In the world of business in 2020, building a brand is more important than ever. No longer is simply starting a business the way to get ahead, unless there is a powerful, meaningful brand behind it. Understanding the true power of brand designing, is Karima Negmouche. With her company Karima Creative, she works closely with her clients, diving deep into the development of their personal brand. A lot of those who seek out Neghmouche’s assistance are wanting to create a brand for the first time, while others are those looking for her guidance in rebranding their business. Here, I sit down with Neghmouche and learn more about her story, what she does and how she’s making an impact.
Thank you so much for doing this with me! What is your backstory?
I graduated from Marshall University with a degree in PR/Journalism and a minor in marketing. I did what I thought I was “supposed” to do and got a job as a writer. I was a writer and social media manager for a few national magazines until I walked in the office one day and they told me I was fired. I was so blindsided and caught off guard and thought I would never get a good job again. I had always had an interest in entrepreneurship and thought maybe that was my rags to riches journey. I started designing resumes for $25 for my friends and things like birthday cards and party invites. I slowly realized that that wasn’t going to be able to support me. I lost my apartment. I was literally sleeping on my friends’ couches and living out of my car. It was the worst time of my life. I couldn’t even afford gas. I had to feed my dog a hamburger patty I had in the freezer once because I couldn’t afford her dog food.
I started working at a BBQ restaurant in Louisville, KY waiting tables. I did that for about 6 months while constantly applying for jobs. I finally caught a break and got a job for multiple healthcare companies as a Director of Marketing. Still, a week after I got hired the excitement wore off and I realized I still felt unfulfilled and unhappy in this position.
I read a book that really got my wheels turning and then I decided to invest in a business coach. Which was hilarious to me and everyone that knew me at the time, because 1.) my business coach was more than my rent that I couldn’t even afford, so I was throwing it all on a business card, and 2.) I didn’t have a business.
Thankfully, that was the best decision I ever made in my life. It truly was the universe setting me up for something that I couldn’t even see. I literally had to start from the bottom and I had to be as resourceful as possible, and I worked so freaking hard, and now I can really say it truly did pay off.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I always knew I was meant for more. It’s weird to explain it to people who don’t have the entrepreneur mindset… but when you do there’s literally this feeling that’s almost like butterflies, and a constant whisper in your head telling you to do more. Telling you to trust yourself and telling you to bet on yourself.
I grew up with a mother who couldn’t afford to go to college and had to work secretarial jobs and it seemed so monotonous and mundane for a while. My father was an immigrant from Algeria who always wanted to own a business, but never could figure out everything that went on in it and did jobs that stressed him out just to get by.
I made a decision that I didn’t have much to lose where I was in my life, and if there is literally anything in the world I am willing to bet on, it is myself. That was what made me become an entrepreneur.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I think the most interesting thing about my story/ entrepreneurship is to look back and see how I really was taking a faith-based risk. Someone told me once that entrepreneurs are people who jump off a cliff and figure out how to build an airplane on the way down, and that couldn’t be more true. My life started to just come together for once. I had left Louisville, KY and moved to Raleigh, NC, left my ex-fiance, quit my 9-5 and just went for it in a year, all while I was just 22 years old. Looking back, it’s so interesting to see how it all actually worked out, because at the time I was considering even starting to bartend/ wait tables again just to be able to pay my rent. But I continued to show up, invest in myself, trust that this is what I was meant to do. I can truly say now, 3 years later, I was built for this. I used to question things on a daily basis – am I going to have to go back to corporate America? What about benefits? How can I support myself?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this journey it’s that you always have the answers inside of you, it’s just uncovering them. Trust your gut and your intuition because it really does tell you what you need to do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are so many designers out there. You can get a designer on etsy, or fiverr, or probably someone you know who knows somebody. What I focused on to stand out with my business was building a business that was heart-centered. I truly care about my clients. I try to act as a business partner while working on their brands – which includes telling them what will work, sometimes giving them tough love, and making sure we get rid of all excuses that hinder showing up.
Brand design and web design is actually an extremely emotional process which is something a lot of people don’t realize until starting it. Our businesses represent us, and they literally feel like our babies. We invest so much time, money and energy into them and it’s something we hold so close to our hearts. Having someone come in and see things and creating a visual identity can bring up a lot of emotions. There’s always clarity through the process that comes, there’s a lot of back-and-forth, it’s and it can really test us. I like to navigate through these waters with my clients, remind them that it’s normal to be scared/ emotional, and that it will be okay. I truly do care and want them to have the best experience possible.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO” and why.
