JANUARY 9, 2017
While their kid sleeps, parents make a splash on Instagram
Growing up in Hawaii, Brandy Pham remembers her Vietnamese parents telling her to “work hard for what I wanted.” And what she was longing for was a career in fashion design.
She went on to found her eponymous jewelry line. And along the way she picked up an impressive list of high-profile vendors: Cynthia Rowley, W Hotels, Anthropologie, and Henri Bendel.
After her son was born, Pham began posting photos of her collection on Instagram in between naps and meals. But all the effort involved seemed to be going to waste. She was struggling to generate business through her own digital storefront.
This all changed when she and her husband Andy Hoang—recently celebrating their 10-year anniversary—focused on building Planoly, a visual management platform specifically for Instagram that launched in late 2015.
While Hoang was working in finance, he made connections with colleagues who would later come on board with Planoly. The last piece to the puzzle was Hoang quitting his job to work full time as Planoly’s CEO.
Fashion friends loved the idea and spread the word. The result? Planoly’s users organically grew to 100,000 within eight months.
“We moved to Texas when my son was eight months old,” says the member of Austin’s WeWork Congress. “We started thinking more seriously about the company finally, and we felt like we had something sticky.”
Pham heads Planoly’s creative direction. The draw is that she’s targeting clients like herself who depend on Instagram to generate business.
While her clients include major companies like Estee Lauder, L’Oréal, Lululemon, Anthropologie, General Mills, and Gerber, there are also people in entertainment, fashion, and beauty—including a handful of up-and-coming Instagram celebrities, influencers, bloggers, and YouTube stars.
“We’re proud of what we created, and it was out of my personal need for a jewelry company,” Pham says. “I can produce in small batches and keep it going. Planoly has taken over my life, but I’m still involved in my jewelry collection on a daily basis.”
Planoly has been attracting venture capitalists, and a team of seven is looking to take its brand to the next level. And just like in their early days, Pham and Hoang focus on finding the right work-life balance.
“When you have a business, that business is your baby,” says Pham. “No one is going to care about it more than you as the owner. We work throughout the night after our kiddo goes to bed.”
january 26, 2017
When a marketer goes solo, her creative sisters join the journey
Katy Osborn remembers the day she left her job. She was working at a pepper spray company in Chicago, leading the marketing efforts for a college safety program, when a tense conversation made her realized she and her boss had been “really clashing a lot.”
“When I would make decisions, I’d always get some pushback from my boss,” Osborn says. “We weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on how we wanted to market the program. We both said, ‘Maybe this isn’t working.’ In the back of my mind, I kept thinking I wanted to do something on my own.”
But before she could confidently take that leap of faith, she knew she needed her sisters.
“Knowing how creative and talented my sisters are, there was no way I could go off and do it on my own because I didn’t have the technical skills,” says Osborn, a WeWork River North member. “But I knew I could drive the bus. It was important to get them on board and have their talent as part of it. It was about creating things we loved together.”
They started Amelia Street Studio, a marketing and branding agency, naming it after the address of their childhood home in Akron, Ohio. Since they were little, Osborn and her two younger sisters embraced their creative sides as often as possible: sewing clothes for their dolls, making stage props, and putting on mock news shows—called Morning News at Night, which were parodies of Saturday Night Live—using their family’s “old-school VHS camera.”
“We’d record on any blank VHS tapes in the house,” Osborn recalls. “Sometimes we’d record over our dad’s baseball games, which he didn’t appreciate.”
The middle sister, Jenny Alberti, went on to become a graphic designer, and the youngest, Andrea Alberti, became a videographer, working on indie films and major motion picture productions.
When Osborn found herself out of a job, her sisters put their heads together to come up with a business plan.
“The creative process was the most fun—sitting around and brainstorming,” Osborn says.
And eventually, they found their first clients in the wedding space. They were inspired to start with Osborn’s own wedding video. Then they started creating save the date invitations and videos for clients. Since then, they’ve expanded their reach outside of this niche consumer market and taken on more business clients.
“We like working with business owners who do something different,” Osborn says. “Be Leaf, a salad joint down in the Loop, is our favorite client to date. Becky worked at Sweetgreen in New York, and she loved the concept so much that she started a salad place in the Midwest. We found her through a friend, and we helped her brand and design the menu, the interior space, and the website. We got to do everything with her.”
They created a quirky video vignette for Be Leaf, ensuring that the salad website would stand apart from the rest.
The sisters also have an Etsy shop. They had a creative itch to make something handmade, so they started with linoleum stamps. Their online store has expanded to include greeting cards, tote bags, political buttons and pins, and more. They also design onesies for a vendor on Amazon, Bee Funny Baby, who they met at WeWork. Osborn has a couple of favorite designss: Brand New Baby and My Favorite Color Is No Pants.
The sisters are inseparable whether in the workplace or at home. Now that Osborn has a newborn, they spend a lot of time working with their eldest sister at her place.
“We have our own issues like any business partners,” Osborn says. “The thing that’s special is we trust each other 100 percent, and we can read each other’s minds. It’s a relationship that not many people understand, but one I do appreciate and cherish.”
february 2, 2017
'Built to lead,' two entrepreneurs teach brands how to grow a backbone
From a young age, Dallas-based entrepreneurs Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger knew they were “built to lead, not follow.”
“My first job was at Dairy Queen,” Bonnell says. “I was 13, but I lied and said I was 16 so they would hire me. On my first shift, while my manager was away, I promoted myself to the drive-through and started telling everyone else what to do. Conincidentally, my parents came through to get cones. I not only got busted by them, but I got fired the same day. Needless to say, I wasn’t meant to work for anyone else.”
After graduating high school, Bonnell trusted her gut and moved to Chicago to pursue her passion for music. She started off as a street musician, holding live shows at the House of Blues, playing on the streets, in tiny coffee shops, at bars, and on big stages. Then she met Hansberger during a neighborhood snowball fight. This encounter prompted a new journey for the fast friends: figuring out their purpose in life.
They went to college together and in their 20’s started Motto with $250 in 2005. They set out to create a “disruptive and differentiated branding agency” that helps companies communicate who they are and what they stand for before anything else, Hansberger says.
Despite the seeds of doubt that were planted in their heads about not being able to survive, they said starting a business was their crazy dream.
“The odds were against us,” Bonnell says. “In a place like South Carolina, where it’s known for being a good ol’ boys town and touristy, you don’t build big, mega companies there, especially a creative branding agency. Every call we got was from a male.”
They launched Motto with the mindset of helping companies conceptualize, design, and build their companies by aligning their purpose, brand and culture. After years of growing their company from South Carolina, Bonnell and Hansberger moved to Dallas in 2015 after a nine-month cross-country road trip scouting satellite locations. They jumped at the chance to sign on as the first members of WeWork Uptown.
“We fell in love with Dallas,” Hansberger says. “We felt like we could be part of a movement here.”
What’s driving their brand agency is the vision that the people behind the companies need to experience a “deep sense of purpose” and passion that connects to what they’re doing.
“We’ve worked with hundreds of leaders and companies over the last decade, and have been behind the successful launches of many disruptive brands,” says Bonnell. “The truth is, you’re building a brand from the moment the idea is born and the moment you start asking people to support you. Companies who fail to invest in their brands don’t win.”