How to build your brand: Be authentic
“I truly believe in the power of being vulnerable and real in business.” — Karen Kornelsen
Branding can be one of the most tricky aspects of creating a viable business. You need to let potential customers know who you are, what you’re about and what your business can do for them. If you’ve had any luck in your entrepreneurial endeavours, there’s a good chance you’ve got a solid brand. If your voice is falling on deaf ears, perhaps it’s time to hit redo on your messaging.
To clearly articulate what makes your brand unique, you need to find the heart and soul of your business and tell impactful stories through engaging creative content. In order to do that, you’ll likely need guidance from someone like Karen Kornelsen, an entrepreneur in Nelson who started her own business, KG Creative, to help market women entrepreneurs and nonprofits in the Kootenays.
“I have the ability to find someone’s voice and translate it into meaningful content,” she said. “My job is to truly capture the essence of the entrepreneur or business and produce content that consciously converts their followers into new clients and customers. It’s all about establishing trust and nurturing connections to form an authentic relationship between business and client.”
Digging down deep
KG Creative specializes in helping business grow through digital content marketing, branding and content—whether that’s website copy, social media posts, brand guides, elevator pitches or key messaging. To effectively convey a client’s message, Kornelsen goes well beyond the superficial.
“We talk about their goals, dreams, story and all the details relating to every aspect of their business,” Kornelsen said. “The creativity, innovation and inspiration that comes out of these sessions is truly what ignites my passion for working with entrepreneurs.”
KG Creative works with an eclectic mix of female entrepreneurs and nonprofits that are focused on truly making a difference. Her clients are pretty unique: a mobile bake shop that doubles as a social enterprise for parents of kids with rare genetic diseases, an ethical craft chocolate business focused on making delicious dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free chocolate, a nonprofit educational institution focused on lifelong learning, and a nonprofit focused on helping people struggling with opiate addiction.
Learning on the fly
When it comes to connecting with her clients, Kornelsen utilizes her own experiences from a career as a professional writer, journalist and marketing manager. She also draws from her own life experiences. In 2018, she experienced a series of traumatic events including a violent assault, lost her job and was diagnosed with PTSD. Kornelsen found solace in a mentor who gave her a referral. Within three months, Kornelsen had a full client base and had earned as much money in those three months than she had in the entire year prior. But it wasn’t easy.
“With no time and no prior knowledge, I had to learn how to do a pitch, write a quote, draw up a contract, do accounting, learn how to conduct meetings in pajama pants and a blazer—that part was easy—schedule a Zoom meeting and figure out how to get paid in U.S. dollars,” she said. “I had all the skills but had no idea how to run a business. I had to learn fast, and I did. I taught myself everything, with help from my mentor.”
One year later, Kornelsen’s business is still experiencing steady growth and is at full capacity. She's also living completely without PTSD symptoms and has channeled her experiences into helping others. As an entrepreneur herself, Kornelsen understands how to connect with small business owners and share their stories through authenticity.
“I choose to tell my story because I truly believe in the power of being vulnerable and real in business,” she said. “As Brene Brown says, ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. You can’t really innovate without risk or uncertainty. If you’ve created a work culture where vulnerability isn’t okay, you’ve also created a culture where innovation and creativity aren’t okay.’
“My goal is to help women accomplish their goals, pursue their dreams and spread the message of hope. There is always hope. Sometimes the darkest moments in your life can turn out to be the catalyst for the most beautiful transformation. If anyone is scared to make the leap of entrepreneurship, I want them to know they can do it.”
KASTing hope over Nelson
KG Creative is just one of the ways Kornelsen assists entrepreneurs and nonprofits. She recently became manager of the new Nelson Innovation Centre, which opened in January 2020. What started as a contract managing marketing and communications for KAST (Kootenay Association for Science and Technology) through KG Creative has turned into a full-time gig in which Kornelsen champions entrepreneurs, startups and tech businesses in the Kootenays.
“I’m so thrilled to be able to support our community at this level and keep my own business going as well,” she said.