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Unleashing Your Creativity to Build Great Brand Experiences

With Sarah Gustat, Ninette Wassef, Jodi Patkin, Katie Potochney, and Kadecia Ber

42 minutes

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Creating an exceptional brand experience requires strategic creative thinking, and there are tried-and-true tactics business owners can use to uplevel their brand and customer experience. This panel assembled branding leaders to help business owners understand how to infuse creativity into branding that translates into a great customer experience.

Additional resources

Sarah Gustat EVP of Marketing, Talking Rain Beverages
Ninette Wassef Founder, Chrome Cycle Studio
Jodi Patkin SVP of Brand Marketing and Communications, theSkimm
Katie Potochney Executive Creative Director, Intuit Mailchimp
Kadecia Ber Director of Multi-Location Solutions, Yelp

Emily: Kadecia is our director of Multi Location Solutions. I’m so excited for her to dig into this topic.

Kadecia, I’m going to hand it over to you. Take it away.

Kadecia: Thank you so much, Emily.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining this summit to talk about women in business. Hopefully, you’ve been with us all day. If you are just tuning in, we’re so happy to have you here. I’m really excited to talk about how to unleash great brand experiences with our panel of guests today. They’re eager to share their knowledge, their experience, tell you all about how they do it.

Before we get started, feel free to comment, ask questions, share love via emoji in the chat. I will try to address any questions as [inaudible 00:00:50] of this panel. But want to jump in by introducing our guests, and maybe ask them a little warmup question about what brand is on heavy rotation in their household.

I’m going to start with Sarah Gustat. Sarah is the executive vice president of marketing at Talking Rain Beverage Company. This is a beverage powerhouse. If you don’t have Sparkling Ice, go out and get Sparkling Ice. They are a best-selling sparkling water brand.

Sarah has led the brand’s transformation from traditional marketing tactics to digital. With an emphasis on targeted advertising on social media and the web, under Sarah’s leadership, the Sparkling Ice brand has experienced record-breaking growth and remains the number one sparkling water brand in America.

We’re super excited to have Sarah with us today. She’s also an Ironman triathlete. Those are my dreams, girl. I don’t know how you do it. And she enjoys playing recreational soccer and traveling the world with her husband.

Thank you for joining us today, Sarah.

Sarah: Hi.

Kadecia: It looks like you have a busy household. What brand is on heavy rotation in your household?

Sarah: Well, because I’m active, I do, of course, wear a lot of Brooks running shoes. Anybody who isn’t familiar with them, they’re a local based company as well, and actually number one in their field. If you look at my shoe rack, you’d probably see two, three, four, five pair on any given point that I wear out pretty quickly as I’m running around the Seattle area.

Also, another big brand for me, of course, Sparkling Ice. It’s in my daily rotation, whether it’s a caffeinated experience with our plus caffeine. We also have our non-caffeinated version, and then it makes a really great mixer. So on the nights of weekends with friends, I, of course, am making my Sparkling Ice cocktail.

Kadecia: I love that, Sarah. I’m a faithful New Balance girl when it cones to running shoes, but my spouse is on the Brooks train with you. So we are divided in sneakers.

Sarah: A house divided. Okay.

Kadecia: Now, I’m tripping over pairs of Brooks by the doorway, so great to hear that.

The next panelist I want to introduce to you is Jodi Patkin. Jodi is the senior vice president of brand and marketing communications at theSkimm. If you haven’t read theSkimm, get theSkimm in your life. theSkimm is a digital media company giving Millennial women, and I would really say all women, the information they need to live their smartest lives.

Jodi works to elevate and grow the Skimm’s brand, which is one of its strongest assets. theSkimm is a trusted source for its community of more than 12 million users across its platforms. Jodi is a mission-driven leader with years of success in creating and leading, and executing on campaigns that deliver lasting brand value. And Jodi is an award winner in the space.

Jodi, we’re super happy to have you on board. We’ll love to hear what brands are in heavy rotation in your household.

