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Naya of House of Brand Therapy: “Normalize women bragging”

Our programs and services at House of Brand Therapy focus on helping women brand themselves as leaders in their spaces, whether they want to stay in the 9–5 space or, more commonly, become founders of their own companies. Our programming has been specifically designed for Black women with impostor syndrome who struggle to present themselves […]

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Our programs and services at House of Brand Therapy focus on helping women brand themselves as leaders in their spaces, whether they want to stay in the 9–5 space or, more commonly, become founders of their own companies. Our programming has been specifically designed for Black women with impostor syndrome who struggle to present themselves as highly-experienced leaders yet deserve to be well-paid. We dismantle the roots of their impostor syndrome and help them build brands that make their target audiences see them as the only solution to the problems they’re faced with.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Naya “The Creative”, a Brand Therapist and Founder of House of Brand Therapy. House of Brand Therapy is a full service brand development agency and digital education space designed for women who want to build high-quality, luxury, & one-of-a-kind brands. Naya is an experienced digital consultant with a background that includes advertising, copywriting, digital design, & web development. A thought leader in the branding space, Naya created House of Brand Therapy to help everyone from 9–5’ers, to freelancers, to founders, find their authentic voice in order to build stronger and more profitable brands & businesses. In this work as a Brand Therapist, Naya teaches creatives with no business experience how to reinvent themselves and monetize their craft.

Naya is a graduate of Howard University and the University of Baltimore, graduating with an undergraduate degree in Media Production, and graduate degree in Publications Design, respectively.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I became a Brand Therapist after years in media and advertising. I’ve always been a creative and extremely curious about and playful with technology, so I knew that one day my work would be a mix of some form of art and tech. I have a background in music and, for years, I thought I’d be a superstar musician. As I got older, that seemed less and less appealing, but producing media that would be seen by the masses continued to be of interest to me. It made sense that I’d work as a designer, web developer, copywriter, video editor — and a few other creative-tech mashup areas — by my early twenties.

Being a creative who was relatively business savvy, I worked for a while as sort of a creative whisperer who taught creatives how to profit from their crafts. This was a springboard for me leaving the last place I’d worked for anyone else.

I had no interest in “branding” as a profession, but I kept working in spaces adjacent to or related to branding. It became really hard to avoid. I think the universe was pushing me in a direction I didn’t know I needed to head in. Eventually, after a few lightbulb moments my early freelance design clients triggered, I fine-tuned my niche and established myself as a Brand Therapist.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was in college, I thought “branding” was crap. People spoke about branding like it was the key to presenting poor products, useless services, and shallow organizations in a better light than they deserved to be seen. It felt like “branding” was permission to trick people into believing that something was much better than it was. People would say the word branding, but all I heard was “scamming”. I hated it.

Fast forward to years later when I started designing and building websites for my freelance clients and they thought I was going to build their brands by designing their websites. That’s not how branding works.

They, like the people who jaded me on branding, thought a brand was only skin deep and that if I were designing for them, I would also be creating the entire essence of their brands. That’s like saying the sales associate at the clothing store you shop at is creating your personality simply because they’ve helped you pick out your spring wardrobe. How you look isn’t who you are.

As I questioned my clients, thoroughly, to figure out who their brands were so that I could design a look to match the brand personality I hoped already existed, we’d uncover so much about why my clients were in business in the first place and how they could really deepen their relationship with their audiences.

It was those conversations that earned me my professional title. I had multiple clients, who didn’t know each other and hadn’t ever spoken to one another, tell me that talking to me was like talking to a therapist.

This is how I went from “digital consultant / designer / developer” to Brand Therapist.

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?

The funniest mistake I made when I was getting started and thinking that, without a plan, I’d be “successful” relatively fast. It’s laughable today how naive I was about what it would take to get attention, be impactful, and be well paid. However, that gall led me to incredible opportunities that many people in my position hadn’t yet landed in their first year of business.

