How to Find the Heart of Your Brand (Interview with Pinegate Road)

Back in January, Blue Compass had the opportunity to sit down with Kelsey Kerslake, and talk with her about the recent success she’s had with starting her own business, Pinegate Road. Started as a personal blog and creative outlet while in college, Kelsey has grown Pinegate Road into a resource for new businesses. The company pools together Kelsey’s vast knowledge of marketing, design and branding to help start-ups find out the core of their business.

Kelsey is originally from Erie, PA and graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Communication Studies then continued her education at Savannah College of Art and Design where she earned her Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

 Follow along with our interview with Kelsey!

Question: Now that you’re working full-time for yourself, which services do you really like to focus on, that you would love all your clients to come to you and ask for help with?

Right now, I love working specifically with my clients on branding. By branding, I don’t mean designing a logo; I mean getting to the bottom of their brand, their core values and their strategy. I offer a brand visioning process; it’s Pinegate Road’s signature process for getting to the bottom of your brand and building a foundation. Through all of these years, I’ve learned that making every decision based on a strong strategy amplifies your business. You can apply the strategy and values to everything you’re doing. That’s how you build a brand and talk to clients/customers in a way that works together toward a common goal.

Question: Why do you think it’s important for businesses to go through something like Pinegate Road’s brand visioning process?

It’s important because you’ll be diluting your efforts if you don’t go through that process. Say you’re going into business as a car wash; if you aim to please everyone, you’ll spend a lot of money to reach everyone and maybe only hit 1% of the market. If you figured out who your target audience was, your mission, how you can uniquely deliver your offerings and make your car wash the best car wash in the world for the people that really need you, then you can reach the target customers at almost 100%. Now you’re in the heart of that target audience, and they’ll help spread the word to people who maybe only match your target audience somewhat, but that overall essence of branding and love that the original audience is giving to your brand is going to amplify.

Question: If a company who isn’t on social is going to jump into every social channel but they haven’t gone through a branding process, what advice would you give them?

Just doing something because someone says you should do it, isn’t going to give you the impact for which you’re looking. You don’t need to be on Facebook to be a good business; Facebook isn’t for everyone, and it might not be what you need to be doing for your brand. At least take one day to figure out the strategy and plan of what you’re doing. If you want to create a community, then Facebook messaging one-on-one and Facebook Live might be a good strategy. Figure out the “why” of what you’re doing, because then your focus and purpose is “community” and not “Facebook.”

Question: You talk a lot about strategy. How do you help your clients get to a point where they can embrace what it means to have a strategy?

It’s so hard! One of the ways I’m educating people about this is through what I’m putting out in the world. I’ve been building my business to educate people why strategy is important and how it can help grow your business. Sitting down for a day and taking time out of the day from “sales” might seem counterintuitive, but you’ll be able to figure out how to make people fall in love with your brand. I’ve created compelling content that explains to people why strategy is so important and in fact, the Pinegate Road strategy revolves around educating my audience. My clients come to me already aware of how important it is to have a strong brand and strategy because I’ve been educating them along the way through what I publish in my newsletter, blogs and podcasts. They come to me looking for that.

You have such an interesting perspective on all of this because not only are you helping your clients launch brands and come up with their identities, but you’re going through that at the same time yourself, so it gives you this unique perspective where you’re going through the same thing as your clients. 

Question: With that being said, which branding exercises do you see small business owners and startups struggling with the most. What’s the hardest thing for them?

It’s honestly getting them to take the time to think about it. The biggest hurdle for most new business owners is that they want to do too much digital marketing all at once, and it’s because they’ve heard it’s a good idea from someone but they aren’t sure exactly what their business is going to benefit from engaging in it. I write my client’s core values at the top of everything when we meet so that we are always aware of them. Then we write down everything they want to do (start a YouTube channel, open an Instagram account) and see which items align strategically and will help further their mission. Having someone walk them through it is a big help because sometimes business owners want to do everything.

Question: You mention you have clients come up with core values. Do you have to pull out the brand values for your clients or help them find out what the values really are?

Oh yeah, that’s part of the brand visioning process. There is this 20-page homework assignment that business owners go through. I’ve been working on this document for the past five years and it’s structured in a way that allows me to review the client work and pull the values out of what they’ve revealed through the assignment. When they work with me one-on-one, they’re not finding the core values, I am. I do have a course right now, Building a Booming Brand. It is my whole brand visioning process but it teaches them how to find their core values on their own instead of one-on-one with me.

Question: Do you ever get any pushback on the values you present for brands?

I haven’t gotten any pushback because I’m not making it up. I’m translating what they’ve said. It comes from everything they’ve said; I’m not choosing these words will-nilly, they’re usually spot on because they come from them.

Question: Are there common misconceptions that client’s come to you with where you find yourself re-educating?

Not really, other than the fact that they want to jump on every social media platform. I don’t deal a lot with the marketing side of things, just more with the branding. But a lot of people will come to me and say, “I just need a logo,” or “I just need a color palette,” to which I say, “that isn’t going to change your business.” They think they know exactly what they need to get where they want, but a lot of times they’re just looking on the surface and they need to work with someone like me or Blue Compass to find out what’s below the surface. It’s natural to want to start with a design because it’s concrete and you can see it. The brand value isn’t measurable like a digital marketing campaign, so it’s hard to convince them to spend time on it. A new logo, color palette and website are all tangible items wherein they can see change and sometimes it’s hard for them to “see” a strategy.

Question: Is there a moment when you typically see clients “get it” as they go through your brand visioning process?

It’s really cool; I get so many emails that are like, “Wow you just reached inside my brain and put it onto paper, how did you do that?” That typically happens after we go through the homework and they brain dump everything. I have these questions that make them get everything out, and then I take that and tidy it up into the brand visioning document. That’s when they realize it’s what they needed to get everything together. That’s when they can start to take all those thoughts and visions they had that were confusing them just floating around and can say, “that’s my business.”

Tell us more about how people can go through your brand visioning process.

It’s the same process that each client goes through. Sometimes I don’t even do visuals with clients, sometimes they just need to go through the brand visioning with me, and they take that somewhere else. If they can’t afford the logo design with me after going through the process and they buy a logo from Etsy that matches their brand visioning, then that’s great.

Kelsey offers a variety of services including her brand visioning for the Build a Booming Brand course where you take yourself through the brand visioning process. To get $100 off the course, sign-up for her newsletter for a special promotional code. The course runs three times a year, in January, April and September. For more information on Pinegate Road’s services, visit the website,!

Author Thumbnail for Stephanie Wubben
Stephanie Wubben

Stephanie is a strategic thinker. Challenging projects and situations drive her ambition to create thoughtful solutions for clients. With a background in market research, her love for measuring success and performance quickly led her into digital marketing where she endlessly tweaks and optimizes clients' campaigns until they're operating at peak performance.