Bringing Your Personality Into Your Brand

Chatting About Style with Entrepreneurs

Figuring out your brand identity usually involves a bit of self-examination. Brand creators have to decide whether or not to reflect themselves within their brand. It's inevitable that some personal traits will cross into the branding process, but it's up to creators to decide just how much of themselves go into it. While some people intentionally choose a professional style opposite from their own, others extend their own qualities to their audience, adding to their authenticity. 

We reached out to three local female entrepreneurs whose styles we really liked: Nicole Steffen, Emily Harpel, and Emily Roggenburk. Each of these women built their brand with their qualities shining through! We were so excited that these boss ladies were so open while answering our questions! Take a look at what each of them had to say...


Nicole Steffen, Founder of Eat Local Ohio

Photo Credit: Anita Louise

Food Credit: Dan the Baker and Stino Foods

Nicole and her team focus on promoting local dining spots throughout Ohio. She's determined to uplift small organizations and encourage support within their communities. 

See her work at eatlocalohio.com and @eatlocalohio on Instagram.

1. In what ways do you intentionally incorporate your personality into your brand?

I incorporate my personality into my brand with food puns. I’m a huge dork, and a good food pun, in my opinion, is always necessary. Also, when I meet with restaurant owners, chefs, local food connoisseurs, I tell them how I got started. With this being my full-time job, it’s only natural that my personality is incorporated through social media and networking. It’s my bread and butter! 

2. Is there a point where you draw the line between brand style and personal style?

  • If so, how do you determine boundaries?
  • If not, what kind of obstacles do you encounter?
This is definitely something I am trying to figure out. I am still completely new to this game. We started last year in August. We meaning our graphic designer, our videographer, and myself the founder. As though Eat Local Ohio is my food baby, it’s powered by Hillcrest, a local food distributor.
My obstacle is that when I want to be as personal as possible, sometimes I am get the scaries of being completely & 100% myself. I always want to remain as professional as possible, but also want to show myself as much as possible. 

3. Do you draw inspiration from anyone/anywhere else?

I draw inspiration from a ton of people. First and foremost my mom. I know it’s cliché, but my mom is the type of person that is so loving, so caring, and she can make literally anything. From salmon with lobster sauce, to the best chocolate pie with homemade whipped cream. Eating at home is one of my favorite places to eat.
Second, NYC food bloggers. I love @onehungryjew, @brunchboys, @cyeats, @noleftovers, @stuffbeneats. Their style and influence on restaurants, inspired me to do what I do, in my hometown and across Ohio.

4. Do you think your brand will maintain its current style, or do you see it changing over time?

Nothing stays the same, if you really think about it. The brand will remain the same with supporting only local restaurants and brands, but the style will change in the years to come. In time, new social media trends will start. I want to start creating my own videos, sharing more stories, and become more personal with the brand. 

5. What advice do you have for others struggling to find the balance between their personality and their brand identity?

Be yourself, try new things, and never stop creating. Listen to podcasts, read books on how to engage with your target market, and network as much as possible. Never in a million years did I think having my dream job would be possible, but here it is, and I’m eating it all up (in the most humble and literal way). Since this is something I struggle with, and I’m by no means a “pro” at what I do, I seek mentors, build relationships, and engage with everyone I am inspired by. Start somewhere, find your balance, and in the meantime, fake it till you make it! 

Emily Harpel, Owner of Art of Sucre

PHOTO CREDIT: MANN & WIDE PHOTOGRAPHY

Our first Emily of the session spun her business out of a desire to give cotton-candy some special updates. She brings new life to the old favorite with original toppings and flavors.

See her work at artofsucre.com or @artofsucre on Instagram.

1. In what ways do you intentionally incorporate your personality into your brand?

When I started the process of branding Art of Sucre I knew that I had to stay true to myself! This was a little tricky to navigate because cotton candy is traditionally branded BRIGHT pink and to be honest, that's not really my thing! I didn’t want to be another pink and blue cartoony branded cotton candy machine you might see at a fair. Let’s put it this way if you walk into my closet pink is not the number one color you will find. I knew I wanted my brand to be elegant, classic, and clean, yet young and fun. I was immediately drawn to vibrant greens, light grey, and rose gold. To relate it back to my earlier example, if you walk into my home, you will see precisely that; green, grey, and blue. I mean even my wedding bands are rose gold with emeralds, and it doesn't get much more personal than that! When talking to friends and family about possible logos and color pallets, they all questioned my vision. Why not pink? Are you sure?  That doesn't scream cotton candy! I knew I had to stick to my tastes. I wanted Art of Sucre to be a brand that I would catch my eye if I were the consumer. 

