Small Business Stories: Meet Alex Moreno, Founder of Life in the A.M.
Updated: May 6, 2020
Small Business Stories goes behind-the-scenes with creators – like you – who are building their brands in today’s dynamic marketplace . This month, Alex Moreno, Founder of Life in the A.M., gives us her thoughts on what it takes to create an authentic brand and how being intentional about her branding has helped her grow her business.
I met Alex Moreno, Founder of Life in the A.M., on a crisp, sunny day in late November at Phoenix Flea on Small Business Saturday. I was drawn in by the way Alex had artfully crafted her display table – which held a quirky assortment of one-of-a-kind pins, patches, and stickers – as well as the genuine warmth she radiates.
Luckily, Alex agreed to share the story behind her unique brand, the challenges she's facing as a small business owner, and her advice for building a brand in today’s competitive, unpredictable marketplace.
Tell us a little about your background and what inspired Life in the A.M.?
I’m a graphic designer by trade and way before I started doing events or trade shows, I was thinking about how I could make my art more shareable with people around me.
I used to go to conventions and expos and when walking down the artists alley, I noticed people selling prints, pins, and all these stickers. I was curious about it and how they got started. So, I decided to wing it and I made my first pin – but once made, I had no idea how to sell it or how to get it out to people. The next steps were to figure out how to do that – and thus my business was born!
How would you describe the Life in the A.M. brand? What sets it apart? How does it reflect who you are and what you value?
It’s tough for me to describe my brand because its ever evolving. My brand is me. I create whatever I want and tend not to follow trends – whatever I think is funny or cool.
My brand is all about having fun and making people smile. Showcasing that art doesn’t have to be so serious; It can just be fun and carefree. I love to make people laugh and if someone walks up to my booth and starts laughing because they think my art is funny or it’s something they’ve never seen before – that’s what I love and that’s what drives me to create more.
What inspired you to name your business Life in the A.M.?
Life in the A.M. derives from my initials. My brand is my point of view on the world and I thought the name should reflect that. Life in me.
What was the process of creating the Life in the A.M. brand?
Since my brand is me, it evolves as I evolve. It grows and changes when I do. When I started there was no immediate direction, but now I’m more intentional about my brand and what I create. I have a color way, I have brand fonts, and an illustration style to create the kind of vibe I want to put into the world.
There’s a very specific visual voice that I use for my brand that can be described as uniform, but fun and whimsical. There’s a purpose for everything I create. I always try to evoke an emotion from someone.
I think in this ever-evolving, dynamic marketplace, what people respond to the most is genuineness – how real of a person are you. Because my brand is still fairly new, I have the flexibility to experiment with new ideas for displays and how I showcase myself at shows, but I try to always be authentic with who I am and what my brand represents.
What are the biggest challenges to growing your business today and how are you addressing them?
My business is about a year-and-a-half old, and a lot of it is learning as I go. I talk to other people at expos and fairs, but it’s mostly observing what other people are doing, then asking myself, “how can I improve?”
Displays are still a work-in-progress. You want to stand out, but also have a clear voice for your brand. Traveling with displays is a whole other aspect I need to figure out. What does my display look like in Chicago as opposed to LA. What can I take on a plane?
I’m also still figuring out what works best in the different markets where I sell and what market responds to which type of displays. Even within a well-known market, the outcome can vary year to year. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to work and can sometimes just be a guessing game.
As for social media, I mainly use Instagram to let people know what I’m doing and what I’m working on. I of course use it to promote items and sales, but I don’t like pushing people into buying my work. I feel like if I did that, it would create a negative feeling about my brand. I want people to want to buy it because it brings them joy, not because they were pressured into a sale.
Another challenge I face is that I’m not the most ‘people-ist’ of people sometimes. I love my alone time and I’m one of those people who needs a full recharge after I do an event. So, putting myself out there and interacting with all these people takes me out of my comfort zone and I’m appreciative of that. I used to be a very shy person, not super confident in what I was presenting or how people were perceiving me, but now I feel like I’m a somewhat OK people person.
You create products, but as a graphic designer you also help other people create the visual expression of their brands. What does your process look like for that?
It starts with a phone call or an in-person consultation where I ask them to tell me about their brand. Through fluctuations in their voice or different hand gestures or when I see them light up talking about certain things, I then get a sense of what excites them about their business. It’s all about piecing information together – What are they passionate about? Why are they passionate about it? What do they want their audience to think and feel when they first see their brand without them saying anything? What do they want their impact to be?
"Almost everyone is unclear about what their brand is and what they want it to look like when they first start out. So, together we dig deeper and visualize what we can accomplish together to make their vision a reality."
What advice do you have for other small businesses who are trying to create and build a stand-out brand? What best practices do you follow?
First figure out who YOU are, stick to it and evolve from that.
Throw your whole self into your business. It’s OK if some people don’t like it or don’t get it. Don’t get discouraged and don’t get wrapped up in the negativity.
Stay grounded to the main core of your brand and it will all work out.
Tell us two fun facts about yourself.
1. My favorite color is rainbow.
2. I love sleeping – if I could, I’d sleep 15 hours a day!
And finally, you’re clearly a whiskey fan, what’s your favorite?
Well, I’m always exploring because there are so many options. When I go to bars I either drink Bulleit or Wild Turkey. Johnnie Walker is also a good one. I always ask my bar friends for recommendation but then I have a hard time remembering all the names!
You can find Alex Moreno and her brand, Life in the A.M., at:
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