Charlene Brown is the founder and owner of Bklyn Custom Designs, located in NYC. As a full-stack developer and brand strategist, Charlene made it her mission to support solopreneurs in building their online presence. More precisely, her daily business is to help her clients, most of them black women, with their strategic website development and design. Today Charlene is with us and we’ll have the chance to ask her some questions on her job, her career, and why she chose NYC as her home.
Charlene, thanks for taking the time to do this interview today! It’s a pleasure having you as a part of our #mailbutlerstories. Let’s talk about you, your work, and of course, your company Bklyn Custom Designs. To start off, I’d like to play a little game of fill in the blanks with you:
If I wasn’t working as a web identity developer, I would probably have become…. 🤔
… this is a hard question. I probably would have gone into Psychology and writing about my adventures helping others overcome overwhelm and struggling with those feelings.
The most flattering thing a client has ever said to me was… 😊
… that I was amazing, and they wanted to actively help see me succeed. It was so unexpected but very appreciated, especially when they came through for me time and time again; and still do.
One thing I can do better than anyone else is…. 🥇
… quickly surmise the situation and identify up to three solutions and implementations, so they can launch the web presence that fits them uniquely.
I admit, I tend to put off… 🕑
… confrontations. I don’t like tension and I work to not have these types of situations created. Finding the best ways to communicate and uplift people I encounter has been one of my goals for some years now.
What I like most about New York, the home base of Bklyn Custom Designs is… 🤩
… those unexpected moments when opportunities and genuine relationships develop are some amazing things I love about New York. You’ll always be able to find your tribe here.
Thank you so much for your responses, Charlene! Now, let’s dive into your work life. Bklyn Custom Designs helps solopreneurs launch their online businesses & brands. Please tell us, what services do you offer, exactly? 💻
I provide strategic website development and design services that incorporate the Branding aspects of my clients, so they uniquely stand out and their voices can be heard. I also use video promos and graphics to help elevate these voices and help them build their online presence.
This sounds like a super creative job! Please tell us, Charlene: Bklyn Custom Designs is your very own company. What path took you to where you are right now, and how did you end up founding your own business? 📈
I fell in love with coding and website development in 2000 as I launched an Entertainment site of my own on Drupal and learned to use Dreamweaver. Once WordPress launched I was introduced to a quicker way to get my website up and put more of my coding skills to good use.
The more I spoke to women, especially Black women, who had businesses but were not online or had a poorly aligned online presence, the more I realized how much I could be of service to them. It also broke my heart and infuriated me to hear the horror stories of them working with people who claimed to be website designers but failed to help them create their websites and get launched. Too often these women were scammed, left confused, frustrated, and unsure what to do. I knew I had to launch Bklyn Custom Designs and help support and educate as many Solopreneurs as I could.
I totally understand! It’s such a great feeling to have found your very own mission. What inspired you to choose the name Bklyn Custom Designs? Is this a tribute to your city? 🏙
Yes, it is! I’m a Miami baby (born & raised) and New York is where I become a stronger woman and Brooklyn has become my home, so I wanted to make that clear in the name and use the nickname of Brooklyn to show the love to the city that has blessed me with so many genuine connections in my life that exist today.
What would you say: What are three of your favorite things about New York? 🗽
- The food & dining experiences
- The wonderful people that live here and form thriving, historical communities that welcome new people from all over the world
- The opportunities to learn and experience so many nationalities and cultures in one city
Those would be my top three – there are a ton more but I’m going with those!
Those are definitely super good ones! Let’s get back to speaking about your work. Your company specializes in working with Solopreneurs. Why is that, and has that demographic always been your focus? 👩💻
Solopreneurs were always my demographics and I started to focus on Black women as they are the people I meet the most. I not only heard their stories I witnessed the struggles they went through and went through many of those same struggles.
As I mentioned before, I saw their struggles and how they were being taken advantage of by too many who were happy to take their money while providing mediocre service and shoddy work and behavior.
After being shamed from focusing on them at the start of my business in 2014 I started to question why I launched my business. I am grateful to Marie Deveaux, founder of High Tides and She Runs It, who helped me realize that I needed to listen to my gut and follow where my heart truly wanted to be and serve.
