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May 24, 2022

Episode 059: How to Build a Luxury Brand as a Small Business with Alison Stevenson of Alison Mae Photography

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Have you ever considered making your brand a “luxury brand”? Whether you’d like to scale back your hours, create an incredible client experience, or even make more money per job, there are several reasons to consider making your brand more “luxurious.”

Alison Stevenson of Alison Mae Photography is an Indianapolis-based wedding photographer who knows the benefits of creating a luxury brand firsthand. For more than six years, Alison has been strategically building her brand in a way that sets her apart from other wedding photographers in her market. With a fine-art and film-inspired style, Alison offers a luxury experience that her clients never forget.

While Alison certainly serves her clients well, her family—which includes her husband and their two dogs and two cats—and her loved ones have also benefited from Alison’s brand transition. We’ll discuss more of this below, but basically, because Alison is able to charge more per wedding, she is able to spend more time with those who matter most and less time working.

In case you’re interested in creating a luxury brand or making your current brand more high end, in this episode of Priority Pursuit, Alison explains what a luxury brand is, reasons to consider creating a high-end brand, and how to build a luxury brand as a small business.

What is a luxury brand?

Chances are, when you think of a luxury brand, you imagine some serious dollar signs. And, while it may be true that a luxury brand’s products and services typically cost more, luxury brands offer experiences that are worth paying for.

In Alison’s own words, “A luxury brand has excellence across the board. They’ve thought through every single detail, know who their ideal client is, and every step of the way, they’ve thought through how to meet the needs of their clients.”

In other words, a luxury brand is a brand that makes every step of their customers’ experience with them enjoyable and high quality.

Why should you consider creating a luxury brand?

While it might be great to know what a luxury brand is, you might be wondering why you should consider starting a luxury brand or transitioning your current brand to be more of a luxury brand.

Alison shares that her own decision to create a luxury brand came from a place of realizing she was working too much, losing her creativity, and just burnt out. Alison realized that she had so much work that she didn’t have the capacity to serve all of her clients well, and she wanted that to change.

Are you in a similar place? Are you working more than you want to, struggling to be creative, or burned out? If so, creating a luxury brand for your small business might be a good option.

Alison explains that having a luxury brand is an opportunity as a small business owner to really focus on your ideal clients. Because, with a luxury brand, you can charge more for your service or product, work less, and really focus on providing your service or product exceptionally well.

However, creating a luxury brand doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process that involves considerable thought and planning. If you’re considering creating a luxury brand, make sure it is something you’re truly passionate about and will move the needle forward in your business.

But what if a luxury brand isn’t for you?

In this episode, Alison emphasizes that a luxury brand isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK! The whole point of running your own business is to create a career that works well for you. It can be easy to compare yourself with other businesses and think your business has to look the same, but as Alison shares in this episode, that isn’t the case.

How do you create a luxury brand?

Alright, friend. If you’re starting to think a luxury brand might be perfect for your small business, let’s dive into exactly how to create one.

In this episode, Alison shares the following tips:

1. Know your numbers.

Well, we’re going to start with the scary stuff first, but hang with me. It isn’t as scary as you think. In fact, according to Alison, knowing your numbers as a small business is a “superpower”.

Alison shares that when you know your numbers, you’re able to determine exactly what you need to charge to make a living wage for yourself. If you’re creating a luxury brand, you’re making a choice to focus on providing a service or product that’s geared toward your ideal clients. This might mean you’re scaling back on some of the services or products that take your time away from creating that luxury experience.

Remember, a luxury brand is an experience that is excellent from start to finish with no stone left unturned in between. You can’t create a luxury brand simply for the sake of doing it. It has to be intentional and it has to be a profitable move for your business. Don’t be afraid to sit down and really look at your numbers so that you can truly decide what’s going to work for you and for your clients.

If you need help determining your numbers for your business. Tune into Episode 044: “Exactly How to Determine Your Prices as a Creative Entrepreneur with Chris Deckard or Velvet Lotus Photography!”

2. Learn to say “no.”

Okay, yes. Alison did go there, and I get it if you’re cringing a little bit now. Saying “no”? Is that even possible?

Let’s be honest. As creative entrepreneurs we’re not always the best at saying no. For example, Alison started out trying to shoot weddings, while also doing family and senior sessions. It was a lot to try to balance, and Alison found that she was frustrated and not loving her job because she wasn’t doing what she was most passionate about and what excited her the most—shooting weddings. However, when Alison redirected her focus to only doing weddings, she had a clear direction for her business and was able to clearly focus on her goals.

Alison adds that by saying “no” to family and senior sessions, she was able to generate business for fellow photographers who were passionate about those kinds of sessions. In summary, saying “no” helped Alison focus on her passion (weddings) and support other creative entrepreneurs in their own business.

Friend, saying “no ” takes practice and won’t always be easy. But, creating a luxury brand in any industry helps you stay honed in on serving your ideal clients well and creates opportunities for fellow creative entrepreneurs.

3. Build community.

According to Alison, when she decided to build a luxury brand, what helped her most was relationships, specifically with other wedding vendors and with those she met by furthering her education.

For example, Alison shares that a large portion of the weddings she books each year is a result of forming a strong relationship with a high-end wedding venue in the Indianapolis area. She also credits the fact that she was able to transition to a luxury brand to workshops, coaching, and other education she’s invested in.

Essentially, according to Alison, community is an opportunity to educate yourself, be mentored, and bounce ideas off of others within your industry.

Relationships as a creative entrepreneur are invaluable, and when you take the time to foster these relationships, you won’t just receive support; you’ll be able to offer support and share your expertise in return.

Want to find community? Tune into Episode 046: “How to Foster Community in Your Industry as a Creative Entrepreneur with Courtney Cannon.”

4. Identify your ideal client.

We’ve talked about how a luxury brand is about serving your ideal clients and meeting their needs, but what if you don’t know exactly who your ideal client is?

According to Alison, you need to know your ideal client inside and out. Because, with a luxury brand, the experience or product you’re selling is specifically crafted around that ideal client.

  • Identifying your ideal client means you’re able to hone in on your skills and provide that excellent, one-of-a-kind experience.

Do you need help identifying your ideal client? Tune into Episode 20: ” How to identify your ideal customer as a creative entrepreneur with Nate Dale!”

5. Be highly organized and plan ahead.

Last but definitely not least, if you want to create a luxury brand, you have to be organized and plan ahead.

Alison shares that when you plan ahead, you’re ensuring that all the details are accounted for, things are well thought through, and that the end product comes together in the best way possible.

For example, organization and planning ahead can look like having workflows in place for your business and communicating with your clients constantly. This will give your clients confidence in you and make them feel well cared for by you.

Basically, being organized and planning ahead helps you anticipate your clients needs and questions, which in turn means that you’re able to serve them well.

Ready to build a luxury brand?

Okay, are you convinced that transitioning to a luxury brand is what you want? If so, then here are some steps you can take right now!

Alison suggests that you make a list of all your goals while not being afraid to dream big. From there, create a plan of action and client experience that will help you achieve those goals. You won’t have a luxury brand overnight. In fact, creating a luxury brand requires a carefully-planned and well-organized process.

But you can begin that process right now, with a pen and some paper or your computer and an excel sheet. Friend, this is a chance to write down every possible thing you can think of that you want for your business. Don’t hold back; there’s no judgment here.

Want to hear more from Alison

If you’d like to hear more from Alison, you can find her on Instagram at @alisonmaephotography, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on TikTok, and on YouTube and at

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Discover the four most common marketing mistakes small businesses make and exactly how to solve them! Download our guide.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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