S2E6 // Building a Brand

November 21, 2018

You know we love a good brand story, and as it turns out, a solid brand is probably the number 1 piece of the puzzle that’s lending to the success of Almanac Supply Co. So in this episode of Making a Business, we’re digging into how Emily has established a brand for her business—what this means for her personal brand, how she’s gathered community around it, and the importance of maintaining professionalism while still being personable as a retail business owner.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
"My brand is not me. I am not my brand. We are aspects of each other, but that is all."
- Emily Thompson

Discussed in this Episode

  • Building a business on a strong community + brand
  • Building Almanac Supply Co to be a brand that can stand on its own without Emily's personal brand needing to be attached
  • Connecting and nurturing relationships on the vendor side
  • Maintaining professionalism while being personable
  • Creating content for a product business


More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson 0:00
And from Being Boss, this is Making a Business.

Kathleen Shannon 0:05
A podcast about starting a business from scratch and overcoming the obstacles face when pursuing your dreams. I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Emily Thompson 0:13
And I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:22
In this miniseries, we're following Emily's journey as she jumps into life as a maker and retailer with her new creative endeavor Almanac Supply Company.

Kathleen Shannon 0:37
In the last episode of Making a Business, we dove into some of the darker places of running a retail business, including waste and consumerism. And we combatted those with research and knowing your mission. In this episode, we're looking at the number one piece of the puzzle that's contributing to the success of Almanac Supply Company.

Kathleen Shannon 0:59
Okay, so Emily, I remember I can't remember which Being Boss episode it was, but I was telling you that I didn't feel like my business was real unless strangers were buying from it.

Emily Thompson 1:13
I remember that. I remember that.

Kathleen Shannon 1:15
And I've learned how not true that is that really, it's all about community and connections, and the kind of support and camaraderie that you can get in those places. So I want to talk about how that applies to a product business.

Emily Thompson 1:32
Yeah, I mean, I absolutely credit Almanac's, sort of initial success with the community or me having built the community that I've built. So you know, their first month, I think, January, our website went live on like the 28th, like one of the very last days of January. And I think we hit,

Kathleen Shannon 1:56
Good time to start a retail business.

Emily Thompson 2:00
Girl right? So I could spend the whole year getting ready for Christmas. Before I had to deal with my first Christmas, for sure. Is there no, I absolutely credit my initial success to having built a community of people who wanted to support me and to apply the things that I was creating. And it's something that continues to show up for me and whether that be you know, bosses coming to my pop up shops, or just friends locally coming out to you know, show their support, and to come hang out whenever we're doing local things or continuing to see you know, bosses who have been in the Being Boss Clubhouse, or that we've gone on vacation with like people that I've met in person or not in person. Watching those orders come through on my email account is so amazing. And so I know that if I had not been building, the community that I've been building over the past couple of years, Almanac would be nowhere near where it is now. For sure. So I can absolutely like, do a nice little bow and high five or whatever I need to do to all of the people who are my friends, who continue to show up and buy candles for every season and add to their rock collections with things that I've curated, who send me emails, and high fives and all of these things like those people are the reason that Almanac has been off to such a healthy start.

Kathleen Shannon 3:26
So I've been really clear to point out in the previous episodes, that it's not just about people wanting to support you, it's that you do actually have great products. Yet if you're gonna choose where to buy a candle from or where to buy a rock from, you have lots of options. So a personal brand and a business brand really do play into that. So what do you think you how do you think your personal brand has played into this community support aspect of building your business?

Emily Thompson 3:58
Right? I mean, I think my personal brand, and I even want to touch on how my personal brand has equated to Almanac like finding success. I think people can count on what I do being, you know, easy and efficient. Where it's funny we were talking a minute ago a friend of yours bought crystals from me recently and was amazed by how quickly she got her package because we pride ourselves especially David he geeks out like we pride ourselves on getting packages out as immediately upon ordering as humanly possible. So I think people can count on really great service and things getting done correctly. And when they don't, we're gonna be there to fix it. I mean, I've built a personal brand that equates to at least some level of quality though i think that that quality is pretty high, that people don't have a problem coming over to Almanac and dropping 100 bucks on a couple of crystals or whatever it may be because they know that they are going to get to them, quickly and beautifully, and they will be well sourced and all of these things and well packaged. So my personal brand has definitely fed into what people expect whenever they come to Almanac and it gives them trust and confidence that whenever they spend their money, it's going to be well spent.

