The Importance of Time Off


There were times in my adult life as a small business owner that I didn’t take vacations. I blamed it on money; I blamed it on schedules and a whole slew of other things. But the fact of the matter is we all need a break. We all need a vacation. We all need some time off. And we need to make it a priority lest it fall victim to making excuses.

Taking time off in terms of planning vacations is key. I do it big and I do it little.

I do it big when my Michael and I travel internationally a couple times per year for “vacation” in the truest sense. We also take some domestic trips for long weekends each year.


But on top of that, I take a whole weekend off every couple months to prevent burn out in busy season. And then weekly I make sure I get my equivalent of a “weekend” off even with my crazy schedule. Daily I take breaks for walks in the sunshine and enjoying a cup of tea. 

We all need time off. If nothing else, start with walks outdoors, but please, oh please, build up to a bucket of beers on the beach in another country – because we only live once and there will always be more time and more money to replace what you spent making memories.  

Cheers! xxoo 


I recently had the pleasure of doing some professional speaking in Portland as one of the masters at Class: Where the Masters Teach by Erica Carr. I was on the business panel with Kate Johnson, moderated by Erica Carr. We had a wonderful time sharing tips, advice, and gems about how we do what we do as successful business owners. The artists in attendance got access to some intimate knowledge about the intricacies of running a business.  


At the end of the day, you always have to ask yourself – do I love doing the craft or do I love doing the craft and I want to sign up for the hustle of having my name on the door? Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re ready to get your logo designed and/or you’ve been in the game for a while whether as a single freelancer or a studio owner, my message is to be a lifelong learner. 

Everyone should be investing in their education as an artist and a business owner in order to grow more successfully faster and with more enjoyment. Buy a book, take a class, hire a coach, join a group, travel to a program, watch a webinar – do something. Going in the right direction is more important than just going in any direction. Claim your future by becoming the best you can be in all aspects of your life and work. Knowledge is power and strategy is fueled by knowing the WHY behind all that you do.




Enrollment for Class 2017 is already open.

If you’re considering attending, save your spot soon since Class 2016 sold out. Check it out here: 

Here’s a bit more about Class from the website:

Class is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn skills and techniques directly from top beauty industry artists. 
Who Attends? Professional makeup artists who want to add significant value to their career and learn from the finest master beauty instructors in the business.
The Experience? Three classes taught daily for five days, with over 12 hours for you to practice what you’ve learned and receive valuable feedback. Class is a chance for you to invest in yourself and your business in a supportive goal-oriented setting.
Beyond Networking: Class offers an opportunity to meet makeup artists from all over the world in a unique learning environment. You’ll trade helpful tips with fellow students and learn how instructors cultivated their business.
Accommodations:  The host hotel, EMBASSY SUITES, is located in beautiful Downtown Portland, Oregon. After Class, you can grab a coffee or craft beer with new friends or shop the area’s conveniently located boutiques. Portland is known for its excellent cuisine and its laid-back artistic vibe. It is a top U.S. destination, but also a place to relax and unwind as you gain inspiration both from natural surroundings and local creatives. 

Class is a makeup artist’s utopia in beautifully hip Portlandia

The 2016 Masters:

Sam Fine

Pati Dubroff 

Reggie Wells

Alex Box

Michelle Coursey

Christopher Milone

Lora Arellano


Joanna Schlip

Beau Nelson

Sandy Linter

Gregory Arlt

Jessica Padilla

Stephen Dimmick

Jessie Powers

Julianne Kaye

Madeline Leonard

Elizabeth Hanley

Brett Dorrian


Kate Johnson

Erica Carr

Pricing Yourself for Profit


Many business owners approach pricing their services by just doing a minimal amount of market research and setting their rates wherever they see competitors’ rates. That’s fine – if for some reason you are running the exact same business model as they are with the exact same financial considerations. Otherwise, it’s just the easy way out because it requires minimal strategic consideration and no extra math.

I challenge every business owner to do better than that.

You can start by coming up with what you need to make it. What is the magic number of revenue required to cover what you need to earn, costs of goods sold, expenses, and estimated taxes? Now you’ve got that nugget of information that will guide all of your marketing to hit your sales goals to work towards that income goal.  But how many of each thing do you need to sell to get there? That is answered in your pricing.  

When you work on pricing, you need to figure out if you are luxury or a commodity. That piece will inform your rates as well as your branding. If you are a commodity (dime a dozen) you are competing on price and then the market will decide your rates. If you offer XYZ in the same way the other guys do and it’s a no frills volume-based kind of approach, then you made your services a commodity. It’s pretty cut and dry and then that basic market comparison mentioned above will need to be a stronger consideration.

If you are luxury, then you need to create a value-add in a very special way that creates solutions for clients who are willing to pay more for an elevated experience with an expert. The little touches make a big difference. And you need to create and communicate reasons why you are different and why that warrants the higher cost. You can’t just slap a higher price tag on the same commodity as everyone else – you won’t last long doing that.  It’s got to be genuine and thoughtful and, again, special.  

You will spend a whole lot more time, money, energy, and creativity attracting the perfect-fit clients who are willing to pay more for a luxury service that includes your experience and expertise. And you will spend a lot fewer resources garnering any-fit clients who want to just make the cheapest thing exist for your commodity service since you cater to the masses. Commodity clients still want it to serve a purpose and be nice enough – but there’s the qualifier. Nice enough. Good enough. Fine, even.  Luxury clients want it to be perfect and special, and just thing they needed for it to be really right.  


So are you a commodity or are you luxury? Now that you know that, go back to the math of the nugget. Your commodity pricing – competing at a lower price – will demand volume bookings to make it. You will need to sell more of XYZ at that lower rate to get to the total you desire. Your luxury pricing will require you to sell less of XYZ at the higher price to get to the total you require. You will, however, spend more resources on what it takes to be special and get that client who is willing to spend more. 

There’s no right answer until you do your own math for your own business model and consider your brand. You’ll need to decide – is that something the market can bear? Then you’ll know if the pricing you set for the thing you do is feasible for yourself and feasible for your clients and the market.

If business were easy, everyone would be doing it. Asking these tough questions will help you build a business that thrives more than it survives.

Strategy is everything and knowing WHY you do what you do in every decision you make in your business is key.  

Why You Need to Hire My Designer

brett-dorrian-hair-and-makeup-business cards

As many of you know, we recently went through a branding refresh along with doing a new website. I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out! We’ve had Megan in-house as our Senior Design Coordinator and Brand Manager since June. I have been very happy to serve as one of her business mentors and am so pleased to announce the launch of her own design business, Tinyloud Creative Co.!  

Tinyloud Creative Co. is a small studio specializing in bringing high-quality strategic design to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Megan does her work thoughtfully, efficiently, and with great talent.  


On top of that, she is sensitive to the fact that sometimes in small business you need to take things a step at a time rather than all at once either because of resources or creative direction. She will give you a lot of bang for your buck and get it right the first time. She is worth every penny. Before working with Megan, I never knew what it felt like to have my brand perfectly represented and to have my marketing collateral suite house everything I wanted it to contain.  

Whether you need a logo, a website, various design projects, or you want ongoing blog/social support, Megan is your gal. But give her a shout soon – her dance card is already filling up quite nicely and space is limited to be in her queue. You can chat further by shooting her an email at or check her out at



Hiring the right help


Hiring the right help can be one of the hardest things for any small business owner.

You need to find people who will work harder for your business and with more heart than they would at a corporate job – and with less cushy stability. But at the same time, you are offering them a chance to make good money while making a difference in the small company, along with having direct input in the growth of their career.  

photo by Studio 220

photo by Studio 220


At times, managing teams can feel a little Glengarry Glen Ross coming down on performance management; other times it can feel like Rudy being carried across the field. A lot can soar or suffer based on the team you have. Your time can be spent dealing with HR issues or dealing with running your business. And the fact of the matter is, you have to figure out a way to deal with it because people are what makes the world go ‘round.  

One of the best things you can do is to try to identify people with the same values. I always say I can teach someone how to curl hair but I can’t teach them how to be a good person. It’s about integrity, about doing the right thing whether you’re being watched or not. It’s easy to illustrate that thought with a notion from the wedding industry: there’s a napkin laying on the floor and there are certain types of people who will pick it up, and certain types of people who will look at it and walk on by.  

