"I met a lot of really rad people, a ton of business owners. Started really seeing that a lot of business owners here in town needed design help. They didn't really seem to know how to ask for it, know how to get access to it."
Lauren McKenzie is the owner of REN Creativ, a Colorado Springs creative studio that offers branding, web design, and photography services. Armed with “contagious creativity and boundless originality,” Lauren’s stamp can be found in bars, breweries, and other small businesses across the local landscape.
In this episode, hear how Lauren’s journey of self-discovery led her to become a brand champion for the little guys.
Listen to our conversation for talks on following your gut, being a female business owner, and finding your own definition of success. For more local entrepreneurial stories, visit our full library.
Joe: Hi there. I’m Joe Dudeck, president and founder of Keyhole Marketing.
Shannon: And I’m Shannon Jirik. I work for Keyhole as the assistant brand manager.
Joe: And this is Metaphorically Speaking, a podcast that explores the mysterious side of marketing.
Shannon: Hello, and thank you for joining us again on Metaphorically Speaking, we had a great time chatting with Lauren McKenzie on this episode, who is the owner of Ren creative. And if you’re not familiar with Lauren or her business, she supports small businesses in the Colorado Springs area with branding needs, graphic design and website design and brand photography. So this was just a really fun and enthusiastic conversation. She, she lives in Colorado Springs. She’s a resident there now, but she hasn’t always been. So we get to kind of hear her adventure or tale, if you will, of her journey around the map to get to Colorado, to see how she got there and ultimately learn how she discovered her passion for branding and graphic design. Cause that wasn’t always a part of her story. So we just had a lot of fun kind of getting to hear how she got to where she is today. So, Joe, I wanted to kind of throw it at you. I know you’ve worked closely with Lauren and gotten to know her since you moved to Colorado Springs, kind of explain your relationship with her a little bit more and then just sum her up. If you will describe her briefly for us.
Joe: How could I describe Lauren? No, she’s, she’s a great person, very honest person. You know, what you see is what you get with with Lauren, whether it’s at a bar in her office meeting with a client. I mean, it’s just the same Lauren in all those scenes, which is great. You’re not, you’re not going to have like this, this Lauren versus this Lauren. And you know, I think it’s a good combination. We’ve been working together mostly this year, knew each other. I think we met each other last year, but it has some opportunities to work on projects this year with some clients, she does the, the website design the branding for some clients and the brain photography, and then keel supports that with content for the website.
And then also for particular clients, ongoing content through blog, writing, email marketing, that sort of thing. So she and I have, I think found a pretty good balance of her energy spunk if you will, in, in client meetings and we’ll work with clients. And then I have a little bit more quiet, mellow tone in those, in those meetings. I think it’s a good balance. And yeah, it’s been fun on this podcast to just hear her journey to the Springs from California to Texas, to Colorado, and then even her the way her path meandered in her career, as far as what she wanted to do and what she went to school for. And then, and then eventually how it landed her in a position of entrepreneurship.
So definitely was, it was even a more twists and turns than I expected in the, in the podcast before we recorded it. So it was fun to hear her journey.
Shannon: And you mentioned to me that she’s pretty well connected in the food and drink arena. And I think she mentions that in the podcast as well. Just the space that she’s gotten the chance to work closely in personally, as well as professionally just being able to support those businesses. And I know Joe, you’ve enjoyed some of those benefits just because you’ll get to meet up with her work with her in a lot of great restaurants or bars or areas where you get to enjoy kind of the local taste of Colorado Springs.
Joe: Yeah. Even last night we were out at a local restaurant, that’s had a soft launch and they’re going to be opening up hopefully pretty soon just waiting on a liquor license. And it was fun to, for her, to, for us to kind of be out there and meet the chef, meet the owners that she knew really well. And we’ll get a chance to work on four to five different websites of theirs the rest of this year. So that’ll be fun to tell the story of the dining scene here in the Springs. And yeah, she’s definitely connected me to a lot of different places and I’ve expanded my restaurant knowledge beyond Starbucks and
Shannon: Yeah. And the rest of us appreciate it. Cause you can provide recommendations yes. Or visitors. You’ve got all the local spots.
Joe: So yeah, it’s been fun to partner with her in that and that scene as well. And it’s, it’s cool just to kind of go around the city and see, you know, her mark on restaurants, bars, distilleries, you know, it’s hard to probably go to a non chain restaurant in the city and not have some influence with, with Lauren with the brand and digital storytelling. So now it’s nice for Keyhole to be a part of the content storytelling with some of those restaurants.
Shannon: Absolutely. So the last thing we wanted to call out was the fact that Lauren earned the title young entrepreneur of the year at the small business week awards in Colorado Springs. And we’re maybe making a little jab at her, Joe and Lauren will talk about it in the podcast, but she just wanted it to be very clear that the title was young entrepreneur with the heat.
