Holy guacamole! I can’t believe we’re officially entering into our toddler years, which we anticipate to be pretty amazing! As many entrepreneurs will share, year one is about survival. So when I wrote this post last year, it was a relief that we made it through our first year! I’ve heard a lot of entrepreneurs say that if you make it to your second year, “you’ve made it.” And if that’s the case, then by golly, we’re pretty pleased with ourselves and are so excited to keep doing what we do!
So for those of you who want to know how we got here, here’s what we did this past year:
How We Grew Our Business In Our Second Year
- We crossed state borders and opened a second location. Yup, that’s right. While we’re a virtual agency and our team primarily works wherever their hearts desire, my heart desired to work closer to my family and loved ones, so I expanded Brainchild Studios to Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the end of 2017. This has been such an amazing expansion and we’ve built the most incredible team that, primarily, spans between Milwaukee and Chicago.
- We onboarded 16 new team members. While some of our OGs have stuck with us through the last two years (shout out to Austin, Allyson and Ashley), we’ve expanded our team over the last year and found a bunch of badass folks who bleed BCS pink and go to bat for our clients day-in and day-out. I literally don’t know what I’d do without them. They’re the absolute best.
- We built up our team benefits and culture. One of the reasons we have such an amazing team is because we’ve worked really hard to build it.
- Beginning in 2018, BCS officially began offering health, dental and vision insurance as well as a 401k with a vested company match to eligible employees.
- We’ve also implemented monthly happy hours and team events, such as an overnight team retreat to Door County and our upcoming BCS Quarterly Clothing Swap (we’re exchanging clothes within the team before donating the rest to Salvation Army)!
- We also launched a #BCSWorksTogether initiative for all team members to organize meeting places to work together in coworking spaces, coffee shops or each other’s homes if they’d like to create additional team building opportunities.
- Lastly, we wanted to make sure we were more effectively communicating company updates with the team, so we launched an internal monthly team newsletter, which we lovingly call The Chatterbox.
- We re-positioned ourselves to better serve the ladies. Previously, we were trying to be all things to all clients. However, this year, we’ve really focused on primarily serving brands targeting women and mothers. This allows us to tailor our area of expertise to truly better understand the target audiences we’re speaking to. We’re also focused on starting with content strategy and then executing said strategy to ensure we’re being strategic and intentional about our client work.
- We expanded our clientele. We are now offering digital and web services to multiple national and international brands. Pretty cooooool!
- We launched our Express Website offering. In an effort to better serve the needs of our clients who didn’t have the time or budget to afford a custom-built website, we created our own custom theme. Our Express Website offers all the same benefits of a custom site (since we built it, we know it inside and out) but it doesn’t require the same timeframe or cost to build out (3-4+ months and $12k+). Instead, pending we have all content up front, we can launch websites in 2-3 weeks starting at $6,250, which makes having a professionally built website much more accessible for our clients!
- We launched the Work From Home Playbook. This six-month online course is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs start and run a virtual business. I thought I could help other people launch their own virtual business by putting together a tactical step-by-step guide on how I launched Brainchild Studios (or how I wish I would have launched it). I interviewed and surveyed over 50 aspiring entrepreneurs, virtual business owners and industry experts and included their input in this program as well. It’s brand new, so we’re very excited to get feedback and hopefully help people find the control and flexibility they’re looking for in their professional lives!
Ok, enough about us. Blah blah blah. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty and the down and dirty. Here’s what I’ve learned in the second year of running Brainchild Studios.
Lessons Learned Running a Virtual Business
- Take care of yourself. This shit is hard. The first year of running BCS, I spent so many 14-hour days staying up until 4am to keep things moving. There were many times that I didn’t open the front door to my apartment for two or three days at a time. That catches up to you after a while. So this past year, I’ve tried to focus more on taking care of myself so I can be better for my team and our clients. I’ve been working on religiously getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, drinking a lot of water, exercising more, eating healthier and trying to find ways to calm my mind and fill my soul outside of work. It’s definitely a work in progress, but the first step is acknowledging it needs to happen and then making intentional moves toward balance. Highly recommended.
- Diversify revenue streams. In January of 2018 I finally read Entrepreneurial You, by Dorie Clark and it changed my world. First, I kicked myself for not reading it sooner. Second, the biggest takeaway for me was the importance of diversifying your revenue streams. This changed the entire way I view my business and what I want for the future of my business. This concept played a huge part in the creation of the Express Website and the Virtual Business Playbook as these are two very intentional initiatives we’ve launched to diversify revenue.
- Standardize and streamline. We’ve tried to identify areas of opportunity where we can truly excel and create systems and processes to support them so they are easily repeatable. We still have a lot of work to do, but we now have dedicated resources to address these items and we’re already seeing the anticipated long-term effects paying off.
- Delegate and let go. This has been a main focus for this past year. I realized that in order for things to get done (especially big projects), I need to assign a dedicated resource (or resources) to see that project through to completion. I needed to give them ownership, direction and the time, space and resources needed to succeed. And then step back and let go. Gah, so hard. But so necessary to get shit done and maintain some sense of sanity.
- Invest in legal and financial support. There are not enough positive words to be shared about the peace of mind of a solid team of legal advisors. BCS currently has four badass female attorneys supporting us and I’m terribly grateful for each of them. Additionally, I’m not an accountant and I hate accounting, but I’m equally grateful for the financial advisors and accountants that have helped me keep a steady eye on financials and make smart financial decisions. If you’re lacking in this area of your business, I really recommend you address these areas sooner than later. Having the proper support here is essential to the survival of your business.
- It’s still all about the people. All day, every day. This is, and will forever be, my mantra. As I mentioned above, we’ve worked really hard this year to take good care of our people and create a culture where our team is encouraged to grow and thrive both personally and professionally. Without them, BCS wouldn’t exist. Take your time to find the right people for your team and when you do, do everything you can to hold onto them, because your team will make or break your business. I adore my Brainchildren and am so grateful for every single one of them.
Welp, that’s what I’ve got for now! Stay tuned for our three year update, because we have LOTS of fun stuff planned for the next year of adventures! A huge thank you to everyone who has supported Brainchild Studios and our team over the last two years. Your support and dedication is so appreciated and we thank you for it!
Owner & CEO
Kiley Peters is the Owner and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique digital content marketing and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting millennial moms. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She is the President of 414digital, Milwaukee’s dedicated digital marketing organization and a member of TEMPO’s Emerging Women Leaders program. Follow her on Instagram.more posts by Kiley →