I’m only really interested in the people who would pick up the napkin. Because at the end of the day, what we do is 90% customer service and 10% delivering services. Doing great makeup, hairstyling, and/or photography is a given – talent cannot be skimped on. I’m saying that how people are treated and what their experience was while receiving their services is what makes all the difference to whether or not it was of value. And every single person who represents you and your brand is doing so through their actions and attitudes.

photo by Lauren B. Photography

photo by Lauren B. Photography


In small business, we really need to avoid sinking costs into training and onboarding, especially if it involves skilling up and not simply going through the employee handbook about your model of policies and procedures. It can be devastating to invest in the wrong-fit people. You need people who can do their jobs accurately and efficiently while being a positive team player.  

Think about creative ways to go through the interview process to make sure the candidate’s values and goals align with yours. Have benchmarks, check-ins, and probation periods where you are able to see if they are a good fit before making major commitments to one another. Follow your gut. But remember – if the person is truly the right fit, give them no reason to leave. The keys are generosity in compensation, flexibility, and genuinely caring about them.

We sink or swim together in small business.

Why We Rebranded

After our new letterpress stationery came in, I had to bring a notecard and envelope to our Senior Studio Coordinator, Mallory, so she could experience it.

The experience of the things that have your logo on them are just as important as the logo itself.


Everything in your marketing suite, whether printed or digital, says something about you and about your brand. Even the outfit you wear and the music playing in the background – it’s all part of how you are presenting who you are. And if you are doing a good job, what you hope to be communicating to clients is actually what they are getting from their experience with you. 

We recently went through a branding refresh in tandem with moving to a new studio space and redesigning our whole website. We put our heads together to determine in what ways we needed to redefine our brand. Our work and processes are constantly evolving, so why wouldn’t the same go for our brand? There was nothing wrong with our logo, or fonts, or colors. It all simply deserved a thoughtful evaluation to make sure anything we changed – or, just as importantly, anything we didn’t change – was because of a conscious decision to do so. 



We decided that while the inspiration for our studio had really evolved into a mix of a more clean and bright, modern French, hint of Art Deco kind of vibe over the last year and a half, our logo and marketing collateral in general was still existing in a more heavily vintage/Deco place. We had to modernize our fonts and put the theatrics into the monogram of the logo. We had to move our colors to a more neutral palette overall with only pops of the coral red, French blue, and metallic accents we had come to use in our space.    

We had to (finally!) create a style guide so that we could have a foundation and style parameters as we embarked on the major projects of moving and remodeling a new studio, redesigning a website, and redoing all of our printed and electronic materials. It was a huge undertaking to say the least! Moving the studio meant we had to redo everything with our address on it, but that meant there was an opportunity to do a real branding audit and do more than just reprint envelopes and business cards with the new address.     


One of the biggest lessons I learned and was very proud of myself for, was that I was willing to evolve and change.

I think many business owners are protective of a logo or look; basically it’s easier to be stuck than to change sometimes. And of course, it can be a tough conversation to have someone tell you that an old design could use a refresh – that the thing you chose and loved at one point isn’t serving your brand the way it used to. 

I had to trust our new in-house Senior Design Coordinator and Brand Manager, Megan, to be the expert to allow us to modernize the things that needed change. I built this brand into something great, but it was time to bring in more help to make it even more amazing! It was actually exhilarating since, as an entrepreneur, I love launching new things and new ideas. Because of Megan’s insane amount of design talent and our wonderful communication styles, along with Mallory making sure our messaging was on point, copy editing, and giving input all along the way, we were able to land on a truly amazing brand refresh.   


Good branding is clear, consistent, and congruent with the message of who you are and how you do what you do.

For example, we are a luxury studio and we pride ourselves on being a local small business and working with other local small businesses. Only the best will do for our clients, so we were sure to use awesome local printing options when it came time to print things.  

