#BEYOUROWN MEETS BECCA LEVIAN
Meet Becca Levian, founder and creative director of Skye High Interactive: an LA-based branding & boutique design agency that specialises in creating powerful branding and design work for powerful women.
Hey Becca, can you introduce yourself to us?
I’m an east coaster from Boston, Massachusetts who now lives in Los Angeles, California with my daughter and husband. Fun fact: we’ve lived in 7 different zip codes in the past 3 years. I’m also a certified yoga teacher and lover of red wine, strong coffee, and anything chocolate. I talk fast, like to get to the point, and don’t bullshit. I’m an extrovert who enjoys socialising but equally enjoys hanging out on the couch in sweatpants while binge watching our favourite Netflix show.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I’m a self-taught designer who studied elementary education in college. I always wanted to be a teacher – and while I was always drawing Disney princesses or creating cartoon strips at home, I didn’t think that career path was possible. It wasn’t until I graduated with a BA in education that I realised if my whole heart wasn’t in it, I had to rethink my game plan.
That’s when I downloaded some borrowed licenses for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and found myself creating marketing materials from scratch for a couple entrepreneurs who gave me a chance right out of college. That eventually turned into working as a production designer for various agencies. Slowly but surely after building my portfolio and honing my skills, I worked my way up the corporate ladder at various digital agencies until I became Associate Creative Director.
I always had side projects on top of working full-time, but it wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I realised my true passion of working for myself and having complete creative freedom. I not only wanted to choose who I worked with, but the actual work I was producing. I was tired of the fraternity-style ad agencies and how no matter how hard I worked or how good my ideas were, it always came down to politics and the bottom-line. I knew it was time for me to start my own business and be my own boss.
What is a day in the life of you like?
Ha! I wish I were organised enough to have a ‘normal day’. The truth is that with an 18-month-old (and one on the way), and a growing business that’s constantly changing, my days are pretty irregular. I try to make time in my daily routine for things that are important to me outside of work like my hot water with lemon in the morning, yoga when I can squeeze it in, meals at home with my family and play time with my toddler.
Other than that, I’m usually sitting at my computer ideating and designing logos or websites, brainstorming with clients, looking for inspiration or working on my own projects. The truth is that my business is still taking off and I’m still figuring out how best to maximise my time and efficiencies.
Skye High creates strong brand identities that showcase the best possible version of your female solopreneurs as clients, so, which project has been your favourite to work on so far?
They’re all my favourites! I’m currently working with Colette Baron-Reid and her team on the redesign of her entire platform – from her website to various membership sites, sales pages, print materials and more. Colette is an internationally acclaimed Oracle expert, thought leader and author of her own meditation apps and oracle cards – so she’s constantly growing her business and looking for ways to improve her digital presence.
The team as a whole is amazing – they’re all incredibly uplifting and positive, and even though I’m not technically part of the team, we’ve built enough trust to the point that I’m given a tremendous amount of creative freedom and room to make recommendations and push limits with each project. What’s also important to me is that I’m working with a client who is helping people through her work. For me, it’s a must that the clients I take on are people I want to support – work I’m morally and ethically aligned with and people who I believe are helping to make the world a better place.
Can you tell us about the Free Brand Bible: 10 Steps to a Better Business that you offer?
I’ve noticed that most clients I talk to are making basic mistakes with their websites, branding, and marketing. For instance, their websites aren’t capturing their leads so they’re letting potential customers walk away! This is a simple fix that if they knew about they would say, “oh yeah, obviously!” but many times clients just don’t think about this. And you can’t solve for problems you don’t know to exist. This is where I felt like I can help out in a small way by offering in what I consider to be the top 10 things any small business can do today to help strengthen their brand and marketing efforts.
Can you give 3 tips for start-ups to improve your business and marketing on a minimal budget?
- Focus your message. Figure out what your niche is and make sure you have a clear and simple brand message that’s communicated to your audience. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – figure out what it is that sets your business apart and capitalize on that.
- Figure out your priorities. Sure, when given the chance, everyone would choose to have a custom website that’s tailored to their business. However, custom = money, and for entrepreneurs working with a small budget, I’d argue that it’s more important to have something built from a template and launched in a week versus a custom site that takes months to get up and running. If you don’t need a custom site, don’t spend the money making one (or having one made). Get your brand and site launched and start marketing ASAP to test the waters!
- Don’t do it yourself (unless you actually know what you’re doing). I get it – you want to save money, but having a site these days isn’t good enough. You need a site that performs. A site that grabs attention. A site that your users can easily understand and follow. Know your capabilities and strengths and be willing to hire professionals outside of those strengths – especially when it comes to your branding and web presence. After all, it’s the first impression most of your customers will have of your business. You don’t want it looking like a 6th-grade art project.
Who does the team involve behind you at Skye High Interactive?
Right now, it’s just me (and occasionally my husband when I can persuade him to send an email or two) – but that’s not to say I don’t bring in extraordinary people when in need. I know enough to know what I don’t know, and when it comes to digital strategy, social media advertising and copywriting (among other things), I love collaborating with talented and inspiring people. Together, we can bring so much more to a brand or company.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Having two children who will constantly be keeping me on my toes! As for Skye High Interactive – there is no limit. I have some big plans in the works that could change my business model quite a bit, but at the end of the day I love working with female entrepreneurs to improve their digital and brand presence, so that will always be part of my day-to-day. Oh, and maybe another kid? We’ll see how we feel.
What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of Skye High Interactive?