Jodi: Yes. Other than theSkimm, of course, starting your day with your Daily Skimm newsletter, to get you up to speed on all things very quickly, in addition to our Skimm Your Life and Skimm Money emails, I also have two small kids at home, so a lot of the brands that are in heavy rotation with us right now, I’m going to throw in a different shoe brand, because my kids are huge fans of Nike sneakers, more on the fashion sneaker front.

Roblox is a big one in our house. And really just Amazon Music is huge. We love to have big … this dance break before we started. Amazing. We love to have dance parties as a family. And lots of games that we can play together. I would say those … We’re more brand agnostic on the game front. But anything that, despite me calling out Roblox earlier, gets us all off screens and moving together is helping. Music has a fun way of doing that.

Kadecia: I love that. Amazing. Great.

Jodi: Thank you for having me.

Kadecia: Our next guest is Ninette Wassef. Ninette is the founder of Chrome Cycle Studio, the first and only boutique spin studio in Westwood in Los Angeles. She opened Chrome Cycle in April of 2017, after a long road of creating, planning and building, and a really big decision to leave her career as a practicing trial attorney.

Ninette’s passion for indoor cycling, and later, anything fitness, really helped her shift from fitness being a passive background activity to really becoming her life’s purpose and mission. Without looking back, Ninette worked to develop a brand and environment that not only she believed in, but her team of instructors, employees, and customers would feel equally motivated to support and promote.

Ninette, you have built from the ground up. I love it. What brands are in heavy rotation for you?

Ninette: Okay. Along the shoe line, actually, the heaviest rotation for me is TIEM Athletic. They are a specifically cycling created cycling shoe that you could wear functionally as well. They’re very cute shoes. Woman founded. Started, I would say, about seven, eight years ago. I saw their progress, along with Chrome Cycle’s progress and growth. It’s a really great shoe line. They also have a studio shoe that does not have the cycling cleat. Check out TIEM Athletic. It’s T-I-E-M.

Newly in my rotation of brands is theSkimm, which I had never been introduced to before, yes, before this panel. Jodi, I have been catching up on theSkimm over the last week or so. I’m super excited that it was introduced to me. So thank you for that. Those are my two brands.

Kadecia: I love expert branders, because they’re branding for each other, doing the branding panel. It’s very meta. I love it.

Our final guest is Katie Potochney. Katie is the executive director and head of Wink, Mailchimp’s global in-house creative agency. Since 2018, Katie has grown Wink into an award-winning collective of 40 plus fearlessly talented creatives across design, advertising and studio production.

Prior to MailChimp, Katie led brand design at Etsy, spearheading its first app-focused brand identity, sounds really cool, and building the company’s first ever TV advertising campaign.

Katie has a background in advertising art direction. She’s an alumna and former instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Katie lives in Atlanta with her husband, her two daughters and Shrimp, the dog who acts like a cat.

You might have to return him. I don’t know, Katie. I would love to hear what brands are in heavy rotation in your household.

Katie: I love this question. It really makes you reflect. Yeah. I got to chime in with my shoe brand. Unfortunately, it’s not very athletic. It’s Birkenstocks, just all kinds of Birkenstocks and ultimate comfort.

Well, thank you for that introduction. You mentioned my two daughters. I have a four-year-old and a one-year-old, so I’m big into Instacart, to just constantly be buying milk and bananas.

Then I think maybe not in constant rotation anymore, but having had my second daughter a year ago, Frida Mom. Frida Baby, Frida Mom is a brand that I love and feel connected to for life, because I felt so seen by the business, not only doing the snot sucker, kind of gross, but if you’re a parent you get it, the Frida Baby, all that gross stuff that you need to just get by as a parent.

But also the way they expanded their product offering for mothers’ postpartum, and they did it in such a hilarious, irreverent way, and their advertising is so honest and transparent, and talking about the parents’ experiences, especially the women’s experience, it meant a lot to me.

