This month, the studio has been reflecting on what it means to work your way. And, sometimes, the only way to really work your way is to create your own business. So, it seems fitting that we speak with Lisa Hennessy of Fernweh, a creative studio located on the island of Kauai, HI., for this month’s Beyond the Brand interview, because this was exactly what she did. Lisa shares with us her story of transitioning from the corporate world to becoming a mission-driven entrepreneur, how care, empathy, and active listening are key components to success, and how she is staying true to her brand and personal values at work.
The world needs more brands like Fernweh and more business owners like Lisa. So, let’s give her our attention and have a notepad ready for notetaking.
The floor is yours, Lisa.
I am the founder and creative director of Fernweh, a creative studio building and amplifying ethical and sustainable brands. I am from Berlin originally, studied in Australia, worked all around Europe, and then moved to LA, where I started the company 4 years ago, and then moved it all to Kauai during Covid. I am deeply passionate about all things environment, food and travel. I combine my German work ethic with some Aloha.
I spent a very long time working in the top international agencies and on really big brands, and just couldn’t stand all the ego and lies any longer. Instead, I wanted to leverage this experience to help founders who want to make the world a better place, connect with the right audience and grow.
Living in Hawaii reminds you of the beauty of this incredible planet on a daily basis and certainly pushes us to try and do better with every decision that we make. When we work with a company, we make sure they are just as committed to this as we are. Building a brand needs to be founded on a clear vision, mission, and values. And, always strive to find the best way to do business and still be mindful of the effects of whatever that business is on our planet and its inhabitants.
These values need to be translated into every element of the brand, from packaging to production to internal communication. We believe that every little detail matters.
We are lucky enough to choose our clients and only work with people who are just as committed to doing better as we are. Together, we try to always stay open to learning about new materials and best practices to constantly improve. And we are in the process of becoming a certified B-Corp as well as members of 1% for the Planet. These organizations both come with a great network of like-minded humans and shared resources to ensure that we truly commit to our mission.
I think that sacrificing potential work is part of the commitment. And I believe that letting go of working with people who do not value your commitment is worth the risk. This makes space for something/someone more aligned, I promise. And more and more companies and people do care.
As a consumer, I always want to know what the company I buy from stands for. I put in the time and effort to investigate before buying or hiring someone, so I have to believe that more and more people will do the same.
And unless brands strive to do that, there really isn’t any point to starting at all. We clearly have way too much noise out there and empty stuff that we all scroll through constantly. Active listening is a big part, and understanding what might be going on in your client’s life right now. We have all been through hell and back in various forms over the last few years. That means, we can’t keep doing business as usual, without addressing any of what might be going on. Instead of shouting at people to buy this or that new thing, we should strive to be of service, to make their lives just a little bit better, even if it’s just by making them smile for a moment and forget all that is going on.
Absolutely. If you see such beauty, even when you are just running out to the post office, you can’t help but want to preserve it. We work with a few wonderful local clients here who all use this inspiration as a starting point to build a more regenerative future. Either by making delicious ice cream out of local, regeneratively grown ingredients or by building homes from invasive species and innovating what the future of food sustainability could be like.
But on a more personal level, being in and around the ocean has always been my soul’s medicine. It grounds me and balances me out. And the lush green magic all around us is so vibrant, that I just have to look outside my window and see the inspiration for new color palettes all around me.
Travel, definitely. When we leave this island paradise we make sure we fill up our inspiration cup with all the art we can get in. And also people watching. I love sitting in a cafe and simply observing.
And I enjoy podcasts and audiobooks. Krista Tippets On Being and Poetry Unbound are two of my favorites. And my husband is a cinematographer and total film nerd, so he regularly makes me watch visually interesting movies (a lot of them which are foreign).
It was definitely a lot easier to just be a creative director and not worry about bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes, or where the next client comes from and what to put in that contract. But the fun reel certainly entails the flexibility of choosing who to work with and getting to collaborate with some truly inspiring people. And also traveling a lot while working or going for a swim in the ocean or a 10 am yoga class during my work days.
And from a career standpoint, I get so much more excited when a client tells me that they had a great year and therefore were able to donate so much more to a cause they support or fish more plastic out of the ocean, than back in my ad agency days when all that mattered were awards.
We want to focus more on our brand retreats, since these have been such enriching experiences, from an inspiration standpoint as well as a super efficient way to launch a business. I think we want to explore if we can make them a bit more accessible and do a group version that is more of a guided way to set your own brand foundation, rather than a one-on-one where we do it all.
Pick your battles. Sometimes, it’s better for everyone involved (you and your creative ego included) to let something go, instead of fighting for it and draining so much more energy. On other occasions, standing up for what you believe in is so very worth it. But learning to distinguish between the two is something that comes with experience and will always be a challenge.
And not being afraid to fail. You learn so much from mistakes–embrace them. And unfortunately, so much of what it takes to run a business is not taught in school.
Also, trust yourself. I wasted so much time and energy asking everyone I have ever met for advice, because I was afraid, instead of trusting myself enough from the get-go. We all know the answers deep down, I believe, we just need to learn to hear them.
I truly enjoyed this interview, thanks so much for having me, and for caring deeply as well. We all have the same goal, in the end, a healthy planet and happy people. Let’s support each other on the way to get there!
This is our website. You can also email me directly (email@example.com) or connect via Instagram and LinkedIn, or come by and visit us on Kauai.
We feel like we just breathed in a deep, fresh breath of clean ocean air over here. What about you? We hope you enjoyed getting to know Lisa and feel inspired to care for this good green earth in your own creative way. Tune into our Instagram Live conversation with Lisa to hear even more of her story!
Know someone who would be a good fit for this series? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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