Be the influence that others want to follow and share. The most successful brands or people of influence have a voice and personality that others can’t wait to connect with.
Ashley Graham is the Founder and Creative Director of Brandesso, a modern-day branding and marketing agency that infuses brand authority through caffeinated strategies and communications. To Brandesso, every brand has a unique story. Their creative process is to filter the raw, unique details of a brand and incorporate a well-rounded methodology and strategy that brews the brand to stand out in their industry as an authoritative figure.
Within the competitive landscape of agencies around the world, Ashley’s goal for Brandesso is to rise to the top in facilitating business operations and maintaining client relationships. Brandesso is on a mission to be the leading example of breaking the disconnect and cycle of the cut-throat agency dynamic; to create a more holistic and cohesive approach to client relationships and internal culture, to increase client/employee retention and longevity.
Known as a “Jill of all trades”, Ashley Graham is a serial entrepreneur who channels her passions, talents, and personal values to make a difference in the creative space. Pioneering the belief of building personal brands, Ashley is on a mission to launch a series of new content streams across social media to increase awareness with her brands. You can follow along on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and more.
Ashley Graham is the epitome of a girl boss, defying expectations and trumping the negativity that tries to hinder her from achieving her dreams. You can find Ashley driving around in her convertible Fiat sipping on coffee made from love with her Nespresso machine, heading to client meetings, influencer events, or frolicking to a new bar or restaurant. Ashley owes her inspiration for success to her transparent personality, long car or plane rides, and books by authors who win at life.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the odd adventures that have led me to my career path in which I am excited to share them with you. To paint the picture, individuals who are in marketing have a special ability to notice the world around them and express their observations in a way that allures and attracts the eyes and/or minds of others around them. That is the power of marketing.
Aside from working in-house, I come from an influencer background were working with brands on their social media campaigns and their content plans became an integrated part of my career. As someone who is connected to sharing brand stories and making the connection between a brand and their audience, I wanted to not only continue the work, but I wanted the opportunity to also perform on a larger scale. Through various alignments, opportunities, and a deep passion for marketing, I discovered the drive to launch an agency-type business after running an influencer-driven hobby and hitting the milestone of 12 years in marketing.
That is where Brandesso comes into play. Brandesso is a curation of the two words ‘branding’ and ‘espresso’. We infuse brand authority for our clients to stand out as an authoritative figure in their space through a variety of caffeinated content strategies and communications across social media and public relations campaigns. As someone who doesn’t play by the “rules”, as I was visualizing my messaging for my brand, it had to be innovative and unique in its sound and appeal. You can also say that perhaps I have a deep love for coffee but the idea stems much deeper than just the obsession and need for the drink. 🙂
When you think about traditional marketing campaigns, the most successful and recognizable are ones that evoke emotions within the audience by portraying a lifestyle or desire. One of the most unorthodox observations I made working for my employers was that the coffee machine became a watering hole. It was a way for employees to take a break from their work and collaborate on things that re-inspired and motivated them to get through the day. Drinking coffee is not just an act, but it has turned into a lifestyle for many.
To dig even further into the idea of Brandesso, when you look at how far the coffee industry has expanded the last 3-4 years, not only are these roasters producing a product, but they are building a story behind what it takes to even bring that product to the people who drink it every day. That is the power of successful branding. Branding was meant to highlight how brands bridge the gaps they face to bring their products and/or services to life. As a true marketer who lives and breaths marketing and brand messaging every minute of every day, my greater purpose I believe I bring to the table is to focus on bringing attention to brands and businesses who deserve to be seen and heard.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day for me starts with making coffee, obviously. Once I have my coffee I will usually head straight to my desk to conduct my morning meditation and write the first thing that comes to my mind in my gratitude journal. I’ve noticed that when I focus on something that I am extremely grateful for in the mornings, it sets a positive tone for the day, which tends to help with my productivity. When you feel grateful for your work or something positive in your life, it creates a feeling of euphoria to keep pushing forward. Sometimes all you need to do is take a step back, re-assess what is most important and/or an aspect of your work that you are extremely grateful for.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas to me are opportunities for creative expression. Our ideas come to our minds because they want a purpose and strive to find someone to give them life; to give them meaning. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to bring your ideas to life other than simply giving them your time and attention. Some of the greatest ideas I have created were simply because I had an intense spark of creativity and an emotional connection to the idea, in order to put my energy towards that project. By following my alignment with these ideas, they always take on a beautiful life of their own.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is how traditional broadcast media/advertising has integrated with outlets such as social media. I come from a background of studying and understanding traditional marketing and advertising before social media became what it is now. I have a deep appreciation for brands/businesses who have been able to encompass this approach in their marketing strategies in the age of social media and is something that we have even begun experimenting with at Brandesso.
