in the spotlight – Brittany Pickrem – CEO of Brittany Pickrem Branding & Design

If you have worked with Brittany Pickrem, then you know she is much more than a Branding and Designer Expert.  You know that she is committed to working with her clients one-on-one from concept to completion.  That she is there for her clients to help them navigate through the creative process with clarity and ease.  You also know that she has a passion for making her clients look unique, professional, and unforgettable.

Spotlight on Business Magazine sits down with this creative entrepreneur on the beautiful Halifax waterfront to learn more about the person behind Brittany Pickrem Branding & Design brand. Brittany shares where she gets her drive and passion from to how she harvests all her creative powers for her clients.

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Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies, what you like to do in your spare time when not working with clients making their brands unforgettable?

BP: I was born and raised in Halifax, and I’m the oldest of four kids. My Dad was a carpenter and my Mum was a homemaker. Unlike many entrepreneurs, I had zero influence to become an entrepreneur during my childhood. I like to think that entrepreneurship chose me, because I never dreamed of becoming a business owner and working for myself.

In my spare time I love to be in nature, and to be as close to the ocean as possible. Cape Breton, Annapolis Valley, and the South Shore are among my favourite spots in the province to visit for a retreat into nature. Even a quick walk around the Halifax Waterfront is sometimes the best medicine.

I also love to travel, and I miss it. What I like most about travelling is that I always come back feeling creatively inspired. Interestingly, the more I travel, the more I realize that Nova Scotia will always be home for me. It has the amenities that are typically found in more populated places, while having the laid-back charm of a small town.

Like any good Maritimer Garlic Fingers and Moon Mist ice cream are my very favourite treats.

Now let’s learn more about Brittany Pickrem the entrepreneur, when did you know that you wanted to be a brand expert and that you had a knack for creative design?

BP: My creative career started in grade four.

When I stood at the front of my class and presented my Bristol board poster about sunflowers, I noticed that I immediately had everyone’s attention in the room for at least a solid minute. They were all staring at my poster.

I had drawn a giant sunflower with big, bright petals and I had painstakingly glued and painted actual sunflower seeds in the center of the flower. To my surprise, not only did I get the students’ attention, my teacher even asked to keep the poster to show other students for inspiration.

After creating other presentations with a similar approach, and reaction, I began to realize that I could get attention using my creative thinking, and artistic skills.

My enthusiasm for creating stuck with me, and by the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to have a creative career, but there were a few challenges standing in my way.

My art teacher had concerns that my drawing skills were lacking, and I had next to no computer skills. To make things more complicated, three months before my grade 12 graduation, I was unexpectedly out on my own at 17. It was suddenly my responsibility to figure out how to financially support myself and start a career.

I remember feeling terrified yet totally ecstatic. I worked as a cashier at Superstore and I remember telling customers about how I was going to go to college to become a graphic designer.

I intuitively knew that Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) would be the best place for me to quick start my creative career, and my instincts were not wrong. During the next two years I spent at NSCC I gained confidence and skills using a computer, and I learned how to create digital artwork that looked great, while serving a specific communication purpose.

I graduated with my diploma in graphic design in 2007, and I was so excited to begin my career. Little did I know my learning about having a creative career was only just beginning.

For the first few years after graduating from college I worked as an in-house designer at Uncommon Grounds, a local, family-owned coffee shop, and then the Atlantic Film Festival (now FIN), a local non-for-profit organization.

What I loved most about working as the in-house designer for both of these businesses, was seeing the impact I was helping to create from my design efforts. It was thrilling to see my design work out in the world, and I felt so proud to be strengthening their brand awareness. Ultimately, I was doing my part to improve their bottom line through their brand.

What made you want to become an entrepreneur and start your own business?

BP: I unexpectedly became an entrepreneur from one of the lowest points in my career.

After working for a small business, and a non-for-profit, I was eager to work with bigger brands. I landed a design job at a local agency and I felt like I won the career lottery, I was over the moon excited to see what I would do there.

At the time Mad Men, was a popular TV show that was airing about a fictitious advertising agency based in New York City in the 1960s. I had a naive vision about becoming this agency’s Peggy or Joan, by channeling my creative prowess to overcome any challenges, like these characters did in the show.

As it turned out, I didn’t win the career lottery from landing this job, but I did become emotionally, and energetically bankrupt from it.

The brands I was working with were certainly bigger, but they were also far less connected or concerned about the communities they were serving. A sharp contrast to the small business, and non-for-profit I had earlier worked for.

The agency’s culture left little room for my creative contributions to be valued, and there was an expectation to often work 18-hour days at any given time for these unappreciative corporate clients. I was certainly no stranger to working long hours, but it made no sense to work so hard for big corporate clients that cared so little.

I started to get migraine headaches that would temporarily blind me due to chronic stress from the job. One night after I finished another 18-hour day, I asked myself, ‘What work did you do today that made you feel proud?’ I drew a blank and realized that I could no longer work for unappreciative corporate brands that were misaligned with my values.

I promised myself that I would exclusively work with businesses that were creating positive change for their community in some way. A few short months after making this promise, I registered my business, and picked up the IWK Foundation as my first client, a non-for-profit organization that does fundraising for the IWK Children’s hospital in Halifax.

