Spotlight: Renee St.Clair of Ink & Vellum

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Renee's interest in the written word has been a life-long love story destined for greater things. Earning a BA in English with a writing emphasis at Portland State University, Renee began dabbling in freelance projects in 2014, where she discovered a notable lack of corrective and creative writing among business professionals looking to engage customers through web and print marketing. Seizing this opportunity in the market, Ink & Vellum came to life in January of 2016, based on principles of open communication, custom product innovation, and organic business partnerships. We find Renee to be an innovating creative, that is pushing boundaries, being fearless, and lastly, being effortlessly honest with her work. Since she is sadly not on our team, the closest we could get is to feature her in our next addition of our Spotlight Series.

Now for the Q & A...

Thank you for being a part of our spotlight series Renee, can you tell us about your business that you created in 2016 and what you do?

It’s always a bit difficult to put concrete words to “what we do” as creative professionals but my most succinct summation of Ink & Vellum would be: We help entrepreneurs/companies define and articulate their brand identity through web and print mediums with the express purpose of growing influence, sharing meaningful stories and as a happy side-effect, increasing sales. This is a relatively large umbrella that can include creative work on things like website building, copywriting, copy editing, print collateral design (brochures, business cards, newsletters, mailers, etc); essentially all things “business promotion”.

What is your background in the creative field?

First and foremost, I’m a lifelong writer. I’ve been wielding a pen like a swashbuckling word pirate since the tender age of...whenever you learn to write. In high school, I excelled in English and visual arts classes and went on to pursue my English degree (with a writing minor) at Portland State University. Despite all this, I kept finding myself in jobs where my creative talents weren’t being utilized. Then I began working for a fantastic local real estate agent in 2013 and part of my role was creating marketing pieces for the team. I found myself really enjoying the process of writing and creating materials that made an impact with people and got them to engage with our message. Once I realized I not only had a bit of a knack for it but there was a pretty massive lack of unique, high-quality marketing content in the real estate industry, the rest was history; Ink & Vellum was born in January 2016 as a direct response to that gap in the market and began serving clients from all industries in April 2016.

What inspired or intrigued you to create Ink & Vellum?

I believe when marketing and sales are done correctly, it should be a matter of connection; a mutual, give and take relationship. The missing piece for many companies is figuring out how to bridge the divide between “stranger” and “customer” in a way that feels genuine. That process, that space between “have-not-met” and “loyal-fan”, is all about connection and that’s what fascinates me about marketing; it’s one giant experiment in human psychology. When I discovered I had a skill for connecting people to companies, it validated my lifelong addiction to the crazy power of language and aesthetic to bring people together. I have to reel myself in from getting too poetic about it because that’s how insane and meaningful I find it but, without going too new-age-philosophical on you, that’s definitely the driving force behind Ink & Vellum’s purpose; creating and sustaining relationships.

What are the qualities you look for in working with a client, and who is your target audience?

Clients need to be collaborative, self-aware, decisive, open to advice, responsive, and willing to relinquish a bit of control (which is a hard one for some people) to be a good fit for my services. I respect my clients as the expert in their field of choice and things go much smoother and quicker if they can afford that same respect in return. I love working with one-man-show entrepreneurs, small business owners, and nonprofits as they have a unique investment in their identity and process that allows for really impactful personalization and story-telling.

What really gets your creative fires burning?

My absolute favorite creative scenarios always stem from shining light on big personalities or intensely meaningful causes. I love infusing humor and storytelling into my work as much as possible, 1) because it works and 2) because marketing with substance brings warmth and happiness to the world, and that, more than anything, is my mission in life.

What are some goals for your business in the new year?

1) Become a thought leader in my niche by value-bombing everyone I can get my hands on (metaphorically). I’m obsessed with blogging, masterminding, sharing ideas and giving advice and will be producing some amazing, “Wait, I don’t have to pay for this?” worthy content for my tribe this year. 2) Launch my online course, How to Write Amazing Sales Copy for Your Business, which covers ALL the must-knows and steps to creating content that actually converts. 3) Grow my email list to 5,000+ members. 4) Build and sell a minimum of 22 amazing websites. 5) Donate $1,000+ to Thorn, a nonprofit organization that builds tech tools to defend children from sexual abuse and trafficking, a cause I’m extremely passionate about.

What has been one of your biggest wins for your company, and what did you gain or learn from it?

I definitely believe in celebrating daily wins; the fact that I have this platform to share the words you’re reading today is an awesome win. But, something really magical has begun to happen in the past six months that’s been extremely affirming. I’m starting to experience moments where people are going out of their way to communicate that what I’m doing is making an impact on them, whether that’s a blog post I wrote, a video or article I shared or something I said that made them think differently about themselves, their business or the world. Those moments are always my biggest wins because they teach me over and over again that being who you are in this world matters, and if you don’t double-down and make an investment in that identity, the universe is a little lacking for it.

Do you collaborate with other creatives or does Ink & Vellum do it all?

I’m currently a one-woman-show handling writing, editing, strategizing and design for my clientele but I absolutely plan on growing Ink & Vellum into a team brand down the road. I’m always looking to grow my referral partners list for services I don’t provide and take the process of vetting other creative professionals very seriously before I’m willing to send my clients their direction. Logo and packaging design are examples of things I may outsource depending on the client need and I keep my referrals very custom to the conversations I’m having; i.e. one person’s style may be a better fit for this company over that company, etc.  

What is the most useful tech tool that you are obsessed with and why?

Asana for goal setting/achieving (gives you easy ways to break down large goals into achievable, day-by-day bites), Canva for user-friendly design (that you can share with clients or team members), SmallPDF for file conversions (also known as: making your life easier), HeadSpace for sanity (necessary), ThinkUp for daily affirmations (mindset work), Hootsuite for social media automation, MailChimp for email automation.

What do you believe are the 3 most important rules to remember when it comes to marketing a business?

1) Authenticity speaks. 2) Sales are a result of connection. 3) Give value to get value.

What is one piece of advice for young entrepreneurs that you wish someone would’ve told you?

Wow. How do you pick just one?! *cue the forehead sweat*. Okay, okay...The thing that may have moved the needle forward for me in business a lot sooner and more dramatically (and perhaps with fewer panic attacks and nervous sobbing) if someone had helped me rewire the way I thought about “failure” sooner in my life. Failure is such a stigmatized thing in our “independent American” society and as a national community, we’ve built it up in our minds to be this big, bad, scary wolf just waiting to blow all our dreams to the winds. In reality, failure is a necessary piece of growth, improvement, expertise, humility, knowledge, innovation, high performance, and success. When I was young, I was always hesitant to try new things for fear of how my failure might look. Now, I’m hesitant to say no to new things for fear of the lessons I might never learn. That mindset shift has completely changed my world.

How do you win the hearts of your clients?

I win the hearts of my clients by being deeply invested in the process of uncovering who people truly are and putting that spirit and life into a written and visual representation of their business. Starting a business is such a personal process when you say “yes” to entrepreneurship, you’re truly putting yourself out there in every sense of the word. I understand when my client’s come to me to create something for them, they’re handing me a little piece of their vision to mold and I take the job of communicating their passion very seriously. I’m also constantly looking for ways to make things easier, smoother, more intuitive and more valuable for my people; loyalty is a characteristic that’s ingrained in me to the bone and once someone makes a commitment to me, I make it a mission to affirm that decision in every action I take. (Also, I make a mean White Russian, which doesn’t hurt.)

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