It wasn’t around for my first daughter. I still have all their gear around, even though I don’t really need it anymore. I just feel real kinship with that brand and appreciate what they do. So wanted to mention it.

Kadecia: That is a serious shout out. That Frida nose device, it kind of gives me nightmares when I think back on it, but it was …

Katie: It’s a life saver.

Kadecia: You can’t misuse it or you’re in trouble. But thank you for sharing such a great brand.

So brands, branding, these are terms that are thrown around all the time. People are like, “I got to build a great brand.” But a brand experience feels a little bit different. I would love to have you all speak to exactly what is a brand experience.

I’ll kick it off, Jodi.

Jodi: Yeah. I always center on your brand is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room. Your last touchpoint, your last experience. Katie, you described Frida so perfectly, and most of it was not around when my kids were little, but I’m sitting there nodding, because that snot sucker and that experience is so deeply ingrained in my brain. But that brand love that you get from that utility and trust that you’ve built, that’s your last touchpoint with them, so that’s what the brand is to you.

When you’re creating a really powerful brand experience, I think there are a multitude of ways to do that, across digital platforms, across IRL experiences, across the product itself, across the content that you build around it. But really core to it is how is your brand delivering on your mission and your value prop?

For us at theSkimm, our mission is to empower generations of informed, confident women. How do we do that? We do that through our content, we do that through our experiences.

Most recently, last week, we launched an initiative called State of Women that was grounded in a study that we did with a Harris poll, which we talked to a lot of women today who, no surprise to any of us, are saying, “Hi. The state of women is not working.” Now, we have the data to back it up. What can we do about it?

The response just to this white paper, this study, this survey, this experience of feeling seen and represented by a brand created a really powerful experience for our end user. It’s not just to say, “Hey. Read the Daily Skimm in the morning,” “Hey. Read our up and coming new parenting newsletter, “Hey. Read our information on Well, or follow us on Instagram.” Anyone can say that.

Giving our consumers that experience of feeling seen and heard and represented by us as a brand, I think makes for a really powerful brand experience that builds that trust and has them coming back. If you then ask them, “Who’s theSkimm? What do they do?” We hope they’ll be able to tell you, “Well, they’re representing me, giving me the info I need to make confident decisions, because they’ve teed me up, and then I can go from there.”

Kadecia: I love that, Jodi. I absolutely love that.

I would love to hear anyone else. When you think about … I imagine some folks are sitting on the audience that says, “I have a good brand, but how does it become a brand experience?” Would love to hear, maybe Katie, your thoughts on that.

Katie: Yeah. I think when you think about your business and your brand, and how do you actually bring it to life, I think you can step back and really ask yourself, “How can I tap into the story of my brand, the purpose of it?” Define it, say it out loud, write it down, and then really think about your customers and how you could leverage emotions to help them connect to your story.

You have lots of components to consider, and all the different touchpoints of your business, whether it’s your space, your product, your website, your email connections. MailChimp, we think a lot about emails as a marketing platform. Then all the stakeholders that you want to speak to, your audiences. And your brand identity. I think your tone of voice is super important. Your visual style, your brand behaviors and values that I think come to life through your story.

You have all the ingredients. It’s sometimes just a bit of a thought exercise to sit down and reflect on your journey, and what makes your business unique. Oftentimes, depending on your industry, your brand experience is really what differentiates you.

It’s something that’s differentiated MailChimp from the beginning. In terms of being an email marketing platform, we show up in a way that’s really authentic to our founders’ story, designers, very close to the Atlanta community, and really believing in the creativity of small businesses, mid-market businesses, and the difference they can make in the world.

We always try to demonstrate that through everything we do. That’s what defines our brand experiences. How can we inspire our customers in a way that they feel creative and brave to be themselves for their customers? Because if we’re not demonstrating that, as MailChimp, the marketing platform, then we’re not demonstrating the power of our own product. It’s a little bit meta.