2. Is there a point where you draw the line between brand style and personal style?

  • If so, how do you determine boundaries?
  • If not, what kind of obstacles do you encounter?
Now, of course, there have been certain things I have compromised on for the sake of my brand. Point and case our little cart Effie- she is bright pink! Now I know I just said that I am not a bright pink girl and this remains true; however, a lot of people are, and that's great! If you head over to our social media you will see a lot of pink! There is a fine line your brand reflecting your personality and knowing your audience. Clients LOVE our bright pink cart! In fact, it is one of the number one comments our spinners get at events. Personally, would I have chosen that color? Probably not! But, I knew it was what was best for my brand and what clients wanted. 

3. Do you draw inspiration from anyone/anywhere else?

The number of hours I spent scrolling on Pinterest is borderline embarrassing! I remember spending all of my free time researching and looking for inspiration. I have always loved brands such as Anthropologie and Kate Spade, but my biggest inspiration came from a small business in Massachusetts- AMIE bakery. On Pinterest, I found a mood board of there branding and immediately fell in love! 

4. Do you think your brand will maintain its current style, or do you see it changing over time?

I think it is essential to keep up with current trends and it can be a positive to refresh your image! However, I also believe in creating something timeless and lasting. Your brand should be true to you but also speak to your target audience. Right now I think Sucre is doing both. Now that is not to say that I will never change colors or fonts, but I believe the root of my brand (elegant, clean, and fun) will always remain the same. 

5. What advice do you have for others struggling to find the balance between their personality and their brand identity?

Finding that balance can be super tricky! I tend to ask myself a series of questions when making a branding decision.
  1. What is my goal?
  2. Who am I trying to reach?
  3. Am I getting in my way due to personal preferences?
  4. Am I staying true to myself?

Emily Roggenburk, Owner of Emily Roggenburk Studios

Photo Credit: Thomas Sawyer

Our second Emily of the session was moved to bring people together through their unique moments and passions. She specializes in aerial photography as well as an apparel business. 

See her work at emilyroggenburk.com or @emilyroggenburk on Instagram. 

1. In what ways do you intentionally incorporate your personality into your brand?

Because my brand attempts to capture the unique perspective of the female sports/hometown enthusiast, it is very important to me that my brand and the apparel I create reflects my personality and style. Often this will come through in the actual apparel designs themselves, but also in the way I style them and in the photo shoots I do with each piece.

2. Is there a point where you draw the line between brand style and personal style?

  • If so, how do you determine boundaries?
  • If not, what kind of obstacles do you encounter?
When I first started my brand, I always thought I should be drawing that line and keeping my personal style out of my apparel designs. Over time, I realized that my customers liked the authenticity that came from the designs that reflected my style, because I would (and do) personally wear them. For the most part, I speak directly to my customers and ask what they like and what they don't like. I’ve held focus groups with friends and acquaintances to gather more information for product development, marketing, etc. as well. Obviously, not every piece that I love and create is received by my customers how I think it will be. The biggest way I’ve been able to overcome this from a business perspective is to keep a low inventory level and only build if and when my customer truly demands something.

3. Do you draw inspiration from anyone/anywhere else?

Absolutely! I adore designer Anine Bing, and a lot of apparel and beauty companies in LA and NY. I love Glossier’s brand, marketing and packaging and draw inspiration from their fearless pursuit of womanhood.

4. Do you think your brand will maintain its current style, or do you see it changing over time?

It’s changed so much in the 2 years that it has existed so I definitely see it changing more in the future. I believe change is very important, especially these days. With technology rapidly changing our lives every single day, businesses that remain stagnant quickly become irrelevant.

5. What advice do you have for others struggling to find the balance between their personality and their brand identity?

I think whatever you put out into the world, you just have to be confident in doing it. Having a strong foundation in my brand has allowed me to feel confident sharing my story and my products with the world. Going through branding exercises and knowing that it’s okay to see change over time will help build that foundation that is needed to know your business’ “why.”