In this episode of Dissecting Success Theresa and Blair sit down with brand designer and strategist, Nikki Takahashi. From practicing Karate to building a multiple 6 figure/year branding agency, Nikki had a rocky start. However, her Karate studies with masters, taught her to work through the blood, sweat, and tears and gave her the dedication, grit, and willpower to succeed. She believes that you get to build a life that has you waking up excited to do your work and where every day get's to feel like a holiday. When you find that balance between polite vs acceptable and become unapologetically yourself, magic happens.
About the Guest
Nikki Takahashi is a brand designer and strategist who has helped over 300 entrepreneurs embrace and amplify what makes them unique. Nikki is the founder and CEO of a multi-six-figure agency that gets clients noticed in person, online, and in print. She is the host of Square Peg Entrepreneur, a podcast featuring industry disruptors and mavericks in business.
Nikki’s graphic and website design achievements earned her a Governor General’s Medal and the position of spokesperson for Tech 2000. With over twenty years in digital media, she has been featured on The 2A Street and Broken Open podcasts and in articles for marketing sites such as Jumping Elephant. Her keynotes on brand design and strategy have reached audiences around the globe. She’s also a StoryBrand Certified Guide and Business Made Simple Coach under New York Times best-selling author Donald Miller.
Nikki’s an aspiring videographer and avid traveler who has spent over a quarter-century mastering and teaching the art of karate. Her most recent adventures include skydiving over the Canadian Rockies and flying to Berlin for a tattoo. She resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
About the Hosts:
Blair Kaplan Venables is an expert in social media marketing and the president of Blair Kaplan Communications, a British Columbia-based PR agency. As a pioneer in the industry, she brings more than a decade of experience to her clients, which includes global wellness, entertainment, and lifestyle brands. Blair has helped her customers grow their followers into the tens of thousands in just one month, win integrative marketing awards, and more. She has spoken on national stages and her expertise has been featured in media outlets including CBC Radio, CEOWORLD Magazine, She Owns It, and Thrive Global. Blair is also the #1 best-selling author of Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw and Real Stories from an Entrepreneur. When she’s not working on the board for her local chamber of commerce, you can find Blair growing the “I Am Resilient Project,” an online community where users share their stories of overcoming life’s most difficult moments.
Theresa Lambert is a High-Performance Lifestyle and Success Coach, Speaker, and Bestselling Author of “Achieve with Grace: A guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces. She founded her coaching and consulting firm, Theresa Lambert Coaching & Consulting Inc., to help ambitious women succeed with more elegance and less struggle so they can lead with focus and nourish themselves to the top. Drawing from her nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and most recently her 6-year tenure as the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge she brings both a real world view and proven applicable tools to support her clients. Theresa has been recognized as a business leader in Whistler’s Profiles of Excellence, featured in Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, Hotelier Magazine, and Beyourown, and spoken at Women in Hospitality Leadership events, including Empower Her. Originally from Stuttgart, Germany, Theresa now lives in Whistler, BC where you can most often find her on the golf course in the summer months or relaxing by a fireplace in winter.
