Have you ever wondered what happens when you combine two very ambitious sisters and a great slogan?
You get a haven of supportive and empowered women, ready to design the lives they want.
During the past two years, many have realized the value of surrounding themselves in a community of support, especially when it comes to thriving in business.
During this week’s episode of Do The Damn Thing, Laura Foy picks the brain of Lana and Laura, the founders of The Sister Brand. As a team of successful interior designers, they have taken their brand to the next level by creating a powerful slogan that has motivated many women worldwide to become their very best.
But, how did these two entrepreneurs build a business that has created such a powerful impact in the lives of so many?
Be sure to watch our video now to find out how they did the damn thing!
Read the script:
Laura Foy: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another week of Do The Damn Thing. Today I am very excited to be talking to some very inspiring and stylish women. I am being joined by Laura and Lana from The Sister Brand… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand website…. They are out in Canada, where we were just discussing, it is very cold. Hi guys. How are you?
Lana: Hey! Great! Thanks for having us.
Laura Thomson: We’re trying to keep warm here.
Laura Foy: Thanks for coming. I’m really excited to talk to you guys for a couple of reasons. I found you on Instagram… opens in a new window to TBS Design Studio Instagram page… and I just loved the aesthetic part of it. You are designers, so you know what you’re doing. It’s beautiful.
And then, as I started to learn a little bit more about you, I was just like, “Oh, right on! This is just like everything that HipCat Society stands for.” So, let’s tell the audience a little bit about what you do.
Lana: Well, thank you for having us. We were super excited to be found by you.
We founded our business on the idea that we wanted to design our own life. We wanted to take back control. We wanted to have something that was really for us. So we have an interior design company. That’s what we do. That’s our career. But it’s evolved into something a lot more than that.
Laura Thomson: It’s definitely evolved as we’ve been creating our brand and creating our business. We started out as interior designers. We started actually with a little bit of a lifestyle boutique online, where we had pillow covers and lifestyle items. And we were helping people with designing their homes and their spaces.
And then, all of a sudden, we got this idea that we just needed to woman up and just take control. We were in this rut, and we needed to take control. And, all of a sudden, “Woman Up” happened. We trademarked the slogan. We created an apparel line to go along with our interior design business. And since then, it has just snowballed. It’s been a crazy ride.
Laura Foy: We’re looking at some of the designs now. It looks like you’ve got t-shirts, gift cards, and sweatshirts. You’ve got all this great stuff.
I’m a huge fan of just the phrase and the sentiment behind “Woman Up.” What has the reaction been from your audience and social media?
Lana: It’s been amazing! We always thought it would be a subsidiary to our company, but it took over, and it started opening up doors for us. In the same way that you found us and felt aligned, we’re finding that same thing with other women and other companies in Canada. We’re just finding each other.
It’s led to some amazing things. We found Lisa Webb, a Canadian ex-pat mom. She’s the founder of Wine, Women & Wellbeing… opens in a new window to Wine, Women & Wellbeing website…. We connected with her immediately. And from there, we’ve had celebrity shoutouts and some amazing times. During 2020, which was the worst year for everybody, we had some really great highlights.
Laura Foy: That’s awesome! Now, in terms of the retail side, how does one get started with that? Did you just start printing with some digital print shop? What did your first month look like?
Laura Thomson: It took so much for us to fine-tune how we wanted the font for “Woman Up” to look and where we wanted it on a placement for a shirt. And thinking about women having a chest, and sizes, and all these little factors.
So, we probably tried on a million shirts. Then we started playing with the fonts and the placements. And we were so fortunate to track down a local, woman-led business owner who does screen printing.
Lana: She’s incredible. It’s all commercial grade, and she’s been amazing to work with.
Laura Thomson: So we found her, and we worked with her. And she helped us with what she was knowledgeable in, and we worked together. And she really helped us to figure it all out. And then, it all just grew from there.
Laura: You talked a little bit about finding people that you align with and that you found this woman locally. One of the things that we really believe in at HipCat Society is building a community. You can’t do it on your own. It takes a village. Whatever sort of slogan you want would attach to it. We firmly believe that you need to form relationships. Really, that’s what marketing and sales are, right?
Tell me a bit about how you’ve leveraged your community and relationships to grow your empire.