Mindset is everything – I used to roll my eyes at all of the “mindset” and “woo woo” stuff out there until I realized how essential it is in business. Owning a business requires tough skin. You can know all the marketing strategies, and have the best business plan, but nothing will prepare you for the emotional toughness being an entrepreneur takes.
Burnout is real – I have felt burn out that is so real it has almost spiralled into a depression. I have struggled with anxiety, OCD and depression almost my entire life – literally since I was 5 years old and diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Entrepreneurship, if you are not careful or aware, can really amplify these feelings for me. I am someone who likes to avoid feeling things by burying them in work. While it can feel like a temporary solution, it is so ridiculously unhealthy and can really lead me down a bad path mentally. I realized that if I don’t set absolute non-negotiable boundaries, I will fall into the trap of “work work work.” I have to delete apps on my phones on the weekend, set alarms at 5pm to log out, and do everything possible to honour my boundaries because that is what my body needs. Being a creative is hard because you have to feel inspired to create. People sometimes think designers are like robots who can just create on demand – like push a button and BAM, logo, website…. Unfortunately it’s not that way (and if it was, I’d probably be a millionaire by now lol) – creativity takes time, it takes inspiration, it takes communication, it takes strategy. Doing all of that can really be mentally exhausting so I have to schedule time in to just allow myself to feel inspired again.
Self-care is a business decision – literally nothing in your business can work if you can’t. I think it’s important to take time daily to take care of yourself so you don’t end up spending weeks in a hospital/ doctors offices/ etc because you neglected yourself. I used to think self-care was drinking wine in bubble baths and spa days. Nope. Self-care is so many other things. It’s taking days off. It’s eating good food. It’s scheduling your doctors appointments. It’s going to the dentist every six months. It’s journaling and mindset work. It’s staying hydrated. It is taking care of yourself mentally and physically so you can show up. Anyone who is an entrepreneur will tell you that self care is literally one of the most important things you can practice while running a business.
You can’t take things personally. This has been (and still is) extremely hard for me. I am a people pleaser through and through, especially when it’s people trusting me with their business and paying me! One thing I’ve learned though is that to run a successful business, you have to remove yourself while making decisions, come from a place of neutral and think “what does the business need?” It’s easy to want to work for free, or do things for friends/ family, or bend our boundaries/ contracts to make clients happy… but that’s not how a successful business is run.
I like to always compare business to a literal brick and mortar business to make it make sense. For example – with boundaries. If a client wants to reach me at 11pm – I don’t feel like I need to answer. Think about it like your favorite restaurant: just because you crave it/ want it at midnight, doesn’t mean they should open for you. If they did, it would mess up their schedule and things would get messy.
While our businesses and brands are often direct reflections of us, it is really important to remember that at the end of the day, it’s still just work, and it’s still just a business, and a business can’t be everything for everyone. A business will always have difficult clients. That’s not a reflection of you.
Community is everything – I think to myself on a daily basis, “I am so lucky to be a part of this community.” Having like-minded people around me (even if it’s just online) is the only reason I am still here. I guarantee it. I feel supported, I feel heard and I have a sounding board when I need it. I have people to lift me up and tell me it’s okay. I have people to remind me that I am doing my best and I’m only human. I have over the years just connected and networked with so many incredible people and I think it’s the reason that I’ve been able to build a successful business that actually does make a difference.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
While I like to prioritize donating and giving back in my business to charities I believe in, I think one of the biggest things I’ve done to actually make an impact is just normalizing the feelings a lot of people are scared to talk about: ie: mental health, boundaries, the struggles we face.
I’ve gone through a lot of things (just like everyone) this last year. My mother was diagnosed with cancer (and is now cancer free,) I had a friend take her life, I’ve spiraled into a depression and got myself back out and I think sharing that is so important because no one is alone. We have to normalize the tough times to help others feel inspired to get through them. My goal is to make people feel a little less alone on this journey.
In one sentence, what’s the best advice you’d give to someone just starting out on their journey?
“Take the leap and the net will appear.”
Inspiring. Thanks so much for joining me, I wish you all the best!