all costs. Not true at all, in today's saturated markets, you must stand out and following the pack is not going to do this for you or your brand. Capitalize on what is unique about you and the experience your clients have when working with you. What do you bring to the table that is different? What type of clients do you want to work with? And NO - you do not want to work with everyone. That is a conversation for another time.
Trust Yourself. Yes, you are going to question yourself from time to time, we all do, but each of us also has a strong inner voice when we know what is and is not right for ourselves. Don't burden yourself with the "what if’s" or the internal chatter can and will take over before you know it. Trust yourself.
Be open. When I look back at my career and experiences, each choice I have made has brought me to where I am today. Every new opportunity that I said yes to, has provided me with a unique point of view and ability to do what I love. Had I not been open to change, to alter my plan, I would not be running an agency right now with the ability to call the shots from day to day over my hours, work, travel and most importantly, being able to be with my daughter whenever she needs me.
Don't stop. Yes, starting a new business can be scary but it is also incredibly fulfilling. Yes, you will work hard, you will make mistakes, you will hit road bumps, and with each experience, you will learn what went wrong, and find a new of way approaching that same situation the next time. Whatever you do, don't stop. Learn from everything and everyone. And when you are overwhelmed and feel like you have hit a wall, step away from the to-do list. Take some personal time for yourself. The list will be there for you when you clear your head. Go for it!
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