But yeah. I think, as a creative leader, last thing I’ll say, my team, Wink Creative, we really try to bring together our tone of voice. How we write, how we show up in copy. With the tone of our visuals. What are our hero colors? Of course, you have your logo and your typefaces and stuff, but it’s really about the composition of it all, and how you bring it to life in all of those touchpoints.

It’s so much fun to play with. You just have to set out all your ingredients, reflect on who you are, and have fun with combining them in different ways for your audiences, of course, in a way that brings the business results that you’re looking for. Yeah.

Sarah: I really love what you just said. The way that we approach it is very similar. At the end of the day, we’re always founded in our brand purpose. We’re very intentional on how that gets expressed across the various touchpoints.

But we have a saying, “We’re not [inaudible 00:15:56]” I’m Sarah Gustat, but how I talk to my 10-year-old niece versus my husband versus my CEO is different. But I’m still authentically myself across those touchpoints. A brand is much the same way. You have to be very intentional and thoughtful on that. So just to back up what we’re hearing right now, I completely agree with you.

Katie: Authenticity is such a great word to keep in mind. Sometimes you might look at your competitors, or you have certain pressures, and it’s easy to feel like you have to behave like another business or compare yourself. But I think that at MailChimp, our gut check has always been what’s authentic to who we are and what feels right.

Sometimes it’s pretty intangible, and it’s hard to actually scale to others. That’s the importance of brand guidelines, and experiences for your own employees to maybe help them really, even new ones, especially, understand your brand viscerally. I think brand experience is really important internally too when it comes to culture, of course.

But yeah, that authenticity, that’s such a great word to just have in front of you all the time as that reminder. I love that, Sarah.

Kadecia: Go ahead, Ninette.

Ninette: No. I’d love to expand on that as well. Growing these definitions are really resonating with me. To expand on your brand being what people say about you when you’re not in the room, or that authenticity that you bring, for me at Chrome Cycle, we’re a fitness studio in Los Angeles. Hundreds. There’s hundreds of us.

What makes us stand out or what makes people, our customers and our community, keep coming back to Chrome Cycle is that feeling that they get when they walk out the door, or walk in the door, or when they think about your brand.

Getting on an indoor cycle in any studio, or even in your living room, if you have that convenience, you can do that anywhere. But to do it, to keep coming back to the same place, it’s because we’re creating that brand experience that leaves them with that feeling that, “Wow. I feel good here. I feel safe here. I fit in here. I want to do it again. I want to feel that again.” We really work really hard to impart that experience so that people do feel that sense of inclusion.

In any brand, whether it’s a brick and mortar or an actual product, people want to feel seen, included, heard, and like they are getting the value for their contribution to your business. So for us, we look at it as more of a partnership with our people than even our customers. Yes, we’re asking you to spend money, and we’re asking you to invest in us, but we’re also investing in you. We’re investing in your fitness journey, and your routine. We want to be here for your wellness.

I think that really captures all of the authenticity and that brand feeling.

Kadecia: One of the things I think about, especially with each of your backgrounds, is you got to cut across a lot of noise, right? I imagine trying to hit people’s inbox, Jodi and Katie, and really stand out, and keep that level of authenticity. Sarah, the beverage industry is huge. There’s so much competition there. And Ninette, in your space, there might be a couple big competitors, when we think about cycling out there. So the ability to do that is great.

I would love to hear from you all, really specifically, in thinking about something you’ve done that created a great brand experience. What’s an example of how you really took this on, and built it out, and created that experience for your consumers?

I’ll start with you, Ninette, just to speak to how you actually shaped that up for folks who are coming into the studio.

Ninette: Sure, thanks. One of the things I’m the most proud of is that we are constantly looking for ways to really give back to our community. For example, we do, I would say … We’re getting back to it now. Obviously, pandemic was a little rough. But pre-pandemic, we had built up to … We were doing a really big charity event at least once a month for all kinds of various organizations, small and large, that were important to our community and important to our people.

