First, I noticed "How To Style Your Brand" book online. At the time the Dear Diary was making its very first steps and there were about a million things to learn (it hasn't got any less to be honest, still learning), so the name of the book got my attention and I had to order it. Right away I noticed that I really enjoyed the way the author shared insights and tips throughout the book, There was something calm, inspirational and exciting all at the same time. Most of all, I loved the encouragement to find your own identity, to create emotions and establish connection. If feels like the author is speaking directly to you about your business and is there to help you up your game taking you through the process of styling your brand step-by-step. Because I loved the book so much, I had to look up and "follow" the author of the book - Fiona Humberstone.
Why is Fiona our inspiration? As she says in the introduction of her second book "Brand Brilliance", she encourages to "create a business on your own terms, define your own version of success and shoot for the stars". That's what I love most about Fiona - she is wonderfully honest, creative and inspiring. She has found success in what she does and she kindly passes a great knowledge to anyone willing to roll up their sleeves, work hard and create their own success story.
Fiona shares her knowledge in her two books, retreats, workshops, on her blog and also daily on her Instagram, so be sure to follow her for some inspiration and great lessons. But for now, grab a cup of tea and get to know this wonderful human.
Could you tell us more about your journey on creating The Brand Stylist? How did this adventure begin?
I guess it really began almost twenty years ago when I left university and started working for a print company. I loved the buzz that came with working with entrepreneurs about to launch a business and I read voraciously: anything I could get my hands on to do with design, branding and business. It was very much a pile it high, sell it cheap business but it taught me a lot: about how to build a brand, how to sell and what really makes entrepreneurs tick.
I’ve worked with business owners my whole career, aside from a very brief stint as an undergraduate intern for a large oil company, and I love it. There’s something very special about working with entrepreneurs, who have the absolute power to make anything they like happen without all the red tape that slows larger companies down. They can be nimble, respond quickly and they listen. I love that.
Our eldest daughter, Ellie, came along when we were in our mid twenties, so I left the print company and set up a franchise. It paid the bills but I wanted more creativity in my life, so we majored very much on design. I launched my design agency in 2008 and by 2010 we had companies from around the world wanting to work with us on the strength of our portfolio. They loved our approach and our enthusiasm for what we did.
I sold the business in 2012 and took two years out to be with the children, which I adored. And it put me in a real position of strength, because when I went back to work, I was determined that this business would totally work for me. I thought long and hard about the sort of business I wanted to set up, and where my unique strengths lay, and that was how The Brand Stylist came about.
Over the years, I’d met so many entrepreneurs who had wasted time and money on brand identities that just weren’t right for them. And I could see that if they could just understand how the process worked, they could make better choices which would have a massive impact on the business. That was how How to Style your Brand came about and things have just gone from there.
I love what I do. It inspires me, challenges me and has created incredible opportunities for me and my family. I’m a lucky lady.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
This is a tough one! Because I move my business forward at such a pace and I love to challenge myself so I’m always moving the goalposts. I guess How to Style your Brand was what changed everything for me. Not necessarily because of the platform that having a book brings. But because for the first time in my career, I proved to myself to trust my instincts.
I knew there was a need for that book. And I knew that I could do it better than anyone else. If that sounds cocky, it’s not meant to. But I had a vision and I had the experience to know what people wanted and needed. I approached a very selected number of publishers, the only ones I felt could pull it off and who had the aesthetic I was after and one by one, they all said No.
Sometimes it’s good to listen to industry experts. But I felt sure I knew something that they didn’t about what the market wanted. So I pressed on with the project as a self publisher.
We sold out of the first run within 6 weeks and three years on, we’re now on our seventh print run. The feedback on the book has been incredible and most of all, it’s given me the strength and confidence to trust in myself.
It's a Monday morning, what will your day look like?
Yoga! I always do yoga or a run first thing in the morning. Then I go and do something creative or inspiring. The emails wait until after lunch when I’m in an inspired place. My time is precious and I’m highly focused, so I don’t want anyone else setting my priorities for me.
What would be the starting point and main focus when thinking about “styling your brand”? How to communicate brand's vision effectively?
Yes, exactly. You need to think about what impact you want your brand to have and on whom. That’s a harder question to answer than you might think, which is why I wrote Brand Brilliance, which is all about elevating your brand and enchanting your audience.
How does work & personal life balance look like in your life?
It’s something that’s just changed again as my smallest one has started school but generally I try and just work term times while the children are at school. It all works pretty well until a week before half term when I realise how much is left to do and I start having to work afternoons and evenings to get it all done!
I try very hard to be present for the children. I exercise, I get outside. I garden and I cook a lot, and that helps me maintain a semblance of balance.
What resources do you use to stay inspired both personally and in business?
Inspiration and creativity are two of the most important things to me. I’m not sure it’s about resources, it’s a way of life. I notice everything around me. I’m constantly looking at design details, colour combinations and styling ideas in my everyday life - in fact, it’s so entrenched in me that we recently recorded a video of exactly this for my Design for Go-Getters online course!
I’m very conscious of what drains my creativity and I try not to put myself in those situations.
What's your “recharge/reflection” ritual?
I’m not sure I have one! But having space between work is really important to me and I often get brilliant ideas on my runs.
What makes you tick, what's your purpose? Any advice on finding it?
I empower entrepreneurs to create incredible brands. I want to help them create businesses that really work for them. I want to rid the world of this idea that you need to hustle to get ahead. You don’t. You need to find that thing that you uniquely do brilliantly and build your business around delivering that better than anyone else.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Trust yourself. And don’t feel as though you have to go the corporate route. You will be far more fulfilled if you work with people who are doing what they love.
Workspace essentials - Mac, sketchbook and a lovely black gel pen.
Top 3 books (the ones you would like to gift someone) - I don’t tend to read business books any more but The Absolute Essentials of Colour Psychology by Angela Wright is brilliant, as is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Honestly the other one I think every entrepreneur should read is Brand Brilliance. Because if you action everything in that it will transform your business.
Happy place - My home with my husband and the kids around me; The New Forest, where I grew up; Middleton Lodge in Yorkshire; Cal Reiet in Mallorca.
Guilty pleasure - Waitrose Salted Caramel dipping sauce spooned straight from the jar. Just looking at it makes me put on three pounds.
Fun fact about you - My mum, grandmother and I all went to the same school in Salisbury. We don’t live in the area so I feel bad that my daughters will break the chain. I’m not sure how fun that is!
If you could go for a coffee and a long chat with someone (living or dead), who would it be and why? - It would be my Naneh (my paternal grandmother) in Iran. I never met her and she lived a life so far removed from our privileged Western existence that I’d love to discover more.
Thank you so much for reading and a big thank you to Fiona for sharing her story with us!
With Much Love,
Dear Diary team