Kathleen Shannon 5:19
And then how do you balance developing out that personal brand while trying to build a brand that is bigger than yourself, or can have a legacy that you can pass down to generations.

Emily Thompson 5:30
That's kind of one of my favorite parts of Almanac is because I feel like it's the first business I've ever built that's been that's less focused on my personal brand. I mean, Being Boss especially definitely brings a level of my personal brand in to Almanac when people buy from almanaque from Being Boss, they know who I am. It's my personal brand that gets them there. But and this is where one of our greatest opportunities like offline is that David is also very much able to make it part of his are really to develop his personal brand in the context of Almanac as well. And there's something about even just having those two people that give you the freedom to really step back your personal brand and build something that is sort of this third entity on its own. I also think product business gives you a lot more leeway in that as well. And it's also something we practice in terms of bringing in products from other makers, or just from other companies in general is not all our stuff. So it further diffuses that like involvement of our personal brand, and really making Almanac this thing on its own.

Kathleen Shannon 6:39
Alright, I want to pause this conversation for a second to really dig into my favorite subject personal branding. This is the work I do professionally over at my branding agency Braid Creative. So let's chat about how to develop and use a personal brand to make people confident in buying you and your products by blending more of who you are into the work that you do. Now, I want to be clear that a personal brand is not just posting selfies of your face all over Instagram, it's really injecting your own personality, from your values and preferences to personal style and approach into your business. Your personal brand is what you want to be known for what makes you memorable. And it's not just what you want people to know about your brand, but how you make them feel. And finally, your personal brand is the stories you share. Now that we've defined a personal brand, let's talk about how you really start to blend who you are into the work that you do. One, speak to your dream customers as if they're a real person, you know, maybe even your best friend who adores you and everything you do. From your product descriptions to your social captions, this is a great place to bring some of your authentic personality to the products you sell. Two identify and integrate your core values into your business. How are these showing up in your offerings and in your brand, it doesn't have to be obvious or super explicit. For example, if one of your core values is education, maybe team up with a local school to start a mentoring or internship program. If your core value is giving back, maybe allocate a certain percentage of your proceeds to your favorite charity or organization. Three, give your customers a peek behind the scenes. I see maker and retail businesses feel like they don't quite have a story to share. But that's just not true. Your business is full of stories from the products you're creating, to the vendors you work with, to the customers you're connecting with. Four, finally, think about how you want your customers to feel how is that being reflected in the customer experience you provide? All right back to my conversation with Emily about how she's connecting with people who don't already know who she is, and how she nurtures those relationships.

Kathleen Shannon 9:02
I want to talk about connecting and nurturing. We've talked a lot about it on the customer side that you're creating this beautiful user experience from the website to social media, to selling crystals on Instagram stories that people can say Yes, that one is mine, which is kind of funny because that's how people buy crystals in real life in a shop and you're bringing that real life experience to them through Instagram. But I want to talk about kind of that connecting and nurturing on the vendor side and maybe even on the business relationship side. What does that look like for you whenever it comes to community on that side of things.

Emily Thompson 9:39
It's a little bit different depending on who I'm dealing with. So we talked in a previous episode about like there are people who know who I am, and those relationships are significantly or they start out differently than people who don't know who I am. So they don't know about the podcast or my experience or you know, even the book which is the thing that will definitely forever probably give me the most clout. So those relationships start out a little slower. And they require more initial nurturing and like explaining. But then once sort of that, once that initial connection is made, it's all about maintaining. And so we've even systemized some of these things out. Because we do seasonal candles, it's really easy for us to seasonally contact, let's say wholesalers or vendors, and talk to them about what it is that we're doing this season. And then for people who know who we are that like getting in there, it's significantly easier, but then the rest of the relationship is still pretty similar. And so it's just being super open and communicating well, and you know, being really friendly in our emails, I've spent, you know, 12 years now communicating online, like I know how to send the most personable email you've probably ever read in your life. So it's been really, really careful with making sure that we're being real people, because I think that's the thing that especially the internet sort of starts to break down, like, we all become email addresses, or user handles or whatever they may be. But we are all real people. So continuing to infuse those real personal brands into just ongoing communications, but then also using business systems and automation and those sorts of things to make sure that we are, you know, touching base with people regularly is how you build, build confidence between between two people, and then continuing to deliver. So you know, we put just as much thought and effort into sending out a single crystal or candle bought to a one off customer as we do to, to a wholesaler who's making their fourth, fifth, 18th order. It's something that we want to make sure we are always making that experience, very top notch, whether you are end consumer or a wholesaler in the middle.

