Every month we spotlight a badass brand that we love to watch grow by interviewing the entrepreneur behind the biz. You can click here to see all of the brands we’ve interviewed so far!
This month we’re doing something a little bit differently.
You see, Dandelion has been an official partnership for an entire year! So to celebrate, we’re actually going to tell you our origin story and share this entire year of how we’ve decided to grow our own brand with you.
The Dandelion Branding Beginnings
Let’s start here: We met in 2014 at a job we both loved in the Wellness industry.
Between 2014 and 2018 we each developed the reputation at that company as the women that got sh*t done. If one of us didn’t know something, the other one did – and if there was a problem, we came up with the solutions.
During this period, we both also specialized in what we do now. Here’s the easiest way to remember that:
- Courtney = Customer Experience + Website Optimization
- Aubrey = Organic Traffic Strategy + Content Creation
In 2018, Aubrey left the company to travel/move to Europe and became a Freelance Marketing Director for two small wellness companies. She was building strategies and content, driving higher and higher organic traffic to the websites (because that’s what she does), but both companies weren’t making sales. Once people got to the website, they just read the content and left.
That was a new problem – so in both cases, Aubrey called Courtney.
Courtney gave Aub a page of feedback for the sites, and Aub changed what she could. Just like that, the conversion rates doubled. On both sites.
Now they were seeing increased traffic AND increased sales. That’s when it hit us. A brand needs both to be successful.
By December of 2018, Aub emailed Courtney and asked that they officially start a business together. It felt like a weird kind of marriage proposal – and in a way it was.
Courtney said yes!
And at the end of January 2019 we bought the domain, dandelionbranding.com. Here’s what we’ve done with our year (and what a year it was).
The First Year of Dandelion Branding
February and March 2019
These first months felt strange.
We had no idea how to actually run a client business – hey, we’re good at what we’re good at – so Aub invested in coaches to try to learn more. They turned out to be Gurus (bummer), but we went through their course anyways, learned about client work, and made choices about what we wanted to be (and didn’t want to be).
Courtney was still working full time at her job and finding a way to transition out. Aubrey was working with several freelancing clients. Dandelion Branding also lucked into our first ongoing client right away! We immediately started talking about building a branding course.
We spent a lot of time learning about Facebook Groups and trying (and failing) to be heard in those groups. We also started our blog and our Facebook Page right away so that we could have some type of content online.
At the very end of March, Courtney turned 30, moved out of her apartment in Oakland, California, put all of her stuff in storage and flew to the Netherlands to get DB off the ground.
April and May 2019
April and May were incredibly productive! … kind of.
We worked face to face every single day for 12 hours making a ton of brand decisions, built v1 of our website, cried a lot from stress and overwhelm, and started talking more seriously about building a course. (We tried to start it then, got immediately overwhelmed, and stopped.) We tabled the concept until we could focus more on building our own authority in this new industry.
Within these months we worked out the kind of brand we want to be and what we truly stand for. We decided to focus on organic growth rather than paid advertising. We created our business Instagram account to get things growing!
We had our first photoshoot as “Dandelion Branding” at a coworking space in Eindhoven, Netherlands – we broke the rules and got kicked out of the meeting space, but we got great photos, like this one:
We started offering Website Audits so that we could start to clarify what small businesses ACTUALLY need.
We also launched our first lead generation campaign, The Top Three Email Automations for Ecom Businesses, which is still running (and you should get that, cause it’s great).
June and July 2019
These are the months that we really felt like things were actually starting. Up until now, we had only been brand building for ourselves (read: we weren’t getting clients). Now it was time to make actual business stuff happen.
Courtney went home to California at the beginning of June and we quickly learned that we’re not great at sales. We didn’t have our language or services totally clear and we honestly had a lot of non-starter discovery calls.
We decided to pivot and get back to what we know: organic growth. Even though we knew it meant that it would take more time to be profitable, we decided our mental health was worth more than chasing calls. We started only taking calls with people who were ACTUALLY interested in our services.
With this change, our approach to FB groups changed and we started to have a bit more success. We launched a couple more lead generation campaigns to get people on our email list: Marketing on a Budget and Top 10 Shopify Needs.
We also started our Youtube Channel and changed the way we offer content, with Aubrey writing blogs and Courtney producing videos weekly, covering the same information.
Then we made our first total website buildout sale and we were JAZZED!
August and September 2019
For all of August, Aubrey was visiting California and we were back at face to face working 12 hours a day. We had our first professional photo shoot with FulFilms and got photos like this one:
We designed new business cards and went to a conference for Women Entrepreneurs with handmade gifts to help us stand out. There, we met some really incredible brands and got some awesome ideas – including that we should run a crowdfunding campaign. (Foreshadowing)
Aub had a face-to-face meeting with the Founder of the herbal school she graduated from in Berkeley, California. They became our first complete rebrand for a nonprofit!
We started focusing more heavily on putting out organic content, and we launched yet another informational lead generation campaign, FDA Claims Compliance, along with holding a live informational webinar about how to build a healthy relationship with your email list.
August is also when we started our Brands that Bloom series! YAY! HI!