Lana: That’s a really great point. We talk about this a lot. Whether you’re a people person or not, we all thrive on connection. So, monetizing that has been easy because we’ve built the connections. We had people reaching out to us that we didn’t even know were in our own city, and they had these legions behind them. So it’s the network beyond that that just keeps everything else going.
Laura Thomson: All the time, we have women in our fold saying, “Oh my gosh. I thought of you when I was talking to so-and-so, and I’m going to put you in touch.” And we’re doing the same. So, your network builds, and it grows, and your possibilities grow. It’s a pretty cool thing.
Laura Foy: You are actually sisters, right?
Laura Thomson: We are!
Laura Foy: Mixing family and business. Always a good thing.
So we talked about the relationships a little bit, and obviously, we’re a marketing agency, so we want to know about marketing. And I know our audience wants to know about marketing because you can’t have a business without it, right? So, what does your marketing look like? How do you find people? You guys are interior designers as well. And so, you’re juggling two businesses at the same time. How do you market? How did you market initially?
Laura Thomson: We kind of just threw ourselves into it. And I honestly believe that that’s the only way you can do it. You just have to start somewhere. You start your page. You start your social media. Luckily, Lana’s got a little bit of background knowing the behind-the-scenes of SEO and all that.
We did hire a brand new photographer, which was really important and helpful to us in creating a vision of what we wanted our company to look like. That, I think, is very helpful. Then there’s all the behind-the-scenes and investigating your hashtags and your market.
Lana: Social media is its own entire beast.
Laura Foy: We’re looking at your Instagram… opens in a new window to TBS Design Studio Instagram page… page right now. I mean, it’s just so beautiful and so well designed. The colors flow. The life, the people, the faces. I mean, it’s just clearly done by someone who knows what they’re doing. Do a lot of people find you on Instagram?
Lana: Absolutely! I would say a huge percentage of our clients are from Facebook… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand Facebook page… and Instagram. They find us because somebody has tagged us or a friend has tagged them in one of our posts because it resonated with them. And so, it’s a huge tool. It’s invaluable. It can be daunting at times. And I think that, especially for entrepreneurs, it’s very overwhelming.
So, what we did is we just immersed ourselves in learning as much as we could. And we’re still learning every day. It changes every day, as you know. So, don’t be discouraged. Keep going. Keep learning. And the rest will come.
Laura Foy: And now, let’s talk a bit of the design side of it because that came first, right?
Laura Thomson: We kind of always did design encompassing with our lifestyle brand. Now we’re kind of building up our design portfolio a little bit heavier and are now leveling out. “Woman Up” kind of took over, which was really interesting in an amazing way.
Now that we have that established, it’s actually brought in the design clients for us, which was so funny. People would tell us, “We found you because so-and-so mentioned you. But when we looked and saw you had that “Woman Up” line, I was all in.”
Laura Foy: This totally proves that it’s so much more than just the product, right? Your clients want to feel aligned with you as a person. You as gummy-bear-eating, wine-drinking, funhouse-loving mothers, right? They want to know and trust you, which I think is where elements like social media, and things like that, can really form those connections and build those bonds.
I would think that design work is primarily local. So are you doing localized hashtags and things like that? Or do you guys go anywhere?
Lana: It’s something we branch out with, depending on the project. Over the summer, we worked with a resort in Vermont. We helped them go through their spaces and showed them how to improve and add a little flare. They were doing a massive renovation there. So that was a super exciting time for us to be able to cross the border virtually during a pandemic and do what we love with clearly awesome, soul-finding clients.
Laura Foy: Now, in terms of tactics, when you had nothing, and no one knew who you were, what was the first thing you did? What was that first step that you wanted to nail and scale?
Lana: Organic reach will not get you anywhere when you’re first starting. You need to count on the experts to guide you in this realm. We did do a lot of paid advertising. We’re not talking huge numbers here, but enough to get us a little traction. And then we would build on that traction.
I think one of the things that is so important when you’re first starting, especially in social media, is that it’s hard to take a really good key photo. But when you take one, and you’ve got it, you’re like, “Yeah, that’s it.” Promote it. Put it out there. Do a paid promotion just because the reach goes so much further, and it helps to build you a lot more quickly than organic momentum.
Another part of it was working with micro-influencers and reaching out to them. We’d say, “We love your site. Could we just gift you this? Nothing in return. If you love it, wear it.” Regardless, we just want to put that in their hands. It was slow and steady, but it does eventually build.