Kathleen Shannon 12:01
I think that one of the things that you're really good at whenever it comes to nurturing your community, whether that's the front facing consumer side, or behind the scenes, business bestie, or vendor side, is that you maintain this level of almost personable professionalism. And so one of the things that I've been seeing happening a lot across indie businesses that has really been turning me off, and it's a surprise that it turns me off, is whenever people complain in public on their Instagram about things like shipping snafus.

Emily Thompson 12:34
Anything, anything.

Kathleen Shannon 12:36
Really and most things. And I think that there is a time and place, for example, a podcast where we're really digging into the conversation and the nuances of it and sharing openly the struggles and what we learned and how we overcame all that. But I think that you do maintain this sense of professionalism. How do you think that that continues to, I don't know, cultivate trust or nurture your community? And that may not even necessarily be the question that I'm trying to ask, but like, what are your thoughts in general then on maintaining a professional front, but while also being personable and you know, keeping it real?

Emily Thompson 13:15
I think it goes right back to what we were talking about. And I think it was episode two of this season where I talked about consistency, breeding legitimacy, where I can't be all hunky dory, let's hug the earth, like in every Instagram posts, except for that one where I'm bitching about something like that's not consistency, and that breaks legitimacy. And so it's in, it's in situations like that, or even like when I'm having an awful day, like my email is still going to be just as upbeat as it was two days ago, when everything was sunshine and daisies. It is on some level, like separating your feelings from what you're doing as a brand. If I'm going to rant about actually, I'm not even going to put it on my personal Instagram because like, if I'm going to rant to someone I'm going to call up you or I'm gonna sit down with David or like, I'm going to go super personal one on one with the people who know me like that. I'm not going to blast it out to anyone who doesn't. That's a waste of my space. And that's me breaking legitimacy.

Kathleen Shannon 14:20
Yeah, so I just want to point that out that there are these circles of trust and where it's appropriate to vent or share your frustrations and then as you get further and further out to your end consumer, the more you need to have on that professional front yet you can still be personable in your tone and in the way that you write your thank you notes without crossing those lines.

Emily Thompson 14:46
Absolutely. Like I could use them at like what if I were to write a thank you note to a customer who like maybe they put their email address in wrong whenever they ordered and then wrote that in there. Thank you know like you should probably learn to spell your email address like omg like on that level, you would never do it. So why is it okay to do it and on the other level? It's not. And so I do draw hardcore line there. And it is going back to just being consistent with how I how it is that I want to show up. And you don't think it's being fake? I think it's building a brand. I think this is where you have to differentiate between you as a person and the brand that you're building. My brand is not me, I am not my brand. We are aspects of each other. But that is all.

Kathleen Shannon 15:29
All right, anything else that you want to say about growing a community or leveraging a community or even supporting your community with this new business venture both online and offline?

