Be Persistent and Consistent. Its hard work, I am not going to sugar coat that, when you are building an image of yourself to others you need to be consistent in content that brings VALUE to your viewers. That means creating new content regularly (something I continue to work on). There are all kinds of ideas on Pinterest for content inspiration and how to schedule and rotate content. This is important because again, the difference between a LIFESTYLE brand and just any other brand is the feeling and inspiration it creates with your viewers. That means a lot of informational infographics, photos, and video content.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kaylee Ann.
Kaylee has been practicing zero-waste living for eight years, she is the founder of ZippNada a sustainable lifestyle brand in Arizona focusing on providing rural communities with education, one on one coaching service, along with high quality, affordable, and locally made (when available) zero-waste gear. Kaylee has presented at PLAN Students For Zero Waste Conference, festivals, events, and three major Podcasts in addition to starting zero-waste programs and workshops in Arizona.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I have always been a child of nature. I was a Girl Scout for the longest time and learned the “leave no trace” rule when camping, but I lived the average “American” consumeristic lifestyle. It wasn’t until high school when I had my “Aha” moment, and I was introduced to the world of zero-waste. After finding out that my conventional lifestyle was destroying the very thing I loved (nature) I decided to make a change.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
When I was in high school, I saw a documentary on ocean plastic- that truly was my Aha moment I mentioned before, I saw images of dead sea birds, their stomachs so full of plastic that they starved to death. Those images stuck with me, from that moment forward I decided to be a part of the solution not the problem.
I started to educate myself on our waste systems, that ultimately is what led me to the zero-waste community. When I was a sophomore in college, I had this idea about zero waste kits for beginners. Before that time, I never had an interest in owning a business. Especially starting one while juggling school, work, and life. With the nudging of my brother and with the support and I was encouraged to start ZippNada.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am self-taught, with that comes to a LOT of trial and error! Always proofread your marketing material! I ordered custom stamps to say my business name, rather than the stamps saying ZippNada they came in as…NippNada. It took someone on my social media to point it out and after a moment of freaking out I just busted up laughing. I am not super strong in grammar- so now I always have two or three people read my material. Hopefully to avoid any embarrassing future errors (but mistakes happen)!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I saw a documentary that was a BIG wake-up call to me. It was the first time I even heard of the garbage patches the size of Taxes in the ocean, or that there was even a problem with single-use plastic to begin with. I knew the basics of “do not litter”, but once you throw something away you never think of it ever again…it was mind-blowing to me to learn that there was no such thing as “away” and that every piece of plastic that has ever been made STILL exists today!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In my industry of sustainability and zero waste, I fell in love with a quote by Max Lucado “Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something.” That quote is something I use in my practice and is my brand philosophy. This is so relevant to me in all aspects of my life because everyone is so unique. We each have our limitations whether it be time, money, or access. Not everyone can live off the land and never produce garbage again. For many of us, it’s a few swaps and habit changes over a long period. A lot of people making small changes has a bigger effect than a small group of people doing it perfectly.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
I define a lifestyle brand as services and products that EMBODIES the values that you and a community share. It’s something that calls to others, motivates them, and enables them to express those values. An average brand feels like it’s more about the single product or service. Whereas a lifestyle brand is about the message, the practice, and the HOW that product or service enhances someone’s life. You see it a lot in outdoor gear, yoga products, to name a few examples. When you think of these items it is not necessarily the single product but the practices they represent, and the feeling they evoke. This is the goal of ZippNada my Zero-Waste Lifestyle brand, to provide products designed to make living “zero-waste” more convenient. ZippNada is also focused on providing education, awareness, and an introduction to living a more impactful and sustainable life.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
The benefit I have found is that you get to closely live and share your message and values. My brand is my passion, it is what gets me so excited! I think creating a lifestyle brand in an aspect that you are extremely passionate about is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. The development and interaction with a community of shared values is very rewarding.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
My inspiration came from Lauren Singer, founder of the Trash is for Tossers blog, and one of the first zero-waste shops in the U.S.
What impresses me about her brand is how she was able to make zero-waste “sexy” in the way that it appealed to people who had no previous desire to learn about it. She did put an end to the stigma that to care about these causes you had to be a “dirty hippy”. Rather she showed that you could live your life (she is located in New York City) without giving too much of your convenience away, you could still look polished, you could still live a most “conventional lifestyle” and I think that is what attracted so many people to her cause.
I don’t want to replicate exactly what she did- however, I LOVE that she made this cause appealing to others. I would want to replicate that attitude to individuals in rural more conservative communities and locations. To be like “hey, you don’t HAVE to look or be a certain way to participate in zero-waste, you can still be yourself AND make better consumeristic choices that enhance your communities, and your environmental health, and wellbeing”.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Ask yourself what it is in life you are passionate about, is it the outdoors, yoga, minimalism, urban farming, fashion, or something else? What images and feelings does this bring to your mind? What part of this lifestyle do you wish to get across to people? For example, is it the message of health (whether that be through food, movement, supplements), or being closer to nature (through outdoor clothing and gear). Find a core message and focus on building from there.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I see many people just have their branding all over the place- it makes it difficult for customers to identify you. It takes time and a bit of experimentation to find your “esthetic” colors, text font, and voice. Once you have that lined out be sure to have that in all aspects of your “branding” and to be consistent. That is not to say you can’t change things as you learn and grow- but still having a constant theme and patterns helps others to identify you and makes you look “official” and trustworthy.
