Believe in yourself, worry less and live in the moment because everything will turn out fine.
Mirela de Lacerda is a brand strategist, mentor and founder of Project M London. With 15 years’ experience working in the fashion and beauty industries, from up and coming labels to giants like L’Oréal, her background as a journalist and lecturer allowed her to understand the market from different perspectives, which motivated the creation of her first consultancy, Modalogia, founded in 2009 in Brazil. Consulting for major companies, she realized that a lack of clear identity was the main obstacle in their growth, leading to the research of Jung’s archetypes as a branding strategy. During an MA course in Fashion Entrepreneurship & Innovation at London College of Fashion, the concept was further explored on case studies about British brands and became the core of Mirela’s new business: Project M London, an emotional branding consultancy aimed at startups and middle-size businesses, founded in 2016. The services include reports, workshops, training and mentoring sessions tailored to find the motivation behind the brand, create its meaning and develop a mindset.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After starting my career as a lecturer and fashion journalist in Brazil, I began to consult for fashion companies, creating marketing strategies and doing workshops to sales teams and entrepreneurs. I realized that the whole process of developing a brand identity and a positioning statement was a challenge for most of them. So, I went on to research a more meaningful approach to branding and found the concept of archetypes applied to business. As it tackles the emotions that a brand awakes in consumers’ minds, it allows to develop meaningful and engaging companies that understand how to differentiate themselves in an overcrowded market.
I began applying it in 2011 with my Brazilian clients and when I moved to London, in 2014, it became the subject of my MA dissertation, where I applied the theory in case studies of British brands (Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith). After the course, it was clear to me there was a market gap to develop the concept of archetypal branding tailored to the specificities of fashion and beauty industries. So, in 2016 I created Project M: an emotional branding consultancy aimed at startups and middle-size businesses, tailored to find the motivation behind the brand, create its meaning and develop a mindset.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day begins around 9am, after having breakfast I’ll read the news and reply to all urgent emails from clients and partners. Then, I start working on reports and workshops, scheduling social media postings, writing newsletters or recording videos – it depends on the day. I also try to schedule all my meetings and mentoring sessions in the afternoon, so I have enough time to prepare everything ahead. The secret to making it productive is to alternate tasks that require more effort and boost my creativity with the more ‘boring’ ones (like admin), so I don’t get bored or start to procrastinate. I usually finish around 5 pm and go to the gym, which is the best way for me to release the tensions and relax.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m constantly thinking ahead and planning my next steps. I keep a monthly plan where I write down my ideas and give time to develop them. I like to start with handwritten notes and turn them into proper projects bit by bit. I don’t have an established process other than write it down, do research to check if it’s viable and start implementing it. The only thing I say is that when I commit to something I’ll work until it happens.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Seeing that brands are putting more and more effort on their story and purpose. As the market is overcrowded with very similar products, I believe that your chances of surviving as a newcomer (and even as an established company) only happen if you make the effort to be true to what you believe. I don’t want to use the word ‘authentic’ because it became a cliché but everywhere I see brands with a meaning growing and engaging with people, while companies that are just about a commercial transaction and don’t have anything to say are losing space and vanishing. It’s also exciting to see how technology is building up experiences that are erasing the frontiers between physical and digital and changing the retail landscape, especially in my field of work (fashion and beauty), which offers a wide range of possibilities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m very disciplined and don’t have any problem working by myself. For me, having a regular schedule of activities makes me feel much more productive. Keeping a to-do list is imperative so I know how my day will evolve and can plan everything accordingly.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself, worry less and live in the moment because everything will turn out fine.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That chaos is not creativity’s best friend. You can be organized and disciplined and still be a very creative person.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In my brand reports, the last section is an action plan with a timeline to execute each task. I use it to myself and check it bi-monthly to see if and how I’m doing the things I planned. It’s the best thing to keep you motivated and ‘on track’ with projects and goals.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Partnerships and collaborations were essential to me. Since I started a business in a different country, without a previous network of contacts, I needed to build my portfolio to show my work. I started collaborating with colleagues from my MA course who were launching their own brands, which gave me the opportunity to try my branding model, and partnered with a co-working space for creative professionals, called Hunter Collective, to promote a monthly networking event and host my workshops. It was a win-win situation for all, because we can grow our business together and create a network of like-minded people that support each other.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s not a failure per se but it took me a while to understand that self-value is everything. When I realized that nobody will help or support you unless you put yourself out there and believe in what you are doing I changed my attitude and things started to happen for me.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We are hearing everywhere about the retail apocalypse but the truth is that people still want to have enjoyable shopping experiences and good customer service is always appreciated. I’ve been thinking about how the position of sales assistant has been undermined, particularly in luxury fashion, so why not come up with a platform where luxury companies partner with department stores and multi-brand retailers to offer video trainings for 3rd party staff so they can better learn about the brand legacy, seasonal launches, sizing and overall customer experience and in return can offer a more direct feedback about sales and target audience?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Since English is not my first language and I learned American English, adapting to the English accent has not been easy! And as a big part of my work involves public speaking, I felt important to look for classes to improve pronunciation and speech. It gives me more confidence, which of course is reflected in my work. It really pays off.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I recently discovered Solna, a free accountancy tool that helps managing finances and invoices, it’s so easy to use and saves a lot of time!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Hero and the Outlaw” by Carol S. Pearson and Margaret Mark, the authors who came up with the concept of archetypal branding, the base of my work. They link how we relate to brands according to the emotions that activate patterns in our collective unconscious (namely archetypes). After you read it, you understand branding in a completely different and much more meaningful way.
What is your favorite quote?
When you doubt your powers, you give power to your doubts – Diane von Furstenberg. As I said, the most important thing in being an entrepreneur (and honestly, in life) is to believe in yourself and know your worth. If you don’t, you open the doors to be eternally vulnerable.
– Create an action plan and check it bi-monthly to see if and how you are sticking to your project and goals.
– In order to be more productive, try to alternate tasks that require more effort and boost creativity with the more ‘boring’ ones (like admin), so you don’t get bored or start to procrastinate.
– Believe in yourself, because if you don’t nobody else will. An essential part of being an entrepreneur is knowing your worth and not being afraid of going after your ideas and visions.
– Partnerships and collaborations are really important to grow your business. It’s a win-win situation because you can create a network of like-minded people that support each other.
– As we are living in an era of excess, we are also seeing a market overcrowded with products and brands that don’t say much to the consumer. The chances of surviving as a newcomer (and even as an established company) only happens if you make the effort to be true to what you believe.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.