In October of 2018, we finally brought our video broadcasting series Coffee Babble to life. Coffee Babble is a video extension of Brandesso’s modern-day branding techniques, which features up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inspirational individuals chatting about their unique stories. Digging back into our purpose to bring attention to amazing brands/businesses who have a great story to share, we love bringing on guests who live a life of creativity, aspirations for success, and of course, a love for coffee.
We are excited to see the growth of this extension and the value that it will bring to others online.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I do not pay attention to what others are doing around me, and what I mean by that is not overly analyzing where I am in comparison to my competition. Although it is a natural human reaction to compare, I find to be more productive when I focus on how I can take my brand to a level of awareness that feels unique and special to me. One of the common issues I have noticed amongst others is their desire to clone-copy the ideas or models that have worked for other successful entrepreneurs in the past. The purpose and goal to become an entrepreneur should not be modeled around the notion to be successful as others, but to create something that makes a unique imprint.
When I start to feel a sense of what I call the “lingering eyes”, I pause to take a few deep breaths and channel my thoughts towards the “why” and mission of my brand. Do I offer similar services to other businesses in my industry? Absolutely. However, what they don’t have is my willingness to think outside of the box when it comes to the services I offer and really challenge industry standards against what feels natural and energetically connected to the way I do business and the services that I provide.
That is what I find branding to entail. Branding is not just the look, sound, taste and/or touch of the brand, but it is the minds and personalities that drive and steer the wheel to the final destination. When you lose productivity, it is because you are either focusing on too much at a time, or you simply are not aligned with the destination that you are reaching for. They call it “staying in your lane” for a reason, so my piece of advice is to keep your eyes on your side of the road, put on your favorite album or track, and keep driving at your own pace.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice that I would give my younger self is the same advice I tell myself to this day, and that is to follow the best four principles of life written by my favorite author Don Miguel Ruiz. This author is the writer of “The Four Agreements” which focuses on the following:
– Be Impeccable With Your Word
– Don’t Take Anything Personally
– Don’t Make Assumptions
– Always Do Your Best
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Your branding goals should not include pleasing everyone; You are not in business for everyone. Be your authentic self and focus your energy on growing your brand. The right people will naturally gravitate towards your brand/business if you just do you and align with your core values and vision.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend when it comes to your marketing strategies, to speak to your audience with a consistent tone of voice. This keeps your communications on-brand & message clear.
Are you a business with a mission or vision statement or offer a product or service? When conducting any type of communications on social media or content on other marketing channels (media outreach, website, business listings, etc.), focus on using the same tone of voice. This can be key highlights on what makes your product/service unique and different from others in your niche. This is how your audience will begin to remember you to make a deeper connection to your brand.
