In a world where more and more small businesses are popping up each day and entrepreneurs are thriving at an all-time high, brand design and consulting has become one of top earning fields of 2015. Web designer and brand consultant, Toni Patterson, saw this coming a mile away and created Skye Media Group. I was able to pick her brain recently about all things design and branding. If you’re an entrepreneur or have started a small business, learning more about Toni, Skye Media Group, as well as her extensive DIY Brand Lab Workshops is a must. Check out our chat below.
Keyauna: How did Skye Media Group come to fruition?
Toni: I started Sky Media Group…I always say “I Am Skye Media” because I feel like I am Skye Media. It’s my baby. It’s been woven into my life for the past five years and I just can’t separate myself from my business. I started it five years ago after some prodding and a conversation I had with one of my friends because she knew from the MySpace, and Black Planet, and Friendster, all that is like social media 101…those platforms that came out that I always had an interest in, that I loved that type of stuff. At that time they allowed profile modifications to be available, they would ask you if you want to change the colors. My profile was really extravagant. That sparked my interest, but at the time being a brand manager and design, I didn’t go through with those things. I was working as a legal secretary at the time. I didn’t do it for years. Then about five years ago, after that conversation I had with my friend, I just said “I’m just going to jump in and just do it.” By doing it, that meant doing research and putting up my first website, and just throwing it my graphic design and coding skills. It just evolved from there.
Keyauna: You said you were a legal secretary before that, but did you have training in web design, like web, that gave you a catapult into starting?
Toni: No. Nope. Nope. I didn’t go to school for it. I went to school for a different legal administration.
Keyauna: What was that journey like starting from just deciding one day to do it to now being established and having several clients?
Toni: It started with a lot of trial and error. My first website was on a drop and drag. I took a Photoshop tutorial and just try to follow the instructions of the tutorial. Sometimes, it looked like what they had, and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I would create texts that had fire. I just confidently learned each project. This was all before I really knew how to use certain features in Photoshop, so I would just do a lot of things by hand based on the instruction, because I didn’t know about the tools back then.
Keyauna: It’s more than just web design that you’re doing. You’re also doing branding and strategy and all that stuff. How did you go from web design and playing around with Photoshop to what you are doing now with brand management?
Toni: When I look back on that time, I’m reminded that I was doing that the whole time. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what I was doing. In these last few years it just seems like this whole thing about branding … everybody is branding, and everybody wants to be a brand, not knowing that a brand is not a person. It’s all of the attitudes associated with that person and those services and products, and just consumer possession.
I’m still very much a designer, but I think of myself as a web designer and brand designer. I really like to work with just brands in general. In the past, I used to create flyers and business cards, and things like that as a part of my business. I still do, but I only create those things in connection with someone who needs a brand identity, or some type of redesign because it doesn’t make any sense to create a piece of the package design when the proposal intended for visual representation of someone is not all together. It doesn’t make any sense.
I started investing in my education…took some online courses. Took a major online course, actually, that changed how I was viewing my business. With that, that gave me the foundation that I had been missing for my marketing and for my business. That is what really made me move more towards branding and putting the label on it, and digging a little bit deeper into what it was.
Keyauna: People don’t realize that. Don’t just make a postcard, or don’t just do your logo that you want to put on your website. Do something that is going to fit everywhere, and blend together. Talk a little bit more about the importance of having all your marketing material and everything that you are doing actually speak for your brand.
Toni: It’s like going into Pier 1, for example, and buying a lot of nice things, but not having any place to put it. You just have a house, but you’re probably going to find that the stuff you bought doesn’t look good in that type of house. The house has a different type of layout. You buy a California King size bed, and your room is only big enough to fit a twin size. You have to build the foundation for it first, from a visual perspective, before you start adding things to it.
Your logo is not your brand. Your business card is not your brand. Your website is not even your brand. Those are just marketing components of your brand. You have to understand who your market is. You have to understand what they want, how your services address their problems. You have to … Not even kind of, but you have to REALLY understand who you are as well. All of your decisions are based on who you are. With me being a designer for example, there are a lot of people out there that do what I do. However, I am different from who they are. What we deliver is part of that whole thing. It’s always the same in any industry. You have to know who you are first so you can market and create products and services that address your market. You need your own unique angle when it comes to dealing with your clients.
Keyauna: Let’s talk about the identity part. As far as identity is concerned, who is Skye Media Group? Who is Toni Patterson? Are they one in the same? Is there a differentiation?
Toni: No, there’s not a differentiation. It’s funny because I just started reading a book called Eve Revisited. One of the things that the author said is that we have to separate ourselves from our businesses. It was never my intent for my business to be, for me to be in the forefront of my business. My company has always been about helping businesses grow, helping people make more money by having great visuals, but part of the brand is me. I think that it is one in the same. Even down to the colors I use on my website. I don’t see too many designers using black as a really strong color in design, for example. That’s me, and I love black. I loved black since I was eight years old. It’s just a color, but it’s also the attitude that comes with black. It’s serious. Black can be anything. Black can be sad. It can be happy. It can be sexy. That’s the outlook of my design and the fact that I am not like every designer. I design for people. I’m not like a one trick pony. They don’t use the same technique or the same anything when I design for my clients.
