From stumbling into the design industry in his mid-twenties to leading an award-winning creative team spanning four continents — this is Jamie Windell’s design and creative story.
Jamie’s always had a creative side. His love of brands — or more specifically, brand names — began in high school. Instead of doing homework, he used to sketch or re-draw logos for fun.
At 25, Jamie left a corporate job to start a logistics business. Not only was it his move into entrepreneurship, it was also his first taste of design. That’s because launching ‘Think Africa’, in Johannesburg, South Africa, needed a logo, business cards, a website, and social media posts.
To create these design elements, he collaborated with a local graphic designer. Back then, Jamie knew nothing about design, but he quickly grew to love working alongside a designer. ‘Think Africa’ was a labour of love, and a dream business for Jamie.
Here’s what those early designs for ‘Think Africa’ looked like back in 2014:
When friends noticed Jamie’s branding and website for ‘Think Africa’ they reached out to him to help craft their own brand identity and online presence. Whilst a graphic designer handled the logos, Jamie built the websites on his own using Weebly — a very simple drag-and-drop website building and hosting tool — nothing like the no code/low code solutions available today. Determined to succeed, Jamie learned the tool and launched a few websites for his friends.
Fast-forward 3 years. Having worked at various companies in operations and project management, Jamie got the chance to work for renowned interior design studio — Design Partnership (DP). He loved looking over the interior designers’ shoulders to see their creative 2D and 3D work — usually mood boarding and sketching. Adrian, Callie, Mimi, Calvin, Roberto, David, Carina, Jacqueline, Justin, Elizabeth, and Natalie — were in Jamie’s words “super cool and inspiring to observe”.
While working at DP, Jamie began learning logo design — colours, fonts, and styles — diving deep into Adobe Illustrator. Thanks to Google and YouTube, this developed into designs for flyers, business cards, and social media posts.
On this journey of self-learning, Jamie also learned WordPress, designing websites using templates and theme builders, a far cry from what Khula Design Studio does today. Looking back, it wasn’t the best way to build websites, but it got the job done. Recently, Jamie and the Khula team actually got the chance to redesign and rebuild DP’s website in Webflow. You can see it here.
While working full-time, Jamie began designing logos and building websites on WordPress in the evenings and weekends. Friends started to notice, and word started to spread. He was becoming known for design, specifically helping startups launch their brand.
So, with his friend Perren, Jamie started a design agency called KITStart My Business. They helped startups and existing small businesses with logos, websites, and stationery design. At that time, neither Perren nor Jamie knew how to run a design agency. And they hadn’t studied graphic design or coding and engineering. They learned on the fly, staying up to the small hours of the morning, designing, and practicing their craft.
Within a year or so, KITStart My Business had designed logos and websites for over 30 local businesses — all through word of mouth. The pair enjoyed exploring their creativity and pushing the limits of what they could achieve. As two average high school students from a logistics background, they felt they didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies. But they surprised themselves — they did it!
As time went on, Jamie dabbled in many business ideas. He loved starting businesses, but didn’t get to see any of them through. He was a wannabe serial entrepreneur who didn’t want to give up on his dreams of running his own business.
First international business trip as a consultant to Botswana
In 2018, Jamie moved into coaching and consulting startups, while still doing the odd design piece here and there. He produced a few social media post designs for a YouTube influencer and Podcast channel called The Passionate Few.
Remember when these styles of social posts became a thing on Instagram? Yep, he designed a few for Omar at The Passionate Few. A cool little gig.
Then in 2019, Jamie relocated to the beautiful British Columbia province of Canada in search of new opportunities.
On arrival in Canada, Jamie knew he wanted to work in the creative industry. So he joined a digital creative agency in Vancouver, called Skyrocket Digital. For a year and half, he got to learn about design from really talented brand strategists, graphic designers, UX/UI designers, web developers, and marketing gurus Mo, Yulia, Kris, Kayan, Yung, Yong Hee, Dave, and Ethan. It was like a masterclass in great design.
During this time, Jamie loved seeing the creative process and how an agency could be run. With proper frameworks and processes that delivered high-quality design work, his learning propelled him to new heights, and beyond his own self-learning journey.
“If you want to truly grow fast, dive into the deep end by taking on real-life practical work applications and experience.” — Jamie Windell, Founder, Khula Design Studio
At Skyrocket Digital, Jamie discovered no-code tools, such as Figma and Webflow. He started learning these tools in the background. Again, he loved the creative side and dabbling in the ideation and exploration side of things.
