Dani Roche branding expert for small businesses
Business Growth
Min Read

What To Think About When Building A Brand Identity Or Refreshing Your Current One

Developing a brand identity isn’t as simple as slapping together a few pictures and words – it’s a strategic multi-step process that helps put your business on the map.

Whether you’re in the early stages of developing your own brand, have built an established company, or are simply mapping out your dreams of small or big entrepreneurship, you’ll know there are a thousand different items that need to be considered and a lot of moving targets you’ve got to hit simultaneously.

In tandem with money and logistics, you’ve also got to think about the power you require to move things forward. Translation? Who are the right people in your camp that can help drive your vision into reality?

Learning takes a lifetime, and it comes through discovering new things, making mistakes, meeting new people, and asking tons of questions. Fortunately, we’re allowed to pivot, adapt and grow based on our learnings. It’s never too late to learn something new, and it’s never too late to unstick yourself from routines that no longer serve you.

Building a business (or even acclimating to one you’ve built) is like building an airplane while you’re flying. And while there are tons of guides on how to build a successful one, intuition, empathy, and a breadth and depth of knowledge about many different fields of work are all good foundational tools that you can’t necessarily pull from a step-by-step book.

My name is Dani Roche, and I am a self-taught (and then formally trained) graphic designer-turned-entrepreneur. I started young – I was 12 when I began learning the Adobe Creative Suite, and I was 16 when I opened my first business. The decision to start a business wasn’t really a decision at all; moreso, it was a fast-moving progression of a hobby. Because I never wrote a business plan and grew up with the idea that “creativity” or “the arts” would never translate into a successful career, it took many years for me to see myself as someone who could be a business owner. I didn’t think it was possible to possess both left and right brain thinking, and I certainly didn’t think I could do so and succeed.

Because I believe creativity and design is still undervalued in “the business world,” I’ve listed some considerations that might add to your knowledge bank and provide some guidance in hitting one of those perpetually moving targets.

1) A brand identity can’t just be aesthetically pleasing – it also must be strategic

I’m a graphic designer by trade, so I can happily share that a good brand identity is more than just a logo and typefaces. A brand identity is the way that a company visually communicates to an audience; therefore, visual assets are only a small part of a bigger picture. Design is strategic – it’s not just pushing around pixels and having a selection of brand assets that “do the job.” There is a preconceived notion that design (and designers) aren’t worth the investment,  especially in an automated world where new design tools are templated, drag-and-drop, and turnkeyed.

When you’re hiring someone to create a brand identity, look for someone who asks a lot of questions, tries to understand your business capabilities, target market, needs and is forward-looking. A designer with a solid portfolio is a plus, but you should invest in their ideas beyond just images for a better long-game approach.

2) License your typefaces!

Fonts are more than just the default tools that come pre-installed on your laptop. Fonts are crafted by designers, much like how photos are taken by photographers and drawings are created by illustrators! Consider the importance of licensing the fonts you use the same way you would pay to license stock photography (and not just pull them off Google so you can sell your products).

Fonts are spectacular tools and beautiful works of art with many different personalities. The fonts you use to tell your brand story are designed by someone, somewhere, and they should be treated with respect.

3) Accessible and universal design for all should be a standard

If you’re starting a new business or are thinking about refreshing your old one, chances are, building a website is top of mind. Because you might be in the early phase of your planning, consider doing your part by creating an accessible web experience.

The amount of accessibly designed websites is not reflective of the individuals out there living with disabilities – be they hearing or sight impairments or neurological disorders like epilepsy. Tools like colour contrast checkers and screen readers can be used to help your website better reflect the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. If you’re unsure of where to start, check the latter to learn more.

4) Not all “creative” roles can be done by the same person

Your company is rooted in the people part of the story. If you’re a small business owner looking to scale, consider investing in design and branding OR finding a network of freelancers who care to understand what your brand is trying to do or say.

These days, we often hear the term, “jack of all trades, master of none” being thrown around. While there’s nothing wrong with playing in different sandboxes and exploring and learning new tools, the expectation – as a business owner – shouldn’t be to categorize all “creative people” as the same. If you’re running the show, you must identify with how easy it is to be burnt out when you’re doing too many different things at once. Similarly, your team should be able to do the best work when they have focused goals and are committed to something they excel in. For example, someone who is a creative marketing strategist should not be the same person running all social media accounts on a day-to-day basis. Just because these roles are categorized under “marketing” doesn’t mean they possess all-encompassing skills that cover the various disciplines and expertise that fall under marketing.

