Brand Interview – Shasta Nelson, GirlFriend Circles
How long has your company been in business? Please tell us a bit about your company, its mission, goals…
GirlFriendCircles.com was launched in late 2008 in response to repeated statements I heard from my life coaching clients along the lines of “It’s harder to meet platonic girlfriends than it is to date!” and “I know there have to be other women who are ______ (fill in the blank: new to the area, just gone through a divorce, just had their kids move out) and value new friends, but how do I find them?” In trying to sleep one night, I started brainstorming about how I could play friendship matchmaker for a few of my awesome clients in other cities… the next morning I had a business idea that I felt compelled to follow through. GirlFriendCircles.com is now the only online community that matches new friends offline by connecting circles of women in local cafes and wine bars in 35 cities in the U.S. Everything is done in small groups and designed around meaningful sharing, to get to know other local women who are open to new friendships. Not surprisingly, research now shows that women are replacing half their friends every 7 years—a woman looking for new friends is not alone in that search.
Do you donate to charities? Tell us about that also and why.
Yes. I tithe (10%) of my personal income to non-profits. And on a business level, I recently came up with what I think is a creative idea to help support charities and to back up the values of GirlFriendCircles.com. Now, if a woman commits to attending a ConnectingCircle and pulls a no-show—she will make a $5 donation to our “Show Up or Save the World” pot and every quarter we donate that to a new charity. Some women whine about it—but I personally love it. I love that we redeem something inconvenient (whatever reason we have for not attending our commitment) with something helpful and meaningful.
How did you know what typeface (font) would be right for your company wordmark or logo? If your logo has an illustration, describe why that art was the right thing, animal, place, object, etc…
I trusted my designer, Rachel Orrison, to only give me options that she felt matched my values and feelings—and then I went with my gut. It’s trying to find a mood… a feeling… something fun, and yet professional. Something feminine, and yet not too sappy. I chose the concept of circles over the images of women in order to keep it clean, inclusive and iconic.
How did you decide on the right color palette to fit your company look and feel?
Well I knew I wanted brown as a warm and basic color. At first I didn’t want any pink, but ended up finding a hot shade I liked, since, like or not, pink does still help specify the gender I want to attract. But it was important to me to stick some other fun colors in there too, so a little green and orange rounded it out nicely. I avoided pastels, and went bold. It felt fun, courageous, and friendly to me.
How did you decide which type of designer to work with, or did you design your own identity and web presence?
I feel super lucky in that I asked several friends for referrals and loved Rachel’s design work. I initially figured I’d hire her for a one-time set up of the logo, but ended up loving her so much that she’s my go-to designer and is now working on my upcoming re-design of my web site.
In what order did you present your company to the world? Did you start with marketing and products, or website, blog and social media?
Website. I didn’t even do business cards for almost a year. And social media didn’t really become important to me until last summer. My, how times change, huh? Now it’s a pretty huge part of my online presence. It’s really my social media, blogs and interviews that create my “brand” more than anything tangible ever could.
Did you do research or study any software, take webinars, teleclasses, before approaching any area of your marketing or web presence?
I did learn a lot from Inc. magazine and startupnation.com in walking through their “how to create a marketing plan” section which helped me become more intentional and strategic.
Do you advertise locally in newspapers and/or nationally in magazines? Are they effective?
I chose the P.R. route over the Advertising route. I have been mentioned or interviewed for several national magazines such as Parents, Essence, More, and Redbook. And yes, it’s super effective as that adds a level of safety and credibility to my audience who are not used to looking online for friends.
Do you advertise online using Google, Facebook or on other company sites? Are they effective?
Google advertising has been effective—I love how specific I can be. Facebook hasn’t been… but that may be because people feel less need for making new friends when they’re online with friends. Of course, nothing replaces local, face-to-face friendships, but it does go to show that it’s not only finding your target audience, but finding them at the right time!
When you printed your products, packaging, business cards and other print marketing did you choose an online printer or visit a local vendor?
I went online. And cheap. I just rarely use printed stuff so it’s not worth it to me to spend a ton on business cards.
Did you know anything about different types of papers, when you wanted to print your marketing materials?
Nope. Just went with recycled for the value.
Have you ever used “green” technology in printing, using FSC certified papers or recycled paper and if not, how likely are you at trying this on a next project?
Yep… and happy with it!
If you sell products, are they produced in the U.S.A. or abroad?
Is there anything you haven’t yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
Oh yes! The list is long! I want to redesign my homepage, pitch a book proposal to an agent, organize an overseas travel trip for girlfriends, and start video-logging!
To learn more about Shasta Nelson and GirlFriend Circles, visit the links below: