How to Increase Your Profits

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Meet Philip Obeng-Owusu, Founder and Distributor of GT African Trading LLC products. The GT African Trading LLC storefront is located at 3123 Church Ave, in Brooklyn, New York. You can also find the GT product-line in stores nationally, internationally, and online.

GT African Trading LLC is the home of the healing GT Moringa Bitters, the powerful GT Moringa Tonic, the soothing GT African Shea Butter, and many more popular, natural, and rich African products that will change your life.

GT African Trading LLC has been a client of Ashalla Design Shop for over a decade now, and we want to highlight the story behind this incredible brand. Mr. Philip Obeng-Owusu (pictured above) from Ghana, started as a street vendor in 2001 selling a few simple yet essential products from his homeland. He sold these products out of a shopping cart along the streets of Brooklyn, NY during his lunch hour (Philip worked full time as a home care attendant). Philip’s business and marketing sense built out not only a successful business model that allowed for doubling, then tripling, then quadrupling of sales; but a company brand that has grown manifolds into a storefront, name brand recognition, and national and international distribution and sales of the GT brand product-line.

Working closely with Philip for so many years, we at Ashalla noticed a few patterns in his marketing approach that we have found to be powerful tools and techniques for any business to understand and follow. Together we’ve discussed marketing strategies and concepts that have prepared the brand and its products for a loyal following, continued growth, room for innovate, and most importantly, trusted and quality products that promote herbal therapy.

THE ADVANTAGE:

Philip knows his customers. Identifying the right target market can often be the difference between success and failure for new products.

As stated earlier, Philip pushed his shopping cart down Nostrand Avenue and sold raw all-natural black soap and raw all-natural blocks of shea butter during rush hour. He observed that the products were selling every time he used his lunch break to do this, so he called into work one morning and asked for three days off … then 2 weeks off. He made more money in those two weeks than he had been making at his day job for the same time. Needless to say, he never went back to that day job. Phillip bought a van, parked it on Church Avenue, and he sold the items out of the van for 2 years.  Facing a lot of adversities, Philip decided it was time to get his business registered at City Hall. He called the business “God’s Time” hence the name GT African Trading LLC.

With a business name and business profits, Philip started looking for a place to sell his products and was able to rent a small nook next to a hair salon on Church Avenue (not too far from where he used to park his van). Philip listened to his customers’ interests, needs, and requests. The products sold and the variety of selections grew. GT African Trading LLC had what the people wanted.

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Eventually, Philip was able to start selling his own products under the GT brand name.  The first product launched was a whipped and scented Shea Butter in 2009.  This was during the same time that I, KimShala Hibbert, the founder and creative director for Ashalla Design Shop, coincidentally walked over to the nook of a storefront and introduced myself and my branding design service offerings to Philip. I designed the initial labels for several products (GT Shea Butter, GT Moringa Balm, GT Novah Cream, and the GT Hair Fertilizer).  Later the next year, Philip expanded his company into a much larger storefront space. GT brought something new to the market in a fresh way with a logo, stand-out packaging and brand recognition.

Branding your product means creating a name, logo, slogan or anything else that creates a strong association with your product or company. This is used to create trust and loyalty which contributes to repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising. That is why budding businesses need to create attention-grabbing packaging that effectively sells your product. Most purchase decisions are made in a few seconds, so if your package doesn’t quickly communicate your product’s benefits, your sales will not go well.

PLAN YOUR WORK … WORK YOUR PLAN:

Know when to plan, what ingredients are needed in your plan, and the steps needed to implement that plan keeps your business grounded in the present while still achieving a goal-oriented mindset for success. You are not just looking for today’s dollar, but setting forth the motion toward a long-term vision. It could be your business plan, but it should also be your marketing plan, and your product launching plan, etc.

© GT African Trading LLC Moringa Plant Banner Poster designed by Ashalla Design ShopCertainly, plan deviation is going to happen, and sometimes it is best. For example, when it comes to protecting your new recipe, brand logo or t-shirt design with copyrighting, trademark, and patent laws. Reaching larger scale markets often requires unforeseen requirements. Some examples of this may include becoming certified, acquiring the Nutrition Fact Labels, or obtaining barcodes. Philip planned on product distribution in national and international markets; and securing these compliances requires some patience.  In time, the product labels were properly protected and appropriately representing the GT brand which is currently available on Amazon, the largest US internet-based company.

