How I Started A $3K/Month Luxury Branding Studio While Studying At University

Published: July 20th, 2022
Karen Canlas
Founder, Karen Canlas
Karen Canlas
from Cabuyao, Laguna, Philippines
started October 2021
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Karen Canlas and I’m the founder of a Luxury Branding Studio ‘Karen Canlas’. Through Strategic Luxury Branding and Web Design, I help founders and lifestyle brands to (re)build a luxury brand that captivates top clients and gives them a new level of confidence to embody the highest version of themselves.

My services focus on giving a bespoke branding experience for every client I work with which means that my services are fully tailored to what they want to elevate their brand.

When I first started my business, I thought that I wanted to work with solely online service providers, but after I went through some explorations and properly niching down, I found who they are! Niching down has become such a huge part of my business’ success because I’m able to attract my ideal clients with ease and confidence.

With the luxury mindset and the right strategy, I went from earning $200 to $2,500 per client. My clients feel empowered and found an up-leveled brand presence that makes their brand distinct and high-end. They’re now playing big with their decisions and continue doing what lights them up.

Aside from my client’s successes which make my heart and soul-filled, I also feel a sense of alignment as I grow and serve my clients on a memorable journey that they’ll treasure forever. This experience is something that I’m truly grateful for.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started my Luxury Branding Studio while I’m at University, taking Accountancy. It was the beginning of the pandemic and I realized that I don’t want to spend my time watching movies and laying down on the bed doing nothing. With that idea in mind, I stumbled upon a book entitled ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. I was so excited to read it and so I finished it earlier than usual. It was what I call, my mind opener.

The ideas and notions that I learned before were different from the reality of that book. It gave me so much food for thought and allowed me to see what’s possible if I take action at the moment, rather than waiting for something to happen, thinking that it’ll provide me security and happiness in the long run.

So what happened after that? I took another step to get closer to my big dreams that are getting clearer as I embody the Iconic Woman I want to be. Back when I was in my senior high school years, I thought of joining Upwork which is a freelancing platform, but my application was denied due to lack of experience. And after reading the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, I’ve thought about Upwork again. So I rejoined and was accepted this time. I’ve also met the first entrepreneur who has placed her trust in me even if I don’t have lots of experience to offer.

I’ve followed what most entrepreneurs are doing, but I’ve realized that this is my business and it still goes down to the idea that it should feel good to me, otherwise my energy would reflect differently.

You might be asking why I chose Upwork at the beginning? Well, it was a great start for me because I want to be resourceful and not rely on having the required amount of money to get started taking some action.

I started as a virtual assistant but after my internship and the guidance of my mentor, I was able to open my eyes, heart, and soul to what I’m capable of. After two months, I met my lovely mentor, Elva Li. She runs a Luxury Branding Studio in Australia and she’s one of my soul sisters who have truly inspired and motivated me to follow my intuition and unleash my true potential.

While working with her on some client projects, I had this ‘aha’ moment that this is it! I LOVE what I’m doing. I love building brands, creating luxury designs, and making sure that it captures the client’s brand essence. For me, it was different when I was doing virtual assistance. I felt as if there was something inside of me that pulls me into the luxury industry. And building a luxury mindset is priceless.

Aside from that, I’ve met so many amazing entrepreneurs from around the world, making genuine connections and outstanding collaborations. From my discovery to connecting with like-minded individuals, I knew that I’m in the right place. I believe that I’m not meant to just go with the flow of what other people are telling me to do, there’s something more and I have the potential to make my big vision come true.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I started with 2 main services when I started out which were Branding and Squarespace Web Design.

In the beginning, I have to learn about who are my ideal clients because that will give me an edge to carefully craft packages for profit while delivering high-end brand designs.

So what I specifically did is to have an evaluation, assessment, and determination of WHO they are (which at that time was Online Service Providers). I made some market research through surveys and quick chats to exactly determine how can branding elevate their businesses and know exactly how can I add the differentiating factor that’ll make my brand stand out from the crowd.

After getting to know WHO they are, I started going out and offered a free service to only 3 entrepreneurs.