One of our instructors has lupus. We did a lupus charity ride almost monthly, where she would donate her earnings, and we would donate as a studio. We would really advertise for the lupus community. I learned so much about the ailment of lupus and how we can help, just from connecting with someone in my community. We’ve done things with, like I said, large and small organizations. Having our community learn about these organizations also just keeps our community tight.

This weekend, we’re having actually a charity fundraiser for a group called Camp Kesem at UCLA. Kesem is a student-run charitable event. What they do is they provide camps for children whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment. These kids are in a rough space. This program, countrywide, they are student run at all different universities. They provide camp counselors and a safe space for these kids. I never would’ve known about it if it weren’t for two of my employees, front desk at Chrome Cycle, UCLA students who brought their mission and their cause to us.

We really try to expand that, and extrapolate, and blast out to our people, by the way, through our MailChimp emails, we do reach our community and make sure that we’re doing our best to not only take from the community, but really give back to our community as well.

Jodi: Yeah. I think a couple of the things you just hit on really resonate. One is you’re meeting your community and your audience where they are. That’s such a core principle for us of what we endeavor to do, whether it’s the platform or the issue that matters to them most. The other two are just building that trust and loyalty together. You are taking an example where you’ve heard them really intently and intentionally and said, “Okay. This is what you need. Here’s what I can provide.”

We do that very frequently with our audience, with our Skimmers, is what we call our audience of 12 million mostly Millennial women across all platforms. Some great examples of that recently have been around the issue of paid family leave, which is not nationally supported. We knew it wasn’t going to get passed in the bill. In a moment of frustration, one of our co-CEOs posted and said, “I can’t do this, but what can we do?”

An initiative that we built called Show Us Your Leave was born. There are now more than 600 different companies that have shared their paid family leave program in the corporate sector. We’ve had so many Skimmers come to us saying, “These tools are so valuable. I’ve been able to get my policy changed. I’ve been able to see where I can look for a job next, if I want to have a family or I’m caring for an ill family member,” because that’s what they needed. That’s what they were missing. They told us and shared it with us, related to the content that we were putting out in the world. We built this database, and created this movement and this conversation all in response to what they needed from us at the moment.

We knew, in that moment in time, we weren’t going to be able to change national policy, but it flips that script and puts the power back in the hands of your audience and your community and your platform to say, “Okay. But what can I do? How can I make a difference?”

Prior to coming to theSkimm, I worked in nonprofit for a good chunk of time. That ability to shift the power dynamic and put it in the hands of your community, whether it’s taking a ride for a good cause, or being able to share what you’re able to do to change policy at your own company is really, really powerful.

Being able to continue that dialogue, and then raise up and highlight great work that women and men and readers are doing, we’ve seen be really powerful for us, both with Show Us Your Leave, our election initiatives. Even every day in our morning newsletter, the Daily Skimm, we have a section at the bottom where we’re just shouting out fantastic community driven efforts from our audience too. The response to that and the inspiration that others are getting from that we’ve seen to continue to be so powerful.

Kadecia: That’s great to hear.

Sarah: Thinking about corporate social responsibility, I was leaning in that direction as well, but just to provide maybe a different example that’s something that I’m proud of for Sparkling Ice is we have really passionate consumers who are constantly reaching out to us, just sharing stories, whether it’s their weight loss journey, or recipes that they’re creating with their kids and their family members, or cocktails with their girlfriends. They were approaching our sales team and our stores. They were approaching us online or via social channels.

We really wanted to harness and celebrate those stories, so we created this idea which has now turned into our rewards platform, where we are inviting and celebrating with our fans the stories and the experiences they’re creating with our brand. We’re not telling them who we are, what we are. It’s how they are bringing it into their homes or into their lives. We’re just there to celebrate it with them.