Joe: And just for the record is you will listen to the podcast. I did say young entrepreneur, she was saying, I didn’t mention that very important adjective, but it was said. And if anybody’s concerned about the age of Lauren it’s, she is technically young.
Shannon: She’s really locked in on that. So just so you all know, well, thank you again, Lauren. She certainly does not disappoint in bringing that energy that Joe mentioned just very real and true to herself. So we enjoyed the interview and we hope that you do as well.
Joe: So Lauren, you grew up on the left coast, west coast, Southern California. That’s correct. Right.
Lauren: Left coast. I’ve never heard someone call it that. Yes, I did grow up on the west coast. I’m in Southern California.
Joe: Tell me a little bit about your upbringing. I know we’ve talked a little bit about that over some drinks, but you know, talk about your family, parents, maybe siblings, just give us a sense of like, what was your upbringing like?
Lauren: Yeah. I grew up with a blended family. My parents were never married. They split when I was really little. And when my mom remarried, when I was three to my stepdad, who’s been my stepdad ever since. And I got two half brothers that are younger than me. So I’m the oldest child out of all three. And then my dad never had any more kids, but he did remarry later on when I was about 14. Yeah. I grew up in Southern California. I mean my, I had two totally different households. My mom is more of a free spirited, open communicator, very liberal leaning.
And my father was very religious, super conservative from a military background and a little bit just totally different dynamic as a kid growing up in each house. And then, you know, mid-week having to switch over from one parenting and family dynamic to another, which I joke and say, I think that that’s why I’m fairly well-rounded, I’ve, I’ve seen it all and I can adapt to just about anything. But yeah, I grew up in Southern California and I was doing a lot of horseback riding and rodeo stuff as a little kid.
And then when I was about 13, my dad got custody of me and we moved to Arizona, which is where I went to high school. Yeah. So I went to high school there for four years in the middle of bum, fuck nowhere in the desert. I hated almost every second of it. Yeah. I think it was maybe 13. It was just before. Yeah. Yeah. And so I, you know, basically I was just counting down the days until I could graduate and get the heck out of there. And I did, I turned 18 and I moved off to Texas where I went to college. Did my time there and then relocated to Colorado,
Joe: Quite the journey. What how’d you get from Arizona to Texas? What was the draw there?
Lauren: So my grandmother and most of my dad’s extended family all lives in kind of central Texas in the, in the hill country. And I grew up as a kid going there for summers or summers or holidays. And I just always loved the change of scenery and I loved kind of the, the Southern hospitality feel to things. And my Nana always just had this kind of sweet, you know, disposition of running time. Cause I was her only granddaughter for a long time. And it was always, it’s just kind of free time, fun time out here in Texas. And so I just always had this really positive perspective on it.
And so when I was trying to decide where to go to college, a lot of that kind of also comes with my weird family dynamic and my dad being super controlling and needing to have a say in my life. And for me it was kind of, well, maybe I’ll he’ll have the freedom to move out of state without my dad freaking out about it because I’m moving closer to where his mother is. So in my mind I was kind of doing it as a manipulative tactic tactic to say, yeah, this is, I’m absolutely doing this to be closer to family, not at all because I know that I need to move away from you different state in order to have autonomy over my own life.
So ultimately that was the decision that led me to, to Texas. And while I did see my family every now and then I definitely really the full reason why I moved out there.
Joe: Before we get into the education piece. Was there any entrepreneur influencing your life growing up? You know, people that you saw maybe influences that you encountered, that you just felt like, I don’t know, just put some something in your back pocket. You’re like, that’s interesting. I kind of want to maybe consider that at some point down the road.
Lauren: You know, so my dad tried. Yeah. He, he really tried and he failed a lot, which I mean, if, as an entrepreneur, like I can connect and understand. I just also remember. So my dad, like he, he was in the tech industry for a really long time and just always, he’s always had a problem with authority, but to, to an extent where it was just complete disrespect and without diving too deep into that, I think it, it was always his intent to, I never want to work for anybody else and I’m going to go do my own thing.
And when we moved to Arizona, it was because the, the market had crashed or had boomed in the early two thousands in California. And it was too expensive and too liberal. And so my dad bought all this property with the intent of starting a ranch or a farm, having no ranching or farming experience nor capital. So nor a house to live in. So we literally moved to the middle of desert with absolutely nothing and built everything from the ground up while we were living in it. So I lived in like a Quonset hut, you know, for first three years of high school while we were building our house and my step-mom was on a teacher salary and my dad was making pretty good money in his tech job.