I’m not inherently a ‘numbers’ person (that’s why I’m a creative!) but when thinking about my next steps towards expansion, I think about the pros & cons, and how financially responsible the decision is to the business. But it’s not just a numbers game – it’s also important that any decision I make aligns with my goals and the mission of Skye High Interactive.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
I’m an over-extender. I constantly find myself adding more to my plate when I’m already at my limit. Something I’m constantly working towards is how to find more balance in my life – with my family, work and private life. When I worked for other companies it was easier to shut off the computer and walk away, but when it’s your own business, it’s hard to shut off completely. Regardless of what I’m doing, ideas and thoughts about the business and my clients are always popping into my head.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
My father was and is my mentor in business. He’s an entrepreneur who taught marketing to undergraduate and graduate students, so dinnertime conversations growing up revolved around business plans, big ideas, and philosophical principles. Needless to say, becoming an entrepreneur was in my DNA. It always felt like an inevitability and I was just waiting for the moment that felt right.
What outlets do use to market Skye High Interactive?
I take advantage of free marketing first: posting a lot on Instagram and by providing tips and tricks to my design community on facebook through my group’s channel. I’ll occasionally send emails, but nothing spammy! I use it more as a way to give important updates and talk about projects and collaborations going on.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
I’m in an amazing community called HEY MAMA, where I’m constantly meeting new and impressive women (who also happen to be mothers) who are killing it in their professions. The group is always sharing information and recommendations – so that’s proven to be a great way to build my network. Also, having worked at various agencies throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with countless incredible people – some of whom are freelancers now who I collaborate with from time to time.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
“One killer idea will make you rich!” Yes, that happens to a select few, but the majority of entrepreneurs are struggling just to get the word out about their product or service. Or “entrepreneurs have unlimited freedom!” The reality is when you work for yourself and don’t get a steady paycheque every week, it often means making tremendous personal sacrifices like forgoing your vacations or working longer and harder than you would have otherwise.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
Millennials these days seem so focused on making money at such an early age that they’re giving up their lives in the process! I feel lucky that I got through high school without Instagram or Facebook! I would like to see millennials slow down and enjoy life a bit more, going that rate is just not sustainable long-term.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
Fake it ’til you make it. Starting off as a freelance designer years ago, I remember fearing how clients would perceive me and my spotty past. I didn’t attend art school, didn’t have years of high-profile clients under my belt, and doubted myself as a result. The reality is that as long as you act professional, sound like you know your shit and are capable of delivering quality work, your clients will believe it too. I think it’s this attitude and belief that formed my confidence and led me to believe that failure is not an option.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
I need to actively make time for myself – balance is not a given. I’m a workaholic by nature so I used to get up in the mornings and go straight to the computer – without even saying good morning to my husband. My eyes would barely be open and I’d already been in full designer mode – with my face 5 inches from the monitor. I would stay in this position for as long as I possibly could – only getting up for the occasional bathroom break and to eat.
It finally hit me while I was at a full moon circle a good friend was holding – balling in front of a room of women about how I felt like I had given up myself for my child and my work. I realise now that that night was a turning point. I’d be lying if I said my life is drastically different right now, but the difference is now I know my limits. If I need a yoga break (or any break), I take one – unapologetically. I make time and space for my family. I turn off the computer at a decent hour and give myself the evenings to relax and unwind. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly a work-in-progress, but I’m getting there.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
For starters, my husband and I are a team. We both do vastly different things, but no one’s work is more important than the other. He helps a lot with our daughter and managing our family so I can work hard to take my business to the next level. He also pushes me to take more time for myself, fighting for that balance when I’m too in-the-weeds to demand it for myself.
The highlight of your career so far?
The awards, recognition and notable clients I’ve worked with have certainly all been noteworthy. The biggest highlight has been taking the leap of starting my own business. It’s easy to get dissuaded by all the reasons not to do it, but going off on my own has been the most rewarding career decision I’ve ever made.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Receiving those occasional texts from clients who say my work literally brought them to tears or increased their sales projections tenfold. Also by knowing I did the best job I could on a given project. With everything I do, I give 110%, and when the hard work pays off, it gives me the utmost satisfaction.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of Skye High Interactive?
The same challenges most people have, clients who change their mind halfway through a project or are not sure what they want in the first place. I deal with it by constantly trying to be on top of it, showing them options and being open to feedback and criticism. It’s a constant game of listening, acting and reacting. No two projects are ever the same, so I’m always being challenged and in that process growing, learning and finding new sources of inspiration.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Rachel Brathen of Yoga Girl isn’t in my industry, but I consider her a game changer of my generation. She’s built an empire starting from nothing and has created a new lifestyle, movement, and brand aimed at changing the world.
With this foundation and her work, she’s making huge waves – but at the end of the day, she’s a mom to a toddler and remains authentically and unapologetically herself. No matter how much money she’s made thus far or how big her company has gotten, she hasn’t strayed from her mission or her morals, and to me, that’s honourable.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
If you look at my Kindle, the two books I read most recently were “Potty Train In A Weekend” by Becky Mansfield and currently reading “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. True life: I’m a mom as well as a boss.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
Disclaimer: my Spotify playlist is much more active these days than my podcast playlist (I’m a music listener while I work – anything else tends to get completely ignored). That said, my family recently decided to go completely vegan so my podcast playlist is actually a handful of vegan talks – not related to design at all! However, treating our bodies with respect and showing kindness to all beings is incredibly important to me.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
At the end of the day, I judge success based on my family’s happiness and the love we have for each other.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means take control of your life, don’t let someone else dictate what you can and cannot do. Show up in whatever that is and prove the naysayers wrong.
Lastly, what is next for Skye High Interactive?
I have a strong passion for helping people bring their businesses to life in the digital space. This year, I’ll continue doing that both with clients personally as well on a larger scale by introducing a membership platform that allows my clients to set up a way to monetise their intellectual property. I’m really excited about it and think other people will be too.
Instagram: @skyehighinteractive @beccalevian