That has kind of created this rewards platform where it’s not this self-serving, “Tell us your story so we can show it on social media,” and we might do that, but it’s, “Tell us your story. We want to celebrate there with you. We want to continue on that journey with you, as Sparkling Ice is just by your side,” which I think is turning into this really powerful relationship with our consumer that in previous years we just really hadn’t had. That was just one example I wanted to share.

Katie: I love that. I love how it turned into your loyalty program. That’s so cool. Sometimes it’s just about observing your audience. What are you noticing? What insights can you glean from the way that they show up when they’re at your service or offering, or the feedback they give you? You can get so many ideas from that.

I guess the example that comes to mind for MailChimp, in terms of a brand experience, this past year, we had a big paid campaign, Guess Less, Sell More. It was a big TV campaign. Some of you might have seen it, especially during NFL. It was really about how MailChimp helps marketers take the guesswork out of marketing, whether it’s automations to help you save time, or stop trying to guess what your different customers want, how you can use segment and automate, so that you can really spend more time being creative. That whole campaign was going on over here. But we think about ways to extend on that campaign, and create further brand activations and experiences.

Another thing that we did was, in line with one of our brand behaviors, which is around the democratization of access. What does that mean? Well, in the same way that the paid campaign, which is an ad campaign very overtly, we take the guesswork and the mystery out of some of the hardest parts of being a marketer, we also wanted to … demystifying, but also democratize access to stages and places where small businesses and their marketers might not have access to.

What we did was we showed up at New York Fashion Week. Okay. Why is MailChimp at New York Fashion Week? It was this idea we had to, on this big stage for US designers that are very fancy, luxury designers, but so noisy and busy, how would you break through as a small fashion brand? So we’re thinking about small businesses. What about fashion brands? You see New York Fashion Week, how do you even start to break through there?

Well, we partnered … We loved showing up there, because it’s unexpected for MailChimp, but how can we give access to a small business on this amazing stage, using the ability that MailChimp has as a large business?

We partnered with IMG and the Black In Fashion Council to take the guesswork out of building a fashion business by giving five emerging black designers access to New York Fashion Week. They showed up in a capsule. There was capsule collections. These five designers created designs. All five of the designers were sold out. They were in this popup within New York Fashion Week. They sold out. It was a really huge success.

That was a brand experience that was a creative metaphor, but had a huge impact on these designers; it created a great brand halo for MailChimp; and it connected into the campaign we had going.

That’s what we strive to do. When you do good, you try to do good at all times, do right by your customers. You’re also needing to meet your business goals. You also want to build up your brand image and identity.

I love what y’all are saying about loyalty and trust and feeling seen. There’s so many creative decisions you can make to come across in a certain way, and build that brand affinity. So why would MailChimp be at New York Fashion Week? Well, there’s that thinking behind it that got us there. Now, people are like, “Well, sure. That makes sense that MailChimp would show up there, because they’re a creative brand. They think in an offbeat way to connect to small and mid-size businesses and their marketers.” You know what I mean?

So I love … I’m hearing all of y’all’s ideas of just like you start with a kernel of an insight, and you build, build, build. It can turn into something really unique and magical and differentiated. That’s a really important piece of criteria for a really good brand experience.


And also really rewarding, to come back … We get rewarded with that loyalty. We get rewarded with the customers sharing their stories. Sometimes, you touch people that you have no idea you’re touching. You’re just going about your daily business, and operating my cycling classes.

We actually had … I’ll tell just a quick story about a customer who’s still … He came in about, I would say a little over a year ago. He booked three different classes, like his intro class, and he kept buying classes before he ever made it in the door. I had seen … I was like, “God. Do I email this guy? It’s weird. He never shows up.”

When he finally came in, he was very nervous, very shy, timid, just was … didn’t even want to walk through the door. We were just our usual, fun, weird selves, and be like, “Come on in. We got you. Let’s get you going.” He said that, due to his the size … He was really overweight. He’s lost 80 pounds since cycling with us. Obviously, being on a wellness journey himself, that he was so intimidated and scared to walk in the door of a brick and mortar, but anything he was trying to do on his own wasn’t working. He needed the routine. He really was so scared to come in.