Laura Foy: So, you would find people that you thought aligned with your brand and then would just send them a shirt?
Laura Thomson: Yeah, exactly. We’d reach out to them and say, “We love what you stand for. You stand for our brand. We’d love to give this to you.”
Laura Foy: I’m so interested in this because I’m really not familiar with that world. What level of followers are we looking at here? Like a thousand? Is there a range?
Lana: It depends on when you start. When we first started, we were looking in the micro-influencer categories, which is 10,000 and under. So, maybe it was somebody in a moms group who had a great feel to her, and she had everything that we stood for, and we sent her a shirt. Or we’d say to another company, “Can we send you these really great pillow covers?” And they would just post it and tag us, and people would be like, “Oh, where did you get that?” And then it’s just that name and brand recognition again, and again, and again. So we’ve never paid for anybody to wear our clothing or have any of our products.
Laura Thomson: There were a few times when there was somebody with quite a bit fewer followers than us, but they just aligned with who we are and what we want. And so, it didn’t matter to us what their numbers were. We gave it. We’re like, “We want you to have this because you are exemplifying what we stand for.” And then it actually supports them as well because they tag us, and we share them. It goes back and forth.
Laura Foy: It’s amazing how much reach you can get from just you tagging your friends, and then them tagging you back. It’s mind-blowing when you realize just how much power it has. It’s obviously working well for you guys.
Now, tell us a little about the tools that you use. What are some of your go-to pieces of tech that you could not run your business without? There’s got to be some.
Lana: Absolutely. Canva… opens in a new window to Canva website… would be one of our number one apps that we love. We use it religiously, pretty much every day, for so many different applications.
Laura Thomson: The other big one for me would be Lightroom… opens in a new window to Adobe Lightroom website…. I am on Lightroom all day, every day. I think that it’s so important.
Laura Foy: I recently just learned that that’s free.
Laura Thomson: It is free. There is a $7 upcharge if you want a few of their features. Once you kind of get used to it, that charge is well worth it.
Laura Foy: Our designer – she’s just fabulous and super talented, and she was hyping Lightroom to me. And then I found out that it was free, and I was like, “What are we waiting for?”
Lana: And it takes a hot second just to kind of get your head wrapped in it, or at least it was for me. I was like, “How do I use this?” But once you get into it, it’s user-friendly and cool for us.
I think having those combined with knowing your hashtags, whether you reach out to a company to provide you with the best hashtags or if you sit down and figure out what those are for you. That’s a huge thing for social media.
Laura Foy: As a designer, I would think that that is a scary world to enter into. How did you get your first couple of clients? Was it friends of yours, or how do you build that portfolio when you don’t have one?
Lana: When we first started doing design, we were doing it kind of on the down-low before we even formed our company. That was a great way to start, whether it was helping friends and family or just doing trades for somebody. Even when we first formed our company, we needed those fresh photos. We ultimately said to our friends, “We’ll make a trade with you. In exchange for some amazing photos, we’ll do some design work.” It really works because they’re getting something, and you’re getting what you need to kickstart everything.
Laura Foy: I forgot to mention that we are live. So if anyone has questions, please put them in the chat. And we do actually have a question. Charlie, our designer, wants to know if you buy the presets for Lightroom.
Laura Thomson: We haven’t purchased the presets. There are a few other presets that we’ve used. Our branding photographer has her own, and so we have hers as well. But to be honest, I like to edit my own photos. Half the time, I find that if I buy the presets, I’m still editing afterward. So, I kind of have my own presets that I do.
Lana: But when you’re first starting out, it’s a great tool because it’s so easy. So, I mean, Jillian Harris has excellent presets. We highly recommend them. It’s not a significant investment, and it makes a world of difference.
Laura Foy: I started messing around with this app called Motion Leap… opens in a new window to App Store Motion Leap website…, where basically you can animate elements of a photograph. It’s super fun to play with, and there are so many amazing editing tools out there. So, I always love to hear what other people are using.
Now, looking back, are there things that you’re like, “Oh my God, had I only known this then, I would’ve done something differently?”
Lana: I would say that people shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. Also, a lot of changes are going to come organically as you grow. So it’s not necessarily that you made a mistake; it’s just that you’re moving in a different direction. And for us, we just went through a major rebrand because our online boutique that we once had wasn’t serving us anymore. We were called Prairie Beach House. It worked great for our online boutique, but it doesn’t identify who we are anymore.