5) Be flexible, and don’t get stuck

A brand identity should be flexible, and it should grow alongside you. Even the largest and most recognizable companies rebrand. No matter what scale you’re at, if you think your brand needs a refresh, don’t feel tied down by the saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Consider what decisions will help you build a more sustainable future.

About the Author:

Dani Roche is a creative director and designer based in Toronto, Canada. A product of the internet age, she combines a multi-disciplinary design background with a drive for digital strategy to create thoughtful and engaging output that spans print, brand identity and holistic marketing campaigns. Her empathy, forward-looking and acute understanding of digital communities has garnered her a spot on the prestigious Forbes Under 30 List (Marketing & Advertising 2019), as well as recognition from Marketing Magazine as a leader in Canadian marketing and by Applied Arts Magazine as a design industry disruptor. Dani has also been profiled internationally by Vogue, Fashionista.com, Coveteur, and Refinery29. She currently owns the design + marketing agency Kastor & Pollux and has worked on projects in the realms of fashion, tech, finance, and lifestyle.

Learn more about Dani at kastorandpollux.com or on Instagram at @daniesque

Lawyer Jamie Bell gives advice on the legal things to keep in mind at different stages of growth in your business
Business Growth
Min Read
5 Legal Considerations for Small Businesses

As small business owners, it can be overwhelming navigating the legal side of your business.

It’s no secret that laying a solid legal foundation might not be at the top of your ‘to do’ list as a small business, given how much you already take on day to day. But that doesn’t mean you can or should ignore it. Understanding what you need to consider at different stages of growth and implementing them as soon as you can will save you money, reduce your long-term risk, and give you the confidence to grow knowing you’re legally protected.

Here are a few things to keep in mind at different stages of growth in your business:

1. Growing your Team

As you grow, you will likely need a team to grow with you. Hiring support is often the only way you can scale and get the specific expertise to carry out and hit your business objectives and goals.

The first question I ask my clients when they need to hire is, “What kind of support do you actually need?” Do you need a contractor or an employee? To learn about the difference, I wrote an article that defines both and can guide you in this decision. Once you know what kind of worker you need for your business, you’ll need to ensure you have a proper agreement in place that is clear about what the relationship is and clear about the work they’ll be carrying out to help your business grow. Not having the proper agreement, or misclassifying the worker in the first place, can have expensive consequences down the road. It’s best to get this right from the get-go.

2. Considering Incorporating

The most common question I get as a lawyer is, “Should I incorporate?” And my first response is always, “It depends.”

There are three common legal structures in Canada:

  • (1) sole proprietor (you’re going it alone, and you and your business are one and the same)
  • (2) partnership (you’ve teamed up with one or more people with the intent to make a profit)
  • (3) incorporating a new company, which is a separate and distinct legal entity with its own legal rights and responsibilities

For some small businesses, it’s important to separate themselves legally from their business right away and incorporate a company. This includes instances where they are operating in a particularly risky industry (like food, construction, or fitness) or hiring employees and want to separate their personal liability and assets from that of their business.

For other business owners, incorporation makes sense once their business is growing and bringing in sufficient income such that they are in a financial position to take advantage of certain tax benefits available to corporations. Unfortunately, there is no “magic income number” and the decision to incorporate that flows from a financial reason is best made with the advice from your accountant.

Forming a new company adds an extra layer of complexity to your business, so it’s always a great idea to make this decision after talking to your accountant and lawyer to make sure that the timing is right to support your growth.

3. Refining Client Processes

No matter what business you’re in, your success is likely dependent on providing excellent customer service. As your business grows, it becomes more important to focus on the organization and refinement of your systems. For example, If you provide 1-to-1 client services, you might want to refine your payment terms or how you deliver those services. If you are in retail, you might want to change your refund and returns processes over time. Refining your client processes and systems is important when you notice issues popping up, but it is especially important when you’re growing and want to limit the amount of resources (time, energy and money) you spend responding to these issues.

I recommend taking some time to review your touchpoints with your customers and ensure your contracts and website clearly set out the expectations of that relationship. This might be refining and tailoring your client contracts or updating your terms of use and policies on your website.  The more we can keep these processes organized and flowing smoothly, the more time you can spend on being proactive, versus reactive in your business. A good starting point is to consider the last issue that popped up in your business: is there a way you could have avoided this with clearer communication? If so, go make that change now. Your future self (and your team!) will thank you for it.

As you grow, get in the habit of checking-in with your customer processes to ensure they are supporting you.