And then ultimately was like, you know what, I’m over this. I want to become an organic farmer. And it was kind of like, okay, you don’t have a tractor, you don’t have experience, you don’t have the money. You know, you have all this acreage. You’re always complaining about money all the time, but he, he always craved this need to work for himself. And so I think at this point, you know, I’m in high school. Like, I mean, while I’m not completely smart and I don’t have a lot of life experience, I had enough wherewithal to be like, well, so we don’t have money and quitting your job kind of seems like a really stupid decision, but all right, go off.
So I, to say that I had entrepreneurial influence, it’s kind of like a yes and a no. Like I saw it done all wrong, which, and there’s not really one. I get more than there’s one more than one way to slice a cake. But yeah, he, you know, he ultimately quit his job. We struggled with money for a really long time. And around this time he was trying to make a business out of organic farming and a bed and breakfast with our house. At that time, I was just like, oh my God, I cannot handle the chaos of all of this. And like the unknowing, I I’d be better off on my own kind of thing.
And so I moved to college. It was maybe a year later in, they filed bankruptcy. They lost the farm, they lost the house, they lost the business. If you want to call it a business, I don’t know if it was ever profitable. And so in the back of my mind was kind of like, woof, that’s one way not to do.
Joe: I guess I never really had a successful perspective example in front of you. Yeah. I think the only piece of some of that is just, we both know a lot of entrepreneurs and we’ve seen some of the stuff from the outside where you’re like, this doesn’t seem like it makes a whole lot of sense and it doesn’t sometimes the outside and, but at the same time, there’s some resiliency. There’s some willing to take that leap of faith. Yeah. With a little bit of like thought for thought, is this helpful as well? For sure. Yeah.
Lauren: I had one other family member to an uncle that was kind of doing like a, like a snap on tools type job, and surely around the same time that my dad filed bankruptcy. They also filed because there’s the business structure and being self-employed. So honestly, if anything, I had a really bad taste in my mouth and I like the idea of being an entrepreneur or self-employed was terrifying. Yeah.
Joe: Which is interesting to see like how it, yeah. It’s interesting how it went from, you had those two negative experiences growing up really. And when the time became right for you to, to make the leap, you, you didn’t, that didn’t hold you back, you know, you didn’t, you didn’t sort of stand in fear because of the past experiences you still found.
Lauren: Totally. I mean, that’s a whole other topic to unpack on why ultimately did it, but yet, and I still have fear every day, but I’ve made it this far. So yeah.
Joe: You went to Mary Hardin, Baylor in the Belton, Texas. Sorry, we’ll cut that part out,
Lauren: But I need you to redact that
Joe: For sure. I didn’t certainly pull it from a live article on the Gazette at all.
Lauren: You can find that just about anywhere on there. Exactly.
Joe: So did you land on fine arts degree right away? Was it sort of like you knew that from the minute you got there, how did you, how did you land on that?
Lauren: I didn’t, I actually had started school undecided for my first year. I think my freshman year of college, I was, I was categorized as undecided. Okay. But you know, in those first couple of years, anyway, it doesn’t matter. You’re taking all this gen ed shit, which is, you know, basically like high school except I’m paying $20,000 a year. So yeah. So I, it wasn’t until I think I had to have some art credits that was mandatory for any degree program. And I think I had started deciding that I was going to go into computer science, which again, like you’ll, you’ll kind of recognize the pattern of me slowly breaking away from what everybody else thinks I should do to taking ownership of what I actually wanted to do with my life.
And with my dad being in technology and around his timeframe was like 2008. You know, I space was a thing. Facebook was just starting to kind of take over. And so people were really starting to see the transition of, you know, tech being taken seriously and social media kind of, you know, evolving. And so at the time it was like, yeah, all right. You know, I want to go into computer science, but again, that was heavily influenced by my father. And it wasn’t until I took like a basic level art class, I think it was a drawing class.
And I think he was intro to drawing and the university itself was a Baptist school. So it was very conservative. A lot of my undergrad classes were, I mean, we had like required chapel required, old Testament, new Testament classes. And, you know, we had to sign this weird document, like when we got accepted to the university that, you know, was a statement of our faith type stuff. I mean, it was just, it was a very religious environment, but I took that first art class and it was like this weird little cool liberal pocket in the entire university where the professors were just the nicest, most genuine, huge hearted human beings that to this day are some of my best friends.
And so it wasn’t until I kind of found that art department that they started kind of coaching me into, I, you know, you have all this talent for this, don’t you think maybe a degree in graphic design would, would suit you better than, you know, doing backend development. And it wasn’t until I took my first kind of web HTML class that I was like, oh fuck, no, this, I can barely sit still for five seconds. And I’m doing brackets and coding and trying to figure out all of this stuff. And I was like, no, but I like this other side where I can incorporate design and color and all this stuff into it. And so, yeah, it, wasn’t definitely wasn’t initial, like, I didn’t know, in my gut, in my core that this is what I wanted to do. It was almost kind of like, I, I found it there on accident, worked out really well.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. Right. It’s so funny. I had very similar experiences. I don’t think we, we shared all that over drinks when we met, but I had a computer science pursued for about a semester. Well, until I took like the first calculus class and I was like, what am I even doing over here? This is not where I belong, but I think I had the same sort of thought, like computers that are interesting. And I actually like working on them, but then when you get into like the weeds of it, I was like, my brain is just not wired that way. And then I had already taken enough writing courses as electives that I was like, maybe I should just to graduate on time, just go down this path and ended up loving it anyway. So yeah. It’s just funny how we, yeah, for sure. So then after college, you finished with the fine arts degree?
