We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Shaina Nacion a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Shaina, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Let’s kick things off with a hypothetical question – if it were up to you, what would you change about the school or education system to better prepare students for a more fulfilling life and career?
When I was eight years old, we had a few guest speakers share their career stories with our class. One was a white woman in a pressed grey skirt and blouse who talked to us about her career in corporate America. The other was a mixed-race man who was born and raised here in Hawaii. He wore work boots and “hazard” yellow and spoke to us about working in the construction industry.
Through these examples, we were meant to think about what kinds of careers we might want to pursue. But the lesson I learned through this exercise was different:
“White women work in corporate America. People of color work in construction.”
I looked at these two examples and thought, “I’m neither of these people. I’m not a white woman who speaks perfect English, straightens her hair, and owns an ironing board. And I’m not a strong man who can lift heavy things and work in the sun for a living.”
Here I sat: a half-Filipino, half-white tomboy who wore Converse sneakers and a wallet chain, read sci-fi novels, and loved climbing trees to eat lychee in the summer. Where exactly was I supposed to fit in? What kind of career do people like me have?
Years later, in 2017, I was studying graphic design at the local community college. Still unsure of what a career might look like for someone like me, I did what most people from Hawaii do: I worked 2 jobs at once: one in a tourist shop selling coconut bras and Obama-shaped bottle openers, the other in the marketing department at the college. And in my spare time, I became a freelance graphic designer for local businesses.
This graphic design “side hustle” was something I actually found fulfilling. I could use my artistic skills to help solve problems for people! I could make a real impact and help local businesses succeed. Finally I had something like a career. Something I was passionate about.
Meanwhile, part of my job as a marketing associate was to speak at high schools about my college experience. On those days, I would stand at the front of the classroom and see kids who looked like I did. But instead of looking back at me with disinterest, as I had done when I was in their shoes, these kids actually engaged. They asked me honest questions. They even laughed at my jokes.
I had the opportunity to do for those kids what I wish someone had done for me growing up: be an example. Not an example of huge success or fame, but an example of what’s possible: no matter your background, culture, or weird personality quirks.
As business owners, we don’t only have the power to be successful or to make a living. We also have the power (and maybe even the responsibility) to make an impact on others. To show people what can be possible, and to help them find their own way.
Now, in 2022, I pursue opportunities to speak at career day presentations. Not because I’m this shining beacon of success in the design world, but because I want kids like me to know that they don’t have to settle. They don’t have to define themselves by the labels society places on them or the roles their culture presents them with.
I’m not the most successful business owner or the most eloquent speaker. But I remember what it was like to feel like I had no one to look to for answers. No one who could show me the reality of what was possible.
When it comes to inclusivity and representation, we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to show up and be ourselves. The more we can do that, the more we empower others to be themselves too.
Shaina, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
The team at Shaina Nacion Studio helps free-spirited business owners escape organized chaos through simple systems and elevated aesthetics. We’re passionate about helping you show up as an expert: whether that means rebranding your business, elevating your messaging, or organizing your workflows. From strategy to visuals, we help you create a brand that resonates with you and with your dream clients.
We’re a POC-owned, women-run creative studio with team members in three time zones. When we’re not transforming businesses, we’re probably adventuring outdoors, traveling, researching new business software, reading a good book, or roller skating.
As a strategy-focused studio, we’re 50% type-A organizers and 50% type-B creatives. We connect the dots between expert-level productivity and brands that look and feel aligned.
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
Since starting the business in 2017, every single client has come to us through word of mouth. Our philosophy is always that if you’re passionate about the work that you do and you truly make a lasting difference in the lives of your clients, they will always want to help your business succeed. Whether that’s through repeat purchases or by referring friends to you, your clients will be almost as passionate about promoting your business as you are!
The key to this strategy is three-fold:
1. Be passionate about doing good work for your clients
2. Build genuine friendships with them — celebrate their wins and help with their struggles
3. Be genuine and authentic with your audience
We’re also working with visibility and leadership coach Steph Wharton to help us develop visibility strategies that amplify these kinds of “word of mouth” recommendations.
How did you build your audience on social media?
Social media can be tough for introverts like myself and my team. There’s a lot of pressure to be positive and chatty all the time, when sometimes all we want to do is read a good book and not talk to anyone.
For me, I’ve found that sharing value and providing direct feedback through my social media presence helps to keep me interested in posting. I love sharing content that relates to the struggles or questions my audience has. Whenever a friend or client asks me a business-related question, there’s almost a guarantee you’ll see a post about that topic the next day.
I’ve also found that my audience loves to see me roller skate, of all things. Numerous people have said that they love seeing me learning something and having fun outside of work.
If you struggle with showing up on social media, just remember, your audience wants to know what you’re passionate about. If you can share your passion with authenticity and provide valuable insights or action items, that’s where great relationships can start.
ACEND Visual Communication