When he felt us welcome him like that, it was so disarming of all of his preconceived notions of what it would be like to walk into an LA spin studio, they just dropped. He shared his story. It actually made me cry. It took him a really long time to share that depth that we reached. He’s a customer for life.

Again, it’s about that feeling of safety. It wasn’t about taking the spin class. Actually, I don’t even think he stayed for the whole first class. He didn’t enjoy his first class. But being a part of that community, and seeing that people were cheering him on and being like, “You can do this,” made him come back.

Kadecia: I love all these stories. It really goes to show there’s so many different kinds of experiences that you’re able to create, and it’s a level of creativity. I love what you said, Katie, about taking that nugget, that spark of insight and really growing the brand and the experience from that.

I know we probably have a lot of small business owners in our audience. If there’s one thing I know about small business owners is they’re usually stretched pretty thin. So this idea of marketing and branding, and creating these experiences can sometimes feel overwhelming. Any advice you can give as far as how they can prioritize creating a great brand experience.

I’ll kick that over, let’s say, to Sarah.

Sarah: Yeah. I think it goes back to what we’ve been talking about today. Don’t try to solve all the problems at once. Be founded and create that brand purpose. What is your reason for being? Allow that to start helping you tell your story, and where you tell your story.

You need to know who you’re going after, who’s your core consumer, but also with the understanding that you need to authentically go where they are. Don’t expect them to come to you, especially as you’re building out your brand. But understand them. Go to your focus groups. Do some surveys.

Really understand and have them tell you where you have permission to play, which is a little bit interesting to think about, but it’s going to immediately unlock, I think, the biggest opportunities and the biggest rocks that you can go after. Then from there, start thinking about what are your medium-sized rocks. What are your small rocks? What are those little sand pebbles? But don’t try to boil the ocean.

Jodi: Yeah. I would just add to that, I think everything you said is right, but the insights that you developed and honed in on to develop your product, your business idea, your story, your food source, your bakery, that’s what people are coming to you for. So how do you use your own voice to tell that story authentically?

If you’re a store on the corner, and you can’t afford marketing just yet, free samples are a great way to start. There’s also lean into what you know. Know what you know, and know what you don’t know. You don’t have to be an incredible marketer to start to get the word out with your friends and family and your community. Even the way that theSkimm was started, our co-founders and co-CEOs tapped into their network. They used to work at NBC. They tapped into their network, and started asking people to forward it along to other people.

I think getting over that hump of, “Gosh. Everyone’s really busy. I don’t want to make people do things for me. I don’t want to ask my family and friends,” nine times out of 10, they’re going to be thrilled to support you, cheering you on and wanting you to succeed.

There’s also the point, as I said, know what you know, know what you don’t know. There are a lot of small boutique agencies, and support and freelancers that can help you get the word out too. I know at theSkimm, we’ve just launched SKM Lab, which is our agency side of our house and our business, that can help. But there’s a ton of other operations of any size, Katie’s got one too, that can really support a multitude of different businesses.

You don’t have to do it all at once, as Sarah said, either. Start small. Stick with what you know. Builds up that confidence. Ask your friends and family to support you on that journey.

Ninette: Don’t be afraid to reach out to other small businesses. Don’t be afraid to partner. I wish I started that much earlier than I did. You don’t have to be fully developed and have your identity complete before you try to partner up with other like-minded small business owners, to help collab, and get the word out together about both your businesses, all your businesses. There’s nothing better than collaborating with other business owners, where you’re in the trenches together.

Sarah: I love that. There is something really powerful about asking for help. People really do want to help you. As an example, I had a high schooler reach out to me via LinkedIn, preparing for her college application. She simply just said, “Hey. I’m going to trying to go to U-Dub. You went to U-Dub. I’d like to run some things by you as I look to aspire to be a marketer.” How do you say no to that?

