Bella Allure Studios is my former business partner’s company. It was originally created under C&B Photography as our boudoir brand. Here are the lessons I learned from creating that brand and how it has affected me as an artist and entrepreneur. I will start with a history of C&B Photography and why we decided to create a new brand.
In the summer of 2015, we were attempting to gain a bigger market share of the boudoir photography in Bakersfield. I began the process of crafting a brand identity for our boudoir photography. As two guys, it was always difficult to connect to our female clientele. As young business owners, we were inexperienced in the formation and branding of our company founding. C&B Photography isn’t a really good name for a company for several reasons.
First, as far as a name goes, it didn’t say anything about what type of photography we did. How does C&B Photography relate to weddings? Boudoir? Portraits? Oh, C&B Photography, that is the commercial food photography company for that local burger chain right? You can see the issue. A name like ‘Seductive Shots’ says a lot more about the type of imagery the company or photographer shoots.
Second, the ampersand is terrible for a web name. We encountered this problem early on. Should the website be candbphotography? When someone reads it, is it Cand B Photography? We also tried cnbphotos. Same problem. Having to tell people that the ‘N’ was not and when typing it in was a nightmare on the phone. And no one could really remember it.
Five years into our business, I would say to people who asked about branding “If I could do it over again, I would pick a different name.” Not that I didn’t put every ounce of effort I could behind the name we had, but if I were given a do over, I would do it differently.
This was one of the major factors contributing to creating ‘Bella Allure’ for our boudoir. I wanted something people could remember. Years of attending WPPI and reading countless business books helped me to come up with a short list of names.
Lesson 1: Identity First
Instead of starting with the name Bella Allure, I started with a long list of synonyms and associated words. These were paired with the core words we used to define our brand. I would do all of this research, narrow down the list, and then ask Bryan for his feedback. This gave me someone to bounce my ideas off and hear any negative connotations associated with them that I hadn’t considered. Starting with branding is the first thing I did in the creation of Red Silk Photos.
Know who you are and why you are. Always start here.
Lesson 2: Holistic Thinking
I was heavily influenced by Seth Godin’s book Tribes at the time we were creating the new brand. Taylor had her ‘Swifties’, Lady Gaga her ‘Lil Monsters’, and I wanted us to have a tribe our clients would be happy to belong to. I tried words like Angels (Victoria’s Secret had that already), and Seraphim (Hebrew for Angels, but too close to Sephora). Belles became the best choice and fit with our particular branding. Calling our clients Belles carried a positive marketing message and could separate us from our competition. “Bella Allure Studios, where you are a Belle.” Cheesy as it sounds, messages like this actually work when done right.
Some things should be looked at in parts; others should be seen as parts of a whole.
Lesson 3: Skills
I really should have put more effort into the design of the Bella Allure logo. Having the name written diagonally in red text just wasn’t the best concept for the brand. I am not a graphic designer and shouldn’t think that I am. That is painfully obvious looking at the old logo for the company. A logo should be intimately tied to the brand and be able to communicate it in the simplest and fastest way possible.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest about them.
Lesson 4: Work Is Never Lost
After my business partner and I parted ways, I felt depressed and slighted. It felt like all the effort I put into the creation of Bella Allure was stolen from me. This wasn’t actually the case. Everything I learned in creating the brand helped me to formulate my new brand. While Bryan kept the name, he didn’t have the creativity or inspiration which conceived it in the first place. He had a role in crafting and shaping it, but not in conceiving it. All the work was not lost or stolen, it was practice. This shift took me a while to see, but made a world of difference.
Look on loss as a lesson, not a means of sympathy.
Lesson 5: Confidence
People think I am confident. I’m not. There are lots of things that scare the hell out of me. Taking risks is one of those things. My former partner helped me to feel confident in taking risk. The confidence I didn’t get was to realize how creative I was. I used him as a crutch to make sure my ideas were safe for the world. That I wasn’t crazy. Art is supposed to be crazy.
Quit caring what other people think, just be you. Someone will like it.
Bella Allure Studios
What used to be mine is now my competition. My enemy if you will. I could mourn the loss of the company, or use the fact that it is now my competition to spur me to create better images. Only one of those two options will push me to bigger and better things.