4. Growing your Business Online

If businesses want to grow these days, having an online presence is vital. Whether that means adding an e-commerce element, growing your email list, or increasing your presence on social media, it’s an important and impactful way to take your business to its next level.

If you are online, or going to be soon, it’s important to understand the legal requirements that come along with that. For example, if you have a website, you are legally required to have a privacy policy that sets out what data you collect from your users, how you collect it (email list sign-ups, cookies, or other tracking tools) and how you use it. Not the most exciting part of your website (#fineprint), but a legal necessity!

If you sell products or services online, your terms of use and FAQ section are a great way to set out your policies about refunds, exchanges, shipping and related disclaimers.Your terms of use are also where you include important clauses to protect your ownership rights over the content you provide on your website, like your blogs or free resources you provide your visitors.

It’s important to not only be aware of what you are legally required to have online to protect your business, but also to ensure these support and reflect your processes too!

5. Protecting Your Brand

The more you grow, the more important it is to protect your brand and the reputation of your business. You can do this by registering your trademark. A trademark is a combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that identifies your unique business from others in the marketplace (like your name logo!).

The best way to protect your brand is to register it as a trademark in the countries you do business in and as early as you can in your business. This ensures that you are the only one with the legal right to use your trademark and can take legal action against anyone else using your name or logo or who is trying to imitate your business.

On the flipside, if you are in the very early start-up stage, you should always conduct a thorough trademark search of your proposed business name to ensure it’s available and not being used by anyone else. Nothing is worse than having your heart set on a name, investing in design and branding services, only to realize the name is already in use and trademarked.

Whether you’re just starting out or scaling your business, registering your trademark is a great idea to ensure that you can confidently scale knowing you’ve protected your brand the best legal way you can.

As business owners it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like the ‘to-do’ list never ends – usually because it doesn’t! That’s why it is so important to celebrate the wins along the way. No matter how big or how small, we must recognize and be proud of the steps we are taking forward in our business growth journey.

Whether it’s launching that new product, bringing on a team member, or tweaking a clause in your client contract or on your website that you’ve been meaning to get to, treat these like big wins and celebrate them. Even taking the time to read this article and understand the different legal considerations for your business and feeling more confident in the legal steps you might need to take as you grow is worth celebrating.

Get in the habit of looking back and celebrating how far you’ve come — this will serve to fuel your fire to take your business to the next level and beyond.


About the Author

Jaime Bell is a lawyer and the founder of Wild Coast Law, a business law firm based in British Columbia. She is also the founder of Contracts Market, an e-commerce store that provides legal contract templates for small businesses. Jaime’s mission is to make access to legal less intimidating, more affordable, accessible, and fun. In her spare time, you can find Jaime chasing her dog, Osa, through the forest or up the mountains on Vancouver Island, where she now calls home.

Adam Taubenfligel talks greenwashing and sustainable business practices.
Business Growth
Min Read
A Pair of Truths: Sustainability vs. Responsibility

When my brother, sister and I took our brand Triarchy offline in 2017, we had one goal: Find a better way to make jeans. We gave ourselves 6 months; instead, we took 18-months collectively learning about all sorts of sustainable practices, tools and rigours we could apply to our brand. And that’s what we did. We relaunched Triarchy and set it off in a shiny, new, sustainable direction.

Fashion has always had seasons. And just like fast fashion that hits store shelves as quickly as it does landfills, the word sustainability became the ‘must-have’ accessory of the season. It turns out that the actual sustainability work Triarchy and other independently-owned fashion brands were doing ended up being lost in the pile. “Sustainability” was losing its integrity just as we were pivoting to our mission of responsibly and ethically made denim.

From rituals of self-care to limiting food waste, the pandemic made it clear that responsible consumption is here to stay. You’ve likely felt it yourself, especially when your customer asks about the origins of what you’re selling. Brands responded — either by doubling down on making their businesses better or by amplifying minimal efforts to look like sustainability is their entire ethos.

Reveal the camouflaging of greenwashing by asking questions

Greenwashing happens easily because it’s labour-intensive to put a lens on every brand. It’s like seeing the ‘low-sugar’ sticker on a box of cereal — maybe it is! But unless you’re going to read the nutritional label, a lot of people, as well as the people making supply chain decisions, are going to take these claims as “facts” at face value. These get passed on to the buyers, and how we spend our dollars end up perpetuating this cycle by giving these brands a pass. We need to be asking harder questions.

