5 Tips for a Brand Launch - Everything To Do, and NOT To Do, When Launching A New Business.
Because I was trained as an educator and had 15 years of curriculum writing experience, I planned my brand launch event in the same way I would if I were writing curriculum. Yinsa iss about Yoga and Ayurveda, which made it a little more challenging than launching a brand in a mainstream industry. I had a set of “students” who were going to walk into the launch knowing nothing about what I actually do. They knew it had something to do with yoga and something to do with essential oils, but they probably had no clue how those things connected - they didn't even know how to pronounce Ayurveda! I had three hours to convince 30 people that Ayurveda was applicable to everyone and it could, and should, be a mainstream practice. I also wanted them to understand that yoga is not just fancy poses, and that all of our sensory consumption impacts our general well-being. It was a huge undertaking EVEN IF I wasn’t committed to having the perfect aesthetic. Luckily, I had an assistant to bounce ideas off of, (Sibelle and I started planning events together when she was 16), and I have a relentless work ethic. I booked the event on May 19th and planned for a June 15th launch. I had one month. This leads me to my first tip:
1. Allot Plenty of Time for Planning
I knew that I wanted to launch my site before the summer. As a teacher, this would give me two months to devote to my business and make any necessary changes. In hindsight, one month just wasn't enough time to plan my event. It created a lot of pressure on not just me, but my vendors as well. If I was giving myself a month, I needed a professional event planner. This leads me to my next tip:
2. HIRE A Professional Event Planner
I am a micromanager by nature - it's the Pitta in me. I have been planning events with Sibelle Muttallip-Mejia for 6 years - she helped me plan lots of different types of events including a prom, an overseas trip to Costa Rico, and a wedding. When I started to plan this launch, I knew that I needed to recruit her help. Though her assistance was indispensable throughout the process, I realize now that I should have hired a professional to take some of the responsibility off of us. It would have left me more time to focus on developing my products and services so that when my site was live, I could begin processing and shipping with ease. Here are some of the things that Sibelle and I, (and eventually a team of minions), had to worry about on the day of the Yinsa launch:
Food Pickup from Divya's Kitchen.
I insisted on having an Ayurvedic menu, and I spent quite some time on the phone with Divya choosing the best menu for Pitta season. Her service was impeccable, and she did an amazing job helping me choose options that would be perfect for people who weren't familiar with Ayurvedic food. We decided on Avocado Dip with gluten-free spelt sesame crackers; sunflower beet hummus with cucumber rings, celery sticks, and microgreens; spiced coconut chips; and focaccia with pesto. I have to admit - I was nervous to serve this to guests who were used to barbecuing steak and ribs in the summer, but I took a chance and stayed on-brand. In the end, it was very much worth it - my guests loved the food, and I was receiving text messages praising the food days after the event.
The Infamous Flower Wall.
I rented a huge flower wall from Rent4Parties in New Jersey. Sibelle and I were inspired by Kim-Ye's famous wedding backdrop, and though I didn't have their budget, I was in love with their aesthetic. When I arrived to pick up the flower wall in New Jersey on the day of the event, the advisor quickly said, "you need a different car." I assured her she was wrong, and spent half an hour trying to force a 10-foot flower wall, valance, and display equipment, along with my linens, in my four-door sedan. You can see the battle wounds on my arm in this photo - and I definitely lost that war. The advisor was obviously not wrong, and I had to call an Uber XL to transport it from NJ to my home in Brooklyn - I still didn't have access to the venue, so I wasn't showing up with it to take it home and bring it back. Reason number 100 I needed an event planner.
Did We Need These Cookies? Absolutely!
I ordered branded cookies embossed with 5 of my logomarks from Let Them Eat Cake in Manhattan. Did I have these delivered at least? Nope. These also had to be picked up on the day of the event. They were both gorgeous and delicious, and worth the hour I sat in deadlock traffic on the Manhattan Bridge during rush hour. Should I have had them delivered? Yes. Literally no reason for me to have gone out of my way to pick them up myself. I need to learn to relinquish control and trust that things will get done, and if you're planning a brand launch, remember DELIVERY, DELIVERY, DELIVERY. You should plan to do nothing but facilitate on the day of the event.