When introducing your product, you want to generate quick sales because building a history of sales, even just in one or two outlets, helps you convince other sales outlets to carry your product. But once you start selling, you need to commit yourself to continually growing your sales. Stores, catalogs, reps and distributors look for hot, up-and-coming products, and if your sales are always growing, you will have a much easier time expanding your sales network. Having a written marketing plan in place that is being implemented and reviewed often will result in a more productive next season. Additionally, the plan will become more refined and your systems will become effective and efficient.

 

THE REWARD:

We, at Ashalla Design Shop, cherish our relationships with our clients, and this month we are especially proud of the results seen by Philip Obeng-Owusu of GT African Trading LLC.

Together we have innovated, empowered, and accomplished.

If you need to elevate your budding business, schedule a call and see if our services are right for you. If you know you’re ready, you can take the first step and schedule a consultation to get started.

 

*photography of Mr. Philip Obeng-Owusu by Tiffany Farrell. Ms. Farrell also interviewed and assisted in writing article.

 

 

 

Fall Back on These Time Saving Apps

Fall is here, which means it’s almost time to turn back those clocks for Daylight Savings Time on the 2nd of November! Even with the extra hour, productivity should be top priority for business owners at this time, since there are fewer hours of sunlight and more to get done as we approach the holiday season. There are a number of apps and programs that I recommend, which make it easier to get work done quickly and efficiently.

 

Project Management: Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is an excellent tool for taking notes and setting up task lists or tables for yourself and your business. All of your information can be easily organized into notebooks to separate the different aspects of your business. OneNote flawlessly syncs across all of your computers and devices in real time, allowing for immediate access wherever you are. As creatives at Ashalla Design Shop, we’re always collaborating and sharing details on our projects. Using a general email for OneNote across all office computers, we’re able to update project information with everyone in just a click. It’s that fast and simple!

  • Requires Opening a Free Microsoft Account
  • Cost: Free

 

File Sharing: Google Calendar / Google Drive

These two Google services provide businesses with simple solutions for sharing files and information throughout the office. Google calendars can be created as needed and shared to keep your office up-to-date on meetings and important deadlines. Google Drive gives you 15 GB of free storage to utilize and allows you to share only the files or folders you want. Additionally, it can all be accessed from any web browser or via desktop and mobile apps.

  • Requires All Users to Open a Free Gmail Account
  • Cost: Free (with option to pay if more storage space is needed)

 

Money Management: Wave Accounting

Wave Accounting features a collection of tools integrated into easy-to-use money management software specifically designed for small businesses. Wave is an online tool, allowing you to manage your business finances from anywhere in the world with a simple login. Wave features include accounting, invoicing, payroll and allows you to accept credit card payments, making transactions a lot easier. You can also view business financial reports to keep track of your growth and success.

  • Cost: Free (with additional paid services)

 

Social Media Updates: Word Swag

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Fast and easy social media updates are great for getting information about your business to customers and followers. Word Swag for iPhone allows you to quickly edit any image you want to share through social media. You can add text in various fonts, as well as a number of filters to customize your images, for a more personalized message. For Android users, we recommend PicLab as a great alternative with similar features, and the same amazing results as Word Swag.

  • Cost: Free

 

 

 

These great apps will allow entrepeneurs and business owners to maximize their time this upcoming holiday season. Happy Time Saving!

Re-Discover SYEP: A Hidden Gem For Small Businesses

You never know what treasures you will find until you step out of your office to mingle with other businesses, organizations, and people in your community. Dr. Roy Hastick of the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI) always says “Networking Works.” It was during one of CACCI’s very engaging meetings that District 40 Council Member Dr. Eugene Mathieu reminded us of one of New York City’s (NYC) oldest treasures, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

At first glance, it may seem most apparent that SYEP is a valuable asset for youths because it provides up to six weeks of paid work experience for the City’s residents, ages 14 to 24 years old. Businesses are able to increase youth career awareness and shape the workforce of the future. However, the exceptional value gained by the worksites is what may not be as apparent. These participants, not only, step into a variety of entry-level positions, but they also FOLLOW, LEAD, and INNOVATE.

 

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While supervising and guiding additional workers may seem like a daunting task for some entrepreneurs or small businesses with one or two employees, the process is not to be feared. Businesses, large or small, should take this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Ashalla Design Shop, LLC was privileged to work with two SYEP placement sites this summer Medgar Evers College and CAMBA.  These two placement sites were assigned during our initial online worksite request application process. It is a web-based enrollment system on the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) website.

The program has a variety of placement sites throughout the City with very organized and passionate staff members. With over 50 placement sites throughout the five boroughs, there are plenty of opportunities for applicants to be chosen from. Placement sites range from community-based organizations to government offices. Some placement sites give their worksites the opportunity to interview their potential summer employees beforehand. Allowing the worksite to conduct interviews helps to ensure businesses receive the help they are looking for.

The placement site directors guide the worksites on employing these new hires. They advise on topics like “setting the ground rules from day one”, “how to effectively fill out time sheets”, and “how to handle emergencies”. The placement sites did an excellent job of preparing Ashalla on what to expect and how to have a successful summer with its participants.

 

left to right: Alex Gibbons (SYEP), Dianne Campbell (Business & Marketing Officer), Tiffany Farrell (SYEP), Natasha Brewer (SYEP), KimShala Hibbert (Founder & Principal Designer), Corey Francis (SYEP)

 

As a company committed to the prosperity of other businesses in the community, Ashalla would be remiss not to share this gem with others. Ashalla was able to accommodate 4 bright young adults who worked on a variety of projects for the company.

 

“Now that the SYEP program is coming to a close, it will be sad to see them go. So we decided to take the next step and hire.”
KimShala Hibbert, Founder and Principal Designer

” Ashalla Design Shop was an amazing place to work. It showed my true potential in designing and branding; and got me the opportunity to be offered a part-time position here!”
Tiffany Farrell, Junior Designer

“The SYEP program always provides me with great summer jobs. It’s a good way for me to work during the summer as well as make professional connections.
Alex Gibbons, Client and Partner Relations.

 

All businesses should take the opportunity to host at least one SYEP participant, as they will make a lasting impact on your business. Likewise you will play a very important role in their career and professional development.

The SYEP participants scripted, recorded, and edited a video on how to express a perfect pitch. Having an elevator pitch prepared is essential in world of business. 

 

Eco Friendly Design Practices

The environment has been under more threat today than it has ever been. Natural resources are steadily declining and the ecosystems are under scrutiny. Establishing more eco-friendly practices is actually often less costly than many assume; it just takes a little creativity and thinking outside the box. Here are some innovative ways for business owners to get the desired designs and the marketing results at an affordable price, that represent your brands commitment to a responsible cause.

 

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A great 1st step your business can take toward becoming more eco-friendly marketing, is to use digital branding and advertising campaigns.  Examples of this include websites, digital business directories, evites, and the use of social media for building communities. These options have international reach, and in the current electronic age, have proven to be more effective than direct mail campaigns. Direct mailers have lower response rates and have higher cost due to printing and rising mailing expenses. Online readership is increasing year by year, and your tweets and posts are free. So design digital campaigns for the online communities.

During the design process, there may be many rounds of proofs and revisions before you approve your finals. With an environmentally conscious mindset, your graphic designers can present preliminary proofs in digital or paperless forms, and when deciding on how to present the final ideas that same designer should present you with options that are less burdensome on the environment. Using recycled papers or biodegradable materials is an easy alternative, especially when combined with cost reducing options and techniques.

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A great example of this: Given a typically tight budget to produce a catalog, two University of Illinois design students assumed that recycled paper would be cost prohibitive. But using innovative techniques, they discovered that if they trimmed just 1″ off the book height they would save around 1,000 press sheets. This saved them $3,000, allowing them to specify a high quality, 100% recycled, FSC-certified paper. With a little design thinking, they saved 9,717 gallons of water, 13 million BTUs of energy, 942 pounds of solid waste and avoided 2,255 pounds of greenhouse gases. (source: http://re-nourish.com/?l=resources_printdesign)

Some best practices for greener print design includes these positive steps:

  1. Reduce the amount of paper and other materials used overall by designing smaller pieces.
  2. Reduce wasted paper and other materials through clear decision-making during production.
  3. Replace wood fiber papers with agri-fiber papers when doing so is regionally and environmentally preferable.
  4. Aim for 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content paper.
  5. Use vegetable-based, low-VOC inks on press.
  6. Stick to digital printing for shorter runs.
  7. Avoid additives or excess finishing like foil stamps, varnishes, and laminates.
  8. Design the piece for extended use, or intentional reuse.
  9. Let others know about the eco-friendly aspects of the product. This increases awareness while your product is organically being valued and promoted.

To create a greener printed piece, use your socially and environmentally responsible Ashalla designer and preferred local print vendors.

 

6 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Brand

As a small business owner, your business may not widely known or recognized. Developing a brand makes it a lot easier to promote your business to potential customers or other businesses that you may come across. Having a brand will clarify what your company is all about and gives your business a professional structure that can strengthen over time. Here are 6 good reasons why you should brand your small business.

1) Establishes Your Identity

Your small business needs a strong brand in order to be successful. It will allow you to confidently showcase your business in a professional manner that will draw in customers and other business opportunities. Your business will have a consistently group of visual cues that allow you to set an impression of your company. Your brand is a way for your business to make a statement that others will remember.

2) Builds Trust in Your Business

Branding Strategies imageIn order for your small business to continue receiving customers, they have to have some level of trust in you. A recognizable brand, that is consistent in it’s personality, quality, and messaging builds trust amongst clients and potential clients who hear and see your company has a solid foundation. A cohesive brand that can sustain a level of positive recognition will make customers confident in your business and its services.

3) Expresses Your Goals

Your brand is the primary medium for relaying your company’s message and goals. A clear brand gives customers a complete understanding of what services they can expect from your business. Branding is an opportunity to define and distinctly convey what your business aims to provide to its customers or even any external goals it aims to achieve along the way.

4) Saves Time, Energy, and Money

Your brand style guide will save you time and money on designing as well as printing costs. Instead of pulling from various sources every time you set out a new marketing campaign, you draw from the company brand style guide. This guide offers logo, color palette, font use, etc. in which is specifically and uniquely designed for your business.

Custom Branding for Integrity of Self MovementArts

 

*FIGURE 1: Case Study (click to enlarge)
Custom Branding for Integrity of Self MovementArts.

Take note of  the compilation of logo, color scheme, cover page of website, font use, mood images, and illustrations into a style guide that is used for Integrity of Self MovementArts.

5) Develops a Niche

Your business has a particular customer base, whether broad or specific. A good brand will define (and appeal to) your intended niche, allowing your business to target customers more effectively. It will also make finding and networking with similar or complementary businesses a simplified process. This in turn will allow you to find out reliable information on the needs and wants of your customers in order to cater to them.

6) Builds Your Online Presence

In a world where everyone is connected to the internet, it is necessary for your business to establish a strong online presence. Having a uniform brand that can be presented on various social media platforms allows for access to new customers and connections. An online presence also allows for fast and personal communication between your business and its followers.

A strong brand is necessary for any small business. It allows you to set the tone and goals of your business, and simplify it into a particular image, phrase, or color scheme. A brand is made to grow, and as a business owner this is exactly what you want. Over time, your business will become well known not only for its products and services, but also for its image and message.

 

Know Your Audience

Social media is essential for every business in this age. Establishing a presence on social media gives you access to existing customers as well as provides an outlet to attract new customers. Deciding which social media is best suited for business is key. In order to know which social media is best for your business you must know where your audience presence is within the online community.

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Facebook — Facebook is currently the largest social media community. The ability to share photos, videos links and other visuals makes Facebook for ideal for any business. For example a restaurant looking to showcase their new menu items could use Facebook to display their new dishes as well as receive feedback from visitors on their page.

Twitter — Creating a twitter account helps to create a brand image online. It allows for real-time interaction between clients and a brand. Many businesses use twitter for customer support. If your company may require troubleshooting twitter could be a reliable source to keep in contact with your customers. Twitter is a great place to get feedback from customers as well as reach out to them with new products.

LinkedIn — Small business use LinkedIn more than any other social network. LinkedIn is a professional network that allows employees to be representatives of your brand and also can increase awareness of your brand amongst professionals.

YouTube — The largest video sharing app can be a major player in promoting your brand. Youtube is a great way to show what your company offers more extensively through video. Videos are more engaging than images, and are easily shared throughout social media. Using videos can market certain products more efficiently than just text or images. Youtube is a useful tool for promotions.

Instagram — Instagram is a mobile photo and video sharing app. It is ideal for those in which visuals are a big aspect of their brand such as artists, food companies, and clothing brands. The sharing capabilities are endless with Instagram and since the implementation of video within the app it expands the capabilities it can have for reaching the right customers.

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Pinterest —A great tool to showcase your products from your business. It consists of mostly sharing videos and photos in collections called boards. The ability to organize the different aspects of your business for the public to see is one of Pinterest’s strong points. For companies looking to increase traffic to their site; Pinterest is a great way to cross-promote through all forms of social media.

Google+ — Google Plus is one of the newest social media outlets and is on the rise. If you are a company trying to increase your visibility on the web GooglePlus is for you. Powered by the world’s largest search engine Google, GooglePlus is helpful in increasing your search engine optimization which helps to bring your brand at the top of search engine searches. It also has google communities which can help draw in new customers and allows you to network with other companies within your field.

There are many other popular social media outlets that were not mentioned, but more importantly, you must know which outlets play to your strengths and are most beneficial to the growth of your brand. Maintaining that strong online presence for your business is vital to the development of your company.

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Image Source: 123rf.com

Getting The Best Out of Your Deal

… When Working With a Design Firm.

In order to control cost and timing, you must plan well and communicate early, clearly and consistently. You must decide, first of all, what is most important to you speed, design, or cost. These three variables are linked in that the more complex a piece, the slower the production may be and the higher the price. If you are in need of a quick response time, you risk including RUSH charges and therefore you may need to simplify things.

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Clear communication can also keep cost under control. In your initial planning meeting you should describe the visual effect and market response you desire. It is often helpful if you bring samples or references of your previous pieces as well as, admired pieces from others. Resolve any conflicting goals or preferences within your organization before this meeting. Again, if you do have more than one person in your organization making design decisions, then choose one representative as the conduit of communication with the designer. From here , please organize your materials with labels, captions, outlines and mock ups.

Next … let your designer create. If you really would not like to use the color yellow, say so. However, it is important to give your designer the freedom to create beautiful and strategically sound pieces without micro-management. If you see a problem, call attention to it and even share solutions. You can even allow the designer the flexibility to find some other fix.

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Finally, thoroughly check the samples and proofs provided to you in there varying stages. You are responsible for everything on a proof. Examine the text,photos,color and illustrations with care. If others must approve the design, make sure they see the earliest proofs. It is simplest, least frustrating and cheapest way to correct a problem the first time it shows up.

These are all ways to get the best out of your deal.

 

Going Back to High School

New Visions Charter High School for Advance Mathematics III is located here.
New Visions Charter HS for Advance Math & Science III is located at the Sheepshead Bay HS campus in Brooklyn.           

It has been some time since I found myself going down a high school corridor. Therefore, I had no idea what to expect as I drove to the New Visions Charter High School for the Advance Math & Science III (AMS III) last Friday. AMS III is housed at the Sheepshead Bay High School campus in Brooklyn, NY. After checking in, I felt a sense of nostalgia as I observe the next generation of leaders scurrying through the halls. Their warmth and welcoming spirit put me at ease and I forgot all jitters of going back to high school. I was ready to be a part of Anchor week.

Anchor week is a project that challenges students within the New Vision Charter High School network to design a better campus. After researching and developing their ideas, students delivered their presentations to classmates, administrators, parents, community members, and a panel of judges from various professions outside of the institution. Ashalla was invited to participate as one of the Anchor judges.

It was a proud moment to watch groups of students proposing unique ideas such as rooftop gardens and energy conservations projects to improve their campus. Many of the students even went further to consider how their proposed ideas would impact the school’s surrounding communities. New Visions is definitely taking the right steps in shaping these future leaders. It was an exciting experience to go back to high school, even if just for a day.

New Visions Charter High School is a part of New Visions for Public Schools; an organization committed to designing, creating and sustaining great schools for New York City’s highest need students.