Getting To Know: Devan Danielle of DevanDanielle.com

MaggieGentry interviews Devan Danielle about branding, following your gut, and how to stay motivated while owning a small business.

Devan is one of those souls that you stumble across and know immediately that she's the real deal. I had been following and admiring her work on Instagram and through various online communities, and as with many of my other online friendships, we really connected through Instagram. I am so lucky that now we connect on a regular basis with another small group of business owners, and it's been a truly wonderful way to stay connected and feel supported amidst the craziness of owning your own business.

One of the things I admire most about Devan is her fearlessness. She is constantly searching for how to serve herself and her community better. With that, she isn't afraid to experiment and say no to those things that truly are no longer serving her. She's built a reputation for being a heart-centered branding expert, and you'll see exactly what I mean when you dive in to her answers.

Her weekly Brand Love Letters are seriously inspiring and extremely practical. With all of the content and all of the voices out there, she's one that I choose to listen to regardless of what's going on. So with that, let the official girl crushing commence! 

 

I always love hearing origin stories. Will you start us off by telling us more about your background and what led you to start Devan Danielle?

Grey, fuzzy cube walls were the breaking point that finally lead me to starting my own business. I remember staring at the grey cube walls in my corporate office day after day feeling like I wasn’t meant to be there. I just kept thinking, “This is not why I’m here. This is not my purpose. This is not what I’m meant to do with my life.”

I had been doing freelance design off and on since 2009 and graduated from college with a design degree. I always thought I’d get a job at a creative agency and work my way up to art director. So it was a huge wake up call when I realized my dream job wasn’t actually that dreamy.

Finally, after a lot of inner work and self discovery — thanks to Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection — I made the decision to leave my corporate job. I picked up a part-time job at a local greenhouse to pay the bills and started my very own design business. In August of 2014, I opened a business bank account, filed for LLC, and knew I was going to make this work.

What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?

When the creative business owner I’m working with takes a huge breath of fresh air and finally sees how all of the pieces of her brand fit together.

It’s so easy as creative business owners to get lost in all of the details and forget the bigger mission and vision behind your brand. When a client and I work through all of the details, pull out the most important information, and put it into one simple sentence (their brand mission statement) I’m reminded of why I do what I do.

I love helping a creative business owner get out their own head and reconnect them to why they started in the first place.

Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?

Yes! I had to learn to ignore that external validation in order to even start my business in the first place. Being a Type-A perfectionist who never wants to disappoint anyone, I had to work to let go of my need for approval and permission.

About a year into my business, I had to ignore that external validation again when I transitioned my business away from brand design and into brand strategy and education. It was scary for me because design was my first love — it’s what I knew, had years of experience in, and was trained to do — but I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was hiding behind my computer screen.

My favorite part of the branding design process was the initial discovery phase where the client and I would really dig into their brand vision. That’s where my client’s truest passion and dreams for their business lived. I loved those deeper conversations and wanted to spend more of my time working with the client to define her brand’s mission and vision.

You are the branding queen! Is there one piece of advice you hear yourself repeating over and over again to clients and friends about how to build, and maintain, a successful and sustainable brand?

Why, thank you! My biggest piece of advice is to know and own your brand mission.

If you don’t know what you do, who you serve, how you do it differently, and why you do it, how will anyone else know either?

When you have a crystal clear brand mission, you can consistently create services / products and share content with that core purpose in mind. The clearer you are, the clearer your audience will be when they refer you to a friend.

We’re both Simon Sinek fans, so I would love to know Your Why, and how that has allowed you to stay steadfast in your mission, while also evolving your business and your offerings?

My why is all about having the freedom and flexibility to do what I want when I want in whatever season of life I’m in.

My boys — my husband, Taylor, and our golden pup, Dave — are a huge part of my why. We travel a lot for my husband’s job and his schedule is unpredictable so when he’s around, I want to be able to take off of work without worrying about how many vacation days I have left.

Another huge piece of my why fuels the work I do. After feeling completely lost and struggling to find my version of success, I wanted to help other women do the same. Just last weekend, I was cheering on a friend who wants to take the leap into owning her own business!

I love inspiring and empowering women to take the scary leap towards living their calling, creating a brand and business around what they love, and gaining financial independence.