If something is too good to be true, it probably is. I realized that by not asking tough questions. If I don’t know the truth behind what I’m passing along to our customers, then I can’t operate a business. With that revelation, I discovered that Triarchy’s entire sustainability journey would be a tasting menu to the regular buyer, but it’d be up to me to define it, shape it and tell that story.

Give your buyers a crash course in your responsible practices

There are few governing bodies or certified labels and certifications out there that buyers can rely on to do the hard work and measure a brand’s commitment to sustainability. Sadly, vendors often misrepresent themselves and tell designers one thing, which can lead to splashy marketing campaigns that attract a customer’s eye. Once someone sees this plastered all over their website or bricks-and-mortar store, the common thought is, “hey, this is amazing!” But we want to be pushing them to think: “that’s interesting, I want to know more.”

For example, when you see a claim that a fabric’s stretch comes from recycled water bottles, that’s great. But what’s added to it to give it a new life? Is the process still producing microplastics in our water? Is recycled plastic just making new garbage from old garbage? At its end of life, will this sit in a landfill for 200 years, just like regular plastic?

Why ask these questions? Well, I bought into the recycled water bottle stretch story at one point, but I knew something didn't feel right. I needed to do the critical work and suss out whether this technology I claim to be responsible and sustainable is actually responsible and sustainable! If I don’t, I risk damaging Triarchy’s brand, as well as my own commitment to being a responsible, professional and personal citizen.

The responsible work.

The most sustainable thing you can do, as a small business, is hire a third party auditor. We work with Greenstory and Retraced to do just this. Greenstory investigates our manufacturing practices and Retraced, our supply chain. Businesses like theirs can vet your practices and your products and then report back to you how sustainable you really are. This does a couple things:

  1. It puts your money where your mouth is when discussing sustainability
  2. It provides a framework to work within that highlights where you can be better, giving you a clear understanding on how to improve your practices.

Seeing actual metrics for every product Triarchy makes in real time is inspiring to us and easy to understand for customers. It’s a win, win for everybody, even when you don’t like the report, because that’s the only way to make the report better. To me, that is running a business responsibly.

Think responsibly. Think sustainably.

As small business owners, we have to work harder to maintain the integrity of the word, sustainability. At Triarchy, we did a simple exercise. We took the definition of “sustainability” (“Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”) and applied it to what we were doing. We took stock of our industry — a lot of brands were leaning into sustainability but all with very different comprehension of the word. This is where greenwashing comes into play. It’s also where we saw an opportunity to forge a new path — instead of touting our sustainability, we were leaning into our responsibility.

If we’re going to throw the word sustainability around, then we need to start thinking about its intended meaning. Start asking questions. And start acting responsibly. Responsibility is a word I want to stand behind because it offers a framework to operate a brand within when trying to make jeans better, and therefore, better jeans.


About the Author:

Adam is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Triarchy, a sustainable denim brand whose mission is to conserve the planet's most important resource by reducing the massive water consumption of the planet's most beloved piece of clothing, jeans. Learn more about Adam and Triarchy here.

Holly Singer discusses creating a business with a purpose.
Business Growth
Min Read
How Milk Jar Became a Philanthropic Company

My love for candles began in my early 20s; I’d always loved their beautiful smells that filled my room and their glowing ambiance. I remember I couldn’t wait to move out of my parent’s house and go to University, just so I could finally decorate my own place. The Bohemian style of decor was very popular at the time – crafted candles and earthy smells were a must-have to create a natural and cozy atmosphere. They say that your 20s are about self-discovery. You try out different paths, interests and styles, with every year of getting older also getting to know yourself deeper and closer to your authentic self. It’s our way of finding your life’s purpose – and I found mine through candle making.

In my undergrad, I studied Kinesiology. Early on in my schooling, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but chose the degree based on my interests in sports and healthcare. I come from a family of healthcare professionals, so I always assumed that I’d end up working in that field as well. My parents taught me that a meaningful job is one where you can help others, and that’s what started me on my journey.

By the end of my degree, I had gained a lot of experience in sport therapy, exercise, rehabilitation, biology, etc., but the area that I became most passionate about was adaptations and accommodations for disabled people. I only had one class in my entire four-year degree that taught me about this, but when I took the class, I jumped at the opportunity to do a practicum with the Special Olympics and volunteered to facilitate a pool therapy program for a teen with Cerebral Palsy. That semester, I built a strong bond with the teen and his mother and we decided to keep swimming after my work experience contract was complete.