Keyauna: How difficult is that? I know that creativity is a big part of what you do, of course. Is it difficult, or is it fun, for you to create and design completely different marketing materials, products, etc. for your individual clients?
Toni: It’s fun for me. I never know what I’m going to do until I actually start reveiwing my notes, and thinking about the person that had the consultation with. Just really getting a feel for what they’re trying to go for, and what type of marketing they are trying to reach because I want to make sure that the end product that I give them is them as well. While your brand reflects you, it’s not all about you. You have to create something that you’re consumers are going to love. For example, even though my favorite color is black, if I was going into childcare, my website probably wouldn’t be black. That’s not…. Parents don’t want to see a black website or have their children go to someone whose website is blacked out. You want to make sure that you love your design but you also want to make sure that your target market is in love with it as well.
Keyauna: You’re actually doing a branding workshop/conference. Talk a little bit about what you are offering to people who are looking to brand or re-brand. What would they get from your conference?
Toni: I came up with this idea at the end of last year. This idea has been in the making. As I mentioned, I’m not the type of person that’s front and center when it comes to my business. I do a little bit of tweaking. I do a little bit of networking, we help out a little bit with networking at the event, but that’s just not really my thing. I wanted to create an intimate setting where entrepreneurs could come together and build their business together. I started this because I’ve helped out a lot of brands who want certain things, or who have questions and they don’t have tech support. It just got me thinking “Why is that? What is it that’s missing?” Somebody has some colors that they like, I might ask them “Who’s your target market, or what services do you have?” They don’t know. They just know that they have a business idea, and they just want to get online. That’s all they know. Using the word epidemic is a strong word, but it just made me feel like it was an epidemic and it needed to be addressed. I did. I am doing a little bit of research for this eBook that I have. One of the statistics a few years ago said that 2.5 billion businesses pop up online every day.
Toni: Of that 2.5 billion, it got me thinking “How many of these businesses are building brands that are like that?” It’s the same percentage of people that come to me who don’t have answers. It’s not like they don’t know anything. It’s not that. It’s that they need a structured way to articulate what it is about their business that makes it special. They need direction. That’s the tool that I have behind the workshop. It’s not just giving them website, or logo, or headshot, although they will be getting all of those things. It’s to help them build a foundation for their business so when they need that elevator pitch, they have it. When it comes to design, when I create a brand through the Sky Media Group, we’re done. There have been a lot of times where clients build and have additional designs put on a flyer. They might want something additional, and they might not have the money to pay for it. The workshop will also give them some essential skills that they’ll need to create those on their own. I think after the workshop, they will be better equipped to go out and just be confident in presenting their brand to the world. I consider Skye Media as my parent company, but this venture is called DIY Brand Lab. Obviously, they don’t do it themselves. They do it with my help, but it will give them the resources and the skills to be able to do it for themselves if they want to after the fact. They can save a little bit of money too.
Keyauna: You’re giving them everything in a period of time, over a few days. They get all of those tools.
Toni: Two days, yep. It’s ambitious. The one in October is October 20th. That’s the second one that I am doing. After that I’m done with 2015. I will be coming up with another one in 2016, but that’s the last one for 2015.
Keyauna: For those who may not be able to come to the workshop, give one tip that you would share with an entrepreneur who is just starting out with their business and trying to figure out where they start with their branding.
Toni: There are so many first tips.
Keyauna: They should just come to the workshop then lol.
Toni: Basically lol. If they are not in that state [where the workshop is being held], I say that if you have five friends that want or need something like this, then I’ll come to your state. Even with any tip that I give you, and the first thing that I tell them is just the beginning and to think about your “why”. For those that come to the workshop before they go into their business, think about why you want to do this. Some people say “I want more money.” That’s great that you want more money, but a new business is not going to get more money without putting in any work, without branding. You’re can’t just say I created the business, I want more of the money. It doesn’t work like that. You have to build a community and a following in your expertise over time before you can make money.
Keyauna: Tell them about the where is the next Do It Yourself Brand Lab Workshop will take place.
Toni: The next DIY Brand Lab is going to be on October 20-21, 2015, that’s a Tuesday and a Wednesday in Washington D.C. It is from 8am to 6pm both days. We need both days, but first there will be a pre-workshop conference over the course of a week or so prior to the actual workshop. They are given branding and creative worksheets they need to complete so I can answer any questions they have in advance. That way when they get to the workshop they can just start working. At the actual workshop, attendees can expect to have a new website and a new logo, if they need it. There are brand guidelines which will give them a blueprint of how they should visually present their brand throughout the course of the workshop. Design training, technology training, and just a feeling of building your brand with an expert right there with you.
For more info on Toni, Skye Media Group or to register for the upcoming DIY Brand Lab Workshop click here. The Workshop is only $600 for a limited time so register now!