Hi Monica, Tell us more about your business of expert brand/personal styling consultancy.
Monica Barnett – I am a wardrobe stylist and personal branding expert with Blueprint for Style.
Blueprint for Style is a boutique consultancy based in Washington, DC and the company offers personal styling expertise for men and women as well as professional development training and seminars for organization and businesses focused on the “power of the first impression”.
It’s a combination of the psychology and social perceptions with the style and fashion of everyday business and professional life.
For 2019, our average monthly revenues are around $15000 and while there are previous years where it was higher, the focus is on doing more impactful work that will yield longer-term connections.
What’s your own background? Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
My formal training is unrelated to my current work with Blueprint for Style. In fact, my background is in organizational psychology and health administration and I did revenue cycle operational consulting for 15 years prior to starting this business.
Much easier to say that I had the idea of starting the business based on influences from an old friend as well as my sister. I started by styling friends for free and then quickly expanded to doing friends for dollars.
At some point about a year in, I decided to start reaching out to other avenues to expand my knowledge base and influence which is how I became an Alpha Shopper with Lucky Magazine over 12 years ago.
What went into designing the initial branding for the people as a service? Take us through the actual process?
Not sure if I can take you through the entire process of designing the initial service because it was created by client demand.
Folks needed someone to help them sort through their closet and figure out what was good and what was bad so, I did. From there, as a former consultant, I understand that everyone likes a “work product” and so I spent time thinking through what a client would want to hear and create a document to share after the work was done.
As with most of my products or services, the process of ideation and creation has come out of the client’s need or request to have it – which makes it a bit easier to construct as branding for the people.
That said, there are some that were created and not popular so have been discontinued but it has allowed me to see the learning in it.
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business.
The formal/official launch of the business came about for two reasons: the first was because I wanted a place to formally place associated expenses and time spent, and the second was so I could start to “push” the business.
At the time, I had the counsel of a good friend who was savvy in “getting out there” and it was on her recommendation that I worked to credential myself by creating a website/blog and then getting the Blueprint for Style name out there.
The easiest way to get “out there” was to get blogger credentials at the big Fashion Weeks so I commenced to building a website and attending Berlin Fashion Week ~ and Blueprint for Style was truly born!
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
My process for attracting and retaining clients is simple: do good work. My client retention is purely based on how well I do my job and the evolution of my clients because my goal I working with clients is to provide guidance but also the right tools so they can begin to navigate their personal branding by themselves.
Ultimately, using my services is sometimes quicker and gets the job done better/faster/less headache but I do like to help them move further along the style continuum.
As for attracting clients, it’s become an area of focus for me across the last year, and it’s something that still has to be somewhat organic.
Thus, I’ve taken to asking how I can engage friends of my clients because they work as natural references; and how I can capture more new clients through training and seminars since they’ve heard me speak and my philosophy resonates with them.
In this business, it’s somewhat difficult to gain clients via a Facebook ad as a lot of the work is based on a connection and personality which doesn’t happen via social media.
That said, another BIG referral source for me has been Yelp! I’d venture to say my repeat customer rate is about 50%.
I get approached to work with hotel concierges often but they want you to pay to be part of their handbook or advertisement, and that’s not effective for me.
I believe joining conversations already in progress, being sincere, and sharing creates repeat customers more than anything else and lowers the attrition as well!
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
My current situation is that about 60% of my business is through personal styling services with the remainder being corporate-level work, and a teeny portion is product-based through my book(s).
I am working furiously to finish my men’s style coffee table book by the end of Q3 and to increase the speaking and training/professional development portion of the business to about 75%.
It will be difficult as it requires time to get into the various organizations and find who needs the help but I’m getting a little better at it every day and refining my search and outreach strategies.
By next year, I’ll be married which will create a built-in support system, and have done about three speaking engagements with outreach and plans to complete three or four more.
Those speaking engagements and training will lead to a 40% conversion rate for new clients.
I’m spending more time now staying focused on my weekly workflow so I can focus on completing the draft of my new book by the end of August.
It’s not easy and sometimes I just fall into bed and go to sleep but most of the time, I grind it out.
My next 12 months is dependent in part on me but also on a few other key people in my life which makes it just that more difficult given you cannot control other people’s actions.
Fingers crossed and prayers sent that I’m moving in the right direction and it’ll all come together nicely
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
It’s more financially uplifting than anything. I don’t see myself as a trailblazer for women because women have been “doing the damn thing” well before I came along and well after I depart.
The wardrobe styling space is largely comprised of women I’d say so, again, not very trailblazing but the training and professional development space are somewhat more closed and while it is also a financial play, it’s a more noticeable win as a female entrepreneur.
I am still figuring out new ways to monetize and capitalize on that thinking and it’s when I find out the “new ways” aren’t actually new and some guy has been doing them that I really want to share with other females so they can have the tools to activate when they’re ready!
What tools or services did you use?
The most helpful tools/services have been those that have provided organizational structure and planning expertise.
My CRM has been the best investment I could have made and while I continual ask whether I need it, I love having it and still don’t use it to its full capacity.
Frankly, I think having people around you who are invested in helping to get the work done is the best tool an entrepreneur could have.
Aside from my CRM, I love my planning notebook and numerous document templates I’ve created that helps me organize all of the information I receive from my clients. I’ve kept it pretty sparse but am thinking through the implementation of one or two new tools for 2020.
Also, I make use of online resources like Canva, Planoly, and Jumprope. The tool I’ve found helpful is in creating a Weekly Workflow schedule so I can focus my attention appropriately (check out Love & Spreadsheets).
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
Perhaps the best question of all in that it forces me to see where I am today and project out what I want and how to get there. My key challenges today are around my time and allocation of that time.
More specifically, I am also working on a side contract that takes up the better part of any day and it does not allow me to focus all of my attention on Blueprint for Style.
Thus, I am now forced to very carefully plan and execute the plan for a couple of free hours each weekday and weekend time to keep all of the balls in the air!
For the first time, I’ve hired another person to focus on some of the more mundane, business planning and research aspects so I can focus on to-do’s like presentations, finishing the book, client outreach, etc.
That has been immensely helpful and created a lot more “mental” bandwidth for me to think of more than just what’s in front of me.
I am working to eliminate the contract so that I can go back to focusing more fully on my business (instead of others) and that’s the BIG ticket for now. Everything else is on hold until that happens.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
In that way, I’m probably not a great example to follow because I flip through lots of magazines and read key articles and have tons of podcasts saved (but rarely get to them – smh).
Most of my podcasts that I do get to are focused around small business, productivity, and entrepreneurship.
The books I reference most often when looking for inspiration (beyond just seeing and interacting with people every day) are The Fashion Book, Esquire Handbook of Style, Icons of Men’s Style, YSL, and Fashion History.
While I haven’t done a great job recently, reading, in general, keeps my mind moving and gives me ideas so I try to read as often as possible. Even non-fiction books give me ideas but one of my all-time favorites is Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
I’d say to reference question #7 because I think this industry is overwhelming female and, frankly, strong females. What is more noticeable (and deplorable) is that there are so few women willing to be mentors in this industry.
I believe every person need a mentor to act as a sounding board but also to provide perspective, and this tends to be a little more “fend for yourself’ than I’d like.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.