What was the inspiration behind Brittany Pickrem Branding & Design?

BP: My business was inspired by realizing that there is a massive gap of value-driven, female leadership in the creative design and communication industry.

In 2013, one year before I opened my business, it was estimated that only 11.5% of Creative Directors in the world were women, despite the fact that women control 73% of the world’s consumer purchasing power.

Like many women in my industry, I was not able to break into a creative leadership role in a traditional work setting, so I decided to promote myself into a creative director role by opening my own business.

I recently celebrated my sixth year in business as the CEO and creative director of my boutique branding business. After being in business for the last six years, I’m more clear than ever on my mission: to provide world-class visual branding services and training, for 6 and 7 figure entrepreneurs and small businesses who are creating important change through their work.

Do you have a typical client? If so, tell us about them? Is there something that your clients have in common, what would it be?

BP: Something that all of my clients have in common is that they are change makers, even if they may not self-identify that way.

I am proud to say that all of my customers are actively engaged in creating important change and transformation in a variety of industries including Social, Financial, Environmental, Health Care, and Arts & Culture sectors. I work with customers across Nova Scotia, Canada, and the world.

Another common thread that my clients share is that they are all high-performing superstars who are running successful six and seven figure businesses. My branding and design support gives them the tools they need to show up and stand out with a memorable, and professional brand image in competitive markets.

Tell us about some of the projects that you have worked on.

BP: I love celebrating my clients and highlighting the incredible work that they do.

I’ve had the pleasure to be part of so many amazing projects over the span of my career, but I’m going to highlight a few of my most recent, local branding projects that I have worked on.

Client Spotlight: The Halifax Jazz Festival

Over the past four years I’ve partnered with the Halifax Jazz Festival to creative direct and design their main image for their hallmark summer event which attracts an audience of 65,000 people. Bringing together both local and international artists, the festival delivers epic live music entertainment in the heart of downtown Halifax. This year was the first time the event took place virtually during July and August.

Because the festival draws such diverse festival goers and music lovers, it’s always been important that the main image design reflect the inclusiveness, energy, and excitement that the Jazz Festival brings to Downtown Halifax each Summer.

Client Spotlight: Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

Over the past three years I’ve partnered with the Nova Scotia College of Social workers to help creative direct and design a quarterly magazine called Connection.

Connection magazine offers a perspective into often overlooked and under-discussed social injustices that certain Nova Scotians face. It also takes a look at the crucial work that Social Workers are engaged in across the province to actively improve these social inequalities for Nova Scotians.

The theme for the upcoming Fall issue of Connection is Black Lives Matter. This issue will provide a local perspective from Nova Scotia’s Black Community about the Black Lives Matter movement. I encourage everyone to take time to check out this upcoming issue that will be published in October.

Client Spotlight: Ecology Action Centre

I’ve recently partnered with the Ecology Action Centre on a project to help raise public awareness about Nova Scotia’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These are designated marine areas around Nova Scotia that are protected against any harmful fishing practices and resource extraction.

Canada’s Atlantic Ocean is considered to be one of the most productive marine environments in the world. Protecting and preserving the marine ecosystems that surround Nova Scotia is something that we all need to take responsibility for.

It’s an honour to be using my design talents to help raise awareness about this important cause that will help to preserve Nova Scotia’s marine environment for generations to come.

What branding and design services do you offer?

 BP: My core service offers are visual brand strategy, brand styling, and graphic design.

I help my customers to create a competitive brand presence by pairing brand strategy, with brand style.

When working on a brand design project, I first help my customer to determine their brand position (vision, values, voice etc.), then I design a visual brand image (logo design, colours, fonts etc.) that is in alignment with their brand position.

I also provide graphic design services. These are typically smaller-scale projects than brand design projects. Over the 13 years that I’ve been a graphic designer, I’ve designed everything from business cards to billboards, and more.

What motivated you to want to help entrepreneurs and small business owners take their brands to the next level?

BP: Countless times when I’ve met brilliant business owners in person, I’d feel disappointed following up with them online. Their online brand totally fizzled and fell flat compared to how they presented in person.

More often than not, small business owners who are doing important, changemaking work, do not have an online brand that is an accurate representation of the value they offer or the experience they have.

This is a HUGE disadvantage.

Given that we currently live in an era of social distancing, we have far less opportunities to physically get in front of customers like we used to.

Because in-person opportunities to connect with customers have gotten much more limited, it’s time to play a bigger, bolder game with your online brand strategy and style.

Small businesses must learn to leverage online branding opportunities now more than ever, otherwise it will block their ability to effectively sell their products or services.

Where do you see yourself and your business five years from today? 

BP: In five years from today I see myself having a much bigger impact by scaling my business through a series of online brand education programs. By that time, I will have trained 1000s of small business owners about proven brand strategy and processes that I use for my clients. I’m currently designing my first brand training program that will be designed to teach entrepreneurs about elevating their online brand, and I will be releasing it before the end of this year.

As a small business owner, Brittany understands the power of a great brand and how it can transform your business into a recognized and well-loved service or product so give her a call and let her take your brand from Bland to Grand.

by Lee Ann Atwater