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The best people to tell you how to build a brand are the women who have done it themselves...


Fern Freeman, Founder of Search With Purpose

Fern Freeman, Founder of Search With Purpose

Fern is the founder of, a boutique Executive Search firm specialising in sustainability leadership roles. Day to day she works with large multinational corporations, innovative SMEs and private equity firms to find the best Sustainability Directors to transform their companies. Before going it alone in business, Fern spent eight years at two of the UK’s leading executive search firms.

Find the authentic

Especially with a small business, you are the brand. Your clients or customers use your business instead of a larger company because they like you as an individual or believe in your experience and expertise. Your business brand should be an extension of your own personality, so when shaping a brand start with what you are good at, what you believe in, and what you think is important. Celebrate and highlight your differences rather than copy what has been successful for others. This will naturally differentiate you from your competitors.

A website is your shop window 

No matter what your business, a website is a vital piece of digital marketing. Even if you think you are unlikely to generate work through search results, clients and potential clients will refer to it and share it with colleagues. Keep it simple, as you can always build on it later. Focus on the fundamentals: what you do, how you do it and why you're good at it. There are lots of website options, from the self-build to full-service digital marketing agencies. Pick an option that is adaptable and sufficient for you to grow for at least two years.

"Your business brand should be an extension of your own personality, so when shaping a brand start with what you are good at, what you believe in, and what you think is important."

Fern Freeman, Founder of Search With Purpose

Know the movers and shakers in your field 

Different people have different styles of business development but I definitely find it helpful to have some structure. Break down your potential market into different segments and get to know the 20 or so most influential or well-known people in each of these areas. Mapping out the shaping forces of your market in this way will ensure you stay abreast of key trends, competitors and professional allies.

Never say no to a coffee

The best marketing is always word of mouth, so never miss an opportunity to tell someone about your business. Even if the connection to new business isn’t immediately obvious, you never know what will come out of a coffee or what other connections that person will have.  

Be your own champion 

Sometimes when running a business there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to do something, which can encourage us to agonise over decisions or foster imposter syndrome. A fellow female founder, Lauren Rozwadowski of coaching service once gave me some advice that I try to live by: “if I were a man, would I be questioning myself in this situation?”. If the answer is no, back yourself and move on.


Aki Schilz, Director of The Literary Consultancy

Aki Schilz, Director of The Literary Consultancy

Aki is a writer, poet and Director of, the UK’s leading editorial assessment service for writers. After working as a workshop facilitator for a youth arts charity and Acquisitions Assistant at a non-fiction publishing house, she joined TLC in 2012. Aki became Director in 2017, succeeding TLC’s longstanding Director and Founder Rebecca Swift. A tireless campaigner for inclusivity in publishing, Aki is a member of Speakers from Schools, the founder of the #BookJobTransparency campaign, and the co-founder of the #LossLit digital literature project.

Know your why 

Every business is responding to a need or offering a solution to a problem. But the best brands understand and articulate their why before their what. Why is your business best-placed to offer this particular solution? Understanding your why will make any selling you do feel 100x more powerful; because it’s authentic.  

Be in dialogue with your community

Customer insight is a booming business with consultancies charging through the roof for audience data. But to get inside your customers’ heads, you mustn’t forget to talk to them directly. Invite your customers to be part of your story, and they will become an engaged community. And that is a huge asset. 

Hire and delegate well

I always feel at my sparkiest in a room full of people who are cleverer than me, and who have skills that I don’t. Hire people who are best at what they do, brief them carefully – always in the context of the story of your brand – and trust them to do their job. 

Know when to think quickly

We can get so used to the shape of our business plans and management accounts that we get very good at immediate SWOT-analysis of every new idea. Brainstorming really quickly – for example at regular away days – trains the brain into not risk-mitigating so much that you never think creatively enough to grow your business. It might just be that bonkers idea a colleague came up with in 30 seconds that takes your brand to the next level. 


Eva Sonaike, Founder and Director of interiors company Eva Sonaike

Eva Sonaike, Founder and Director of interiors company EvaSonaike.com

Eva graduated with an MA in Fashion Journalism from the London College of Fashion, where she specialised in contemporary African fashion and textiles. She then pursued an editorial career, working as UK Fashion Editor for Hubert Burda Media for six years. Driven by her passion for African fabrics and interior design, she set up her own company in 2009 with the mission of bringing the vibrancy of African colours and aesthetics to the luxury home décor market.

Follow your passion

Most successful brands are built from passion. I have been – and still am – obsessed with interior design and African fabrics, and the combination of these two interests forms the foundation of my company. Having an authentic love for what I do helps me to stay motivated every day, and galvanises me for what lies ahead. 

 Know your market

You need to know your market inside out to establish and build a thriving brand. Often people focus on the external elements and get carried away with this. Know everything, from market and industry specifications and trends to the industry’s history, the key players, financial elements, and market share. This will help you to build a secure foundation and make you an expert in your field.

Understand pricing 

Understand the pricing of your product service. Especially in the product sector many people don’t understand the pricing strategy of cost price, wholesale and retail price. If this is not correctly set up from the beginning, you will make a loss or overprice your items and be out of business in no time.

Develop a positive mindset 

A positive and go-getter mindset is crucial for any entrepreneur. Running a business can be daunting and frustrating at times, so maintaining a positive perspective, knowing your strengths, utilising them and celebrating your achievements is crucial.