The entrepreneur

A brand strategist and writer, Amber Williams launched her marketing agency, PunkyFlair, just three months after giving birth to her son, Carter. She hit the ground running. In just one year, the Florida A & M University and Northwestern graduate secured contracts with feminine-facing brands like Camille Rose Naturals and the niche spa collection, Bekura Beauty. Indeed, the business took off so quickly Williams never quite had a chance to focus on exactly what kind of work she wanted to do.

The pitch

PunkyFlair specializes in shaping lifestyle brands near the start of their formation. The agency views those beginning stages as the most crucial time to develop and craft a brand’s identity. “It’s a crowded marketplace! What sets a commodity product line apart from one with a cult following that can cut through the clutter is branding,” Williams says.

Her agency takes a half science, half art approach to building brands by first analyzing the market environment. How does this product or offering solve a problem? For whom? What percentage of the market will likely buy into this? After crunching the numbers and determining the opportunity, “the fun begins,” Williams says. Her team of strategists then work to undercover the brand’s values that resonate most with the target consumer. This serves as the foundation for crafting the brand story and shaping its verbal and visual identity. “It’s all about the emotional connection that a brand can foster with its audience,” Williams explains, “That is what attracts, keeps, and up-sells the customer for a lifetime. A product or service can be replicated, but a strong brand cannot.”

The challenge

Despite winning early contracts, Williams struggled to snag the kind of engagements she really coveted. She found that most of the small and medium-sized businesses she wanted to help didn’t have the budget for such comprehensive attention. So she would settle for bits and pieces of work. One contract might be for social media, another for public relations, and another for only brand communication. Her desire to create a lasting impact over the life of a brand conflicted with the limited scope of her involvement. She frequently suggested the creation of “brand books” and “messaging guides” to clients whose brand identities had never fully been developed. She knew that in order for her to do her job effectively, those first steps had to be taken. But, she couldn’t afford to offer free advice, and her clients couldn’t afford to pay more.