So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It is good to have an intention. Set up with your intentions and use it as a flow chart of where you want to go.
We’re doing the third change to our website right now. Stay tuned for that. It’s a lot of money, but we felt like we had to continue to invest in ourselves and in our brand to reflect where we’re at.
Laura Foy: I want to talk about rebranding cause that’s gotta be a difficult choice, right? People know you as Prairie Beach House. Then, all of a sudden, you’re like, “We’re The Sister Brand.”
Laura Thomson: It wasn’t serving us anymore, and we had to kind of move in another direction. We were very boutique-oriented, and our goal with Prairie Beach House was to one day have our own store. Maybe it isn’t totally out of the question down the road, but for now, it’s just not working for us. So we kind of had to switch gears, make a new name, and be more encompassing of what we’re about now.
Lana: We spent endless nights bouncing off name after name.
Laura Foy: So, what is the process that’s involved with rebranding? Obviously, I would assume you’re going to get the URL. You’re going to have the old URL redirect to the new URL. But, what are some of the other obstacles that you guys are coming across in terms of changing the entire name of a company?
Laura Thomson: Well, we loved our old logo. We did it ourselves. But this time, we’re like, “No, we’re actually going to invest. We’re going to reach out to a branding specialist, somebody that’s going to help us create the image that we foresee.”
Lana: And also, at the same time, switch over our Instagram… opens in a new window to TSB Design Studio Instagram page…, and switch over our Facebook… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand Facebook page…. And one of the things we ran into is that the name that we loved, which is The Sister Brand, wasn’t available on Facebook. So, we reached out to the person who owns it and tried to negotiate and work on these things. But as you know, just because it gets released by somebody else, it doesn’t guarantee that it will actually become yours.
Laura Foy: Oh, is it first come, first served? Could somebody come and snatch it?
Lana: Instagram releases it and gives you 14 days to the day, and then you can snatch it up. Facebook does not do that. They release a name, and then it kind of goes into the atmosphere. Once they deem whatever that timeframe is, then it comes available. So every day, you have to check and see if they released it.
Laura Foy: When you change your Instagram name, do your followers come with you?
Lana: Yes, they do.
Laura Foy: Well, obviously, the name of this show is Do The Damn Thing. So, if there’s somebody out there watching who maybe is afraid, maybe there’s something stopping them, and they’re not sure which direction to go, but they got the dream. What would you say to them?
Lana: The words of wisdom are: Do the damn thing! You just have to start somewhere. And maybe that is just making sure that you can find your names for your URL or for your social media. Get those all kind of neat and tidy, and then start building.
Look at your local city. What do you need to have a business license in that city? What do you need as far as insurance? It’s all about baby steps. As soon as you have everything locked down, you can take your time.
Laura Thomson: Those resources are out there to help you as well. There are people out there in your city who will walk you through all of those steps.
Laura Foy: Did you guys have mentors or coaches? Who was walking you through it all?
Lana: It was kind of just leaning on each other to grow. But, I think in the end, when you find those people in your circle, you really lean on them, and it just becomes this wonderful relationship. And we wouldn’t give up our sisterhood for anything. They’re everything to us. So that’s really important.
Laura Thomson: And it’s incredible how you can connect with so many people, and you feel so deeply connected to them, and you’ve actually never met them.
Laura Foy: Well, I think you guys are amazing. Tell everybody where they can find your stuff and how they can interact with you. Their website is thesisterbrand.com… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand website…, but tell them anywhere else that they can find you guys.
Lana: You find us on Instagram @thesisterbrand_… opens in a new window to TSB Design Studio Instagram page… and on Facebook @thesisterbrandco… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand Facebook page…. So, that’s the best way to find us.
Laura Foy: We’ll have all the information underneath this. And I expect everyone to be wearing their “Woman Up” shirts. I just think you guys are fabulous. Thank you so much. And we will be watching you.
Lana: Thank you, Laura. Thanks for having us.
Laura Thomson: Bye.
Please like us on Facebook… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Facebook page…, follow us on Instagram… opens in a new window to Hipcat Society Instagram page…, and connect with Lana and Laura by visiting their website at www.thesisterbrand.com… opens in a new window to The Sister Brand website….