Hello, Working Girl: Lauren Hooker of Elle and Company

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Elle & CompanyMeet Lauren Hooker, the founder and creative designer behind Elle & Company, a graphic design and branding company that focuses on building engaging, lasting brands for business owners. We love Lauren's creative approach toward her business – learn more about how she took the leap to start her own company, how her blog helped skyrocket her sales and more! Photos courtesy of Andrea Pesce Photography.

Q: You possess a degree in Graphic Design – did you know immediately that you wanted to launch Elle & Company? When you did decide to start your own business, what were some of the hurdles you faced during the first 3 months on the job? 
A: I always dreamed of having my own graphic design business, but I didn't think that it would be an option until much later in my career. I landed a job as an in-house designer at a tech startup in my college town after graduation, all the while taking on freelance projects for friends and family on the side. Through a series of events and a move to Charlotte, I made the leap to full-time freelance and started Elle & Company in January 2014.
The first 6 months were unprofitable for my business; I thought I could get by on passion alone. It wasn't until my husband came on board in the summer and brought in some business strategies that Elle & Company began to grow. Around that same time I began to embrace my feminine, colorful aesthetic and pull together a more well-rounded brand. I think the hurdles I faced during those first months - finding my niche, embracing my aesthetic, highlighting my strengths, appealing to my ideal audience - are common struggles for all new creative entrepreneurs. That's a large part of why I'm now so passionate to share what I've learned about business and blogging on the Elle & Company blog.
Elle & Company
 
Q: Where do you look to for inspiration when designing for a brand-new client?

A: Most of my inspiration comes from my clients themselves. In order to create a one-of-a-kind brand that captures the mission of a business and appeals to its ideal audience, I have to get to know the person and story behind it. I also draw inspiration from photos and sketches.

Q: As a part of running Elle & Company, you also run a highly successful blogging component to your business. How do you think blogging aids creative entrepreneurs in landing new clients and generating a buzz about their services?

A: I attribute the success of my business to the growth of my blog; it acts as the center for Elle & Company and every social media post, link, and share funnels back to it. Blogging also allows me to create content that appeals to my ideal clients and keeps them consistently coming back to my site on a daily/weekly basis. It positions me as an expert in my field, allows potential clients to get to know me and my process, and showcases my most recent design work. Creative entrepreneurs who aren't putting emphasis on blogging are missing out on a great (and free!) marketing opportunity.

Q: Walk us through what a day in the life is like for Elle & Company – client calls, lots of emails, lots of coffee?

A: While no two days are ever quite the same, I usually start my day with a cup of coffee, breakfast, and some quiet time with my husband, Jake. After I shower and get dressed, I spend an hour or two promoting the day's blog post, updating my archives, and catching up on emails. I usually have a client call later in the morning followed by design work until I break for lunch. Most days my lunch break consists of snacking in front of my computer, but I've tried to become more intentional about stepping away for at least 30 minutes. More design work and meetings in the afternoon, with an occasional trip to Starbucks just to get out of the house and have some human interaction! I clock-out between 5 and 6, make dinner for Jake and I, and we spend some time watching a show or catching up before he picks up his schoolwork and I work on the next day's blog post.
Elle & Company
Q: For other women looking to embark on a career in design or creative entrepreneurship, what would your best advice be? When did you know that it was the “jumping off” point for you to launch your business, and how did you overcome any fear or apprehension that you may have felt at the time?
 
A: My best advice would be to break the mold and do something differently. With many other successful bloggers and businesswomen out there, it's tempting to try and mimic the things that have made them successful. Instead, break the mold and become a frontrunner for something that hasn't been done before. This not only makes your brand more memorable and recognizable, but it's more rewarding in the long-run when you're producing something that's distinct and one-of-a-kind. Elle & Company started to grow when I stepped out of my comfort zone and implemented new ways of doing things that weren't common for my industry (like sharing secrets on my blog and taking on clients in 2-week timeframes).

Multiple streams of income were also helpful in making the leap to full-time entrepreneurship. Elle & Company revenue comes from my subscription-based printable library and design services, and that made the jump a little less scary. Putting all of your eggs in one basket can be risky, but diversifying lessens the risk and provides a more stable income.

Keep up with Lauren and Elle & Company on social on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!