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Ever wonder what success actually means? How do you get it? And how do you keep it?Theresa Lambert:
We all want it yet sometimes it feels only some of us get to have it.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Hi, Teresa Blair here we are two badass entrepreneurs, best selling authors, coaches and business mentors who have had success, built success, questioned our own success and reclaimed it. Let's be real for a hot minute. 2020 has been a roller coaster ride, and many of us started to wonder if they'll lose the things that made them successful. So we got curious, Ron real about what success is truly about?Theresa Lambert:
Can you put it in a box? How can you get it? Can people take it away? Or are you the one with the power?Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Does it mean the same to all of us? Or are we the ones that created from PGATheresa Lambert:
golf pros to doctors, CEOs, entrepreneurs and spiritual mentors. We got together to meet with successful people from around the globe to dissect success for vibrant conversations and interviews. Make sure you click the subscribe button on the app store because each week we will drop a new episode to bust through the myths around success and dissect its true meaning.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Here we are back at it with another episode of dissecting success. We're here with Nikki Takahashi. She is a brand designer and strategist who has helped over 300 entrepreneurs embrace and amplify what makes them unique. She is the founder and CEO of a multiple six figure agency that gets her clients noticed in person, online and in print. She's the host of square peg entrepreneur, a podcast featuring industry disruptors and Mavericks in business, and I'm honored because I was a guest on our podcast. And it only was like guest she graced me with the opportunity to be the eighth episode. And as we all know, it is my lucky fucking number. So Nikki's graphic design and web design achievements earned her a Governor General's medal and the position as a spokesperson for tech 2000. She is full of amazing accolades. You can learn more about it in the bio, but welcome, Nikki.Nikki Takahashi:
Hello, hello. So nice to meet you guys. and Canadian power. Look at us Western Canadian girls. I love it.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Oh my god, Nikki. So I know Nikki because we are in a program together. And we did. We've been on a journey together since probably the end of last year. And I'm just honored that we've developed a friendship. I love meeting fellow Canadians who have the same level of ambition, as I do as Theresa does, and it's always such a brilliant conversation. So we're excited to get this one recorded to drop inside your ears, everyone. So Nikki, tell us what does success mean to you?Nikki Takahashi:
My instinct is to want to be very different and very nonconformist in everything. Blair. So, I was really struggling with this answer thinking, Okay, what can I say there's just going to be so revolutionary, and I'm not going to be that revolutionary, I don't think success really means freedom to me. And not only travel freedom and money, freedom and experience freedom. But freedom of expression, I think is what success is there is no better feeling than waking up every morning. Just so excited to do your work. Because it's just, it's your soul's purpose. It is so fulfilling. You don't need a vacation. You don't need time with friends necessarily. Because every day is like a holiday. And that's what success means. To me. It's very rare. I think that people find that. But fortunately, I feel like I have in my business and in my work. And I don't know how else to describe it. But it's just just so so beautiful and and joy filled every day.Theresa Lambert:
That's so powerful. Nikki, I love that. And you're right, you know, as you were talking and as I was listening to you, I was like, Ah, so expansive, like success is a freedom of expression, and to really create lives and businesses that match the level of experience that we desire in this lifetime. So we feel like every day is a vacation. I mean, how did you get here? I mean, it because I'm sure you didn't, you know, wake up one day and be like, Oh, yeah, like, I'm gonna do this, like, tell us like, how did you get to this point where life literally feels like a holiday.Nikki Takahashi:
It's interesting because as you're describing that the first thing that came to my mind is many of these feelings and these Types of fulfillment that we get come after years of hard work and toil and focus and layers of experience to so without dating myself, it does come with age, right getting into that momentum. And I think that's when I think back. think it was about grade nine grade 10. You know, back in grade school, when the counselors and the teacher started to really groom you get you thinking about what you wanted to do in life, what you wanted to be what school you wanted to go to what degrees you're going to get. And I remember in that moment, and you had to think like 1415, these are really tender young ages, with not a lot of life experience behind them to even make life changing decisions like that I felt so much pressure in that moment, and that, but that pressure stayed with me right to the end of grade 12. And I can't say when I graduated grade 12 that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And there was just some Nxd. Because of that. I put a lot of effort into my schooling, I was the kind of person that needed to be top of the