How I Grew My Small Business From 0 - £300k In 12 Months

In May 2021, I launched The Small Business Handbook, and one year later my tiny business has grown to over £300k, with 8 employees, interviews for huge publications such as Forbes and Business Insider, and a combined audience of almost 100k on social media. But... how?!

There are tonnes of things that contributed towards this rapid growth, but when people ask me, there's always one main thing that comes to mind. I built a really strong brand.

When I discuss building a brand, people often begin thinking of their logo, colours, etc, but branding goes far beyond that. Your visual identity is important, no doubt, but the other components of building a brand cannot be ignored.

I think building a business on your own with very little money is very tough. I've done it twice now, and both times, it was unimaginably difficult. That's why I'm such an advocate of building a strong brand. It costs you nothing but your time and effort, and it'll take you a long way.

When I first launched The Small Business Handbook, I didn't have much thought around building a brand as I didn't actually have any intention of it becoming a business at this point. As far as I'm aware, I was the first one to do what I do; I didn't know of any other people offering affordable eBooks and masterclasses specifically for product-based business owners who were trying to get their feet off the ground, and therefore had little money. I found a gap and I filled it. As I was the first in this very niche field, branding wasn't overly important... I had no direct competition!

As months went by, other people began doing what I do. I can't blame them at the end of the day; that's what business is all about! A select few new business did actually begin copying me. They sold the same products, same pricing, same content, etc... I mean, one business literally plagiarised an entire eBook.

I knew I could sit and get frustrated about it, or I could rise above them (it was a no brainer). This was the beginning of me building a brand. My products, pricing and content no longer stood out on their own as it was being mimicked elsewhere, so I had to stand out in some other way. That's the magic of branding!

Until this point, I had been using a logo I quickly made for myself on Canva which was pretty dull and lifeless; it expressed no real aspects of me. My first big investment into this business was having a logo created for me. I spent weeks researching into branding, and I had a clear vision of how I wanted everything to feel and look.

The psychology of colour is actually incredibly interesting. Until this point, I just used a light pink and beige as they were my favourite colours (don't ever do that...) But as I learnt more about colour psychology, I knew I had to use pink and red.

 

The Psychology of Colours

Red: passion, excitement, energy, confidence.

Light Blue: peace, calm, trust, loyalty.

Green: health, tranquility, generosity, environment.

Purple: luxury, power, ambition, creativity.

Pink: love, kindness, innocence, femininity.

Orange: success, enthusiasm, warmth, determination.

Yellow: hope, optimism, positivity, joy.

Grey: elegance, authority, knowledge, dignity.

Brown: security, strength, reliability, authenticity.

Black: power, formality, rebellion, mysterious.

White: purity, safety, knowledge, goodness.

 

As a person, my personality is quite contrasting. I'm incredibly introverted, independent and I prefer my own company over anyone else's. At the same time, I'm also incredibly confident and full of passion. The easiest way for me to display this was through colour. Hence, I opted for red, which portrays my passion and confidence, and pink which portrays my innocence and kindness.

When building your brand personality, you want it to resonate with who you're targeting. I truly believe this was one of the main factors driving my rapid success. My target market are typically quite introverted, like I am, and many of them lack confidence with showing up online, and lack confidence within themselves. I could've simply shown up with that side of my personality and that be the end of it.

It didn't take long until I noticed a pattern of people asking me how I became confident, or how I built up the courage to show my face online, which was the spark of a lightbulb moment. I didn't want to just show my introverted and innocent side, because whilst that resonated with my audience, it wasn't what they wanted to be like. My audience desire to be confident, so it made perfect sense for me to show up with both halves of my personality; one to show them that I'm just like them which is reassuring, and one to show them what they can become which is inspiring.

I wasn't always confident online. I actually hid myself away for the majority of my first business. I recall reading something that told me I should start each day with an Instagram story showing my face and I brushed it off, thinking I'd never have the courage to do it. It didn't take long until I was tired of working in a repetitive circle and I wanted something bigger and better, so I just did it. I recorded myself speaking, uploaded it, locked my phone and didn't touch it for hours. Expecting to have received a tonne of rude messages, I went back onto my phone in the evening and only saw kind messages. Following that day, I consistently showed my face on my Instagram stories in hope of becoming comfortable with it. I believe it took me at least 3-4 months before I felt entirely at ease. Now, it's a thoughtless process; I talk to my camera like I'm speaking to a friend on FaceTime.

When you display a certain image as a brand, people will often make excuses such as "I can't do that". So, if you're lucky enough to have a story like mine where you've come from the place your audience are currently in, and are now in a place your audience want to be in, you need to tell that story, and it needs to be reflected in your brand personality. If you were to only show the end result of you in the situation they desire, it's easy for them to make excuses. They need to see that you did it, so they can also do it.

It's all about finding the right balance of showing up as the expert, and keeping yourself grounded. I sell products that help product-based small businesses grow, so of course, I aim to show up as the expert of selling products. But, I find true importance in staying "real". If I have a bad sales day, or if I burn out, I always announce it to my audience. If I was to put a mask over that aspect of my life and only show the good parts, no doubt, they'd begin to think growing a small business is too difficult and out of reach for them (which is untrue!)

Let me give you an example in case you're confused. Let's say you sell eco-friendly products. Perhaps, before you launched your business, you weren't very kind to the environment at all; you were endorsing fast fashion, overusing plastic, over consuming, etc. This is the situation for most people, despite a little bit of desire inside of them to become more eco-friendly. The transition to becoming kinder to the Earth seems really difficult. It involves giving up a lot of things we love, and finding alternatives which can often be much more expensive. As a brand, it's your job to show people how you transitioned and that you weren't always eco-friendly. In fact, you were once the complete opposite, and you transitioned, which is possible for them too.

