Sydney Munteanu on helping female entrepreneurs clarify their brand message with Back Label Branding

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Describe your business in a few words?

I like to say my job is to be your brand’s cheerleader and collector of stories. My marketing studio is called Back Label Branding where I help female entrepreneurs clarify their brand message and what it stands for through copywriting, content creation, and organic marketing techniques. 

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I’ve had the joy of bringing imaginative ideas to life through a decade’s work in brand marketing. I moved to LA in my 20s and got a job as a marketing director for a very cool, very millennial, and very fast-growing wine company (Summer Water rosé, anyone?). While I was there, I worked on a lot of collaborative projects with other brands in NY and LA, and a few of those people had said to me, “If you ever end up doing this on your own, call me.” Deep down I knew I always wanted to have my own business, but I never had clarity on what that “thing” would be. I’m a creative curator at heart and can’t help but always try on new projects. I’ve worn a lot of hats and done a lot of things. So, it wasn’t until I realized I wanted a lifestyle change (this gal grew up in the mountains and was exhausted from city life) that I came to grips with the fact that the place I wanted to live wasn’t going to have the marketing job I wanted. I needed to create my own. I said yes to moving to Montana and started consulting for some of those brands that told me to give them a ring!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I’ve been working in marketing forever it seems. I studied marketing in college, held marketing assistant internships, and ever since I’ve worked on marketing teams – in branding, social media, public relations, partnerships, and advertising. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I’m laughing because as I type this I’m recalling a recently-discovered journal that I kept in college. It had a list of business ideas for becoming an entrepreneur, everything from personal chef to app developer. (Spoiler alert: I’m not doing any of them.) But the answer is yes -ish. I knew I wanted to get to the place where all the hard work I was putting in was, at the end of the day, for something that I owned. When I first started thinking about a career shift I was totally open to the idea of joining in on another’s venture. (My whole work career has been about building up other people’s brands you know!) But my path ultimately took me down the road of starting something on my own. And while I work collaboratively with other creatives and my job is to support like-minded entrepreneurs, lately it’s become very clear that it’s just as important that I share my voice in the work too. I can still support other women in bringing clarity to their dreams and their brands – and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that. But the work I do, every project I work on, a piece of me goes into it. It’s better when I embrace that. I think that’s the biggest motivation and reward about being an entrepreneur. At the end of the day, you know everything you did and created was because of you. There is no else to blame. Or to congratulate!

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Ha! For someone who works in and on marketing, let me be the first to tell you that marketing yourself is the hardest thing. I can do it all day long for other people… but moi?!

In the beginning, I relied mostly on my network and word of mouth, and I was very lucky in that regard. I guess you can say my marketing was 10 years of built relationships and putting a lot of care into my work so that when it came time to pick up that phone, I knew those people would have faith that I was going to bring a level of thoughtfulness to our work together. Even if I was learning as I went! It wasn’t until a year into my business that I began to really think about my marketing strategy. But even today, I believe strongly in organic marketing, relationships, and communicating authentically – on whatever platform is your jam! My business is built on the belief that loyal clients who align with my values will show up for me so long as I show up for them with enthusiasm and respect for their work.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I’ve really had to listen to my gut about clients and projects that aren’t a great fit. Especially when you are starting out, it’s virtually impossible to say no to someone who wants to offer you money to work with them! I’ve gained much more clarity about the type of people and businesses I really want to work, but it’s taken a few learned experiences early on in saying yes to things that I knew deep down weren’t a great fit. If you can, sleep on it. Drop into your body and ask yourself how saying yes to that decision would really feel. It’s a very intuitive exercise, but it’s something I immensely believe in. I always try to give myself a day, ideally a week, before I say yes to a new project.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Writing! While I’ve always done copywriting (emails, pitches, for the copy on the back on wine labels…), I’ve recently gotten back into journalism and writing for my own sake. I even had my first poem published just a month ago!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I love questions that provoke a story. For example, I’ll ask: When was the first time you knew you fell in love with working in {whatever} industry? Or, what was your most fun project recently? These types of questions get them relaxed in the storytelling and gives you the chance to gain insight into their personality.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Aside from shifting notions about marketing strategy in general, especially digital marketing, I personally have seen a much bigger acceptance across the board from brands that are willing to work with people in other places. And as a gal who lives in a small town and works on the internet, that’s been a huge benefit as a lowered barrier to entry to work on some really cool projects. There’s a lot to be said about in-person meetings, but for my business, the acceptance of Zoom calls has been a big shift that wasn’t the norm before 2020. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I’m in the midst of launching season two of my own podcast (very much inspired by Entreprenistas!). I interview leading women in the food and beverage industry. I hope to continue to continue to grow my copywriting work, and who knows, maybe publish a book someday!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Slow down and stop obsessing over productivity. Also, hugs feel damn good.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Building some kind of network around you is key. And that can look so different for every entrepreneur! For me, it’s a mix of fellow marketing colleagues I chat with online, other business owners in my town, and my two beautiful co-founders in Alinea Collective. They both have their own creative businesses, but also have such different skill sets than I do. We Zoom every Tuesday to catch up on clients, the work each of us is doing, and often, we just end up chatting about what’s going on in our work-lives. When you work for yourself, especially from home, the lines are blurred from work-to-personal life. It can mean the world just to have another human to talk to some days! Also – that website, your profile, your piece of art – It’s never going to be “ready”. I made the mistake of not wanting to tell people that I had a website or business Instagram when I first launched Back Label Branding because I didn’t think it was ready. (It’s still not ready!) But this year, that time, will pass no matter what, and you’re always going to be better off starting now. Just start building NOW versus a few months down the road.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Creating simple moments of connection through cooking dinner for my friends and family. Also, pouring them (and myself) a glass of wine so we can just slow down and talk. For example, last week I stopped by my friend’s house and she said, “Let’s have a glass of wine outside on the deck while we catch up. Because, this weather!” I love how wine can elevate everyday moments like that.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I love working, so I can easily find myself doing too much of it. But I also love, and need, time to just be. To get in my daily movement, to float around my house, organize my sock drawer, or say yes to a spontaneous hike with a friend… it’s an ongoing journey but for me, it’s been about letting go of judgement for “what a productive day looks like”. I also have been playing with this idea of not officially starting my Mondays until noon. It relieves so much pressure! If I do start working in the morning, great! If not, I use that time before my work week officially starts to get in a workout, fold my laundry, pay my bills, whatever needs to be done to set my week up for success.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I weirdly like listening to my own voice. Maybe that’s why having a podcast works for me?

Also, I’m a terrible speller. For someone who practically writes for a living, all I can say is thank goodness for spell check.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Get some kind of daily movement in.

Make a list (usually the night before).

Ensure your environment is comfortable. For me, space has a big impact on my productivity so in my home office I’ve added a second monitor and keep the thermostat slightly bumped up from the rest of the house (I hate being cold), and am always playing music. It’s been a game-changer

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Owning your trail, not necessarily having to blaze it. There are all kinds of Entreprenistas out there – not just the “boss babes” we tend to glorify. To me, being an Entreprenista means something more internal. When you see a woman owning what she loves and the life she’s passionate about creating, being brave enough to give it a go to make her life’s living doing it, that’s empowering!

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