October and November
These months could be split up because honestly, this is when things started shifting!
We had to step back from the amount of pillar content we were producing because we took on a lot more client work. Now we alternate major content weeks between video and blog posts. Instead of covering the exact same info, we give complimentary information – and we found that our audience liked this method a lot more.
We started our longitudinal test on Instagram, starting with 24 posts a month and a very curated grid (don’t look, it’s medium embarrassing), and we migrated our entire website to a new server Siteground – heh, that was a huge mess but it’s better than GoDaddy!
We had all but stopped trying to engage with Facebook Groups because our industry is currently fashionable and gurus are lurking everywhere. Have we mentioned that we don’t like the “gurus”? They ruin it for everyone.
In response to a mutual distaste for guru-dom, we defined how important it is to both of us that we know how to do the things that we recommend to our clients. We want to understand every type of pillar content we talk about, stay hella relevant, and use (and grow) our expertise in the platforms that are the best in the digital marketing industry.
That’s when we launched Off Brand Podcast. At this point, we weren’t sure we wanted it to be something we connected to Dandelion because we were totally just shit talking about the stuff we don’t like in our industry and moaning about the hardships lurking in entrepreneurism. But we later reconsidered this and have now fully integrated it into our overall brand.
If you’re reading this and you’re dizzy, welcome to our world.
In December we made two huge decisions as a company:
1 – we hired an international accountant.
2 – we removed an ongoing client from our roster.
Both of those decisions came from the realization that we had to learn how to set boundaries as a business and we have to make decisions that benefit Dandelion as an entity. These decisions also prompted us to make very serious decisions about the way we structure our client engagements, how we onboard – and offboard – the people we work with, and how we keep our books.
We simultaneously confirmed a couple of new clients that were ready to come on board, bought Aub a plane ticket for another visit to California for late January’s Funding Push, and decided to define our niche even further to focus solely on sustainable brands.
We came up with the idea to double down on our Instagram test and to change the way we were setting up our emails to see if we could get better results from both (we did).
Then, after all the frustration we had with Facebook Groups before, we started our own, The Curious Marketer—quick marketing tips for busy small business owners. Join it! It’s a fun, safe community where you can ask questions and get actual help!
January kind of felt like a fresh start.
Because we were (finally) getting super focused on the crowdfunding campaign, we were forced into being more and more clear with exactly what we offer, to whom, and why. We spent a lot of our time that wasn’t on client work defining our services more clearly and getting our “about us” language down.
We made a conscious effort to build pricing sheets for the first time because we realized that we hadn’t defined why our services cost what they do. This process helped us to feel more confident that our pricing was solid and competitive.
Our Instagram focus paid off, and we decided to continue testing to find the post number and post type sweet spot. We also decided to officially claim the Off Brand Podcast as part of our brand, and the changes we made to our emails have pushed us back over the 30% open rate mark!
Aub flew to California to, once again, sit face to face for the long hours we’ve become known for. In the last week of January, we relaunched our website, made a page for all of our free resources to live, and defined what 2020 will look like for our business. We also got to visit with our California client in Berkeley!
Here we are! Feb 2020 is our one year work-iversary, and we gotta say, it’s not any less impressive of a month.
We continued our yearly big meeting face to face through the first week of February. In that week, we shot a video with FulFilms (the same company that did our first professional photo shoot back in August), and launched our crowdfunding campaign.
Oh, and that course that we’ve been talking about since the beginning?
We planned that and planned all of the lead generation campaigns for it too. It’s coming. This year. Be ready.
We also signed our first ever one-year contract with our dream client!
We decided to start incorporating The Curious Marketer Facebook Group into our regular communication, we’re almost done with our instagram test for the right number of posts per month, our emails are finally getting the engagement we wanted to see, and Off Brand Podcast is starting to have listeners. The Youtube and Blog, our OG pillars, are going strong as ever, and they’re driving really nice search engine traffic to our site. It feels like these things, for now, can be maintained while we focus on optimizing other aspects of our content.
Currently, our optimization focus is moving to Facebook and LinkedIn. We are making changes to what we share on those platforms since we’re starting to see audience differences as we grow.
The One Year Wrap Up
What a year!
Honestly, we’ve been talking about being our own Brands that Bloom for February since we started this back in August 2019. It feels a little selfish and crazy and vulnerable to share our journey this way, but we wanted to do it because the entrepreneurs that share with us every month go super deep into what they’ve learned and been through to grow, so we’ve gotta do the same.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the details, or to think, “damn it, I’m still not where I want to be,” but looking back at the past year and seeing how far we’ve come, and sharing the decisions that lead us to where we are today, we couldn’t be more proud of ourselves or grateful for our community.
We still have so much learning and testing and growing to do, but neither one of us would change this process for the world.
Courtney’s Advice: Don’t let anyone tell you that entrepreneurship is easy, but also don’t let anyone ever tell you you can’t do it.
Aub’s Advice: Don’t stop, but don’t rush. Building a brand is a process, let it be a journey by staying focused on putting one foot in front of the other – you will reach your goals!
Thank you for letting us share it with you!