Hanging Lights and Ivy
Another huge task included figuring out how to properly decorate the venue. Because it’s a painting studio, there was paint residue everywhere! Sibelle decided that covering the walls with hanging lights and ivy would create the aesthetic we wanted without being overwhelming and unnecessarily expensive. We totally underestimated the amount of time this would take. I had to call in a team of 5 other people to make this happen on the day of the event, and we ended up just covering one wall. It worked out fine because we only painted on one side of the studio, but the asymmetry killed my soul! Hire more help or recruit a team of interns to do the leg work that requires little skill but a lot of time. It's worth the investment, especially when the event is going to be documented by a photographer and videographer.
I had so many other plans for the aesthetic, including making a wreath of my logo, but a bunch of things were never realized largely because I underestimated how much time they would take. I had never done anything like this before, and for the first time, I wasn't going to execute my vision as I had planned it, (the wreath is still halfway completed in a box in my manufacturing space in my home, and I'm determined to get it done for my next event). We were able to complete a wire hashtag wrapped in fairy lights to display on the flower wall that said #liveyinsa, but it was hard to see on the wall. If I had allotted more time and acquired more help, we could have avoided this.
Yinsa Branded Aprons
Because the re-branding of the Yinsa logo and tagline were a major aspect of what I was launching, I wanted to make sure my various logomarks were everywhere. I made aprons for all of my guests with iron-on transfers so that I had a branded painting session. That was an entire day's work, mainly because my son and I didn't read the iron on directions and didn't realize we had to mirror the image when printing. The first set of 30 printed backwards! Major time-suck! I could have had this work completed by a print shop for a little more money but a lot less aggravation.
I wanted to wrap the Yinsa body scrubs, the only items I would be selling at the event, in a way that made them pop. I also wanted to give people samples of Yinsa skin care products that were customized for their Dosha. This required two things - they had to take the dosha quiz on my website, and I had to have the products prepared to be packaged. This was one of my biggest challenges, and here's why: NONE OF MY PACKAGING HAD LABELS ON IT UNTIL TWO DAYS BEFORE THE EVENT. My printer, (who will remain nameless), had a really hard time meeting a number of guaranteed deadlines. As a result, I had to pick up my product labels on Wednesday and begin manufacturing products on Thursday, 24 hours before the launch event. My son and his girlfriend, along with my assistant Sibelle, worked relentlessly through the night on Thursday filling and wrapping bottles, cutting soap, and stuffing bags. Thomas literally photographed and created my entire Yinsa shop, (perfectly outlined by my brand strategist and web designer, Jessica Strohm ), in a day. I still haven't had a second to review his work two weeks later, but I've gotten plenty of online orders, so he must have done a good job! Like having technology ready with enough time to check your work, you should follow a similar guideline when creating samples of your products. Swag bags weren't one-size-fits-all because they were based on the results of the dosha quiz, so the packaging of samples was individualized and time consuming. The bags were color-coded for each dosha which required a more sophisticated method of compiling samples, and this took a lot of time and brain power from really exhausted team members. With just one more day of lead time, we could have alleviated a lot of stress.
