Offer Mental Wellness Activities: We love team building and mental wellness activities, such as having a meditation specialist come in and guide our team through yoga, meditation, or journaling — all through Zoom. We use Slack as a connection base. We ask non-work-related ice breakers and offer fun prizes and incentives for team members who embody our core values in the workplace. It encourages our team to get to know each other on a deeper level and highlight each other for their accomplishments.
As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Are Helping To Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Destinee Dickerson and Aisha Marshall.
Creative BFFs Aisha Marshall and Des Dickerson are the dynamic duo behind Creative Label, a full service branding, marketing, and PR agency. Aisha Marshall helps people live their purpose and thrive in business through strategic creativity and branding. She serves as Creative Label’s content and brand strategist, where she spearheads the creative development and digital strategy for businesses across a variety of industries, including fashion, retail, and personal development. Aisha graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, followed by a law degree from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. With a passion for production and elevating brands, Des Dickerson is the vice president of public relations and digital marketing at Creative Label. Des studied journalism and mass communication at Arizona State University, and she began her career in TV production, working in casting and producing roles for the “Dr. Phil” show, HGTV, Lifetime and YouTube TV. Upon founding Creative Label in 2016, Des transitioned her production skills into the digital space, where she specializes in digital audience acquisition, including social media strategy, influencer marketing, and public relations.
In their line of work, Aisha and Des are passionate about educating businesses on industry trends, providing thought leadership about digital strategy and branding on numerous platforms including Create Cultivate, CBS’ “Face the Truth,” “CTV Morning Live” as well as podcasts such as Lori Harder’s Earn Your Happy podcast and Creative Label’s own The Label podcast. A digital consulting agency ahead of trends, Creative Label successfully finds new ways to be innovative and meet the needs and satisfaction of their customers is of high priority, and they take pride in serving them.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Atthe time, we were both dating professional athletes. As a result, we were moving around quite a bit, and couldn’t plant roots. Still, we knew we wanted more for ourselves (Not to say that being with a professional athlete and living that lifestyle means that you’re not meant for more). We knew that we needed to create a legacy where those limitations didn’t matter. We would frequently have conversations about what kind of business we could make that did not require a brick and mortar to get the job done. Funnily enough, it started with Snapchat filters, and now here we are today with a team of 20 people and a full-on creative agency called Creative Label.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
This story goes down in history as one of the funniest things that happened to us. We love to tell it because it’s a testament to entrepreneurship. When we first started Creative Label, we could not cash our first check. We were new in business and finally got paid by our first client. They asked us who they should make the check out, and we said, “Creative Label. When the check came, we went to the bank and asked if we could have a check cashed out to Creative Label. He goes into the system, takes our ID, and says, “I don’t see anything under Creative Label.” At this point, we were confused, so we said: “What are you talking about?” Then he says, “You have to have a business account with us to cash this check.” The teller saw how confused we were, so he said, “And to have a business account, you need an EIN. You get an EIN once you legally create your business. Then you create a business checking with us, and then you can cash this check.” We were so embarrassed. But, as all entrepreneurs do, you figure it out. We left the bank, and the first thing we did was get our LLC, open up a business banking account, and eventually cashed that check. These are the things they don’t tell you about when starting a business.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
When you start out, we suggest two things to thrive and avoid burnout: forecast and systemize! Measure your current work-life balance to forecast the type of entrepreneur you will be. If you do this, your old self will always be smarter than your future self because you adequately prepare based on past experiences. So, to forecast for your future self, ask these questions: What will you potentially need to fulfill this particular task? How can you get out in front of any potential problem? How can you be more prepared? Questions like this help to avoid burnout. What happens as entrepreneurs is you think you have to do it all. This mentality without forecasting is a recipe for burnout.
At Creative Label, we are big on systems. Having workflows and automation for projects provides our agency with the necessary structure our team needs, mostly as we have transitioned into work from home. If you are starting a new business, we highly recommend implementing workflows. Workflows allow for easier scaling and bringing on new employees. When we have new hires, we do not have to waste time and money on intensive training and shadowing. Every assignment has a step-by-step outline of what they need to do next.
What advice would you give to leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
We put a great deal of energy into morale at Creative Label. Our employees’ happiness is essential to us. As business owners and leaders, we ask ourselves internally, how can we make their lives easier? How can we make it more incentivizing for them to wake up and commit a significant portion of their lives to us every single day? Our solution? We provide meditation resources, host creative team journaling sessions, and hold a monthly company book club where we often get into conversations about life. Since going virtual, we focus on how our team can connect and communicate over Zoom. We love to start every meeting expressing what we are grateful for and often do fun games and activities.
Can you provide us your favorite life lesson quote? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of our favorite quotes is, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” As entrepreneurs, we realize that sometimes managing to get a lot done means nothing if you’re not doing it well. Everything you do should be full out, detail-oriented, and intentional, especially from an agency environment, where everything builds off one another. When multiple people work on various projects, everyone must be giving their best effort to produce seamless results.