Ninette: Right.

Sarah: [inaudible 00:37:27] just ask for help.

Kadecia: Yeah. I love that. We have just a few minutes left. I would love to find out from each of you, as we talk about advice and things people can do no matter what size their business is … Asking for help, and I put learning from mistakes, I think it’s just a huge way to learn from your own and learn from others.

I would love to hear, maybe starting with you, Katie, what’s something that now that you wish you had known way back when, when you were building a new brand experience, or out on this journey to get to where you are today?

Katie: Oh man.

Kadecia: I would say 30 seconds, if you can.

Katie: Yeah, yeah. I think for me, coming at it from having been an art student, I’m just like, “I just want to make cool stuff.” I didn’t understand the power of insights. I mentioned understanding your customer and connecting that with your imagination. I think you can …

Even if you don’t consider yourself creative, you are. Also just the fact that you maybe started a business or you’re part of a new business, that is inherently insanely creative. So it’s in you to tap into that part of yourself. I think bringing that sort of performance and creativity together, the both sides of your brain, that’s a really powerful thing. I learned that personally on my own journey too.

Kadecia: Love it. Sarah, what about for you?

Sarah: Probably be humble. Our brands are given permission to be here by the consumer. It’s not the other way around. Looking back, as I think about the evolution that is Sparkling Ice, we took a really humble approach. That has allowed us to stay connected to our consumer and evolve.

Sparkling Ice is a different brand than it was 10 years ago, five years ago. That’s because we’ve remained connected, and we’ve continued that dialogue with our consumers. We’re not here telling people who we are. We’re having that conversation.

Kadecia: Right. I think stay humble goals for everything. Jodi, any nugget for the audience?

Jodi: Yeah. I touched on it a little bit, but the best piece of advice that I was given by one of my closest friends was when I was going from the agency side to nonprofit. I looked at her and I was like, “I do not have a civics degree. I have not worked for NGOs. I’ve had nonprofit clients, but I can’t do this.” She’s like, “You know what you know, and you know what you don’t know. You’re a badass marketer. You totally understand communications and how to tell a story. You can learn the other industry. You can learn the rest of it.”

That is something that, in so many conversations, I’ve either shared that with others or continue to remind myself that. You don’t have to know everything. That’s the great part about having a team, or having a network, or a community of … the women that are on this panel together, those who are at the summit, lean on them. They can fill in the gaps where you don’t have that strength.

You don’t need to be the utility player that knows how to do every single thing, even if you’re a one man, one woman business. At the moment, you lean into your strengths and your superpowers, and find others that can help balance that out for you. That makes you a better team and a better performer.

Kadecia: Exactly. I love that. Ninette, take us home.

Ninette: I will. Okay. Just quickly to wrap it all up. I actually do believe that marketing … I wish I had marketed better when we were opening. It doesn’t have to be paid ads or spending actual dollars. I will tell you, grassroots …

It took me about a year to do it. Within the first year that we were open, it was finally like, “You know what? We’re going to print out beautiful postcards, spend a few hundred dollars, and literally pound the pavement, and hand out a flyer for a free class.” Or just even, in your neighborhood, get the awareness out that your brand is there.

Just because you open the doors, it’s not like, “We’re here. Everybody, come in and enjoy our product.” People don’t know you’re there, even if you have a huge sign and all the bells and whistles inside. If you’re a brick and mortar, pound the pavement. Do whatever you can to get as much marketing out there through free tools.

Knock on doors. Advertise with other local businesses. Drop off flyers. Invite other people to come in for a first sample or a free whatever, consultation, and then the word will start to spread a little bit better, and you’ll get a little bit bigger.

Kadecia: I love it. Pound the payment. Stay humble. Know what you know. Know what you don’t know. Tap into your creativity. Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing all your insights on branding with the audience. Just great to hear how you see these things, and how you help really build the companies that you’re in.

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