3. Have a Clear Vision
I knew for sure I wanted three things - I wanted people to leave my launch event knowing their Doshas, I wanted them to understand how Ayurveda and western/allopathic medicine were related, and I wanted them to experience a Yinsa Lifestyle. After all, I am not just branding Yinsa as a Yoga and Ayurvedic Skincare company, I am branding it as a lifestyle choice that allows people how to live a fulfilling and joyful life. This meant that I needed people to visit my website to take my dosha quiz, which I planned for them to do as soon as they arrived. I then wanted them to feel how an Ayurvedic lifestyle could benefit them. In order to do create this experience, I planned three critical activities for event attendees: An oil-blending workshop that incorporated essential oils used in Ayurveda to address imbalances, a painting session that incorporated color therapy for Pitta season, and a panel discussion that addressed the intersection of Eastern and Western medicine - I knew there would be people in attendance from the world of allopathic medicine, and I knew that they would be skeptics when they walked in. My job was to make sure they were less skeptical about Ayurveda when they left. Here's how that worked:
The Dosha Quiz
This was the first thing people did as they arrived - they were instructed to take the quiz, located on my website, on their phones. This was a great idea because it addressed the issues we had with people arriving at different times. There was one problem with this plan - the quiz wasn't working for everyone. On some phones, people had to turn their phones horizontally. Some people couldn't access it at all. Everyone eventually had the opportunity to get it done, but I was having some serious technical difficulties. It wasn't until this week, (two weeks after the event), that I reached out to Interact and figured out what the issue was. It took me about 10 seconds to fix, but I was so frazzled on the day of the event that I had no time to check the functionality on my phone. I launched my site an hour before my event so it was a pretty tight timeline. This is a super-important tip - HAVE ALL TECHNOLOGY PREPARED AT LEAST 24 HOURS BEFORE THE EVENT. This should provide enough time for a few people to test functionality and then troubleshoot any issues that arise. Emailing my web developer during the actual event was NOT ideal and could potentially have been bad for my brand. If you haven't yet taken my Dosha Quiz, you should do that now. I've changed it once a week, on average, based on customer feedback, and the more things people hate about it, the more I learn about how it should evolve over time. This is the single most important piece of my business because it guides customers to the skincare shop that is most appropriate for them - Ayurvedic skin care is developed based on the needs of people with different skin types, and figuring out your Dosha is critical to understanding which products are best for you. If you're launching a brand, decide ahead of time what the most important take-away is for your event. Then, make sure that take-away is easy to take away!
The Oil-Blending Workshop
This actually went really really well, largely because Monica Monfre, (the wellthy teacher), and I have collaborated on about a million projects over the last few months. We met when we both signed up for Marie Forleo's bschool and have been collaborating ever since. I actually didn't want her to have to "work" my event because I wanted her to experience it instead, but when my original oil-blending plan fell through, I asked Monica to run the workshop. I knew she was a DoTerra distributor and was familiar with oils, and she was also a high-school educator and yoga teacher, (we have a lot in common), and could engage an audience and teach my guests how to blend oils to manage Doshic imbalances. Every attendee left with custom-blended oil that they could use to balance out the vitiations they might be experiencing. For example, peppermint and rosemary oil, the two significant ingredients in the Yinsa Kaphascrub, are great for depression. Calming oils like Lavender are great for Vata imbalances like mixed anxiety and depression. You will find oils perfect for Vata vitiation in the Yinsa Vata Dosha Skincare Line
The Panel Discussion - What is a Yinsa Lifestyle?
There were three of us on the panel to discuss what a balanced life should look like. We talked about our daily rituals, what we call "Dinacharya" in Ayurveda, as well as ways that we implement self-care in other ways in our lives. We talked about why Ayurveda is relevant and the place it has in western culture. Lisa Staiano-Coico, a professor of medicine at CUNY, did an excellent job of explaining the complementary role Ayurveda plays in an allopathic world and how eating and living according to your Dosha can prevent disease, and thus the need for frequent visits to the doctor. We also addressed Eastern culture directly - are we appropriating another culture when we modernize Yoga and Ayurveda for a 21st-century Western lifestyle? More on that in a future blog post.
I received so much positive feedback about the panel that I truly believe it was beneficial to the understanding of a Yinsa lifestyle. My friend Donna even sent me a photo of the tongue scraper she bought after we discussed it at length at the event. Fun fact about Katie McCarthy, the panel moderator - she was one of my students at Frank McCourt High School and has been copyediting for me since she's been home from college. I trained her to facilitate socratic seminars when she was my student, and knew she would love to moderate this panel. She was engaging and asked the perfect follow-up questions that clarified some of the more complicated topics within Ayurveda. This is one of the reasons why compiling a solid team and support system for the launch event is critical to the success of the event itself. Katie knew the goal of the event because she copyedited so much of the work on my quiz/website, and thus knew the questions she had when she was new to all of this Yoga and Ayurveda stuff. That made it easier for her to ask the right questions so that the rest of the participants could learn about Yinsa in a way that was easy to comprehend.