Studio On Fire did the most gorgeous job on our letterpress and foil stamped business cards and notecards. If you know me, you know that a good hand-letterpressed piece of physical collateral might just be my favorite thing to hold. Then Smart Set did all of our digital printing – so the envelopes, post cards, pricing sheets, etc.  Holy buckets, has digital printing come a long way! We were very impressed with the high quality paper options and how beautifully everything printed.

Flat digital printing by Smart Set in Northeast Minneapolis

This is the first time in my eight years in business where absolutely everything about our brand is totally on point and existing. I remember thinking early on about all the things we didn’t have in our marketing suite yet (because it’s all an investment, oh I know). Yet it was always really important to me to maintain a clear definition of our brand. I remember the first time I got to have a designed business card and my first logo. It felt like such a leap to not have to go through an online printer where you just entered in your contact information to their template, like you were ordering new checks or something. Here we are years later with a stunning suite that is completely befitting of our luxury studio in a way that makes everyone say “wow!” and “this is SO you!”

And that’s exactly what I was going for.    

A Grand Opening

Holy buckets, we made it!

Many of you in our tribe got to see the wonderful launch of our new space, new website, and branding refresh this fall. It has been a whirlwind of excitement! And how wonderful that it all came together in this, our eighth year in business. I started the studio back in the fall of 2008 and boy have we come a long way!  

We started our journey of creating a new website back in June. Every word, every image, every menu, and navigation was reworked, revised, and refreshed until it was perfect and ready for the public eye. I’ve got high expectations, and I have been 100% happy with how it all turned out (big props to Megan, our in-house Senior Design Coordinator and Brand Manager – who also does freelance work)!  


We also took the opportunity to do a little branding refresh on our logo and all marketing collateral – but more on our branding refresh and pricing to come in subsequent blog posts. Part of that was now having Megan on board, and part of it was out of necessity after moving the studio! 


If there are two consistent rules with business, they are:

1. If you take a group staff picture, someone will get hired or fired shortly thereafter.

2. If you print things with your address on them, you will probably move.

Ha! On a related note, there will be a TBA ceremonial bonfire of all the old materials sometime soon at my house. S’mores, anyone? But really, we couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. We are living the reality of the dream every business owner has – to actually love all of your marketing materials and to not have missing pieces anymore.  

And why did we move?

We got the opportunity to move into the Solar Arts building in the trendy NE Minneapolis Arts District with a vibrant artists’ community. I toured the building on a rainy June weeknight and by July 1st we had the keys. Everyone has asked – how did you keep it a secret?! If you know me, you know that I just Instagrammed my lunch and posted another picture of Frank to Facebook. It was extremely difficult to keep the news on the down low, at least until we had the remodel done and the website was ready to launch. We got some great advice from a business mentor to do one big launch/announcement all at once, which meant hustling on the last month of the website and keeping our lips sealed for just a bit.  

We are so, SO in love with our new space and how it turned out! Once again, a design win for the décor and paint, plus the exciting new offering we have for brides to use it as a getting ready room. We nearly tripled in size and now have a wonderful shooting bay for headshots and family pictures, along with ample workspace for our team.  


When awesome things happen,
you throw a party!

We had a wonderful grand opening party on October 6th! A huge THANK YOU to my staff, the participating vendors, everyone who came, clients, friends and family, our new building owner/manager/fellow artists/fellow neighbors, and last but very not least my personal #1, my Michael, for supporting us in getting to what very much feels like Brett Dorrian Artistry Studios 2.0 this fall! It was a perfect way to celebrate all of our amazing developments at the studio!



Brett Dorrian



A big thanks to everyone who was a part of our very special grand opening party:

Photography by: Brett Dorrian Artistry Studios
We are now located at: Solar Arts Building in NE Mpls!
Food by: Chowgirls Killer Catering (they have the wedding venue on the 3rd floor in our building!)
Floral by: Martha's Gardens
Macarons by: Nikkolette's Macarons
We threw some Indeed Brewing Company beers into our champagne bucket for good measure! (they are in our building on the 1st floor!)
Cigar Rolling by: International Cigars
Giveaway donations from: Chowgirls Killer Party Food: Righteous Bites & Cocktails for Every SeasonFlutter BoutiqueFlirt BoutiqueKisa Boutique, International Cigars, and Brett Dorrian Artistry Studios