We’ve had our strategy calls to make sure that my designs wouldn’t be surface level, instead, they’ll speak to both my clients and their ideal audience. After that beta offer, I started to make some improvements and created an up-leveled version which I refined based on my first 3 clients.

And so after I’ve tried out my service to my target clients, clarified that there’s a market for my business idea, and loved the collaborations that we’ve had, I started designing my Squarespace website.

While I was an intern, my mentor allowed me to help her with web design projects and they were built in Squarespace. I love how easy it is to build a stunning website while capturing my unique brand essence through that platform.

Aside from that, since I want to give the highest value to my clients, I also invested in a brand strategy course by Bonnie Bakhtiari and she has allowed me to see the bigger picture and small details and how can I deliver my bespoke branding experience to my clients with a heartfelt strategy.

Although I’ve learned so many things at the beginning of my business, I still love to fully tailor my process and strategies that align with my vision and soul.

I know some people asking for advice from me, but I still see no action from them. It seems that they’re waiting for some sort of a signal that says ‘go’, but there’s no such thing based on my experience.

Describe the process of launching the business.

After refining my luxury design services and building my Squarespace website, I started showing up on my chosen platform which is Instagram.

Before I thought that to grow my business fast, I have to show up everywhere, but that’s wrong. Handling one marketing platform alone is a lot of work, so I think that focusing on only one to two platforms when you’re starting out is the best way to maximize your time, being able to consistently show up without burning yourself out.

So what I did on my Instagram is to tell a story about who I am and show some sneak peeks of my brand in the process. Luxury brands have that different approach and vibe. Storytelling is one of the most powerful strategies to stand out in your industry because every brand has its own story. And by intentionally crafting that story, you’re allowing your audience to see your truth and resonate with that experience. That’s what we call the soft launch wherein we’re empowering our audience to see what’s also possible for them while a hard launch is about telling exactly what you sell.

Once my website is ready for launch and primed my audience about my brand and how I offer my services differently, I posted my website launch and shared it on my stories. And since I was starting out, I showed up for 3x a week on my Instagram about branding and how it adds value to their businesses. After 2 weeks of launching and showing up online, I’ve landed my first client.

Although she did not exactly find me on Instagram, she still found me on the very first platform that I used while I was freelancing which is Facebook. I believe that the biggest lesson that I’ve learned from launching is that you have to make sure that you love and you’re confident about what you’re offering because that energy will reflect on how you show up.


Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I tried different marketing strategies when I was starting out and even followed what most entrepreneurs are doing, but I’ve realized that this is my business and it still goes down to the idea that it should feel good to me, otherwise my energy would reflect differently.

After reflecting on my big vision, core values, and niche, I thought about the real value that I can provide for my clients. And that is through stepping into my Iconic Self and embodying my true luxury brand. With that, I can confidently craft intentional and sophisticated brand designs for my clients.

So if I’m advising someone starting out with their business, go deep with how you want to serve and focus on what you can do today, not what others think you should do today. Own your disruptive legacy because only then you can unleash and tap into your inner genius.

Continuously elevating my luxury mindset, and lifestyle, and showing up with my vibe have been working so well for me to attract my ideal clients who are founders and lifestyle brands. Establishing yourself as a leader in your industry also helps to build trust in your audience and that’s what I did when I also appeared in online articles like the Authority Magazine. This kind of strategy work because it adds credibility to my expertise and my brand gains more visibility than me just doing the work alone.

Aside from that, I utilize email marketing to provide value to my community. I use it to provide a luxury mindset and branding strategies that they can apply to their businesses. Through this, I can continue to build relationships with my potential clients while adding some answers that they’ve been looking for when it comes to luxury branding and mindset.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

After I uplevel my mindset and started to make bigger decisions for my business, I have seen the new heights and the possibility of scaling it. It’s giving me a sense of fulfillment as I help my clients embody their luxury brands with confidence.

I’ve grown not just in my impact, influence, and income, but my mindset.

