Inspirational Woman: Kay Storey | Global Branding Educator & Founder, Brandstorm Creatives

Kay Storey

I am Kay Storey, aka the Brandstormer, an intuitive branding expert who’s supported the likes of Morrisons, Siemens and Motorola over the years.

A best-selling author, global branding educator, founder and trailblazer behind Brandstorm Creatives and School of Brand I work with ambitious business owners to help them stand out with power, in a sea of sameness.

I know that riding the storm of business is no mean feat, and with 25 years behind me I help passion fuelled leaders to communicate the power behind their brands, with energy and purpose.

I help business owners show up red carpet ready, taking them from bland to brand, so they can create more impact with their work because as someone who has always taken chances, and been driven by my passion I am called to use my skills to guide businesses to more intuitively connect with what makes them different, so they can celebrate their individuality and purpose – because when we’re bravely being different something magical happens.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I became a designer because I can’t sing.

As a small child I remember that dreaded time of year, school choir rehearsals, entering the school hall, standing in line, and shuffling my way towards the piano with trepidation. The tweed twin set clad music teacher would plinky-plonk her way up those keys with purpose and without exception, when your Mary Jane’s inched up to that piano leg, you had to work your vocal magic to her tune.

If you received what I called the ‘hand of shame’ on your shoulder during practice, that meant you had to mime. Guess who was familiar with that?!

I remember being invited to remove myself from said hall and create the designs for the posters because I clearly couldn’t sing! Turns out I aced those bad boys and there it is, my first memory of being a designer and owning my lane.

That intrinsic love of colour, design and creation never left me throughout school, college and higher education, where I graduated in Graphic Communications and was launched wide-eyed into the business world. My career has been anything but dull and lucky to still work in an industry that I am passionate about and proud to be the founder of Brandstorm Creatives.

Outside of work, I am mum to eight-year-old Anya and more recently, an energetic, not-so-little, cavapoo puppy named Olive. My adventures scuba diving, sky diving and undertaking some random hobby or course happen less so these days but you can still regularly find me doing something crafty.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

In short, no. What I’ve known from a very young age is that I’m unemployable. I made it impossible for my bosses. I’ve only ever had four short ‘proper jobs’, over 4 years combined, and was made redundant from them all. After my fourth employment dumping, I promised myself that I would never rely on anyone else for my wages again. I’m still keeping that promise, I’m no quitter!

At the ripe old age of 24, I welcomed the freelance years with open arms, and I can tell you, they were lots of fun! I worked for lots of different design and branding agencies, working on clients over many different sectors from small businesses to corporates. Here’s the thing, being a designer working in corporate, you are massively restricted, and I needed to be free – to be as creative as I could possibly be, so I shifted my focus and created an agency model business. I found a real passion helping business leaders and small business owners to create incredible brands that look and sound different, feel individual and look unique.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

There have been plenty of challenges over the past 25 years. Riding the storm of past recessions has been dicey to say the least. There have definitely been times when keeping going was not the easy option.

Even with all the ups and downs of business, I think the biggest challenges I have faced are personal obstacles. Becoming a first time mum at 40 and running my own business is certainly up there. It was at a point when we were ready to hit the gas in the business and that meant I had some big decisions to make. Navigating being present with my little girl, known as ‘the Kraken’ and juggling work was tricky after making the decision to not put her into a nursery, I worked very unconventional hours.

Fast forward three years and I developed Sepsis, and went from feeling unwell at home to being in a high dependency unit very quickly. Ten days later I was extremely lucky to walk out of hospital, minus a gallbladder. The biggest challenge I had was myself. What I needed to do was rest, something that we are not always great at as business owners. My mindset was conditioned to ‘push on’, I didn’t really know much about Sepsis previously and was naive to think I would bounce back quickly, it was 12 months until I had fully recovered energetically.

Fortunately, through both these situations, my business partner in crime, Gail, was there to pick up. If YOU are pivotal in your business, having someone by your side you trust that can keep the business going when you are not present is invaluable. I’m also proud to say that Gail and I are celebrating 30 years of friendship this year.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

This summer I get to celebrate 25 years in business, it’s passed by in a flash. Keeping that promise I made to myself all those years ago feels like a huge achievement for myself.

Also in 2021, I had a dream that I was an author, a few months later I was presented with the opportunity to write in the Law of Brand Attraction 2 book with Sammy Blindell, not only did the book become a No.1 best seller in multiple countries, the foreword was written by Dr John Demartini from The Secret, a man I have looked up to for many years, and this has also given me inspiration and a goal for further publications.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Resilience. Whatever your level of success, you will need to draw upon your physical, mental and emotional resilience at times, especially through periods of growth and scaling, or when life and business throw curveballs your way.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentorship is a non-negotiable, no matter the size of your business. “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle”. Having someone else’s eyes on your business, a cheerleader to help take you to your next level of success or the wisdom and guidance of a peer, is crucial in both our personal and professional lives.

I have mentors and have mentored people. Mentoring someone is also a very fulfilling way to pay it forward and share your knowledge, it lights you up watching someone’s face when they have a lightbulb moment.

What can you share with us about the power of brand and identity when growing a business?

Your brand is at the heart of your business. It has the power to build your reputation and with it trust and loyalty from your audience.

When you act by your brand values you create brand ambassadors. One of our brand values is Quality Relationships – turning clients into cheerleaders, word of mouth is social proof your brand is credible and one of the reasons we have had so many referrals over the years.

Stand-out branding applied consistency brings recognition to set you apart from your competition and carries the weight of your brand and the promises you make. Never underestimate how influential strong identities are when aligned with your brand and target audience.

A strong brand identity changes how your business is perceived, and especially with smaller businesses, it brings a new level of confidence, creates new opportunities, reaches more people, sells more products, puts people on stages and changes more lives.

Branding is not just for this big fish, it’s for everyone. Whether you are just starting out or you are established, the quicker you understand the power of your brand and identity, the quicker you will see the business grow through attracting the right people into your business and increasing sales from your ideal audience.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

 I would love to change the amount of support female small business owners receive when they have children. I have a first-hand experience of trying to navigate this tricky period as a first-time mum. At that time, freelancing would have been completely impractical, the business back then didn’t have the same support structure in place and I felt really pressured about how I was going to keep the business going. It felt like I had to choose between the baby or my business and didn’t feel supported. I made it work, but working around the clock in between baby duties wasn’t something I wished to go through again.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Let it go to grow and delegate. Small business owners, especially newbies, wear so many hats trying to ‘do it all’ while building their empires, with many having no other choice financially. Unfortunately, this means growing the business can feel like cycling with a slow puncture that stops you in your tracks every now and then. It can also be draining on your energy and takes you away from your zone of genius, as it did for me.

Every time you invest in yourself by delegating tasks that don’t bring you joy allows you the space to grow with a supportive team around you.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Following on from the beta launch of School of Brand, we have plans to open the doors again this year where we educate and mentor small businesses on the power of branding. Far too many small businesses are left broke and broken from poor advice and we are on a mission to change that!

The best brands need constant evolution, aspirational strategies, and the kind of lightning-bolt thinking that will help you knock it out of the park over and over and over again.

To find out more or to connect with Kay, please visit www.brandstormcreatives.com or www.linkedin.com/in/kaystorey

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