Now, because I focus my efforts on working with Solopreneurs who are Black women doesn’t mean I ignore others who want to work with me, and we are a good fit. That simply means that I see the need for education and support and that’s where I am proud to seed my knowledge and services.
What are the most common challenges and questions those Solopreneurs bring? 💭
Technology implementation and content creation and management are some common challenges Solopreneurs bring to me. They are either unsure what to use or how to use them to support and elevate their businesses.
So many Solopreneurs ask which website building platforms they should be on, how to get their websites up without worrying about what they need to do, they simply want the layout to be there with the sample content that fits their businesses.
Much of what I noticed is there is a desire to be current with their businesses but too much information coming at them, hence they ask for help to focus on what they need in particular. They are unique, therefore I work with them on finding those solutions that fit them.
For our solopreneur readers, do you have an easy tip on what to look out for when choosing an agency to support them with their online business? 🧐
Write down all the questions you may have and never be afraid that you’re asking too many questions. That is what you should always do so you can have clarity. This is often one of the best ways to vet who you work with as you see them navigating your questions and providing you explanations with their suggestions.
Another tip, if there are free trials or free versions of technology, use them to the fullest. You can discover which is a great fit for your business instead of listening to everyone else.
Remember, suggestions are just that, suggestions. Ultimately you are the decision-maker so you need to understand your business and how you want it to operate better than anyone else. Surround yourself with people who can support your needs so your business can grow accordingly. There is no one right way.
Those are super valuable tips, Charlene. Thank you very much. Would you tell us about the biggest success and the biggest failure you’ve had with your company? 💪
My biggest success has been watching my clients step out into the online world with confidence and know their websites and brands represent them the way they’ve always imagined.
The biggest failure I’ve had in my business was waiting too long to create systems in my business and invest in what would work for my business, so I could better serve my earlier clients and myself.
Speaking of systems: You’re a long term Mailbutler user! Why is that? How does Mailbutler help you organize your work? 📬
When I first came across Mailbutler I was not sure if it would work, so I tested it out. I sat down and learned all that I could about the software and how it would help me create accountability for myself and my clients. I would have the “I didn’t get the email” text messages or I would forget to follow up.
Once I started using Mailbutler I realized how much of a lifesaver it was and I’m excited that I took the plunge and invested in myself and my business. One of the best tools in my business; no doubt!
I can place reminders on messages for follow-up and create my own reminder times, I see when emails are read and I make a note to reach out to them if no response in 2 days. I love the ease of integrating it with my Apple Mail. Not too many tools are able to have smooth integration like Mailbutler and I thank you for that. I can focus my energy on serving my clients instead of email tracking.
Thank you, Charlene! We’re super happy that you’re enjoying Mailbutler! Last question: If you had three wishes for 2021, what would they be? 🧞
That’s a question indeed.
For 2021 I wish beyond good health, but intentional mental and physical care for all Solopreneurs as we tend to not let go or be in the position to let go. I wish that we take the time to implement systems in our businesses (no matter how small they may seem) to help move us into the true position of a business owner with employees helping us rather than being stressed out and alone.
I also wish that more website developers and designers work together with their clients to not only be of service to them but educate them. You don’t have to be a Techie to understand the purpose and role that technology has in your business.
My final wish is that we all can prosper in 2021 (personally, emotionally, financially, or all three) so we continue to grow individually and worldwide. There is more than enough room for everyone who wants to be part of building each other up. There is no reason that we cannot overcome the struggles that occur in life. We need to prepare ourselves and continue to pivot, learn, and grow from them.
This was a wonderful closing to our interview! Thanks so much for your time, Charlene. We wish you all the best for the future! 🍀
Thank for speaking with me and allowing me to share my journey!
This interview belongs to #mailbutlerstories. For the whole Mailbutler team our clients are at the center of everything we do. This is why we love getting to know our Mailbutler users, their daily work, and the challenges they face.
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Have you already checked out our interview “The Brand of Women’s Business” with Manon von der Weegen? Go read it now!