One Year Ago
the sejo story
In the middle of combing through a never-ending page of Indeed.com listings, I became distracted by a previous night’s conversation and pulled up a new internet browser.
SOJO design, I typed into the search bar. I quickly skimmed through the results and went back to the flashing Google Chat box.
“SOJO Design is the name of an interior design company based out of Florida,” I reported to my mother. IM’ing was our favorite means of communication while she was at work.
“Booo,” she typed back.
“You’re telling me,” I replied. It was a shame—I liked that name.
A few minutes later, I had an alternative.
“SEJO–pronounced like say-jo?” I offered.
Her response was nearly immediate.
“Hmmm. That’s interesting.”
She then had to run into a meeting, and our conversation was put on hold, leaving me to wonder if “interesting” was a good or bad thing.
By happenstance, we started working together after I graduated from college. Soon after I walked across the stage in that stifling orange-and-black gown, I realized that my freshly-printed diploma would only guarantee regular payments to my friends at Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. After submitting application after application without even securing a phone interview, I was growing increasingly desperate for employment and moved back in with my parents, contemplating whether or not my old manager at Little Caesar’s would consider rehiring me.
And then, as I was trying to understand why entry-level positions required two years of industry experience, a position opened up at my mom’s work. It was in my field and paid enough to meet the monthly loan repayment minimum, but it was only a short-term gig, a four-month contract, at best. Regardless, it was a job, so I accepted the offer and began working in the same department as my mom.
A year later, I had been promoted to a full-time position and realized how much I loved working with my mom. We had always been close; but, as coworkers, we just clicked. We both worked hard, got along well, and respected each other as professionals. Though our job responsibilities didn’t always overlap, I anxiously anticipated the moments I could consult with her on a project or ask her opinion on a design concept or an article I had written.
It was around this time we started toying around with the idea of starting our own business.
In the beginning, sejo was a graphic design business. We worked in marketing and spent most of our office time in InDesign or Illustrator, so graphic design seemed like a natural fit. We had picked up a few freelance projects and thought organizing a formal business would secure our future as perpetual colleagues.
But, then, I had the crazy notion to pack up my life and move to the West Coast, and the dream remained just that—a dream.
Sure, we would occasionally engage in “sejo talk” and wistfully wonder what life would be like if we ran a business together, but it never amounted to much.
And, to be honest, the concept no longer settled well with me. Mom was the graphic designer—not me. She had the education and was the designer by trade with a 30-year career to prove it. Me? My background was bedrocked in the media world—I felt more at home with a camera in my hand than a pencil and am most comfortable referring to myself as a content creator, not a designer.
Despite how much I wanted this business to come to fruition, I was almost willing to let it go at that point, thinking that I just could help get sejo off the ground and give to her to run.
But, then, one day, I was talking to a colleague at my new job about style guides, and it hit me: branding.
With Mom’s design experience and marketing background, my affinity for content creation, and our combined talent for copywriting and editing, a branding design studio was the perfect—and practical—fit for these varying but complementary skillsets.
With this revelation, I called Mom the moment I got off work that afternoon; and, the more we talked, the more it all made sense.
We’re the people who enjoy heated discussions about the necessity of the Oxford comma, abide by the principle that form follows function, and work to the creed of clear, concise, and consistent communication. A branding design studio would allow us to better serve people like us—creative entrepreneurs, independent freelancers, solopreneurs, and small business owners. We would be able to support like-minded artists, those who understand that branding is a worthy and necessary investment but have neither the time, resources, nor experience to properly execute. Through that process, we would then be able to cultivate meaningful, symbiotic relationships with our clients, to act and be treated like partners as opposed to a one-off workhouse.
Almost immediately, we drafted a business plan, Mom began sketching logo concepts and started on our own style guide, and I tackled our website and social media presence. We crafted packages designed to serve business at any stage of the branding process, all driven by a simple mission to build brands committed to clear purpose, intentional design, and consistent messaging.
As sejo developed, we also realized a need to answer the “now, what?” question. You have a brand, so now what? How do you continue to create meaningful brand experiences that encourage active and engaged audiences?
In response, the sejo blog was born. As a corner of our business dedicated to helping brands better understand and share their stories, Check out the sejo blog to read insightful articles about brand storytelling strategies and practices, see what we’ve been working on, and to get a behind-the-scenes look on workflows and processes at sejo.
In all, a year ago today, I wasn’t sure if sejo would ever be more than just a name and an idea. Over the past several months, we’ve built sejo from the ground up, working on nights and weekends on two separate coasts and competing with a three-hour time difference. It’s been a long process, frustrating yet rewarding all the same. Needless to say, I’m so proud to see where we’ve come in so short a time and am joyfully anticipatory of what’s to come.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story. At the core, we’re a mother-daughter team who want to help you and would love to learn more about who you are! Connect with us on Instagram or Twitter, and let’s start building your brand today!