class, you know, best grades, best performer like for it. But looking back, I often wonder why like, what does that actually get me in life, I'm not really sure because in the end, I didn't go to university, even though many of my family and my friends expected me to, I took time off after high school, which is a little bit unconventional back then. And actually dove into karate, really deeply and studied hardcore. I was already in karate class, but I just fully immersed for a few years did some trips to Okinawa to study with the masters. It was a passion of mine. But truth be told, it was also because I didn't know where my life was going to go. At that time. Branding wasn't the buzzword that it is today. So although I knew that I had a real flair for visuals, and I could no I could really easily put together sense and, and colors and textures and how that would express someone or some business. I knew that but I didn't have the word branding, necessarily. So looking for schooling and post secondary education that would give me that sort of reward and outcome felt like an impossible feat. So while I was studying karate, and traveling, it was also a time you guys are younger than me, but there's TV commercials coming on those ICS like those college commercials, do you remember that? Right? And it would just give this scroll of text, you can be a doctor or a carpenter or a lawyer like I mean, it was just kind of endless. So I latched on to one of those courses in interior design, because that was the first thing that I thought okay, that kind of fits my my love of art and, and space and feeling. But it wasn't really branding, but it was it was a start. So that's kind of how the journey began. I didn't go to formal school till much later in my 20s and didn't really know or wasn't able to define what it was that that I would do in the future. It was a rocky start.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Like literally rocky like training to I have the tiger right like karate like. Okay, I love that Nikki's, I had no idea about that. And now I have a question. Hmm, what are the biggest similarities between karate and like the level of training and what you've learned from karate, and design?Nikki Takahashi:
Oh, gosh, I can draw an immediate parallel, just in the focus and the dedication that was required of me at that time. I'm kind of an all in girl when it comes to things whether it's like eating a pie or doing karate, like I'm all in 100%. So when I when, when I decided that karate was my thing, and I had these big lofty goals to travel abroad and really study with the masters. Sadly, looking back, it did take a lot away from my friend time and some of those experiences in grade school as well. I'm an introvert by nature, so I didn't mind studying on my own and having that focus, but certainly removed me from some of the more conventional experiences in high school especially, however, learning dedication to that degree, like through the sweat and the pain like the literal tears and blood and sweat and pain. Doesn't that just prepare you for business in general, like I really feel today as a business owner as a service provider. There is no hurdle that I can't surmount, I have the tenacity, I have the grit and I have the willpower. karate was an interesting experience for me because I went so all in when I was 14, I became the the black belt at 14, which our style is a traditional Okinawan style of karate. So it's not one where you can just pay some money and get a black book because there are some karate styles like that. Ours was really blood, sweat and tears to get there. So that felt like a huge accomplishment at age 14. And then, when I became a fifth degree, black belt, I was actually the top ranked female in the world for that style of karate. So there's also this the experience of being best in the world at something. I mean, it was, it wasn't something that I necessarily announced, it was pointed out to me and I felt like kind of excited in the moment. But now looking back, I'm like, that was a damn big accomplishment. So I think that's a struggle too now is knowing that you can be and have been taught in the world at something, how do you apply that to business? And how do you balance that out, because there's always that urge to want to do more and be more and get to the top because you've had a little taste of it. So it's a it's a blessing and a curse all at the same time.Theresa Lambert:
That is so powerful. So, so powerful. And I think, isn't that interesting how something in early life, like, you know, dedicating ourselves to something committing to something like this special style of karate, and, you know, working through the tough times, having the tears, sweating, like feeling defeated. And, you know, we may not draw the line at the moment in time. But I'm such a big believer that everything we experience prepares us for what is yet to come. And depending on what choices you make in your life, you will eventually get to a place again, where you start to realize that what you've learned a long time ago, is incredibly helpful. And, you know, I couldn't agree more with you. I feel like we often forget in the world of social media, and like, you know, everything we see the amount of hard work that goes into the amount of grit it takes to get yourself back up when things aren't working, right. Like to be like, No, I'm gonna take another step, even though this month sucked, or this day sector this week sucked, right? Like, well, this year sucked. I mean, you know, it's, it's a thing, we see this thing. And I mean, the reason we started this podcast, was part of the reason that success is such a smoke and mirrors, where people see this one side of worldly success, being money and power, you know, like, that's what so many of us are taught. And then really, it's not that at all, it's really a feeling, right. And for you this feeling of freedom and this feeling of expression. And, you know, I love how how your definition. Also, to me is such a beautiful alignment to karate, because you were talking and I was seeing you like move and doing these like karate moves. And I was like, talk about expression of yourself in, in a form. I mean,Nikki Takahashi:
