Bringing visions to life: SDSU grad becomes 'branding doula'

Carly Kewley, the woman behind CK Design, sits surrounded by art on Feb. 18 at her home in Sioux Falls. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Carly Kewley didn't always know what she wanted to do with her life.

After graduating from South Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, the small business owner did everything from taking movie tickets to selling shoes to working as a graphic designer at Complete Media in Sioux Falls.

But it wasn't until after she had her second daughter that Kewley decided to move into graphic design as a full-time freelancer.

“CK Design was born through that," Kewley told the Argus Leader. "Because I really needed a way to focus my creative energy.”

CK Design Co. is a one-woman enterprise that helps business owners tell their stories and build their brands through logos, website design, photography and social media.

Kewley describes herself as a “branding doula” for small business owners.

“I help them bring their visions to life,” she said.

Branding is an important step of creating and sustaining a business, Kewley said, and the two go hand in hand.

“If your business was a person, your business is the bones, the internal, the structure and how everything works," she said, "and your brand is the personality.”

Many businesses, especially solo-run enterprises, struggle to separate their brand identity from their personal identity, which often may not match with their target market.

“To have a solid brand is really going to help the function of your business, and if you have a solid business, that’s going to help build your brand," Kewley said.

While she has clients across the country, Kewley has also worked with several Sioux Falls businesses such as The Kitchen – a co-working space for women – and Sioux Merchant Patrol, a private security company.

One of the businesses that has been with Kewley since the very beginning is Game Chest, a downtown Sioux Falls game store. Owner Amanda Wermers had met Kewley while working at Wine and Canvas on 26th Street and knew she was the perfect person to help create Game Chest's brand. In fact, Game Chest's logo was Kewley's creation.

“She’s able to see our business through the lens of what we want people to see our business as," Wermers said. “She’s able to communicate the things we value as a brand.”

While Wermers has worked with larger agencies before, she said the experience was less than ideal.

“It was lacking intimacy, it was lacking communication with the designer,” she said.

But working with a freelancer like Kewley allows for a more hands-on approach.

“It’s more personalized," Wermers said.

For Kewley, her flexible schedule and ability to pick her own projects are perks of the job. But more than that, she gets to take her passion for art and turn it into a way to help businesses.

“I get to help people build their dreams, which is pretty awesome,” she said.

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