The Painting session
Originally, we were all set to paint a glow-in-the-dark om sign, but this didn't work for a few reasons. First, we needed to account for the fact that the event was taking place during Pitta season, and jarring and bright colors aren't appropriate for the summer. In order to prevent overstimulating the mind and body during Pitta season, it's best to spend time engaging with pastel colors that are cooling and calming rather than bright and stimulating. We decided to do pale yellow, blue, green, and pink to fit the aesthetic vision for the event, (and to match the Yinsa logo). The Om sign was an obvious choice for a Yoga and Ayurveda brand, but painting it was a lot harder than we expected it to be. It was also the last thing we did that night, and after multiple activities, people were a little tired. What everyone needed to believe was that the product didn't need to be perfect, but the process of painting and creating something is therapeutic on it's own. I think we did a pretty good job of not taking ourselves too seriously and enjoying the painting process. Everyone got to take their paintings home with them - I displayed mine in my production space in my home so I can remember where Yinsa began.
4. Hire PR and Pay for Advertising
I did half of this. I worked with Tara Rae Bradford right before my event, but I didn't really allot enough time to take advantage of all of her guidance. The point of a launch is not to introduce a brand to friends and family, but to introduce it to people who can spread the word about what you're doing in circles you may not already belong to. If you're paying for an event to launch a business, you want a return on what you invested in the event itself. When you cast your net outside of your usual circle and commit to advertising to people in your target market, your investments will be well worth it. Advertising to the right people is definitely a first priority when marketing the launch event, and should remain a priority through the launch of your business. For our current generation, a Yoga and Ayurveda brand would definitely benefit from blogger and influencer participation in the launch event - this should have been the main focus of my advertising. While this was a priority for me from the beginning, I was strapped for time and didn't do as much paid advertising and/or sponsorship by recruiting wellness and beauty bloggers before the day of the event. If I were to do it again, this would definitely be my target audience and the majority of people in attendance would be people I didn't know.
5. Ask for Feedback After the Event
As a classroom teacher, one of the key components of my work in the classroom is around feedback. I present students with a feedback form after each unit of a course, as well as at the end of the semester. I tell them to tear me apart, and they do!
When my son and I attended Pint Sessions at the Museum of Ice Cream's Pint Shop, the best advice we heard from Manish Vora, the co-founder of the MOIC, was that entrepreneurs need to "fail, and fail early and often." Basically, the time to screw up is right now. New business owners have to accept that there are going to be challenges and hurdles and lots of mistakes in the beginning, but if they happen in the beginning, an entrepreneur will have learned valuable lessons in time to scale the business. In just the first month, I have learned enough about launching a product AND service-based company simultaneously that I can completely change what I do and how I do it without anybody really knowing how clueless I was to begin with. If you fail when you have 1,000 people depending on you it could destroy your business entirely. If you fail when your Mom and your Grandma are your only clients, there's a good chance that your business will survive. This requires some thick skin. Luckily I've been critiqued by teenagers for the last 15 years, so I'm basically a reptile. I heard a lot of great feedback after the event, but I also had enough people telling me what I needed to change in order to be successful.
Thus, herein lies my most recent effort - my youtube channel - where you can find a Vlog post that accompanies this text-based reflection on my launch, as well as the launch video created by aptomediaco
This channel is the newest addition to the Yinsa family, and it's the result of feedback from my launch. While reading all the text available about Ayurveda on the internet is helpful, it's still a very individualized practice. Launch attendees all agreed that they learned more by listening, seeing, hearing, and asking questions during the panel discussion. Because YouTube provides a platform that makes explaining Ayurveda a lot easier, I will be incorporating video instruction into the Yinsa lifestyle over the course of the next year. YAYY TO FEEDBACK!!! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, Live Yinsa, and send me any feedback you have! This is the scariest thing I've done to date, and you'll see that I need a lot of help :-)
If you've made it this far, I applaud you! This was my longest blog post ever, but I hope it was helpful. Please feel free to drop a comment or question below - I love engaging with my followers on social media, and comments on this blog is yet another way I get feedback from my community. Please also feel free to reach out to me directly for additional tips about brand launches, Ayurveda, Yoga, or even your pet Beta Fish!
Wishing you much love in your endeavours!!
With Love and Light,