yeah, it was, it was beautiful. Yeah, it's, it's true. And I, I came to to learn karate, because I was kind of done with the traditional ballet classes and the stuff that all the other girls were doing. So I've also known from an early age, that being an outlier. And being a maverick is very much part of my nature, too. So if there was ever an opportunity to do something against the grain, and back then there weren't a lot of girls doing karate, that was going to be my jam. But that transition like you, you're, you're mentioning, from dance, to karate was actually very seamless for me, because many of the movements are fluid, and it's about memorization. It's not necessarily, you know, given right hooks and punching people out, but a lot of it is very focused on you your body memorization, and it's I mean, I'm, I'm envisioning it right now. And it just feels so good. The the movements and that, that energy release. You know, and another thing that that came up for me I was thinking to when I was in Okinawa studying, it was very much like The Karate Kid, like, you know, like, oh, sand, the floor paint, the fence type of thing where there are modern ways to do these things, but they put you through this torture like, you know, scrubbing the floor. on your hands and knees and you know, you're you're so exhausted and so drained that you're like throwing up and then you're going back and doing some more punches and like, it's just absolutely horrific and difficult, you know, to be in that moment, and you just want to die quickly. But you're right after afterwards, it's it's just such a feeling of accomplishment. And you do feel like you can, you can do anything at that point, whether it's in business or, or martial arts.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Oh my gosh, that's so powerful Nikki. So that was 14. So that was only a few years ago for you. And now you're doing some amazing things. And when I learned that you are a story brand certified guide for you know, Donald, Donald Miller's program. I was just an author, do you think, like, Tell, tell us how you transitioned or how you ended up doing that, and a bit more about Donald Miller and the story brand guide, because I've only recently in the last year, learned about him in this. And it's it's been amazing. And I'm really big into storytelling, I believe, in telling your story, not selling your product. And I think this is such an important concept. So why don't you talk a bit about kind of how you got into that? Sure.Nikki Takahashi:
So after I came back from Okinawa, I did do multimedia production. That was a course that was available at my local college. And I think there are maybe about 30 students in there. And I, there may be only one other person that's still doing that today. So only a few of us made it into a lifelong career. But I developed that into fetching Finn, which is my design agency. And for many years, probably close to 910 years, I was having clients go to outside marketing agencies and copywriters to get those types of services, I was strictly and am strictly I mean, my love is in the visuals and putting together the colors and the fields and the flavors and all that good stuff. But I realized marketing and messaging is also really important. But I would outsource that. And then I would just sit back and watch. And it was never clear to me exactly what the methodology was like talking about spaghetti against a wall. That's really what it seemed like every time. So I'd watch clients pay money for these really odd, random tactics that were happening without a solid outcome. And feeling kind of bad about it good that I was able to, you know, direct them to that service. But I never really felt like the marketing was modern day for digital times. There are lots of marketers who were traditional marketers who who learned, you know, 20 years ago, and things have changed. So when I picked up Donald Miller's book, building a story brand, I was really intrigued just by the fact that it was it seemed like it was going to be an easy way to understand marketing, because it was all woowoo and messed up in my head at that point, I didn't really get what it was about. So I read the book, not long after it came out, I read it once. And I thought there's no way that marketing and messaging is that easy. That is like way too simple. So I read it again and again and again, like five or six times. So I thought, Okay, this might be something we can roll out to our clients to have these services internally. But before I do that, I really wanted to be sure that it was going to be a proven concept. So I took my own fetching fin website homepage, and applied the story brand framework. So if you're not familiar with the story brand framework, it's a seven part framework, where it really positions you as a service provider, as what he calls the guide, speaking alongside the hero, talking about what their problems are, how they're going to solve it the easy ways to get to the solution. So