Lauren: I did not. Yeah, so I did not finish. I mean, I technically finished, but I didn’t finish. Yeah. So I, I had the time I met my now ex-husband when I was still in school and he was in the military and we had lived apart for most of the time that I was still finishing up school, but the whole plan was, you know, when I finished and I relocate to wherever he was at and at the time he was at north, in North Carolina, and then shortly before I quote unquote graduated, he relocated to Colorado Springs. So then that’s ultimately what got me out here.
And I think for me, it was just an impatience. Like I was so over college, I had already, like, my dad had quit his job while I was in college file. Bankruptcy lost all his money. So I was completely financially screwed. I didn’t have a car. I had a bicycle that my art professors bought for me so that I could get a job and start making money. And so like, I started picking up odds and ends jobs and taking photos and all this stuff. And I think for me, it was kind of just like, I was so sick of playing the college. I was just like, this is so bullshit. I’m already basically being an adult and I want to go get, I want life experience. I want to get a big girl agency job.
Yeah, let’s go. And so the second I got to Colorado Springs, I was just like, let’s hit the ground running and try and try and get a job. So yeah.
Joe: So you did a couple corporate gigs before you started writing creative. Tell me a little bit about those without maybe naming names. Cause I think you and I had similar experiences that we both learned along the way, like corporate life wasn’t for us.
Lauren: Yeah. I’m definitely kind of one of those people that really, at least maybe in the beginning part of my, my career was I learned, learned lessons very much the hard way, getting better about that these days. But yeah, my, so I had the odds and ends jobs I had in college where, you know, kind of doing some graphic design in low level marketing for like the restaurant that I was waiting tables for, you know, was doing all their posters, marketing, social media, wasn’t really a thing yet. And so, you know that I was doing some photography for some corporate kind of places, but I really, really, really wanted a graphic design job.
Like, I don’t know why maybe it’s just something in college or like, you know, that, I guess that’s just kind of like the path that your parents say, oh, go to college and then you get a job. And then, you know, you work in that industry and blah, blah, blah, and you work your way up the chain of command and you get promoted and then you become the art director. And so like in my brain, all I could think was that was the track that I had to go was either I find a company and I make my way to the top or, you know, whatever else and it, and I quickly realized, so when I moved to Colorado Springs, I got, I started applying for jobs and I kind of shocked by how much of the religious stuff was still kind of here, but in like the career field, right.
Because on the family, all of these other religious organizations and institutions, and I was so kind of turned off by that, after going to Bible college for four years and beginning to deconstruct my own stuff that I was like, oh, anyway. So I started applying for a bunch of jobs. I interviewed at this one place, the specialty ink company that would have had just a really small team of in-house designers. Like it was there. I think there was three of us and I got the job after two weeks of being in the Springs, started working there. That was only friends I had had when I moved here. I didn’t have, I don’t have any family or friends when I had first gotten here.
So, so I started working there. I started learning about company culture, kind of learning, you know, how to, I don’t have these weird interpersonal relationships with your coworkers, learning about pitching clients, doing a lot of mock-ups like a lot of the work that I did was all in-house and it was just kind of spec work that we would be pitching to big corporations like Miller Coors, Anheuser, Busch, Pepsi, co Coca Cola. And so it was a really cool job right out of college to be like, damn, I’m already working on beer labels, like for these big, big, big, big beverage companies.
So it was, it was really exciting for someone fresh out of school, but my God, the company culture was toxic. It was so toxic. And the owner of the company was just like, he treated all of his employees just so disposably and all of my friends are getting fired for dumb shit or, you know, like it was just awful. And then it started just really making everybody super cynical. And so ultimately, like I had been given a bunch of responsibility towards the end of my three-year career there and was traveling all over the place, pitching all of these concepts to these big corporations.
But then ultimately this, there, there was this bad deal that happened. And a bunch of my coworkers and friends got fired for absolutely no reason. And yeah, I ultimately got fired for opening my fat mouth and telling the owner that he was a piece of fucking shit. I can’t imagine that happening. Yeah. Right. Yeah. You know, and I, I look back and now I’m kind of like, I don’t regret standing up for myself and I don’t regret, especially now knowing that the company is probably not gonna make it any longer. I’m like, good, good for good, good for you.