Then the pandemic hit. Jamie left the creative agency in September 2020, but with his years of experience, he decided to take all of his learnings and launch his dream business. From humble beginnings doing basic logo design, he now understood agency-quality design work, and Khula Design Studio was born.
Today, Khula is a boutique design studio, offering foundational branding elements such as brand strategy, brand identity design, UX/UI web design, Webflow development, and SEO fundamentals. It’s scary how much technology and design have evolved in the last decade or so. We’re really proud of the work Khula produces today, using digital tools to aid our work and enable designers to get better and better at their craft.
It took a lot of learning to run a successful design studio: taking courses, learning from mentors in the industry, and reading tons of books! Jamie did everything he could to make sure it was a success. Khula Design Studio represents years of hard work, and it’s a testament to his passion, perseverance, and determination. The numbers speak for themselves. Within 2 years of launching, they’d helped over 90 small business owners around the world to transform their brand image and online presence.
Too often in life, we look at others’ success, then self-doubt and other negative emotions kick in, and we throw in the towel. But this doesn't have to be you! Don't give up too soon. Your next opportunity is right around the corner.
“Looking back, I’m proud of the journey that’s led me here today. I’m sure a lot of other agency or design studio owners feel the same way about their journey.” — Jamie Windell, Founder, Khula Design Studio
So what’s Jamie’s advice to other entrepreneurs or dream chasers out there?
Don’t give up!
Interested to see the work we are doing today? Explore our projects here.
You can also follow Jamie’s journey by subscribing to our newsletter below or connecting with him on LinkedIn here.
Branding is all around us, whether it’s for a company or even an individual building a personal brand. But what about charities and non-profits? Do they need a brand strategy too?
Non-profits around the world are making a difference everywhere, by fighting for real and important issues. Hungry for Life (HFL) is a non profit organisation that aims to end poverty and aid the commun
For an organisation creating a great impact, it is vital that their brand is impactful as well. However, branding for non-profits is a concept many have no idea about. Khula worked with HFL for nearly 4 months where they revamped their website with Webflow — thus giving them a brand new look!
In this episode of “What in the World”, Jamie Windell and Jessica Goshulak have a spirited discussion on all things branding and how building a brand is beneficial to non-profits.
The episode covers the ABCs of branding and the tips and tricks to creating the right brand strategy and how a non-profit can put its vision out to the world with the power of branding!
00:00 - Intro
03:30 - What does Khula do?
07:15 - Our clients and members
08:56 - Our workflow with clients
09:59 - Common Branding Mistakes
12:28 - Web Design Trends
14:19 - Defining Branding
16:52 - What are the elements of branding a charity needs to focus on?
18:20 - How do you create a Brand Strategy?
21:13 - How to convey your vision as a non-profit?
25:52 - SEO for non-profits
32:32 - Working with other clients for charity branding
37:32 - Costing of a Brand Identity Package & website
40:24 - Khula Design Studio Services
Wondering how Khula pulled off this transformation? Curious to see what the new HFL website looks like? What are you waiting for? Click here to check out the case study on our website right now!
Want to get involved or see how HFL is making a difference? Follow HFL below
From picking up her first DSLR camera as a new mum, to her first celebrity photoshoot in Maui, ten years flew by for Urban Fig Photography (UFP) founder Jete. It’s also been a while since Khula Design Studio helped Urban Fig Photography with their brand and website refresh. So we caught up with Jete, to find out more about her experience of working with us, and how things are working out with the new brand and website.
Being a professional photographer takes a special blend of skill, talent, and intuition. Running a photography business however, well, that’s a whole different ball game!
In this interview, we speak with recent Khula client, Jete Devisser, founder of Urban Fig Photography, who shares what it takes to run a photography business, why a strong brand image and powerful website is important, and gives us some other interesting insights – that could help you on your entrepreneurial journey as a photographer.
So let's focus and jump right in!
How would you describe your business before your brand and website refresh?
My business had no real personality. I was mostly doing shoots through word of mouth, because people coming to my website didn’t know what I was doing. It didn’t show any character. It didn’t speak about me or my business!
What were your biggest challenges before the brand and website refresh?
When I first started photography, everything that I did was organic. I picked up my first camera, and starting photographing my friends, and their families. Then after a while I thought I should probably have a social media account. And then when I started building those things, I thought I should probably have a logo. But when you’re charging $40 a shoot, you can’t afford anything professional, so I ended up paying $99 for a make-shift logo from an online platform.