a really simple framework based on the on the framework of storytelling. So I applied that to my homepage as best as I could. I mean, I read the book, by the way, actually right to the homepage, and within the first month revenue tripled that month. And it was just simply because the messaging was so much clearer. I was getting right to the point. People who went to my website saw themselves reflected in that coffee knew that I understood their pains and knew that I had the solution. That's really what it all amounts to. So once I knew that it was proven and it's called marketing like okay, maybe this is actually something I can intercept. Then I went to Nashville, did the course became a certified guide and then later, business Made Simple quote as well. Donald Miller has revolutionized my business fetching Finn is a very different business today with much higher standards and a much more proven elevator. level of outcome for clients. And it just feels so good. Going to bed at the end of a day. Well, most days, I'm fond of all nighters too. But when I go to bed, I feel really good and satisfied that I've done a great job for clients. Like there's, there's no guilt, there's no anger, it's just just, it's all fitting together so nicely. So storebrand is a wonderful component, and a contribution to my business and something that I support for sure.Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Do you Teresa no boat storebrand Have you heard of it before I actually bought the book and I started working through it. Last year, I remember camping and like, while my husband was fishing, I was reading it and having all these epiphanies. But then my life got crazy. And I believe my mother in law packed up my books and my book is sitting somewhere in storage. And you know, when I started talking to you about what you're doing, I got me really excited to find that book and go through it in the fall and really start applying some of those principles to my business. So Teresa Yeah, have you heard of that? Have you used any of the principles yet?Theresa Lambert:
I have not heard of that book, but I will order it after this call and get it to my house I love books like actually reading and especially a book like that but I do so wholeheartedly believe in the power of storytelling and telling your story and your brand and and you know really leading with that story I I was part of a program last year speaker program with all my god Pat Quinn, and he's pretty incredible speaker and so learning about storytelling from him learning his framework, and Pete vog is like learning their framework on speaking. And telling your story on a stage was really helpful in terms of being able to take that concept and actually bring it back into, you know, my business, the way I show up the way I you know, share content. And always think about that still. And so yeah, these frameworks. I'm sure I can't wait to dive into this one. Because I do you believe that it's so important. And I mean, I always use analogies, like if you ever like have like a different conversation with me, like all when I teach like pianos just because of our momentum chord that we're ending that we're doing together. And I'm always using analogies, like something that's completely nothing to do with the, with the content that I'm talking about. And I bring it in. And so and that's all from understanding and really recognizing that that is so much more relevant than I previously fought. Because you know, we make it all so complicated. And I loved when you said it was so simple, that you questioned whether it was true. And I love that because I feel like so many of us, especially in business, overcomplicate everything. And then we beat ourselves up. And it's somehow this idea that if it's not complicated, if it doesn't take hours to implement, then it's not good enough. And I see the opposite working the simpler I keep it the more conversational I keep it the more I just have a you know, tell a story, the more people lean in and actually like oh, yeah, I get it. Right. Like you get that nodding, nodding responds. And so I love that I can't wait to dive into that. That is so powerful. Hey,Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Teresa, I think Nikki actually has a course coming up that you can probably takeNikki Takahashi:
Is that right? Well, yeah, the when I went to Nashville, part of my time there apart from being certified as a story brand guide was participating in their live event. So that's where Donald Miller and his team go through the seven part framework on stage and you're you were before COVID in a room full of people trying to create your own they call them brand scripts for your for your business and for your message. And it's funny when I when I did that work live, I found I was doing it all wrong. So even though I tripled revenue on my homepage, it still could have been much better had I done it right. So it is a really important experience to to get the message directly from Donald and his team and then also work with coaches who are certified guides at that event. And so what's coming up September 20, and 21st is the story brand marketing live stream. So that's all virtual now. So Donald and his team will do it over the over the internet. And we as certified guides are able to coach small groups to go through their brand scripts and their work more one on one. It's such a valuable experience. You get so much interesting feedback from the other members and we keep the group really small and intimate. So that we get to really know and understand each other and take the time to flesh