Like deserve all of the terrible karma that can come back around. But I had gotten fired just as I was about to quit and put my own two weeks in because I had gotten, I had accepted a job at the independent, which is a newspaper here in town. And so I was going to make my own exit out. But the good thing was is that because they fired me, that I was able to at least get some sort of severance package for the two weeks until I transitioned to Indy was great. I met a lot of really rad people. A ton of business owners started really kind of seeing that a lot of the business owners here in town needed design help.
They just, they needed a lot of help and they didn’t really seem to either know how to ask for it, know how to get access to it, things like that. And then after that, I left to take an opportunity at a PR agency where she kind of called herself a full service agency, but really she was good at PR and not very good at a lot of other things, but she still sold them as services. And so I kind of stepped in to do more design work, social media, things like that. But again, ultimately at that point was kind of just like, God, I’m so sick of working for other people. I’m sick of making at most $18 an hour with the, you know, experience and creativity. And so I got fired from that job.
Joe: Yeah. So then you eventually got to a place where you were like, I mean, all those little pieces come together, you’ve seen businesses, you need help. And you’re like, I can be that person for them. What was, what was it about that was that the last job that you exited and then before you started run creative?
Lauren: I have one more job because I was so, so at that point, when I was working at that third, that public relations agency, I had started taking some small work on the side, you know, like I’ve got friends getting married and they want wedding invitations or friends starting businesses. And they’re like, I know a graphic designer. She could do a business card for me. And, you know, I just really started kind of looking at it as like, wow, these people are coming to me for, you know, these small things. But I’m realizing in doing that, like, it’s really hard for me to do a business card for you. You don’t have colors, you don’t have a logo, you don’t have a brand like you don’t have a business name. And so a lot of this stuff like I’m, my brain works naturally as a, as a problem solver.
And a lot of the friends that I had started making in the Springs were all through either breweries that I was frequenting restaurants, bars that I frequented often and getting to know all the staff and you know, that, you know, they’re asking their regulars, oh, what a, what do you do? And it’s like, oh, I do graphic design. Oh God, we need someone to help us with our menus or, oh, geez. Like, we’d really love a cool t-shirt design or, or this and that. And so then it’s, I would kind of help with odds and ends stuff on the side. And then when I was at that PR agency, I was not making hardly any money, but working my ass off for her and just felt so broke all the time.
I wanted to save that for my own camera. I wanted to save that for my own laptop and was trying so hard to do it, but needed, you know, some additional side jobs. So I started working two or three nights a week at field house brewing company. So I would just walk there from my house, work a couple shifts, make some money, but then I got to know all my regulars, got to know the owners there. They knew, oh, Lauren’s trying to start her own agency and doing this stuff. And she wants to work primarily with hospitality folks because, you know, that’s kind of where her heart is and where all of our, you know, friendships I’ve made. And at that time, I think I’ve maybe been in the Springs for five or six years.
So that was really kind of what got the wheels turning in my brain of, there really is a need for someone like me to help these people. And also what I had seen at that last agency was, was her. She turned away a lot of small business owners and a lot of it was, you know, and I, and I look back and I’m like, I can’t, you know, I can’t fault her for that. Like she knew I want to work with these types of people because I know they have money and I know they have the budget and in my mind was thinking, fuck that like all these little guys need help too. Like, and I I’ll never forget bringing her streetcar.
Like I had just found out that Ari was going to change. McCabe’s over to streetcar five 20. And I was working at the agency and I pitched it to her. I was like, listen, this is going to be really fucking cool. It’s going to be such an awesome concept. Like we could sell them on branding on web, on all this stuff. And she just looked at me and goes, restaurants don’t have money. I’m good. Like, that’s not a client that we want to take. And I was like, no, but really like, we, like, this is such a cool thing. And we’ve never really done something like this. And she’s like, no, they don’t, they don’t have money. I’m not even an entertaining it.
And I just kind of was like super sour about that. That’s so shitty, you know, just really support this community. But then at the same time, you’re like, nah, fuck the little guys. They don’t have money. I don’t want to work with them. Right. You know, so for me it was kind of all right, well then maybe that’s who my clientele should be. My whole thing is that I want to provide them with affordable solutions for their businesses because I genuinely care about the success of them. And so, you know, the funny full-circle thing is at the time res has been, Greg had just started working at the garden of the gods resort where the owner of that agency was a member too, because he knew that I was working at the agency.
He was like, Hey, we’re looking for a new PR firm. I know that you’re there. Let’s do this whole pitch. And we got this humongous pitch opportunity through me. And my relationship with Greg who’s wife is opening a restaurant called street car. And I remember sitting in that conference room and then saying like, yeah. So we just want to say, the only reason you’re here right now is because Lauren has a really good relationship with so-and-so. And in that moment too, I was like, see, and that’s where at the end of the day, like the relationships that you have with the people around you and in this community are so much more important than, than a dollar sign at the end of the day.