I was hired to swim once a week for 6-8 months of the year, and sometimes I visited their home to do some on-land therapy and stretching. We did this for 7 years, until he turned 20. Being a part of this family’s life and witnessing their dedication to making sure their son lived a full and rich life was a life-changing experience for me. In all the beautiful moments, I also saw the really hard ones: the exhaustion from medical visits, the back-and-forth for funding support, and the struggles of raising a child with a disability in a world that does not offer equal opportunities. This really opened my eyes to how hard this world can be for people living with disabilities, and their families, and it sparked my desire to find a career where I can help this community.

Milk Jar was not my first attempt at a job with my new-found passion. My original plan was to get my master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Unfortunately, it was a competitive program and I wasn’t accepted. I was disappointed, but I still wouldn’t have traded those evenings in and out with friends for a few extra days of studying. I’m a strong advocate for living life to its fullest, so I have no regrets – and everything happens for a reason! Enter Milk Jar.

The idea of creating Milk Jar came to me, about four years after finishing school, during a time when I was feeling quite lost. I had worked a couple jobs that I cared very much about, but none of them made me feel like I was making the impact that I knew I was capable of. I was making candles in my home as a way to experiment with soy wax when I learned that burning common paraffin wax candles released carcinogens and soot into the air that could cause respiratory issues and other health concerns.

I mentioned before I loved burning candles and had them in every room in my home. Because of my family and background in Kinesiology, choosing healthy lifestyle options has always been important to me. I could’ve just started purchasing other candles made with natural waxes, but it seemed easy enough to make myself – and more fun! I quickly learned that it wasn’t that easy, but I enjoyed the process of learning how to blend fragrances, vessels, waxes, and wicks. And my favourite piece to candle making? Developing scents that capture a memory, place or feeling.

After a year of making candles and also feeling like I wasn’t connected to the disability community that I cared so much about, I decided in April 2016 that I’d start a business selling my candles that donated a portion of its profits to organizations that were doing amazing work that. I launched Milk Jar that November and reached out to the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing and offered to donate $1 from the sale of every candle to them that following year.

I was just as terrified as I was excited to launch into entrepreneurship. I had no idea what I was doing, let alone running a business, but I was passionate about creating a company that was more than just Milk Jar. By inserting a philanthropic purpose into Milk Jar from the start, all my nerves about whether it would succeed or fail didn’t matter. It would’ve already been a success even if I donated $50. That first year we donated $2000 to CADS Calgary.

Fast forward to today and Milk Jar has donated over $100,000 to various non-profits including: CADS Calgary, Between Friends, and PaceKids Programs. Last year, we became an inclusive employer, hiring people in our community living with disabilities to help hand craft the products we make. This has fundamentally changed the culture in our company, we experience more joy at work and everyone is more motivated. We are learning from each other everyday. It’s a beautiful atmosphere to be around people that may appear different from us but recognize that we all want similar things in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a little home-grown business could raise this much money and touch as many lives as Milk Jar has in 5 years. I finally found my purpose – and it wasn’t something I waited to find me – I created it.

I’ve learned a lot over the years of starting and running this business, and if there is one thing that you take away from reading this, it’s to ask yourself what else? What else does your business do besides its obvious sale of product or service? What does your company stand for value, and contribute to that gets you out of bed on those tough days? And believe me, you will have them. How have you added purpose into your company that you can speak to, are passionate about, and that every member of your team can be proud of?

A business that cares will be your greatest return on investment. Now more than ever, people want to know that their dollars are being spent on companies that care about economic and social sustainability. When you show that your company is more than just the business of sales, you will have lifelong supporters that’ll be dedicated to helping you succeed.

There’s a lot of inequity in this world. Supporting an important cause that elevates your community can come in many forms: donating, volunteering, advocating, befriending, etc., and it feels really good to give your time, energy and/or money to initiatives that need and benefit from it.

I believe it’s our duty to take care of each other and our planet, and it is the way to lead a purposeful life. Owning your own business is a privilege. A privilege that should be used to make this world better for others, not to make ourselves better than others. If we could all experience the same opportunities, access and treatment, then what a beautiful world we would be living in.


About the Author

Holly Singer is a compassionate and inspirational 32-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. She grew up in Victoria BC, moved to Calgary for university, and has since built Milk Jar to what it is today in what she now calls home. Holly enjoys relaxing at home with her dog Bowie and plans to do a diving trip in Indonesia sometime in the near future.

Learn more about Holly at milkjar.ca or on Instagram at @milkjarcandleco

Go Global

Interested in taking your business global?

Whether you’re just thinking about growing beyond Canada’s borders, or are already shipping internationally,
our expert customer care and hassle-free solutions will make international shipping the simplest part of your day.

Get Started