By Kayla Klein, CEO & Co-Founder of Kreativ Alchemy
It wasn’t that I didn’t like my 9-5 job, but rather that my 9-5 job wasn’t fulfilling. I woke up, drove to the office, listened to my boss, got reprimanded by my boss’ boss, and carried out orders that, despite my objections, weren’t in the best interest of the company. I felt like a cog in the wheel that was moving in circles. In fact, in my two years at the company, I never found its mission statement.
That’s why I wanted to leave. I knew I had more to offer than being censored because my boss was afraid to take risks. If I have to wake up and work every day, I want that work to impact people.
My coworker at the time, Connor, felt the same way. As we bonded over shared suffering on our hour-long lunch breaks, we concluded that, between Connor’s graphic design skills and my marketing skills, we could provide the same services as we did at our 9-5 to companies that also wanted to impact people.
Thus, Kreativ Alchemy was born. Kreativ Alchemy is a full-service branding and graphic design agency. We help small businesses owners and startups create marketable brands and all of the assets they need to launch successfully – logo design, brand guidelines, web development, ad design, content marketing, blog posts, and more.
Taking the Risk
We started Kreativ Alchemy in February 2019 while living in Orange County, CA, and still working our 9-5 jobs. We did odd jobs for friends and family members before and after work. We always wanted to quit and run Kreativ Alchemy full-time, but Orange County isn’t cheap, and client acquisition is easier during business hours.
One of our first clients was a publication called School Video News. In early 2020, the publisher suddenly passed away. The person next in line to take over wasn’t prepared for the work so soon. John, the publisher, was a great mentor and friend, and we wanted to continue his legacy, so we purchased the publication and rebranded it as Stream Semester.
However, the lawyer at our 9-5 told us that Stream Semester presented a conflict of interest. So, we chose an opportunity. We resigned from our 9-5 to run Kreativ Alchemy (and Stream Semester) full-time, totally unprepared.
Our last day at the 9-5 was three days before the U.S. shutdown for COVID-19. We lost dozens of clients and contracts from businesses deemed non-essential.
It was our biggest nightmare realized. What held us back from taking the risk in the first place. No money, no job, no clients, no hope.
Finding Our Why
Nevertheless, we woke up at 5 am every day and tried to make something of our company. Surely, if I was as good at marketing as I touted, I could find a way to market myself.
Turns out, marketing is a low priority for most businesses during a global pandemic. For the first few months, nobody answered our emails, and if they did, they responded with the same, “We don’t have the budget for this right now.” However, as we opened rejection email after rejection email, we decided that perhaps it wasn’t a problem with marketing but rather how we were selling ourselves.
That we were trying to sell ourselves at all was an issue. When we started Kreativ Alchemy, we wanted to help small business owners and startups that shared our passion for innovation and creativity. Those small business owners and startups don’t need us to convince them that our services are valuable.
With that in mind, we focused our efforts inward. We revisited our original business plan from over a year prior and refined our mission, vision, services, goals, target audience, etc. We stopped thinking broadly and assuming any client was a good client and started thinking narrowly about what services and clients would make us excited to wake up.
We wrote a business mission statement and a personal mission statement and vowed that every decision we made moving forward must align with them.
Kreativ Alchemy exists to provide a comprehensive brand design experience that empowers business owners with the assets they need to launch the very next day.
Through Kreativ Alchemy, we strive to control our creative, financial, physical, and metaphysical freedom.
That’s when everything changed. We thought about the steps we’d taken over the past year to transform Kreativ Alchemy from an idea into a full-blown brand. Those steps are critical for every business owner, especially those using the extra time at home during the pandemic to launch their ideas. There was our value add: We’ve been there, we’ve done it, and now we can help you do it too.
We found a niche that allowed us to provide services we enjoy, work with passionate clients, and stay true to our “why.” As business owners, we have to pivot our direction to accommodate industry changes and client needs, but we should never abandon the first reason why we exist.
When No is Better Than Yes
Kreativ Alchemy is still new, and it’s not perfect. However, every time we encounter a fork in the road or an opportunity, we take a step back and consider which direction advances our mission, even if it means short-term sacrifice.
Saying “yes” to something that doesn’t align with your business’s mission will always hurt you in the long run. That’s one of the most difficult aspects of being a small business (and a people pleaser) – I want to bend projects in all directions to make them work for us.
Although it seems like a new client means money and security and shows that Kreativ Alchemy will bend over backward for client satisfaction, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When we stray from our mission, we end up working long hours for little reward and send a subliminal message to clients that we’re not confident in our services, prices, and goals.
Even though saying “no” is scary, it always pays off. It inspires us to work harder to find better opportunities. It shows clients that we’re confident in our services and to whom we provide them.
We’re lucky to have control of our creative freedom, and it took a lot of work to get here. No matter what you have built, what industry, what services, no amount of short-term gain is worth forgetting why you built it.
Acknowledge the Competition, But Don’t Let it Stop You
Marketing services are not proprietary, which is a challenge that we will face forever. There’s always someone with more experience, a bigger agency, or a DIY website that can do it cheaper. However, true to marketing and any other industry is that successful businesses rely on their mission to guide everything they do.
We acknowledge that the competition exists, but our job is to be Kreativ Alchemy, not try to occupy another company’s space. I don’t want to spend my time trying to change someone’s mind about what unique selling propositions they value.
There are pros and cons to every company, including ours. If someone prefers years of experience, they lose out on our innovative perspective. A bigger agency cannot offer our personal touch. A DIY website builder can never create a custom website, and frankly, the two options require vastly different budgets.
Kreativ Alchemy offers a unique set of skills that appeal to a unique target audience. We love working with that target audience because we don’t have to convince them that Kreativ Alchemy is anything but who we are.
You have to let go of trying to bend over backward to be the competition and beat the competition by putting your efforts into marketing who you are. Authenticity will always attract the kind of people that want to build your business up.
Best Advice to Business Owners
Two lessons ring true for every business in every industry. First, understand your why and stay true to it. Second, listen and learn who needs your why and position your business as a solution.
While finding your mission happens internally, positioning yourself to fulfill it is where we find the Platinum Rule. Following the Platinum Rule is critical to maintaining meaningful business relationships. Unlike the Golden Rule which states to treat others as you wish to be treated, the Platinum Rule says to treat others how they wish to be treated instead.
To understand how someone wishes to be treated, you have to actively listen to their needs. Only then can you determine if your “why” serves those needs and position your company as a solution for their pain points.
No matter how far along you are in your business endeavors, think about why your company exists. As your services adapt to industry changes, you bring new people on board, or you refine your niche, a clear mission will help you make short-term changes that have long-term ROI. Know your “why,” know your audience, and marry them to create perfect harmony for everyone.
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