And ultimately I think that that’s where kind of the seed was planted on, you know, what? I can do this and I’m going to, and I, and I’m going and people need it and they trust me and let’s go, I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing. I’ll figure it out. You know.
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Joe: I guess in my business, a lot of people think they can write and they can write. And then they find out that they can’t do that very well. And I think like the same is probably true for you as well. In the sense of like, you’ve probably encountered a lot of horrific logos along the way, especially with small business owners, you know, budgets are tied. So they try to go the cheap route or find a better, a cheaper option or do it themselves. What is, what’s the one thing, I guess you wished the biggest thing you wish small business owners understood about branding for their businesses.
Lauren: I guess what I would say is, and one of the things that I spend a lot of time really educating my clients or potential clients on is the difference between a logo and a brand. And, and a lot of times, you know, these, these smaller businesses, they, they, they want to start their concept and they think I need a logo, that’s it. I need a logo. And there’s plenty of places online where you can get just a logo and, you know, there’s, there’s, I don’t know, like I’ll use a restaurant, for example, you know, a restaurants like, oh, I just need to go online real quick by a logo. Yeah. Cool. So then Fiverr or 99 designs throws together some cheap ass looking fork and knife logo.
That’s been dealt over, done over a budget times and it’s it’s, there’s no thought behind it. There’s, there’s no intentionality, there’s no research on, you know, what kind of food is this? What type of cuisine, what, you know, what’s your demographic. There’s just, there’s no guts to it. It’s just a logo. And what I think that a lot of these businesses and not just restaurants, I mean, any business that, and maybe it’s just the evolution of logos and branding and, and I cannot gruffy through the years is we’re building you something, that’s all encompassing what you’re doing. You know, like a brand creates you a color palette that can be used on your paint for your walls.
That can help you decide how your photos should be taken, how they should be edited with a certain type of, you know, preset that matches your color scheme that matches your brand. But then these, you know, there’s so many different color theory, you know, things that can of go into how you choose a color based on what it is that you do. And so, I mean, it’s also, you know, a lot of times they’ll come to me with this problem, say it’s a website, you know, or maybe it’s social media. We’re having a really hard time with social media. Like, well, do have any guidelines on how to execute social media? Oh, well, no. I’m like, okay, well, do you have any brand assets or anything like that?
And oftentimes it’s like, well, we have a logo, right? And so then it’s kind of, and this is why I kind of realized was, was seeing all these problems and going, okay, you don’t really need a logo. You need someone to come in and give you a brand that sets you up and allows you to execute it more successfully through your menu design through your social media, through your posters, through your website. And so that’s, that’s kind of been an interesting thing to navigate is, is teaching people the difference between just a logo and the, and the value of creating a brand and really explaining it to them as like a, Hey, this is going to save you a million hours later on down the line.
You can hire someone and train them and give them essentially like, you know, a guidebook to your brand. Then it saves you training time from an operation standpoint, then it, you know, saves you having to sit down and go, what the hell? What kind of colors do we put on social media today? It’s like, now we’ve got it figured out. We’ve got a handbook. Yeah. So sometimes it’s, it’s, there’s also a little bit of explaining that value.
Joe: Yeah. The investment of front to see the big, to be, see the big story and be able to see like, okay, we’re not going to need this. We’re going to need this more than just this one small corner of our website. It’s going to have to sit on here and there and this and this. And I’m going to need to know more than this blue color that I selected. I’m going to have to have complimentary colors
Lauren: And you make a good point too, about the investment part. I mean any, and here’s the thing, it’s a logo, you know, you can get a logo. That’s fine. Then it’s the difference is, is an honor. I use restaurants as an example because we are so oversaturated with them. So it’s, it’s now becoming, how are you going to make yourself different than all 30 of the other ones right around you? You know? And if it’s, if, if there’s no intentionality behind it, it’s, it’s basically a copy paste repeat type thing.
Joe: Yeah. Especially in that industry where you, well, a lot of industries, but that one I think of when you stop them on the road and you see a great mark that you want to go to go check it out and get a drink, or have some food. And then if the brand, if there’s no brand, then it’s not carried through. Once you open the door and you talk to somebody and they’re all that brand is more than just even the mark. It’s the conversations you have. The people it’s the people that they hire versus they’re not hiring because it doesn’t, or it does fit with the brand. Like if they don’t know all that, then it’s a guessing game. And then they’ll find out the hard way that it’s not working very well. So, yeah. Thanks for sharing that.