On the flip side, not setting those clear goals kept me from measuring my success. This meant I was often chasing some milestone, but never celebrating the ones I hit or acknowledging the successes I already had. This was a long road of beating myself up over not winning enough when, really, I just didn’t know how to recognize wins.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I didn’t have a solid mentor or coach when I started in business, so I looked in a lot of places and followed the advice of a lot of people to develop businesses that actually worked. There are a lot of people I have to thank, but one in particular, my friend Jasmine, was a great source of emotional support who would also gently nudge me in smarter directions when I wasn’t focusing on the right areas of my business. I don’t know if she even knows this.

I remember once, when I had started one of my business projects that never went anywhere, she asked me about my email strategy. Flippantly, after reading an article or two that discouraged me leaning on email to make sales, I replied “email is dead”. She didn’t press it, but she said something that suggested I give my marketing plan another look. Today, email is one of my most effective sales strategies. She would often ask questions that made me think harder about what I needed to focus on to run a business and not just look like I was running a business.

In life, she’s been a supportive friend and, through my first few years in business, an awesome roommate who holistically cared for my mental health as well as my career and financial success. While she wasn’t a coach or mentor per se, I don’t know where I’d be without the support and sensible influence she gave me.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Alright, so even I’m surprised about my answer to this. I’ve read so many business books that helped me make better decisions about growing my business and solving my clients’ problems that I’d expect one of those to be the answer. However, Why Men Love B*ches might have made the biggest impact on me at the time I read it. Hear me out…

I was fresh out of college when I read it. While the book is obviously meant for women who struggle to “keep a man” (and to be honest, that’s why it intrigued me), what I learned was how to value myself and my time and to respect the magnitude of what I bring to every table I grace with my presence.

For example, until I read this book, I answered my phone every time it rang — and not just for love interests. I felt if someone was calling me, they needed or wanted me and that was a good enough reason to stop what I was doing and answer it. Think about how unproductive it is to make yourself available whenever anyone calls you, to the exclusion of your own wants, needs, or whatever else is occupying your time. Now think about how that abundance of availability reduces the demand for you. Neither of those are good for business, or being pursued in a romantic relationship.

My upbringing was very much about me being useful to and available to serve other people, even before myself — usually before myself. Naturally, this continued as I became an adult. But then this book came along and taught me to make myself, my wants, my needs, and even self-care a priority. It might sound silly, but at 22, I really needed to learn this.

This book probably laid the foundation for me creating the kind of demand that makes clients come to me instead of me having to chase clients.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“People believe what you tell them.” This quote has changed my life and shaped my work.

When we speak about ourselves and what we do, especially to people who aren’t intimately familiar with our fields, we mentally compare ourselves to our own idols and icons in our spaces. If we think we’re just OK, compared to those people that the person we’re speaking to will never encounter, we downplay ourselves because of our insecurities — which don’t serve the situation or the person we’re speaking to at all.

Let’s say you’re asked about how many years you’ve been writing and how good of a writer you are. If you say “I’m pretty new to this, y’know, I’m just getting started” people will believe that you’re inexperienced — even if you’ve been in the game for 5 years and have quite a few impressive by-lines under your belt. Because you think it takes 10 years or more to be taken seriously in the writing game — by other writers — a person who could really benefit from your writing just dismissed your authority because you told them you were just getting started.

Women do this waaaaay more than men do. We take all this “be humble” crap to heart and talk ourselves out of opportunities left and right. In these moments, it’s important to remember to answer what you were asked. If people ask what you’re good at, they’re not asking you what you think you’re not good at.

I work with women who want to launch a business or rise up the career ladder, but allow people to believe that they aren’t as qualified as they are. The women starting businesses say things like “I’m just getting started” or “I haven’t worked with many clients yet” when neither of those are true. If you’ve been in your field for years, then say that. Just because you’re starting your business today doesn’t mean your experience starts today. But, if that’s what you say, then it’s what people will believe.

