She Said | She Said: Building A Luxury Brand
1. True or False: winter can be such an unmotivating season. How do you stay motivated to stick to your routines or start work on something new?
Britt: February can be unmotivating, but January always feels fresh and new. Snow makes me want to snuggle up and stay home. However, our spring market really starts in January. Fresh off the holidays, buyers and sellers are ready to change their housing situation to ensure friends and family have better accommodations for next year, or to ensure their children have a basement for all those new toys!
Meaghan: Honestly, ever since I had a child, I have learned to lower my expectations for January and February. Pretty much everyone in our workshop, myself included, has kids or grandkids who are on a seemingly rotating schedule of being sick throughout these months. Combined with the inevitable school “snow” days we get with every hint of precipitation, productivity at the workshop just becomes so difficult to sustain. So, I try to resist the urge to think of this time as being especially productive, and instead, just kind of “hang on” through the thick of it. We enjoy the cold weather with hikes and cozy fires, but we know we probably won’t get much done, or be able to keep up with any kind of routine.
2. Did you ever imagine that you would work in luxury? What did you dream about being when you were kid?
Britt: To me, luxury is an attitude and a level of service, not the amount of money you have, or the cost of what you’re buying. Sure, some homes cost more than others, but every one of our clients gets the same elevated level of service, regardless of the price of the home. What actually impresses me, when dealing with high-net-worth individuals, is that the wealthier they are, the less likely you are to know it.
What did I dream about being as a kid? This makes people laugh, but I always wanted to be a QVC host! In my early 20s, I actually drove up to West Chester, Pennsylvania, to audition. In fact, if anyone at QVC is reading this, I still want to be a host! Call me!
Meaghan: Definitely not! I have a very academia-oriented background, and heavily contemplated going to law school. I have always been creative and appreciated design and art, but I never saw myself in this type of profession. But, the perfectionist standard of the legal profession translates well to running a specialty small business like this.
3. How important is style and design in your brand? Do you feel pressured to stay on trend with your personal looks and wardrobe? How do you manage these expectations?
Britt: When someone is making the biggest investment of their life, they deserve both the level of service we discussed above, and a real estate consultant who is poised and sophisticated. No one wants to spend one million or more dollars with a slob representing them. I do feel pressure to show up and look the part for my clients, but I don't feel pressure to be trendy. My personal style is very “Washington, D.C. meets southern-chic.” You'll find me in skinny-fitted pants with blazers, and floral dresses with boots. I absolutely love shoes, and I'm sticking with the pointed toe.
Meaghan: Displaying a developed sense of style and design is extremely important for our brand, and we show that in our photography, our hand-crafted boxes, our cool showrooms, and our lovely website. I want to show that we appreciate and understand what “good design” is, and that we are creative and thoughtful in our productions. With that being said, I think that because I work in design all day, my personal style tends to veer toward what I hope is a timeless, minimalist (some might say boring) approach. One can only make so many design decisions in a day! I’m probably not as adventurous in my personal style as a result, but I have a lot going on. I guess I manage expectations by shrugging it off!
4. What advice would you share with women in Alexandria who are thinking about their professional brand?
Britt: My brother-in-law cracks me up about this one. When speaking to Paige or me, he likes to ask, “Is that on brand?” We love that he knows the brand and always keeps us on track. My advice is to decide what your brand is, ensure it aligns with who your genuine self is, and stick with it. Not everything is going to align with your brand, and that’s okay. Find like-minded individuals to work with, and support each other. My other piece of advice is that when you find something you really love, own it, brand it, and broadcast it. Share the love!
Meaghan: Sophisticated branding is key. If you don’t have an eye for it, and can’t work with design programs to create your own branding portfolio, pay someone to do it. I’m really proud of the work I did in rebranding Lawrence Miller & Company into Alx&Co. I did it on a shoestring budget, but I like this type of project, and I think I have a pretty good eye for design. I even hit my limit, and I hired Antra to help with some of the day-to-day branding management. Not everyone has this, and that’s completely okay! If you’re running a business, presumably your skills are better elsewhere. So, invest in a branding portfolio that makes you feel proud. Don’t worry if your only solution is to resort to a “boring” logo or brand look. Boring is better than gaudy, in my opinion. You’re trying to convey professionalism, and you have many, many opportunities to allow your personality to shine through your actual pitch and work. Don’t scare people away with crazy fonts and too-cute logos.
5. Pick one: Hygge or social butterfly, which is your modus operandi when it’s cold?
Britt: Normally, I’m a social butterfly, but now that we have baby Georgie and it’s major germ season, we are more hygge this year! I'm actually writing this from St. Thomas. We took Georgie to see the beach for the first time, and her little face lit up! I think we have a beach baby who loves the sunshine!
Meaghan: I’m 100 percent for hygge (I even studied in Copenhagen, so I really know hygge). But, this month is a little weird for us. We are going on a big trip to Japan at the end of January to visit my brother and his fiancé, so we will be very much outside of our usual cabin-hygge vibe. There will be lots of seafood, skiing, and onsens, though!