You mentioned this a little bit earlier about sort of, you know, just the fears of entrepreneurship. I was thinking about Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. I don’t know if you’ve read that he talks a lot about the resistance that stands in the way of artists or creatives, business owners, like the fear of failure, just self doubt, procrastination. I was just going to see, like, what, what are some things that maybe stand, like, what are some of the resistance pieces that stand in your way as a, as a creative, as an artist, as a business owner?
Lauren: Oh man. So many. Yeah. I still struggled to this day with finding the balance between, you know, there’s working in the business and working on the business and it’s, you know, I’m, I’m working in it every day. I’m working on my clients, I’m delivering, you know, websites and brands and photos and all these things for my clients. And I know how to do that. Right. It’s I mean, there’s always learning to be done. There’s always new tricks and things like that, that I get excited about trying out and testing out, but it’s, it’s the entrepreneur entrepreneurial side of it that gets in my way a lot.
And it’s me getting in my way, because I’m running the show and it’s, and the struggle oftentimes is, you know, creating systems internally that make for more productivity or efficiency, you know, learning different ways on bookkeeping or project management, learning when to outsource, when I’m overwhelmed or I can’t do something or, you know, kind of deciding, well, what stuff can I start outsourcing then I feel comfortable having somebody else do. And that’s a really struggle too, and a huge struggle on for me. It’s also, I don’t know if it’s like necessarily like a power struggle or an ego thing.
And it probably is very much an ego thing, but, you know, I always have this feeling of, if someone’s hiring me, they want my work, they don’t want to work. Right. You know, they don’t want me to put some entry level designer on this, this, this brand project, like they’re coming to me because they’re like, you know, Lauren wants to do that or Lauren needs to do this. And, but then at the end of the day, I’m like, there’s, there’s only so much on capable of doing and being a boss is something that’s really challenging and hard to navigate balancing, you know, between getting blurred lines and being a really empathetic understanding human being, but also being a really tough bitch with high expectations and extremely high standards on, on delivery of assets to my clients.
And so it’s kind of those things. I find myself always, really having a hard time with having imposter syndrome, you know, because one thing to, to kind of put your head back, you know, head down and work on a computer, in a room by yourself then to now be seen as an someone of influence or someone’s boss, you know, like then all of a sudden it’s like, well, I should be doing things a little bit more PC and I should be doing things a little bit more structured. And it’s those things that kind of really are a challenge for me to navigate. Because again, it’s, I know how to take photos. I know how to design websites. I know how to build logos and I can always refine those skills.
But being a boss is never something I went to school at for, you know, being an entrepreneur is never something I, I studied. It’s all kind of something I figured out along the way. So the imposter syndrome definitely runs deep there for sure.
Joe: Yeah. Which is interesting because it kind of segways into the next question, which was, you were recently named young entrepreneur of the year locally. And it’s interesting because you know, sometimes people might see that and just feel like, oh, that means you get them all your shit together. But the reality is what you just shared is sometimes it is sometimes it isn’t, you know, and I think like you can still be recognized by your peers in the local market in spite of all the struggles of entrepreneurship. Right?
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely.
Joe: What does winning that award mean to you? Just again, from, from all the track record we’ve just talked about from you landing here in Colorado Springs, not knowing anybody and sort of, what does that, what does that mean to you? I guess?
Lauren: Yeah. I felt very overwhelmed, very overwhelmed and grateful to be appreciated and recognized for that. And it, there is a, an element of pride being attached to that and knowing that like, damn, I went through hell and back to get here, you know, like, damn, I absolutely learned how to do this overnight. I, you know, experienced working for some terrible people, watch them run their businesses into the ground and watch them run people into the ground.
And, and I took all of those experiences and told myself I’m not going to be that I refuse to be, that I want to, I want to change this narrative. I want to change, you know, quote unquote, what an entrepreneur looks like and, you know, entrepreneurs, they come in all different shapes and sizes and some business owners will tell you, I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m just someone that likes to own a restaurant. You know, it’s at the end of the day though, like guys we’re running businesses, this is something that not everyone is capable of doing some in most days we don’t feel like we’re capable of doing it either. And so I feel honored to be recognized as that for sure.\
And it was young entrepreneur of the year. Thank you.
Joe: I’m so sorry if I didn’t mention that. I’ll definitely go back and edit that. I’ll just a weird voice inserted there.
Lauren: Yeah. It feels, it feels really cool, especially just like knowing. So I’ve been in the Springs. I just, my nine year anniversary was this past month and just it’s sometimes it’s overwhelming to sit back and go, damn, I came here and I didn’t know a single fucking soul and I’m proud of myself for making it to this point. And the achiever in me is kind of like, all right, now what, and I’m trying to really break that model that I’ve always had in my brain that, you know, something bigger and better should always come next.
And instead just kind of like, Hey, we’re doing it. And, and you know, we, we don’t have to go upward and just kind of be content in, in doing what we’re doing and doing it the best that I can. Yeah.