Emily Thompson 15:43
I think I'm just now really being really becoming aware as to how it is that the community aspect of this works like and I say this in terms of I see how the Being Boss community absolutely support Almanac. And I'm just now really diving into what an Almanac's community looks like, like that's the place I look forward to going to next, like, how is it that I get more granular with what a community is, in terms of this brand, as opposed to any, you know, other brands that I felt, and I have some ideas for how I want to do this, we've currently been, you know, focusing on that customer experience again, so making sure that we have those handwritten thank you notes, you know, if someone is placing their fourth, fifth, eighth order, we may slide an extra crystal in there as an extra thank you, or those sorts of things to really, like, really cultivate those relationships with people who are showing up for us. One of the things we talked about earlier was, you know, how do you create content for our product business. And that's something that I look forward to stepping into with Almanac in the relatively near future, whether that be articles, I've also thought about some digital products, because I feel like that Being Boss. So you're always getting product people being like, Oh, I hear you talking about courses all the time, but I make products, so I can't do one. I don't want to do a course. But there are some are some like ebooks and things that I want to do, partly because I see the value in it. And partly because I'm gonna show all you product makers how it is that you can create some really awesome content to support a product business. And for me to support that online community, the people who can't come hang out with me at a pop up shop, or experience some workshops that I want to put on, you can still learn sort of the Almanac point of view through some digital products. And I will also say too, I've had some really interesting experiences locally, with people with people who want to be or want more information from Almanac as well. One of the things that I'm doing in the future. So right at the beginning of 2019 is I'm going to be talking giving a talk to a gardening club, a local gardening club, which I am so excited about guys, I've been talking about business for 10 years, I'm excited to go talk about plants, and the cycle of the seasons. So I'm even being invited to you know, nurture local communities with my content, which I'm really excited about. So I again, I'm only on the cusp of realizing like what the start of this community, this community world can be like for Almanac. And because I have so much experience with it through my own personal brand, through Being Boss and all those other things. I think it's easier for me to see the opportunities. And to not feel any sort of like angst or weirdness about accepting, accepting them, I'm totally down to go to go speak to a group or to host a workshop, or even to create content for for local causes. So one of the things that I'm doing now, I've pulled into my community, the people who run the Tennessee River Gorge trust, which is a not for profit that we support through Almanac Supply Company that preserves and takes care of 17,000 acres of land very near to us on the Tennessee River. It's a very great cause. And this land is beautiful. One of the things that we're doing with the platform that I've built is creating content for them, which guys basically just means they took me on a hike, I took photos and video and I'm going to share it all on Instagram, because one of the things that they need is they need more people to know about the work that they're doing. So it's like I can do some Instagram stories about that. That's no problem. So it is very reciprocal to it's been very fun to engage with my local community and the offline or online community as well. to really see what building a community can be like in this new space.

Kathleen Shannon 19:52
I love it. High five on all fronts. Well Emily, I'm so excited with you know, this season two of Making a Business and what kind of growth and evolution and sometimes bumpy ride Almanac has been on but you're really coming through the other side. I can't wait to catch up after Christmas.

Emily Thompson 20:15
After Christmas please after Christmas.

Kathleen Shannon 20:17
After Christmas and see what you've learned from your first holiday season in retail and product. And best of luck. I'm excited for you.

Emily Thompson 20:26
Thank you, ma'am.

Kathleen Shannon 20:30
And there you have it. An overview of the struggles, shifts and opportunities that arose from Emily's months three through eight of building her new business Almanac Supply Company. From big upheavals, to shifts in direction and a growing offering. Emily has navigated this time like a boss. And as you can see as preparing for wrapping up her first year of business and beginning year two.

Emily Thompson 20:54
Yes. And through it all, it's been a matter of going back to those Being Boss foundations. It's been cultivating and staying in the right mindset to no matter how bumpy the road, it's been setting up boundaries that keep my work and life protected, like putting on those blinders to keep my creativity unaffected by the outside world. And it's been many, many adjustments to my daily, weekly and monthly routines in order to fit these new responsibilities into my already busy schedule. And it's certainly been about nurturing and engaging with the community who graciously continue to show up. But even with all of that said, the journey is still just beginning.

Kathleen Shannon 21:34
Thank you so much for showing up and listening to stay updated on when we launch future seasons of Making a Business. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts and sign up for our newsletter at www.beingboss.club.

Emily Thompson 21:52
Mindset, boundaries, habits, and routines. These are what turn a creative into a boss. These foundations and more makeup our new book Being Boss, Take control of your work and live life on your own terms. A guide slash workbook slash sleep with it under your pillow book filled with what we've learned over the years as working, thriving creative entrepreneurs. Plus what we've picked up from the hundreds of conversations with industry leaders and experts on the Being Boss podcast.

Kathleen Shannon 22:25
And it's all so that you can cultivate confidence in your work, make good money doing what you're best at and live a life you love. To learn more about our book and order one for yourself go to beingboss.club/book.

Emily Thompson 22:38
And to check out Almanac Supply Company head on over to AlmanacSupplyCo.com get 15% off of your first order with discount code being boss at checkout.

Kathleen Shannon 22:50
Do the work.

Emily Thompson 22:51
Be boss.