Another thing I notice is that many people copy and do the same thing as more established creators because they see it working for them. There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others, heck I do not see anything wrong with taking something and making it BETTER, but to just regurgitate something else. It makes you the same as everyone else, when you were made to be different in order to put YOUR twist and perspective on things.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I would recommend doing a lot of market research. Unfortunately, you could have an amazing idea but if you don’t have a plan, direction, or even a basic understanding of the market and demand, chances are it won’t work out.
Create a game plan and goals, for example:
My ultimate “goal” is to have a physical storefront and to manufacture 100% of my products. You have to then take that big picture goal and break them down into smaller and smaller goals or milestones.
So, for me to reach that I need to create virtual sales on my site, then maybe move to having a kiosk in someone’s store, to renting a space, and then to buying a building. With that example, you can see that I have several smaller goals that are steppingstones to my ultimate goal.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be Authentic
People can see through the facade. When you are genuinely passionate about what you are doing and selling it inspires others, they listen to you and begin to explore how that fits into their lifestyle. I think the most important thing is to be authentic to yourself. Many zero waste influencers have a similar esthetic, they post about relatively the same topics. I decided to use my unique perspective to my advantage. I live in a rural conservative community and found that communities like mine often are not talked about, everything is about how to do zero waste in larger cities where they have access to resources and other likeminded people. I started talking about my experiences rather than completely mimic other influencers (there is nothing wrong with taking inspiration- but be yourself!). I found that through my challenges and experiences that many people are experiencing the same thing and need someone and a community to turn to for those unique challenges that zero waste in a rural environment poses.
2. Be Persistent and Consistent
Its hard work, I am not going to sugar coat that, when you are building an image of yourself to others you need to be consistent in content that brings VALUE to your viewers. That means creating new content regularly (something I continue to work on). There are all kinds of ideas on Pinterest for content inspiration and how to schedule and rotate content. This is important because again, the difference between a LIFESTYLE brand and just any other brand is the feeling and inspiration it creates with your viewers. That means a lot of informational infographics, photos, and video content.
3. Establish Your Niche
Who are you trying to reach? Establishing what kind of person, you are trying to attract is super important because that can determine your tone and type of content and products that you need to create. For example, I am not focusing on people who already know about zero-waste living- my niche is those who have never a day in their life heard about it, or why it’s important, how to minimalize your trash and carbon footprint, and why recycling is not the solution. My goal is to reach and educate those in rural communities to do what they can, and to provide them with gear, products, and services that make it convenient and aid them in doing so.
Considering that, who are you trying to get your message across to? It can even get more specific- what does your ideal customer look like? What hobbies do they do? What is their age range? All of this is valuable information for you to better market yourself.
4. Engage with Your Supporters
Be sure to continue engaging with your supporters, they are, after all, your biggest cheerleaders. As people become more successful, they fall short on this- I always recommend taking the time to answer questions and respond to comments on all my platforms. First of all, it’s just polite, and secondly, it reinforces that aspect of trust and gives your supporters/ customers a sense that they are heard. I started implementing this after someone I knew went to a concert. They told me they wrote a comment on this bands page just saying how well they did at the show and was so surprised that they took the time to answer back- it made them feel good, and further pushed them to continue to support them as they took a moment to simply acknowledge them. After hearing this and seeing how that person was left practically glowing- I decided to always comment back- even if it was as simple as “thank you!”
5. Collaborate with Others
I have struggled with this to be honest- I am a bit of a lone wolf, the type that does it all because I have a certain way of doing it. To succeed you NEED to collaborate with others, that might look like hiring someone for automatic systems so you have some free time to focus on more demanding projects, or it could be just collaborating with another creator that compliments your brand. This is a win-win where you can do give away, promo codes, projects, the possibilities are endless!
This helps you to build business connections, a community for yourself, and is a great way to get more followers, views, and potential new customers!
An example of this is I LOVE to post interviews of experts to the ZippNada YouTube channel. It gives me content for my viewers, and it exposes other relevant creators, experts, and business close to my niche.
We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Awe thank you! Easy. Hands down it would be the zero-waste (sometimes called low-waste) movement. I don’t believe that everyone can live this kind of lifestyle but I sensorily believe that everyone can do something! This lifestyle and movement bring about immense benefits not only to our environment but to our overall wellbeing in physical and mental health, ethical treatment of communities and people.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh, that’s a hard one… I would have to say Lauren Singer, just because she has been such an inspiration to me both personally and business-wise. I followed her when she just had a blog, now she owns two sustainable companies and is an advocate for implementing suitability in her city and making it affordable and assessable to others!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.