Holly Tucker, founder of Holly & Co, wearing a flower-head piece.

You are your brand — stand out!

Brand & Purpose
By Holly Tucker


If you are your brand, what does that mean? How do you become part of your brand identity? Why should founders live and breathe our brand values? I changed my ‘uniform’ from corporate heels to glitter trainers and I’ve never felt better. Let me tell you why…

Holly Tucker, founder of Holly & Co, wearing a blue skirt and gold glitter trainers with shop small trim

Believe in yourself and your brand: why I became more ‘me’

It was around 2016 when I started ditching the heels and swore to only ever wear trainers again (and you can read about this in my dopamine dressing article).

It was the moment I realised that founders can be walking embodiments of their business (think Trinny of Trinny London, or Charlotte of Charlotte Tilbury) and the effect that can have on how people (potential customers) ‘feel’ about what we are building.

You see I had lost myself to the world of ‘corporate’ and found myself in a tube dress, blazer, too many pairs of Spanx and heels which gave me a bad back. I was dressing in a way I thought meant I’d be taken seriously as a businesswoman. I mean, that was the subconscious narrative, but on the outside, I wanted to appear to be in control. My brand was ‘serious businesswoman’ and it didn’t cross my mind that there could be an alternative. I was morphing into the representation of the female business leaders we see on TV and it just wasn’t my true self. Thank goodness I realised there was another, and far more powerful, way of dressing.

When you actually think about it, the way people look in business does have an effect on us. If you are in a serious meeting, if someone came in with a t-shirt and joggers on, you would judge that maybe this meeting isn’t as important to them, as it is to you. If someone was pitching to win your investment and they walked in with ‘This Means The World To Me’ on the back of their jacket, you would remember that moment, maybe for the rest of your life.

What does it mean to be your brand?

Us small businesses are rather strapped for cash and so when it comes to our marketing pennies, they need to go far. Sure we can pop some spend into our Google wallet, we can place an ad in our local magazine or hire a PR to try and get press for our latest product launch. It’s not ‘always on’ as of course, the noise runs out as you go through your budget.

But YOU are always on. So, you can be that beacon of your brand, 24 hours a day and it is even free(ish) to do so. I believe that so much of ‘brand’ is made up of all the intangibles of a company. The way the business makes you feel, how it opens your eyes, gives you something to talk about when you meet a friend, helps you learn, inspires you and so on. So much of brand recognition can be the quieter elements and so what you wear or how you come across might feel small, but believe me — it is slowly and steadily impacting how people perceive you. And it is business advice like this, that nobody tells you.

"I will only wear glitter trainers from now on. I will leave sparkles wherever I walk!" This worked. It fit the soul of what we were building. It helped me form what this business was, because it was so right that as the leader I wore a new way of ‘doing business’.

Remember, brand recognition starts with you

When you walk down the street, into a meeting or into a community gathering, you have an opportunity for people to recognise you. Now the question is, what do you want them to see? How do you want them to recall you and how can that lead to them looking up your business? I know this is all sounding as if I am promoting walking down the local high street to the butchers wearing a human billboard. I’m not, promise! But let me tell you a little about my journey to becoming my brand.

Becoming your brand is a journey: How do you understand brand?

Firstly ‘becoming’ your brand takes a real mental shift and you definitely need to find confidence in order to feel comfortable to stand out from the crowd. That was my first stumbling block. I didn’t want to necessarily fit in, but one has to remember I’d come from the mindset of looking and feeling like a ‘businesswoman’ and so the thought for instance, of colour, worried me.

Yet as we started to carve up what Holly & Co was; that we were going to bring ‘colour to the world of grey’ and if ‘grey’ was business today and our brand was ‘colour’ then it didn’t feel right to turn up to an external meeting in my Jaeger pinstripe jumpsuit. So, I started to fish out what was colourful in my wardrobe, went on some shopping sprees with my co-founder sisters and they pushed me to buy all things glittery, sparkly and anything that packed a punch with colour.

It was at that point we declared that I was not going to wear heels ever again. “Perfect!” I said, “I will only wear glitter trainers from now on. I will leave sparkles wherever I walk!” This worked. It fit the soul of what we were building. It helped me form what this business was, because it was so right that as the leader, I wore a new way of ‘doing business’.

Show your personality print: Be Magic with pink and white book image.
You can be that beacon of your brand, 24 hours a day and it is even free(ish) to do so.
Brand Heart Badge, by Emma Giacalone

Founders are the heart of the business: we are our brands

I firmly believe that founders are the future of business, along with community, and so by becoming your brand, you are making yourself into a personality for people to see and recognise, against the faceless corporations or, worse, the wardrobe on The Apprentice! You started your business to be YOU and so it is time to show everyone what that means.

As a side note, when you meet people, rather than talking about the weather, they potentially will pick up on something you are wearing that has caught their eye. This becomes a wonderful ice breaker and allows you to jump in and talk about your business. I know when I have visited networking events in the past and I wear my ‘Shop Small’ trainers or my ‘Independent Woman’ coat (these are things I have made or ‘pimped’ so to speak!) everyone wants to know more and it brings a smile to their face. It allows us to chat about what I am building.

Brand recognition reaps rewards: how to create a memorable brand

When you think that there are 7.7 billion people on the planet, ‘How can you stand out?’, should be your no. 1 question — and normally that leads to just marketing chat. I’m here telling you a story of a journey I took with ‘wearing my brand’ and the positive effects it has had; it has helped people describe me and maybe talk about my traits. Hopefully it has made them smile, think positively about me and my business, and then maybe, it has prompted them to look me up on social media or by doing a good old Google search.

If I wear my green ‘Vote With Your Money’ blazer, it might cause positive conversation amongst people. You see, the humble glitter trainer so to speak, has become great marketing and good for the bottom line. It makes solid business sense. Now, I am not saying that your next shopping spree can be put on expenses (though that is up to you), but give people a favourable thing to remember you by and it might just pay off.

By becoming your brand, you are making yourself into a personality for people to see and recognise, against the faceless corporations.
Holly Tucker MBE wearing a Denim & Bone jackets

And of course, speaking of social media, if everything we do could be content, wearing your brand gives you a unique way to tell your story.

It’s time to wear your personality — your brand — on your sleeve, on your chest and even on your head!

How are you going to show the world who you are?

You are your brand: key takeaways…

There are billions of people on this planet (and millions of businesses), but there’s only one you. Being the epitome of your brand is the key to standing out. Remember:

1. The way you look in business counts:

But not because you’re wearing a suit or heels. Giving your audience something positive to remember you (and your brand) by, is a powerful statement.

2. Ask ‘Why is personal branding important for founders?’:

Founders have a golden opportunity to bring their face to a (brand) name. Among so many faceless corporations, this could be a silver bullet to success.

3. Becoming your brand is not a one-way opportunity:

There is a very personal benefit to living and breathing your values in all areas of your life. Embrace it.

Holly's signature

Image sources: Holly Tucker MBE, ‘Shop Small’ Glitter Trainers — By Team Holly & Co.

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