Joe: Which is another, it’s another great segue. I have a project for my business coach that I’m still, I think I have to do by next, next week. I should probably get on that. But she’s asked me to, just to kind of define what success looks like for, for my life, for my business, you know, there’s, there’s the traditional things. People say, you know, money and some sort of revenue gain that kind of stuff, whatever, those kind of markers that, but wanting me to think beyond that. And I think like what you just described there kind of, you know, that tension of like always aspiring for the next thing. Like not necessarily sitting in the now and being grateful for where you are, how would you answer that question of if she asked you that? Like how would, what does the success looks like for you and your life and your business?
Lauren: Oh, that’s such a, that’s such a tricky question to answer. I feel like because I would have described success so differently in all the different stages of my life and the different stages of my career as well, you know, like fresh out of college, I thought being successful was running like, you know, being the CEO of someone else’s agency or being a creative director, like that was success. That was the ultimate I’m on top. And then, you know, getting to another business and working for them was like, all right, I’m successful if I’m making XYZ salary and then, or I’m successful if I get this promotion, like it was always, I had to be reaching and striving for the next biggest baddest thing.
And, and I think being so green and starting my business too, like, you know, my transition out of working for someone else to working for myself was I’m successful because I’m going to go off and do this on my own. And then, you know, you get into the nitty gritty of it and, you know, the everyday kind of working with clients and it’s like, dude, I am successful. If, you know, I signed one client this month, you know, that was year one for me was like, that was my success. I feel good about this. And now four years into it, I’m successful if I get my ass out of bed, you know, A lot of that comes from, you know, being in a global pandemic right now with a lot of pressures externally outside of my job.
But, you know, answering that now looks so much different than answering it 10 years ago, you know, like I wanted to make all the money in the world and I wanted to be the biggest baddest toughest, coolest bitch on the block. And like now I’m just kind of like, I just success to me is can I pay my bills? Can I live a comfortable life? Can I be smarter about my finances moving forward, do more intentional. And can I learn to have a work-life balance that is sustainable. And to me like that, like having peace of mind is, is I’m learning to understand that there’s value in that, which I never would have put value in that before.
Like how are you successful because you take time off or how are you successful? And that’s, I mean, that’s really just, capitalism’s slowly killing me, but I would say that where I’m at today, my success boils down to how well I treat my clients, the quality of work I delivered to them and the quality of, of a personal life that I’m able to maintain that to me feels like I’m, I’m doing, I’m doing right by by myself.
Joe: Yeah. I think it’s interesting too. Like, you know, that that benchmark for success, you know, just changes over life, as you just said, it changes over your life. Like right now, for me as a dad of almost an eight year old, it’s different because he’s different. And so my aspirations as a dad and as a business owner, they all kind of blend in there, but it’s different than when he was just born. And, you know, I was at that point, you know, a couple of years into entrepreneurship and it’s just continues to change and, you know, aspirations and things. You’re trying to get recognition for. They just come and go and you’re just like, I’d rather be a better dad than I am the most successful. You know what I mean? So, but ask me this in two years from now, who knows where it’s at.
Lauren: Right. And I mean, ask you that when he graduates high school college, you know, like maybe then you kind of shift priorities and shifts, you know, the, the narrative for what success means to you. Yep.
Joe: Just one more question. I feel like you’re, you’re a good champion for women entrepreneurs in the Springs, just based on just the story you’ve told there and, and some of the challenges you’ve faced, how would, what would be a message you would want that crowd to hear from you? Maybe some lessons you’ve learned along the way that women entrepreneurs and the Springs can sort of take from your story
Lauren: Men ain’t shit. Now I’m just kidding. No, I just, ah, gosh, ladies, we can do it. God, we’re so capable. We’re so smart. We’re so empathetic, intelligent that as human beings own it, run with it. Believe in yourself, know that you can do it. No. That asking for help is not weak. It’s not shameful. It’s not frowned upon. Do it, ask people for help, ask people for advice for mentorship champion for yourself always first and, and know that sure.
We may have it tougher. And that’s, that’s an unfortunate reality is that things do come a little bit harder, but ultimately we’re capable and fully capable of doing anything that we set our minds to. And yeah, let’s hang out and have happy hour. Yeah. I love, I love, I love a woman owned business.
Joe: Thanks so much for the time they Lauren, it’s been great to hear your story and inspiring us in the Springs with all the stuff you do here, making, making the whole city look better.
Lauren: I appreciate you, Joe!
Shannon: You’ve been listening to the Metaphorically Speaking podcast. At Keyhole Marketing, we tell big stories for small businesses. If you’re in the Colorado Springs area and ready to tell your business story, we’d love to come alongside you and help you with your content, branding, SEO, social media, or photography needs. For an instant glimpse at your current marketing strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, take our free marketing assessment, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help tell your story.