this out correctly. So that is something that's happening in September 20, and 21st. And I encourage everyone to, to look into storybrand, or you bought the book and you've tried to implement it, but you only got halfway, and then somebody packed up your book and you never saw it again, then this is the the event for you to attend, to really flesh out your messaging and get it. You know, like you said, Teresa, just very simple, very clear, very concise. That's really the essence of it right now. And although storytelling is important for like an about page, or expressing the business's history and, and legacy and things, story brand is actually more about telling the clients story. So you're removing yourself out of the equation and diving right into what is that they call it the hero? What are they experiencing in that moment? And where do they need to go? And how are you going to get them there. So less about talking about your business and your credentials, and all this blah, blah, blah, crazy about page things, but much more about the client and setting them up for success. And then I think the same principles for storytelling definitely do roll out in the promotions like Blair does in social media, right? That's where you get to, to show a little bit more of your personal brand, your personality, if you're a business brand, tell about the business and your values. strange story absolutely is important. But I think you have to be strategic in where you tell it and how much you say to at certain times,Blair Kaplan-Venables:
Nikki? Oh my gosh, okay, so we actually have a lot of listeners discovering our podcast, there's a good chance there's gonna be a fair amount of people listening to this after September. So like, is there? What are the resources that people can dive into with you? I mean, they can buy the book, they can, you know, do whatever. But after September, how can people still learn, you know, learn this process in a way that's not just through the book?Nikki Takahashi:
Mm hmm. Well, I do offer a done for you solution through fetching fans through my agency. And that's how I start projects with any new clients is going through essentially the story brand framework to get that messaging. And that foundation piece, right before we get into what I call the more fun stuff, the visuals and this sparkly stuff, and the the the colors and fonts and all of that crazy stuff. But it does need to have that messaging foundation first. And that's the story brand framework. So anyone who is interested in story brand, if you're unable to attend this September live stream, or you've missed it, have no fear, you're able to check me out and hire me as your guide your story, Brian guide to walk you through that as well. But the book does a great job, in addition, and there's some wonderful podcasts that Don Miller puts out, too, that are really valuable to tap into.Theresa Lambert:
So amazing, thank you so much for sharing that Nikki. And we'll make sure that we put the link to that upcoming program, and especially your information in the show notes as well. So if you want to check out what Nikki does, make sure you just go scroll down in the show notes and go find her and I can't wait to you know, continue to be in touch with you and see what you're doing. That sounds so amazing. I love storytelling. So this is right up my alley. But as we're sort of coming to the end of this time, and you shed so much incredible wisdom with us already. But we would love to know from you. If you could give people just one piece of advice on their journey to success on their journey to really living a life where they can express themselves freely, what would it be.Nikki Takahashi:
So many of my clients get stuck in trying to balance what is polite, what is accepted versus who they actually are and how they want to show up. So when we're talking about branding, of course, story and messaging is foundational, but to really, you know, amp it up and juice it up and make a rebrand of someone or somebody's business just absolutely elevated and enlightened. You have to be courageous. So I would encourage your audience to just stop holding back, it's there, there comes a time where you just need to be free. That's where it's excesses and feeling that freedom and feeling that joy. But that's also how you become more magnetic to your ideal client as well. So when you are 100% you and unapologetically that's really the best way to do business. You're going to get the right people in the bar and they're just going to be hooked on you forever. So don't hold back. You don't need to be base. You don't need to conform. You don't need to be an industry standard. Be a square peg like my podcast says. Be an outlier. Be a maverick and just Do you really is it all comes down to?Theresa Lambert:
I love it, Nikki that is just such a firing of message as we are finishing up this incredible interview. If you're listening to this, stop holding back, bring yourself in edge be the rebel beatha outlier. Do your thing. Don't be beige. I love it. This is incredible. And if you want more if you want to figure out how to do this, get in touch with Nikki. Nikki, thank you so much. What a blast blast. I loved having you on the dissecting success podcast and we might have to have you back to talk a little bit more about being a successful rebel or something like that. But this was amazing. Thank you all so much. Peace out. That's a wrap for another episode of dissecting success. enjoyed this episode. Make sure to subscribe to blackout Ron Venables and Teresa Lambert's podcast dissecting success on the App Store.