The problem with doing this is that it didn’t say anything about me or my business. It was just a random design based on my name. It never felt like a full brand or something I could build from. Essentially, it was just like a mom with a camera and a vague sort of online presence.
And then from a website perspective, it wasn’t well laid out on WordPress well and didn’t have clear CTA’s for users to take actions. It was hard for the users to navigate. I needed a website, but a DIY website wasn’t ideal.
After you initially launched, fast-forward a few years later, how did you feel about your brand and website?
I knew at that point that I wanted something new, but it's hard for small business owners like me to get over the financial investment it would take to get it done professionally. There are so many DIY options out there, and you are constantly getting bombarded with ads on social media.
You have your cheap, ugly logo, and you can just drop it on this website tool and off you go. It might seem easier to do this and then drag some images and roughly build it out yourself. But this does more harm in the long run. If it’s not customized or professionally made, from a design perspective it won’t be cohesive or modern. And it won’t have the best user experience. Also, best practices and things like SEO are not in place, and that can really help you with sales funnels. By doing it yourself, you have no real strategy or design thinking applied.
What made you hesitant to get your brand identity and website professionally done instead of a DIY approach? Price? Trust?
Yes, all of it! The thought of investing up to $10k on your brand and website is super-scary. I did do a lot of research, and I found it challenging to find designers who I really clicked with and could work one-on-one to really bring my personality across. It can be hard to communicate a creative vision, and so once you find the right designer, studio or agency, they can help you to do that.
What was your ideal vision for your brand?
I wanted UFP to be recognized locally: the go-to brand for photography in British Columbia. A brand that people trust immediately. When they go to my website, it looks professional, they get to know who I am and what I offer, right away. They don’t need to reach out to find out that information. I wanted it to be immediately professional.
When you had your old WordPress site, did any customers complain about the user experience?
They didn’t express their frustrations to me directly. However, I knew that the mobile experience wasn’t great, and my contact form was glitchy from time to time. Obviously, using WordPress at the time was a beast to update and not user-friendly. It seemed complex, plus I had a lot of design limitations on what I could show and do on my site, which then ultimately created a mediocre look and feel for the users.
When you were operating under your old brand and website, how did you feel showing up against your competitors?
No, I felt like I couldn’t compete. It was embarrassing. I felt like I was relying on my work, so if people were finding me and finding my website, I was literally just crossing my fingers and praying that they would see enough in my portfolio to hire me. But the website was sad!
Why do you feel it is important to have a strong brand image and online presence today, in this era?
I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like if someone finds your website or goes onto your website, you have 3 seconds to wow them and engage them. If you don't attract their attention, they’re going to click away. For me that's worth all the money that I spent working with Khula — just having that immediate grab, looking professional right from the get go, and using a more intuitive layout, so you can guide users and potential clients where you want them to go. You're giving them all the information they need, but it's also very concise and leads them to take action through the CTAs (Call To Action).
Other than refreshing your brand, what else was missing from your business and why?
I didn't have a brand before! Everything from brand colours to having a vibe. I am not a trendy person, but I wanted a brand that could stand the test of time and still reflect me a little as a person. None of my past branding elements had it. So just having everything clear and concise and cohesive, a holistic look and feel. From social media to handing out my business cards, my brand now shows up consistently from touchpoint to touchpoint. It’s so important.
So when I did my old website, I spent a lot of time doing SEO research and did a pretty good job being consistent with my blog and portfolio updates, which help give me good exposure online. Over time, when I stopped blogging and doing updates the enquires dropped off completely, and I lost a lot of organic traffic. And now since I have my new website up with much more comprehensive copy, keywords and good SEO structure, my organic traffic has increased exponentially over what it was before. In fact, within the first week of launching, we received three solid leads through our new Webflow website. Which was awesome!
When you had your old brand, why might have someone chosen a competitor over you?
People want to make sure they can trust you, and if your website doesn't look professional or long-standing, it's harder to garner that trust.
Who was your target audience before you refreshed your brand image?
Our main type of customers were the ones focused on the relationship and connecting with me more so than the actual wedding day itself. It was a stretch for them to hire me, but I found I only worked with people who were nice, and we had a great fit. To break it down, I would say my target audience was more wedding-focused.
Who is your target audience now?
Now I have added a commercial aspect. I’m also increasing my family portraits side of the business, so I’ve added a senior experience service photographing teens and grads. So my new brand has now allowed me to add more professional services and a comprehensive portrait experience to my roster of services.