Right now, my business operations are working for a high-touch experience for my clients, but I have plans to make it smoother, giving an easier process for both me and my clients. Aside from that, I plan to diversify my services and products so I can serve more aligned clients while I maximize my time and zone of genius for things that I should focus on.

In the coming months, I’ll be preparing for launching a group luxury brand program that would be helpful for founders and entrepreneurs who wanted to elevate their mindset, confidence, and luxury visual presence. Apart from that, I’ll also be launching a course that’s also valuable for my audience so that they can study at their own pace with limited support and monthly mentoring lives.

As I continue to envision my brand goal in a short-term view, it’ll be more about providing value to my audience and community so that they can confidently show up online and attract top clients that they’ve been dreaming of working with. To do this, I’ll be leveraging Instagram to authentically connect with like-minded entrepreneurs who know their potential and is ready to play big with their decisions.

In terms of long-term vision, I see my luxury brand still working with 1:1 clients, but it’ll be very limited. This is because I want to work with clients who love me as their luxury designer and they see the value of the work that I’m doing for them. My brand would be more about guiding founders and entrepreneurs to elevate their brand through mindset work, luxury brand strategy, and embodiment of their Iconic Self. With this in mind, I’ll be providing my expertise through my programs and courses that’ll be fully tailored to my framework, strategies, and processes.

I want to create products that speak to me and add real value to my community. I believe that it’s my purpose to give back the gift that I’ve discovered to the people who want to transform their brand and mindset to the next level.

If you want to start creating your aligned legacy and use your big potential, I’d advise you to start taking action right at this moment. There’s no best time to start, it’s not later, next month, or next year. It’s NOW.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think it’s more about getting clear on my why and big vision. If I know why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’ll have the direction and energy to move forward with confidence. There are challenges along the way, but I’d see them as a part of my beautiful journey. Having a vision also helps because it lets me see what I want to do to get there. It’s giving me the ideas and inspiration to continue doing what lights me up.

The other decision that became advantageous in my business is by connecting with other like-minded entrepreneurs because some of them became my soul sisters, friends, and my clients. Having strong support from people who believe in you is such an amazing feeling that makes you smile and more confident with the work you do.

I also believe that having brand partnerships with other studios or agencies have helped me to work with other projects and improve my credibility as an expert in my industry. Last but not least, having a luxury mindset is truly a powerful tool that has made my dreams into my reality.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My favorite tools that I use are Squarespace for my website because it’s really easy to navigate and update and there’s a less potential issue for more technical problems, Planoly for scheduling my Instagram posts as it keeps me organized. As for taking notes on my to-do lists, I use both a paper planner and online notes.

As for email marketing, I use Convertkit because of its functionalities, though I haven’t dived deeply into it yet. For making sure that the processes and client projects are managed well, I use Asana.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The books that have inspired me, helped me uncover my true potential, and improved my mindset are

I have read other books, but these on my list have given me the ideas, new perspectives, confidence, and strategies to go out and embody my truth.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you want to get started or just starting out, my biggest advice is to believe in yourself and start today. I know you can see what your potential can do for your life and the people that you’re gonna impact.

So why don’t you take one step at a time to get out of your comfort zone? I know some people asking for advice from me, but I still see no action from them. It seems that they’re waiting for some sort of a signal that says ‘go’, but there’s no such thing based on my experience.

It’s the limiting beliefs that block our minds to discover creative solutions that could change our lives. So, recognize those limiting beliefs and be grateful for them because you're ready for a new perspective. And one more thing, don’t let your circumstances define your success. I know that there will always be challenges, but I’d like for you to see it as a stepping step to actualize the bigger dreams that you have right at this very moment.

If you’re serious about changing your life for the best while serving the people you want to provide or work with, learn to change your inner world. What you believe, you’ll see. If you’re positive and confident about your true potential, then it’ll be your legacy. Own your true power because it’ll shine when you do.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now, I’m not looking to hire since I’ll just be onboarding one member of my dream team, but in the near future, I’ll probably hire a designer with brand design and custom CSS skills, OBM for fine-tuning my processes through Dubsado, and social media manager.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Karen Canlas, Founder of Karen Canlas
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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