Rebranding: The Why, The Woe & The Win
Welcome to the Celina Kane journal! Join me as I begin documenting more "behind-the-seams" moments from the studio as well as more in depth looks at my collaborations with other artists, travels and historical hats. This first entry is about my decision to rebrand my business using my own name.
The month of May has felt like a blur of NEW NEW NEW – new hat collection, new branding, new website, new photoshoots, new content (exhibit A: this blog post) – and at the same time it has felt like closure.
I have been thinking about this rebrand for over a year and a half; now that it's finally done I am so satisfied and ready to move into the next phase.
If you're a fellow maker or dream of becoming an entrepreneur one day I think you'll identify with some of the struggle of creating your brand or shifting it as your identity changes...all while still maintaining your daily business. Here's a bit of my experience during this process.
In a nutshell, I felt I had outgrown the HAT MAKE name, or maybe it was never the most comfortable fit to begin with. Like those new jeans you bought because you thought they made your tummy look flat but then realized they were just a little too tight and so you still wear your old jeans with the holes anyway (mom, please stop trying to patch them up).
Celina Kane is my name, it's not just comfortable like my tried and true denim, it's my own skin.
To be honest, I launched my business when I was 24 years old and was terrified of failure. I still am, but when I was starting out I was afraid if I used my name and tanked it I would have that attached to me for the rest of my life. I could never use it again. (Turns out you can, note Isaak Mizrahi, John Galliano, and more). I wanted to save my name for when I was confident I could build the hat and accessories business I dreamed of.
I'm not sure if I am that confident yet but I also reached a tipping point when it came to strategizing and re-imagining my brand identity to more closely fit how I envision the future of my business. I couldn't spend more time building up the business that I knew needed to change, the more brand exposure for HAT MAKE meant less for the future Celina Kane. The new name also completely opens up the field of design, fashion, accessories & lifestyle goods that I may want to pursue later on, you never know!
Now, I won't liken the stress of a rebrand to the stress of starting a new business from scratch. But it's pretty close. The amount of time I spent thinking and talking about the rebrand, filled with anxiety and paralysis, compared to time actually moving on it is embarrassing. To maintain the day to day of HAT MAKE (plus work my other job at my family's restaurant Spoonriver) occupied almost all of my time already so building in time to totally rework the business was difficult. Warning: everything takes longer than you expect.
I'm a list-maker so here's a rough* example of my running to do's and what to expect when you're rebranding as a small business:
* my real list was way rougher, handwritten & pages long
- Create new logo
- Accept this process will take a while and require many hours of communication with graphic designer and some of your own design work.
- Rebuild website and transfer domain name
- Working with Squarespace is very easy and entertaining, however you will often hit roadblocks without more extensive web design training (shout out to Kevin O'Connell for the assist!).
- Some of your existing content you may want to transfer over but you'll need to plug all of your new content (products, logo, photography, etc) into the new site too.
- Create new lookbook
- I've been blessed to work with art director/stylist Ilse Haugen in the past but for the latest lookbook I was art directing and styling on my own. It's a lot! Tip: Hire someone if you can afford it or find a way to collaborate.
- Hire photographer, models, hair and makeup artists, and have an assistant.
- Make it fashion.
- Create new product photography
- I have started taking my own product shots for greater flexibility but if photography isn't your metier accept there will be a learning curve here.
- Social media, change handles and tags
- Instagram just made this easier than ever, all your old tags will automatically change to the new handle! Twitter too.
- Facebook not so fast... FB reviews all requests to change names and doesn't allow you to have the same page name and handle for some reason.
- Print new business cards and promotional materials
- This part stings a bit especially if you're sitting on a lot of old stock because it can be a costly investment.
Strategize – Big companies have whole divisions for each one of these bullet points, but as a small business owner you do most of it yourself. It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can shop out some of those weaker elements to professionals and prioritize what you know you can do well. It's also a great time to learn new things that will greatly help streamline your business! Choosing to do certain tasks in house will save money in the long run and give you more flexibility overall.
Caffeinate – You'll be running on fumes toward the end.
Werrrrrrk! Successfully rebranding feels great. First, people will compliment you a whole bunch. That's always gratifying. I mean, starting a business is probably as close to having a baby as something that's not having a baby gets. That would put rebranding at the kid goes off to college phase, or maybe even they've gotten their first job doing what they love phase because really rebranding is about finding yourself and putting it out there.
The process is challenging but a lot of it is fun! 1) You get to fix all the things that were bugging you about your old systems. 2) You get to create all this new content and invent new ways to engage with your clientele, again I refer you to Exhibit A: this blog post.
Lastly, I'd say that rebranding gives a kind of slow release high. It's not like throwing a big event / fashion show which takes months of planning and culminates in one night. I don't do drugs but that's the cocaine of branding- lots of jitters followed by pure glee and then a fast crash into deep heaving sobs of happiness and exhaustion. The R E B R A N D is like a nice time-release cold medicine that makes you a little slap happy and then ultimately you feel better.