As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years, many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives you have taken to help improve or optimize your employee’s mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Daily Team Check-Ins:
The first thing that we do is daily check-ins with our team. Typically, we have department meetings, and we try as leaders to check in with our team and say, “First and foremost, how are you today? What’s going on in your life? What do you have planned for the weekend?” Checking in with our team helps build that relationship that you might have created much more easily in the office. We’re just hyper intentional about it now that we’re virtual. It could be over Slack or Zoom. We wish to build the relationship aspect of our work.
2. Encourage Employee Time Blocks:
Now that we’re working from home, some of those social cues that you’d use to take breaks or go on your lunch are no longer there when working from home. This is why we encourage our employees to time block their schedules to create space for lunch or mental breaks, especially when working at home. We have a fast-paced work environment, so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. Not only does time blocking increase productivity, but it also forces the necessary balance for our team.
3. Offer Mental Wellness Activities:
We love team building and mental wellness activities, such as having a meditation specialist come in and guide our team through yoga, meditation, or journaling — all through Zoom. We use Slack as a connection base. We ask non-work-related ice breakers and offer fun prizes and incentives for team members who embody our core values in the workplace. It encourages our team to get to know each other on a deeper level and highlight each other for their accomplishments.
4. Show Employee Appreciation:
We are only as good as our team, and we make sure they know it. We love employee highlights and offering rewards for their hard work. It shows them we appreciate their dedication and builds morale since they’re just behind their computer, in their room all day, and not in the office.
5. Acknowledge Current Social Issues:
Before we are entrepreneurs, bosses, and businesswomen, we are humans, and our employees must see us that way. Life, as of late, has been hard for most people. We have social issues that affect how our employees show up for work, and rather than asking them to leave it at the door, we acknowledge it and discuss it.
We pride ourselves on our diverse team. It would be a disservice to ignore the mental and emotional struggles a great deal of them face during the pandemic or movements like Black Lives Matter. To account for this, we offered an open space of discussion for both our clients and employees to vent, ask questions, share resources, or simply cry it out, free from judgment.
What you are doing is wonderful, but sadly it is not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness of the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
We love to use our platform as a place to affect positive change. You never know who you can inspire to take positive action. Posting to social media is why one of the ways we, as a digital marketing agency, raise awareness about mental health. We often create content that reflects mental health and mental awareness. There are many jobs right now operating virtually, so we want to understand what that looks like when it comes to mental health. Our company blogs also serve as a resource for awareness about mental fatigue from being on laptops, tablets, or cell phones all day. We’ll post about our book club, and we’ll even post the questions that we asked in the book clubs so that if you and your company also want to do a book club, you have a format to refer to.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us and individuals as a community and a society can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, and having other mental health issues?
We have an open-door policy for employees that allows them to talk to us when they feel stressed, anxious, or experiencing any type of health issue. We are intentional as leaders with making sure that we’re doing check-ins multiple times a week to ensure our team is okay. We not only want to ensure our team is healthy and productive professionally but personally as well.
Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good, healthy habits for optimal wellness that can replace any poor habits?
Accountability is one of our core values and supports healthy habits. Holding yourself accountable if you practice unhealthy work from home habits or unhealthy work habits, in general, is crucial. When you work on a team, others rely on you, which provides extra motivation to not fall back into unhealthy habits.
Our project management system has a to-do list on it. At each team meeting, we have an accountability section where we discuss everything each team member is accountable for during the week. We strategize by deciding what assistance they will require if they need delegation and ensure our staff is completing tasks efficiently. It’s all about teamwork. This helps to avoid burnout for our team because they use their to-do list to work ahead, which avoids stress about tight deadlines and completing work in a fast-paced environment.
Do you use any meditation breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about them. How have they impacted your own life?
Our team will occasionally do meditation and breathing exercises, but we also do journaling. For us, journaling has impacted our lives by making us cautious and aware of our energy and our intentions for that day. Typically, you become less stressed when you’re writing things down intentionally. When we write, we focus on what we need to complete for the day or our focus for the day. It helps to guide us into a place of less anxiety.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The first book would be ‘The Game of Life and How to Play It’ by Florence Scovel Shin. The book talks about equal energy exchanges and getting what you put out. When you put out hostility, anxiousness, or frustration, everyone can feel that energy on your team. As leaders, this book made us reflect on all how we show up.
We also like the book ‘Traction’ by Gino Wickman. This book helped organize our business from a leadership level. Organization trickles. Once you establish structure at the top level, it minimizes the disorganization employees’ experience. It also offers clarity on what their role is, what their job is, and what their responsibilities are. ‘Traction’ helped us identify what those roles are and how to pick out pain points that team members have, which typically cause high stress and anxiety.
You’re a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that was bringing the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your great idea can trigger.
We honestly feel that we are already in that movement. As we live out our purpose, it becomes more evident that we impact millions of people by the brands we help create, develop, and build up. We are proud to work with companies that heavily focus on community impact. It feels good to be a small portion of that, but a large part at the same time. We have brands such as Lite Pink, that’s mission centers on uplifting and connecting entrepreneurs and celebrating women by financially investing money into women-owned businesses. Our role is creating the voice and vision behind the brand and striving to resonate with the right audience and offer value. Creative Label serves as a platform for other companies to provide value for their communities, and we couldn’t be happier.