I admire you so stinking much, and I feel like you have an uncanny knack to produce great content, consistently. Your Brand Love Letters are something I look forward to every week! For a lot of the clients I work with, a common struggle is doing just that — finding the time to produce high quality content at the pace at which we are expected to these days. How do you do it?

I’m glad you’re loving my Brand Love Letters! It’s my favorite way to show up every week and encourage, teach, or create something new for my community.

I didn’t always love writing my Brand Love Letters though! Two things had to happen for me to create space to write those letters:

  1. I had to make it my top priority. That meant in super busy seasons of life — like when I planned our wedding in two months — I wasn’t blogging or posting on social media. My sole focus was on sharing content through my newsletter (and my clients).
  2. I had to find a writing style that worked for me. Early on, I was super frustrated when it came to writing content for my business because it was all teaching and no personality.

My business coach at the time suggested I start journaling, so I did. I journaled about frustrations, questions, and ideas as they came up in my business. Then, one day, I decided to share a newsletter using a journal entry I’d written.

It felt so good to just show up as my honest self and show my community that I was learning and growing right along with them that I just kept doing it.

You have to find what works for you — which I know can be frustrating — but the more you write, read, and share content, the more you’ll find what works and what doesn’t.

I know you’ve read Essentialism lately. What has been your biggest takeaway?

EVERYTHING! I am so obsessed with this book. I want to highlight every single word.

The first thing that comes to mind is boundaries. Essentialism is teaching me a lot about setting boundaries in both my business and personal life. It’s also teaching me how to say no gracefully with confidence.

Now, instead of immediately saying yes to something, I ask myself, “Do I really want to do this or am I doing this because I don’t want to disappoint the person asking?” and “Will this help me reach my bigger purpose?”

Overall, it’s just helping me make smarter decisions — ones that move me closer to my version of success.

You’ve been hinting at creating something brand spanking new. Can you share with us any details on what that is?

Ahh! I’m so excited to share everything with you soon. There’s been a lot of trial and error and behind the scenes beta testing happening over here.

What I can tell you is that I’m finally packaging up the best of what I’ve taught and learned over the past 8 years of doing branding into my signature branding process. (Thanks to Essentialism and Courtney Johnston for the kick in the pants.)

I’ll be spilling all of the juicy details at the end of summer so stay tuned. :)

You’re currently in Florida living the dreamy beach life, and I feel like it would be nearly impossible for the expansiveness of the ocean not to seep into your psyche. Do you find that your immediate environment influences your work?

I’ve never thought about it like that before! Honestly, I’ve always loved the water. I’m a Pisces.

My favorite place growing up was at the lake where I could get away from it all. My favorite place to escape my corporate job was sitting on a dock by the river. Now, I go on weekend paddleboarding trips to the nearest river or ocean with my boys.

I’ve always felt like I could simply take a step back and breath when I’m by the water. This definitely shines through in my visual branding and in the way I work. The visual theme for my brand is “a breath of fresh air,” and my goal is always to get my clients to take a step back and reconnect with their bigger vision.

Maggie, you’re brilliant! Thanks for connecting some pieces for me. ;)

Let’s get dreamy for a minute. If you could take a look at the future, what do you see for not only yourself personally, but also for Devan Danielle? What are you doing today to help you realize that vision?

Teaching and speaking at workshops and conferences. This is the BIG vision I have for myself and my business. I would love to be able to impact and help even more creative business owners on their journey.

Running your own business is tough, as I’m sure you know, and the number one thing that keeps me going are the connections I make along they way. When you surround yourself with people who get what you’re doing and challenge you to think bigger, that’s how you keep growing your brand and business. I’d love to bring more people together and make a bigger impact in this capacity someday.

Today, I’ve made education a huge part of my business — both in teaching others and learning myself. I host trainings and workshops almost monthly and am working towards a bigger goal of teaching branding through a live training program. I also love teaching and sharing exercises through my newsletters, blog posts, and Creative Brand Chats.

 

Want to know more? Eager to connect with Devan? Here's how: 

Work with Devan:

I’m all about helping you clearly communicate what you do and how you do it differently to your potential clients.

If you want to work with me directly, simply send me an inquiry!

If you want to learn at your own pace, check out my trainings and workshops.