Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Collette is a passionate woman who founded the company Brand by me she used her wealth of experience working in the charity sector and saw a way that she could go it alone and create her own thing! She now has a small team, office space and drive to help create vibrant, bold branding that works for you.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Collette and I run a brand and strategy consultancy, Brand by Me. We help ambitious people build brands that drive change.
What inspired/motivated you to create your business?
I was on a career break after years working in companies and charities to build their brands and I had a lightbulb moment – I realised there was an opportunity offer big brand thinking and consultancy for hard working SME budgets.
Do you feel being black has been a barrier in anyway during your career and setting up and running your business?
Throughout my career I definitely think that I’ve been held back because I am a black woman – both openly and unconsciously. When I worked in advertising (my first career), I was definitely made to feel I was a face that didn’t fit and as a result, not the “right” kind of Account Director for my agencies. I had to work harder than people at the same level even to achieve lesser results, I definitely wasn’t allowed to make mistakes (and if I did the consequences were WAY harsher than for others) and I was subjected to daily and exhausting micro aggressions that made it exhausting to try and get ahead. It got a bit better when I moved into charity sector – in advertising, being “un-PC” was seen as cool, whereas in the charity sector, there was a lot less tolerance of overt racism and more effort to champion diversity. This was not the case universally but I definitely saw an improvement and my positive experience at Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, helped me to be more vocal and speak out in organisations where they were behind on this. However setting up my business has been a revelation in this respect – I’m able to use my skills and voice to speak out about the experience of being a black women in the workplace and even work with organisations who empower black women and girls to get ahead. I haven’t found being black a barrier – yet – I think this would be different if I needed to seek investment though…
What advice would you give others wanting to start a business? Or rise up through the ranks?
Actually my advice applies to both and I would say 3 things. Firstly, be really clear about why you’re doing it (your purpose), how you do things differently (your personality) and also work out your non-negotiable principles (your values) and use these 3 elements to help you navigate every decision you make. Secondly make sure you understand the business case for what you do and why people need you – think about it from your audience’s perspective (whether this is a customer, client or employer) as this will help you negotiate and be confident in what you offer. And finally hold your nerve when the going gets tough – it’s easy to doubt yourself and let your inner critic take over, but stay true to your purpose, live your personality and don’t compromise on your values and you’ll find a way to rise up and succeed! Oh and a 4th – seek help! You don’t and can’t know everything so make sure you identify and seek out the people that can help you.
What have you learnt on your journey as a business owner?
Firstly that brand is a superpower so I love that I do it for a living because not only do I get to help other businesses exceed their expectations by building brands but it has certainly helped us grow quickly and keep focussed. Secondly as the business has grown I’ve had to take on several roles – I’m obviously a brand strategist and love it, but I also have to be a team leader, managing director, finance director and visionary CEO. And some of those roles come easier than others – the finance side has been a massive learning curve. And finally the importance of business development – you can’t just keep your head down and do the work, you have to constantly go out and cultivate new business too. Even if it gets really busy…
What has been the toughest challenge being your own boss? Being in such a high position?
I find it challenging to navigate the uncertainty of running your own business and the fact that although you have a lot of control in some ways, equally you are at the mercy of so many things you have zero control over. I don’t see myself as having a high position but I definitely feel the responsibility of having a team. And I have a habit of being in my own head and over thinking stuff and that’s a nightmare when you run your own business so I’ve had to learn to manage those inner thoughts! (it’s a work in progress tbh).
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
So many things. The freedom to try new stuff, be creative and make a real impact by doing what you do best and being yourself. And the fact that you don’t have a boss – no-one gets to tell you what to do! (and I LOVE that).
Do you feel there is a women's revolution coming as more women set up and run their own businesses and is it a good and is this a good thing?
Yes I think that women running businesses and spotting opportunities to do business differently can only be a brilliant thing. I don’t think everyone should be an entrepreneur – we need intrapreneurs too – women leading big corporate organisations and changing them from within. I think that the inability of companies and workplaces to be flexible and also systems that are inherently biased are blocking women from getting ahead and we need to change this so that women aren’t forced to bounce out of the workplace and feel that running their own business is the only option. It really shouldn’t be.
What does the future hold for your business?
I want to grow the business sustainably so I can be a voice for change within my industry. I’m really excited about the 3 pillars of my business – working with social change organisations, like charities, working with ambitious business founders, and working with larger corporates on personal brand for employees -and want to keep working with the organisations and individuals who can really benefit from what we do. Finally, I love having a team and although I think we’ll always stay small, I’d like a couple of additional full time roles.
Seven random facts about yourself
I love dancing and used to be in a Bollywood dance troupe.
I am an Arsenal fan although I don’t follow football closely anymore.
I’ve met two members of the royal family.
I love Scrabble (in fact most board games because I like winning).
I read incredibly quickly.
I’m married to a drummer and I’m his biggest fan!
My office is behind my house so I have a 30 second commute!
Anything to add?
I’ve talked about the power of personal brand for individuals and it’s a real superpower in business and in the workplace, so we’re running a summer promotion where you get a taster personal brand session for £99 – an absolute bargain and the best 90 minutes you’ll spend figuring out who you are! You can book it here
@brandbymehq on Insta and Twitter
Our blog: brandby.me
Our website: brandbyme.co.uk
Our new FB group: facebook.com/groups/brandbyus/