build a brand now

Dear PR Advisor,

I am a small brand with big dreams but sometimes figuring out where to start is hard. I was blessed to have been selected for the NDC x Lorraine Schwartz Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative in the infancy of my brand. It was an amazing way to start and I garnered a lot of great responses early on. But as the program continued and I needed to leave the nest, I find myself struggling with what to do next. How can I pick up momentum? How can I find more customers and fans to make it worthwhile and exciting for retailers to carry the brand?

How impactful is placement on a brand’s direct to consumer sales? What is the best way to leverage PR successes when they do happen? How do you build a brand after opportunities like the Initiative?

Dreaming But Not Living the Dream

After the Applause: Retracing Your Steps to Build A Brand

Dearest Dreamer,

You remind me of a Montreal jewelry designer I once consulted.

Well, not exactly. You’re humbler than she was.

The legendary Jean-Paul Gaultier had requested her jewelry for his Paris Fashion Week Show. With this request blowing her head up to Goodyear blimp size, she dismissed my warnings the opportunity wouldn’t turn out how she hoped without proper strategic planning. She believed Jean-Paul had anointed her the Chosen One and everyone else would simply fall in line.

Of course, no one cared about her jewelry against the backdrop of Gaultier’s genius. She never figured out how to leverage the opportunity to build a brand. All she has now to show for it are bragging rights.

I don’t believe landlords accept rent payments in bragging rights, no?

I don’t want this fate for you, nor for other designers who receive such great honors.

So, first things first – who did you meet in the Initiative? Have you reconnected with them?

I once advised twin sisters launching a jewelry collection. I sent them to a Bloomingdale’s open call to help secure their first order and begin to build a brand. Following my instructions, they razzle dazzled the Bloomingdale’s buyer, who gave the sisters her card and told them to call her for a formal meeting.

“Fabulous!” I gushed, back when we were still calling everything fabulous. “When is the meeting?”

The 5th of Never at Not Gonna Happen O’Clock. They’d lost the woman’s business card and couldn’t recall her name.

If I were to psychoanalyze their behavior, as I far too frequently serve as an advisor AND a therapist as I help companies build a brand, I’d say these sisters self-sabotaged.

They didn’t believe they could truly achieve success, so when opportunity came knocking, they treated it like a Jehovah’s Witness, and hid until it finally went away.

I know this isn’t what you expected, dearest Dreamer, but I must start here.

I’ve seen many emerging designers sabotage themselves by ignoring opportunities because it was too painfully disguised as risk – the risk of having to discover whether you really have what it takes to achieve your dreams, what it takes to build a brand.

So my love, we’re going to start with you listing everyone you met through the program.


Contact them all, and as you’ve so eloquently told me, tell them you need guidance on what to do next.

Be humble. And persistent.

Whatever promise is made to you, hold that person to it. Even if you think they may be full of caca, gently but tenaciously follow up anyway until the promise is kept.

I habitually offer to help people when they need something easily within my power to grant. When I was younger, I would make myself crazy following up with the person so I could do them a favor!

I don’t follow up anymore. If you need my help, I will help you. But you must send me an email reminding me of what I promised.

Would you be surprised how rarely I get an email?

The few that follow through, however, always find themselves rewarded with my favor.

Never assume when someone tells you to follow up they’re just blowing you off. Some are, but only gentle, persistent contact can determine this. Others may just be testing you to see if you’re worth their time.

I’m often asked how, as a Black woman, I’ve climbed so high to command my fees. I simply answered the door every time opportunity knocked and didn’t assume it might be an illusion. I have a vision of who I want to be in this world and don’t allow anything or anyone to stop me. Any obstacle put in my way is just a problem to be solved. And as clients can attest, I’m the quintessential problem solver.

Have I been disappointed? Absolutely! I could fill four football fields with my disappointments — and two Olympic pools with the resulting tears I shed!

But I continued opening the door to every knock, entering every room to which the door led, and, corridor by corridor, found my way to where I am now.

That is what I invite you to do, Dreamer, my darling!

While I know you want to leverage the PR coup of you landing on Lorraine Schwartz’ radar to build a brand, that time has come and gone. But you know what hasn’t? The people you met through the program! They were part of the program for a reason, dearest Dreamer, and it’s the who you know that’s going to take you to the where you want to go!

Use those relationships to create a new opportunity for yourself, and then we can talk about a PR campaign for you as a Rising Star on the heels of the Diamond Initiative.

Picture it, shimmering in lights boldly like a brilliant cut diamond: “After captivating the VIP of the Lorraine Schwartz Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, the talented Dreamer has now launched a new collaboration to build a brand that proves why she was selected for the Initiative in the first place!”

Now, don’t be disappointed I didn’t answer your questions directly. You wouldn’t know what to do with the answers because you still need some business guidance to help your wings grow. There’s a lot to learn I can’t teach in under 1,000 words.

But take heart! I’ll address your questions thoroughly when we rejoin our Superheroes of the Customer Journey.

In the meantime, use your Initiative contacts! People will help you if you ask nicely. Don’t be afraid to ask.

And keep asking.

In my next column, a designer needs help navigating those insidious time-wasting tire kickers. Tune in as I share my Tourneau-honed skills for closing a sale.

Your questions, my answers. Email me, friends!

A Reply to The PR Advisor on Build a Brand After the Applause

Dear Lilian, 

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to follow up with you. I wasn’t able to immediately find your article. It seems as though NJ held it back about a week. But I circled back to find it and found your information both helpful and truthful.

It stings but I appreciate the truth; Which is that I have self sabotaged in many ways throughout my life and this is yet another. I will be combing back through my original business plan, to see the things I never followed through on and reconnect with my purpose, modify where needed.

I saw many of the people who have helped me in the past three years at Gem Awards and asked for help. They all agreed and I will now follow up with them to get back on track. I have always struggled with imposter syndrome and now need to grow up and just stop. 

Now Ready to Live the Dream

A Final Reply

First, let me thank you for this email. I truly love when people reach out and tell me I’ve helped them in some way. Particularly with this column, my editor and I got into our first disagreement in 10 years over what I’d written. She wanted me to answer you directly but I refused because I could tell that’s not what you needed. 
You needed a reminder that you can do this. You are talented.  All of your dreams and desires await you if you will only go after them without surrender. You can be afraid, you can doubt yourself, you can even take a break when necessary. But you cannot give up. You must always keep going. 
Every obstacle is a teacher giving you valuable insight on your path. Your recent obstacle led you to me, for me to remind you loudly and clearly above the annoying lies of the imposter within that you can do this.  The imposter is the villain in your story, not your dreams and desires.  The only way to defeat the imposter is to keep going.  And the further you go down your path, the weaker the imposter gets. 

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