Now, I'm not one to toot my own horn, but my brand has become very recognisable and memorable in a short space of time. My notification feed is flooded with people tagging me in anything red and pink saying "this reminded me of you". If I record some content wearing a black top, you bet people message me asking why I'm not wearing a pink top.

I'm certainly not the only pink and red brand, so why am I so recognisable? Well, I took up a method similar to 'method acting', you know when an actor becomes like the character they're playing so they can really get into it? Yeah, like that.

99% of the things I own are red and pink, literally. In my home office, I have a pink sofa, pink and red cushions, pen pots, candles, books, walls, teddies, blankets, planners, wall art... In fact, a lot of my clothes are pink and red too. I'm wearing pink and red pyjamas as we speak, whilst typing with my red painted finger nails. I didn't just want to have brand colours, I wanted people to see red and pink and instantly think of me. So, I stepped into that and ensured that's how people perceived me. 

Of course, you don't have to be as crazy with it as I am, but I found it really helped. I didn't just have a brand, I literally became my brand. It was definitely helpful that I adore the red and pink colour combination. But, as similar businesses began copying my colour palette, I knew I had to step it up a notch and ensure my brand was the one that came to mind when people saw those colours.

Colours and personality are both incredibly important when making your brand stand out, but there's one component of branding which is by far my favourite and I've found to be the most effective at all: brand values.

When you sell a product, you can't just sell a product. There are too many products out there to do well with it if that's all you do. It's just more 'stuff' and the world already has too much 'stuff'. Not only that, but with the amount of businesses selling similar items to you, how on Earth do you expect to stand out?! When you clearly display your values, you drive in the right people.

Brand values are essentially what you believe in and stand for as a brand. When I was running my first business, I started with literally nothing. I was a broke university student who later became a drop out, and I found it ridiculously hard to find help and support for my business that didn't cost an arm and a leg. I mean, I was looking at £1,000+ for a small business growth course. When starting a business, £1,000 is a crazy amount of money... If I had that much, I probably wouldn't need any help. Make it make sense...

Anyway, I became incredibly frustrated that those who couldn't afford a massive investment couldn't seek help. So, the big stayed big and the small stayed small. That's not the kind of world I want to live in; I want to live in a world where everybody has a fair chance at success, no matter what their financial background is. So, when I launched The Small Business Handbook, I knew I wanted to provide as much educational value as everybody else was, but for a fraction of the cost... I mean, literally £30 compared to £1,000+.

And, that is my main value. That's what I stand for as a brand. I believe in being generous and helping others succeed, even if it only puts a fraction of what everyone else is earning in my own pocket. That was the main root of my success.

I'm a natural giver. I thrive off helping others. Seeing my customers succeed gives me more joy than seeing myself succeed. So, I've always been more than willing to hand over my expertise for such a low price, in aim to see them grow their small business like crazy. Meanwhile, others in similar niches are chanting "charge your worth". Don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with them; but like I said, seeing others succeed was more important to me than 'charging my worth'.

That's what brand values are all about. They make you different from every other business around you. Plus, when it resonates with who you're selling to, you just become a magnet for sales. It's ironic really, because I never had any intention of driving masses of revenue which is evident with my low prices. I was repeatedly told "you under-charge too much", which I always turned a blind eye to. By clearly showing that my values were more important than the money in my pocket, sales effortlessly began flowing, and I actually ended up generating a crazy amount of money in 12 months.

You must hone down on what you and your audience believe in. But, I truly believe you can't just pick something and attempt to portray it. You need to really believe in it. It's surprising how well people can see through you. If you say "I stand for the environment" but have very little passion behind that, it's not going to do you any good. So, hone down on something you genuinely have a bit of fire for. Think about two people having a conversation... What's something they could say that would make you want to butt in and raise your opinion?

It's all about how you want people to perceive you. Personally, I want to be perceived as my natural self. Hence, I show up online in my pyjamas, with my hair in disarray. I swear and rant about my problems. I announce all of my hardships and share all of my successes. That's what my brand is all about. How do you want people to perceive yours? When they look at your brand, what do you want them to think?

There are a lot of products across the globe. More than you can imagine, in fact. There will be tonnes that are just like yours. The easiest way to become the best of the best and stand out, is to build a brand. Your brand is unique to you, and nobody else can take that. Even if they try, it'll never be the same. It's the one completely unique thing you have that people can't copy. Take advantage of that.

 

For more help with building a brand, check out my branding masterclass.

 


4 comments


  • Cleo Hope

    Was going to order stuff until I read the comment above. What a shame you seem to be copying people’s work when you’re telling people not to do that.


  • Attention Getting Marketing

    Please stop stealing my material. You purchased several of my 12-Month Marketing Plans from my Etsy shop and now you have come out with one that is a blatant rip off of mine, from the layout to the ideas. This is plagiarism as my material is copyrighted for a reason. I tried to be nice to you and reached out to you several times about this matter, but you ignored me. You bought my Etsy SEO Guide back in May 2021 and now you have also purchased my Etsy 30-Day Success Plan, so I imagine you are planning to try take from this. How dare you write about other people stealing your material when you are doing the same thing. All of my content is original, I have been doing this a long time, since 2012, and I will protect it. I took screen captures of everything, including the listing and your order from me on my Etsy shop, under the name of Olivia’s of York.


  • Joanne

    Such an interesting read that has certainly given me a lot to think about! I look forward to the next blog post.


  • Grace

    Thanks! I’m encouraged :)


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