If you have viewed our marketing assets at Brandesso, you will notice we use the same terms when we advertise our qualities: energized, caffeinated, etc. We have made a voice for our brand, signifying that we bring a fully energized approach to the services we offer.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped the growth of my business is the strategy on building a channel of influence. Be the influence that others want to follow and share. The most successful brands or people of influence have a voice and personality that others can’t wait to connect with. To me personally, here are three (3) characteristics of what I believe to make a good channel of influence from a brand or individuals perspective:
1. Be impeccable with your word: If you have read the book “The 4 Agreements” then you have an understanding of where I am going with this. If you have not read the book, this agreement signifies the importance of listening before you speak and then speaking with integrity. The most influential brands or individuals listen to their audience and then speak with truth and love. Say only what you mean and in good intentions. I won’t go too in-depth on this as I highly suggest you read the book but the message is pretty simple.
2. Inspire & Mentor Others: There is no greater feeling of purpose than by advising others on how to grow professionally to succeed. The most influential brands or individuals encourage others to follow their dreams and challenge them to think beyond themselves. Be a mentor for students and interns who are just starting off in their careers or coach others who have been in their professional careers who might be looking for a chance. #CollaborationOverCompetition
3. Be Authentic & Real: People connect more with brands or individuals who remain true to who they are and who are authentic. Build trust with your audience and they will be engaged to listen!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest failure I have experienced as an entrepreneur was getting too comfortable with the consistent work/contracts the business had. Although contracts can be commitments of a year, that doesn’t always mean they will continue once the terms are expired. The lesson I overcame was that although you can have a decent amount of work on your plate, you should always continue to prospect and find ways to grow.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I was recently in a 6-week workshop called Freelancers to Founders hosted by the San Diego Downtown Partnership. One of the greatest takeaways from this workshop was that I realized the majority of this group made it a point that sales are not their strong suit and that they would outsource that aspect of their business if they could. One of the biggest things about being a strategist is being able to recognize a need and finding a solution to that need.
To me, sales are second nature when running a business. In order to run a business, you have to want to make cash flow, and in order to make that happen, you have to sell. I am not saying I am a wiz in sales as it is not the only aspect of my business that I have my fingers in, however, it is an aspect of my business that I put a great amount of thought towards on how I can better my process. As there was clearly a need stated in this session of the workshop, a business idea that came to my mind was building a business involving a team of contracted sales professionals that small-to-midsize companies can hire to manage their sales outreach and processes.
I am sure this idea has been created in the past but seeing as there is always a demand for good salespeople, if the business was structured appropriately, it could solve the biggest pain-point for many business owners.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I have spent recently was integrating my new contract and payment processing platform, as well as additional finance-tracking services to keep my cash-flow and expenses in check this year. As for personal, I am a HUGE plant fan and love adding to the plant family I have in the office. We have a plant boutique we favor here in San Diego and they always take good care of us. Plants are a great way to change the energy and air-flow in a room, which can also help when it comes to productivity and how you connect in your work environment.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I am a HUGE fan of the apps Google Business has to offer. As each business and workflow is different, I have built my own way to manage and organize certain projects both internally and externally by cross-promoting to a variety of apps such as Google Calendar, Google Tasks, and File Management in Google Drive. Google allows you to effectively use each of their apps by attaching relevant documents within the drive when needing to assign tasks and events within the calendar and other apps. As Google is my primary platform for email communications, it makes it easy to access each app within my email dashboard without having to click in and out of multiple dashboards.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero. This is a great book to recognize your relationship with wealth and money, primarily negative, to re-configuring the bad behaviors and outlooks you may have on money. As we are business owners who are building a path for growth and wealth, I think it is important to come to terms with the relationship you may have with money and find a way to break bad habits to aid in your growth.
What is your favorite quote?
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- The purpose and goal to become an entrepreneur should not be modeled around the notion to be successful as others, but to create something that makes a unique imprint.
- Be the influence that others want to follow and share. The most successful brands or people of influence have a voice and personality that others can’t wait to connect with.
- People connect more with brands or individuals who remain true to who they are and who are authentic.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourbrandista & www.facebook.com/brandesso
Twitter: www.twitter.com/brandessosd & www.twitter.com/yourbrandista
Instagram: www.instagram.com/brandesso & www.instagram.com/yourbrandista