Part 1 - "The Before" - How I Launched My Brand!

I get the same emails almost everyday... People say things like "Oh my gosh!  Your website is beautiful...  I love it so much... I can't stop staring at it."

It's always thrilling to hear this.  It's always humbling and exciting, and satisfying. I cannot even tell you how wonderful this feels that I have finally created something that I am not ashamed of!! 

This is an especially good feeling, considering the fact that only a few short months ago,

I was suffering from design shame, stuck in analysis paralysis and unable to launch anything.

I was super stuck in perfectionism, being overloaded, and overwhelmed.  I didn't feel good enough through my brand identity, and I didn't know why.

It took me over a year to get over this horrible, no good, very bad hump.

For the longest time, I didn't have a finished program and my brand identity just didn't feel like me.

I really needed to start feeling good, before I could start doing better.  I broke up with my fiancé after a wonderful four years (although the time of the relationship started getting in the way of achieving my dreams) and I started pole dancing, and then inspiration hit....and everything flowed into place.  The beginning of the brand was being developed internally, just by getting to a happier place with myself.

In this blog series, you are going to learn all of the trial and errors I went through before I finally got something to stick.

The Beginning of the Bad Decision Making

Once upon a time.... (about a year ago during my first go around with B-School) I fell into the trap of website envy and the  "I-don't-know-what-to-do-so-I'm-going-to-copy-what-I-love-TRAP"

Now I am ALL for using inspiration, (in fact I think designs without using inspiration are generally complete shit) but sometimes inspiration can become plagiarism if you don't borrow from many sources.  

You've heard the term "borrow from one source it's plagiarism, borrow from many and it's research!"?!?!?

So there is a very delicate balance on how to do this correctly, and I teach this balance in my program.  But just as a plumber can have leaky faucets or a cobbler can have worn out shoes, I fell into the borrowing too much from one source issue, even though I teach the exact opposite.  It was a complete accident!  

So I knew, upon reflection, if I a graphic design and branding expert could fall into this, then certainly you might have too.

I fell into the same trap that so many students of Marie Forleo's B-School fall into... Loving her website TOO MUCH!

...Falling in love with Marie's cool horizontal opt-in (, and her outside-the-box web lingo and BAM!!!! there are too many identifying factors to her site with the final execution.  (Keep in mind this can happen with any website you fall in love with... Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right!?

If you have an infinity horizontal opt-in, and a "work with me" and "praise" in your navigation you might be borrowing too many things, and guess what!?  Everyone knows where you got your inspiration, and when it's obvious, it's not very authentic.

Hello, not-very-authentic-brand-identity!  

If this is you, please don't be mad at me for bringing this up, or WORSE beat yourself up or tear down your website.  Do take a moment to make note of how to take your brand identity and website to on a more authentic level.  

I see this common mistake on many site, and I totally understand it, And I have NO judgement, because It happened to me too.  But it's also my mission to encourage you not to do this.

Thank goodness I caught myself doing this prior to launching.

Here are the first two drafts of my website:

This first version I mocked up in Adobe Illustrator....

The next version you are going to see is a version I did in Thesis via Wordpress and had build the below version with much difficulty (it took me 3 months) and everything on it kept breaking.

 It cost me a bloody fortune, only to find out that the site wasn't optimized for mobile and I trashed the entire thing for Squarespace. (Which I am happy to say took me a total of 4 hours to put together in comparison... and is why I teach this for the Launch Your Brand Program)

So as you can see, while these website drafts are fairly different from Marie's site.....the horizontal opt-in, the kind of button that I had with words "Yes!"  Instead of "Get it!" in a similar type of font. The arrow...  It's all still very much inspired by one website instead of many, and therefore wasn't feeling authentic. 

It was starting to become apparent that I didn't want to launch because something didn't feel right.  It didn't feel right because I was trying to compare myself and my brand to Marie.  I was trying to in essence become "Marie-Like" which you guessed it, not very authentic.

If it didn't feel like "me" I knew it wasn't going to feel authentic to anyone else.

Then through the beta testing of my program and taking polls, I discovered that the teal grid from the first site, and the bright fluorescent colors were making people repelled by using such huge amounts of them.  I realized that having a colorful design was okay but it needed to be pleasing to the eye.  Again breaking my own rules.  Why?  Because I was trying to take her site and make it look different, which lead to bad design decisions, instead of creating something consciously good.

Why must we sabotage ourselves when we know were doing something we shouldn't!?  

Because we become paralyzed in fear.

I had a fear that my ideas wouldn't be good enough. I had a fear that I wanted to do anything to make my site as good as hers, and therefore was making ineffective design decisions.

So between this inauthentic feeling, the colors that weren't jiving in beta test, and the Wordpress platform, was making me crazy... I had to trash all of it -- throw it away and start over.  EGADS!!! Almost a year of my life wasted on trying to design my brand identity and site.

But I never gave up. I was determined to get exactly what I wanted, and knew I had to keep going until I knew it felt right.  The reality was tough though, I didn't really know what the problem was.  I just knew it didn't feel right.

Here I was making beautiful websites for other people, and teaching others branding & design skills, but I was failing at my own brand!

So then I had an epiphany!  What my site was missing was amazing photography!  All I needed were AMAZING images for my site.  I need amazing images of me, just like Marie!  I needed to look super professional doing awesome things in my everyday life!  That would FIX EVERYTHING! Right!?  

Photography did not fix my problem. (see below)

Well, the thought was important really good photography can get you a long way,  but it alone will not work.

So I forked over $300 for some professional head shots by a famous head shot guy in LA, and the results, well the results were unremarkable.  See below for my not very amazing head shot:

I remember feeling so happy to finally have something to put up.  My mom told me I looked like I was squinting.  I showed it to some of my classmates in some of the programs I was in.  And one lady said


I didn't want to see that truth. I felt defeated, broke, and angry that I didn't have an image to use. I looked tired in in the image, the sun was in my eyes.  I didn't feel like my best self.  Inspiration had not struck yet... but it would.

It's not a "Bad" picture, but it's certainly not one to automatically think to yourself "She's the girl! --- She's the girl whom I want to build my brand with!" 

So I started thinking -- How the hell am I going to get that exact thing communicated?

I want people to see my brand identity and think:

"WOAH -- I want whatever she's having!" 

And I knew I needed something very different than traditional Hollywood head shots.  I needed something different than the other commercial photography I had seen.

So in tomorrow's entry we will find out EXACTLY how I created something, by getting inspired, digging deep, using inspiration boards, finding the right photographer, mood boards and more, and made it feel 100% unique to me.  Goodbye inauthentic brand (with a squinty frowny face!) Hello pin up aviation version of me!