Women who are looking for a promotion or a lateral move into a new field need to speak about the successes they’ve had and need to skip talking about their inexperience with the role they want. The only way to get experience in the job you want is to do the job you want. Until you get that job, play up how you’re more than prepared for the new role and tell a story that shows people how successful they would be if you were put in that role.

Because, again, if that’s what you tell people, that’s what they’ll believe.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I often offer free programs and work with nonprofits and community organizations to make sure my services are available to people without budgets for my work, but I’ve done several of those before I reached a level I’d call successful. However, that may be me being hard on myself.

I grew up with a warped idea of investing in myself. The idea of paying for things that might not lead to a guaranteed or immediate payoff felt risky to me. I would find that when there was a long way I could take for free and a short way I could take for a fee, it didn’t feel right to pay for the shortcut. Messed up right?

So I totally understand why some women feel that it’s unreasonable to spend on themselves when it’s not a sure thing, even if there is something to gain from it. It can feel risky to invest in yourself and can even feel like cheating if it seems like you’re taking some sort of shortcut.

According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Founding a company, especially a company seeking funding, requires a lot of things that women are not normally groomed to do. First, we’re expected to believe — and convince other people — that we are equipped to do things we might only feel mildly skilled in.

Men will apply for jobs they’re barely qualified for, yet women won’t apply unless they meet nearly all the requirements — and that’s just putting in a job application. Now you’re asking women to convince people to invest large amounts of capital in their ideas when they themselves can’t say they have 100% of what they think it takes to make this business a success. That’s a big ask.

If they’re not seeking funding, they still have to get very comfortable with selling themselves and a product. Selling ourselves can feel braggy, which we’ve been taught is pretty unbecoming.

Assuming we even have the time to start a business in the first place, or expect that the next few years ahead of us will be free of full-time child rearing or home management and lend themselves to this enormous time commitment, we then have to be more assertive and aggressive than some men and even some women appreciate (yes, many women adopt patriarchal thinking).

As women, we’re often directly and subliminal asked to know our place. As a founder your place is often at the front of the room, at the center of attention, and hopefully top of mind. Your place is not hoping and waiting for your turn to speak or for permission to lead. The general idea of what it means to be the founder of a company these days, especially of a capital seeking company, conflicts with the antiquated ideas of what women are expected to be.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

Our programs and services at House of Brand Therapy focus on helping women brand themselves as leaders in their spaces, whether they want to stay in the 9–5 space or, more commonly, become founders of their own companies. Our programming has been specifically designed for Black women with impostor syndrome who struggle to present themselves as highly-experienced leaders yet deserve to be well-paid. We dismantle the roots of their impostor syndrome and help them build brands that make their target audiences see them as the only solution to the problems they’re faced with.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

There are so. many. reasons. I’ll start with what I think to be the most obvious: perspective.

There are products and services that men wouldn’t even think to create, because men don’t suffer from every problem that exists. At best, they’d only be creating a solution to the part of the problem they can get their heads around. More likely, they’ll create solutions with side effects they didn’t know could exist because, again, they’re not intimately familiar with the problems they’re attempting to solve.

So much of our society is built for men that many “general” products are awesome for men, but not great for women. For example, I have this really cool backpack that I love to travel with, but it gets heavy sometimes. There’s a buckle that clasps the straps together, which sits over the chest area, to help stabilize the bag and control some of the weight distribution.

This is probably great for a man, however, as a woman, my center of gravity is between my waist and my hips, so this doesn’t help me at all all. On top of that, the buckle sits very awkwardly on my chest because I have actual breasts. The backpack is labeled as unisex, but when you consider the care that was put into the construction of this bag to make this an effective, high-utility backpack, it’s clear these features were designed for a man, not for a woman. That’s not actually unisex.

Most “unisex” products feel like that to me.

But, in a world generally designed for men, who is going to stop to think about if the straps and buckles make sense for men and women?

Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Create programs that make young girls founders so that they have this experience early. Before I was a teenager I was put into a workshop at my school where I learned how to use Microsoft FrontPage and write HTML. By the time I was 12, I had a working website that I’d coded myself. This was before STEM was a thing. As an adult I was hired by a company overseas (in London) as a front end web developer. Even though web development wasn’t what I was best at, I could still lean on that for a salary because I started getting exposure and developing a comfort level with code very young.
  2. Create funds that allow every woman the opportunity to launch a project of her choosing. I went to my top-choice university on a scholarship. If the money hadn’t been available, I wouldn’t have gone there. Starting a business isn’t very different. Money is a serious barrier to starting a business. That whole “it takes money to make money” thing is not a joke. When the barriers to entry are removed, people can create truly remarkable things.
  3. Normalize women bragging. Listen, this whole docile, humble woman schtick is costing us money and opportunities. Confidence is great, and it’s definitely a start, but we’re still expected to toe the line and not come off too confident. If women bragging were normal, we wouldn’t have to worry about confidence coming off as cockiness.
  4. Normalize women being in at least 50% of existing positions of leadership. That’s it; that’s the tweet.
  5. Pay women to mentor other women so that we always have mentors available to help us navigate what would be a rapidly changing landscape. Mentorship is time consuming. It’s another job. While it sounds like a great thing to ask for, and to put up a visual representation of on your vision board, actually having a mentor is having a person who’s going to listen to you, criticize your ideas, and spend time trying to make your and your business better. From the mentor’s perspective, this is time they’re taking away from their own work, other obligations, parenthood, a social life, focus on health, etc. If it’s going to be a job, it should pay like one, too.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

There are a range of things I’d love to change that would make this world more habitable and more compassionate to all of us who live here, but I’m cautious about using my influence irresponsibly to initiate a change that comes with negative consequences I can’t avoid, prevent, or am not prepared to mitigate.

Globally, we’re still challenged with huge imbalances in power, economic status, and discrmination based on skin color and gender. I expect that my approaches to inspiring change in any of these areas would highly benefit from collaboration with experts who’ve been in these trenches a lot longer than myself. However, one glaring issue I see in this information age is how scientific facts are discredited by poor communication and, frankly, bad branding.

Global warming, or climate change, is a real, factual phenomena. Our planet really is suffering and we are losing valuable resources that may not renew at the rate we need them to for our survival. But, it’s hard to get someone to believe that global “warming” is a problem when they still have to dig their cars out of the snow after a blizzard. The globe isn’t so warm today…is it? And climate change can sound like a seasonal thing rather than a cause for concern.

How we’ve labeled this problem makes it easy to discredit. Global warming is in actual need of a rebrand. What we call it, how we describe it, how we attempt to communicate with the target audience about how this problem affects them rather than describing the features of the problem (when we should be discussing the benefits of solving it) keep us from coming close to uniting to solve this problem — or even collectively believing this is a problem in the first place.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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 with and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Wow! I’d love to meet with Serena Williams, Oprah, Beyonce — gosh this is hard! But, if I have to pick one person right now, I’d have to say Viola Davis.

I love how vocal Viola is about the imbalance and inequality that still exists today in her profession, which we also see in professions outside of the entertainment business. I absolutely love that she isn’t “humbly” accepting her awards and letting anyone think that those alone are enough “progress”. Most of all, I am so grateful that she very clearly and publicly says pay me what I’m worth.

In her case it’s, “if you’re going to compare me to these other greats, pay me like you mean what you just said”. For my clients it’s, “if you’re going to tell me I’m so great and that you don’t know where our team / this company / some paying entity would be without me, then pay me like you don’t want me to leave — without me having to beg!” Even though Mrs. Davis is in a completely different industry than myself and most of my clients, her sentiments still ring true for us.

I am sure this would be a juicy and productive breakfast, but even if we just got to meet for tea, I’d love to tell her thank you for saying it loud enough the first time so you don’t ever have to say it again for the people in the back.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn about what House of Brand Therapy is up to via @HouseOfBrandTherapy on Instagram or HouseOfBrandTherapy.com. If you’re looking for me and my antics, check me out @NayaTheCreative on IG or at NayatheCreative.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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