What was your average fees or proposal amount before the brand refresh?
To give you an idea, my family portraits averaged 500 CAD per shoot.
What are your average fees now after the brand refresh?
Now after my brand refresh, my family portraits now average 1700 CAD per shoot.Basically, I’ve tripled my revenue, and this goes for my other services as well. The work is the same essentially, but I feel way more confident now charging what I feel I am worth and for my experience.
When clients work with you now, what do you want them to feel? What do you want them to think?
I want them to feel completely taken care of from the time they reach out to the time of the final delivered product. Prior to the rebranding, there was a lack of services. Having the rebranding done has enabled me to create an experience that is much less stressful for the client, as I offer in home consultations.
I’ll help plan what to wear, look at their clothing closets and help distinguish what would work best for the shoot. I look at their walls and see what will work nicely as final products to hang on their walls, and what they might want to invest in after the shoot. Not only that, I help them plan their location and venue, walking them through everything.
Did you receive leads through your old website? If so, how many and or value of leads?
1 or 2 leads per month before.
Did you receive leads post launch of your new website? If so, how many and or value of leads?
I’m now receiving about 10 on average per month.
If you could give one or two pieces of advice to someone who is starting out in the photographer business, what would it be?
When you are first starting out as a photographer, I feel you tend to need to own all the gear to create shoots, but the priority should actually be on the backend. A lot of photographers start out with a focus on being photographers and don't focus on being a business owner. You can be a bad photographer but run a very lucrative business. So focusing your investments on branding and marketing is probably the best piece of advice I could give. I wish I did this years ago when I started out!
Knowing what you know now after running your business for so many years, would you do anything differently and why?
I would have not bought $25k worth of photography equipment, and I would have taken $10k of that in year two and put that towards my branding and website. I think doing this approach, I would have been making the type of money I wanted to much earlier.
So, relating to this previous question, why do you think it is that naturally people tend to think that having the latest equipment will help them shoot better or have a better service or business?
And would you recommend to a new photographer having a coach or mentor?
Yes! I actually offer that myself now through my one-on-one courses and workshops, which you can find here on my website.This really can accelerate your learning and growth and avoid potential risks and financial loss. And we can really guide you to help you focus on what's important in the beginning because there are so many steps to starting a business and a lot of it is pricing yourself for profit and a lot of us just kinda wing it, so it's key to figure out your costing model and profits and then figuring out what licences you need to operate and whether you need insurance. There is a lot in the beginning, and it is nice to have someone sit with you and say here is a list and this is what you need to do and how to do it.
Where did you go for inspiration or knowledge when you started out?
I Googled everything!! Google was my best friend! I had no one sit down with me and say here is the list. Facebook groups can help you to learn a lot. Submit your work to critique your photographs. Get someone besides your mom to tell you there is something wrong. Find someone in your network or a photographer mentor who can vet and critique your work. You can learn a lot and grow from feedback. Lastly, try not be defensive about the feedback on what we are creating, it's hard to step back and agree.
How important is it to have a social media presence for your business?
It honestly differs from creative to creative. I don’t actually get many leads from social media, even though I have a great following fan base. For me, my strongest has been word of mouth and Google search. But I do see other creatives who are absolutely crushing it on social media, so it really depends on your clientele and target audience. I feel like my target audience is not necessarily on Instagram. I see they are more on Facebook. It definitely still has it place in that it helps me create brand awareness for UFP and stay top of mind, which then in turn helps with the increase in referrals.
Obviously, apps and platforms evolve and change, but what social media platforms have worked best for your business and why?
My perfect clients are between the age of 25 and 44 actually, so I am finding most of my clients on Facebook and Google, rather than on Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok.
How many times per week would you post on social media?
When I was doing it great, I was posting about 3 times per week. That was hard to do, I feel I was posting on Facebook more. I don’t love being on social media, so It's always been a struggle for me.
For those photographers who love social media, how often would you recommend to them that they should post on social?
Oh, I would say at least once per day, feed and stories.
What type of content have you seen works best for the posts that you have put out there?
I do feel like my stories tend to get more traction. Stories are great to show some behind the scenes of your life and get engagement and putting your own personal self out there. So, showing the person behind the business that people can relate too.
For feed posts, I feel like the ones that did well were posts about anything unique, that was totally different or stood out. Giveaways always do well. I try and also ask a lot of questions to get to know people.
How important or how much impact does it have on your business to have the latest or best tools, in this case your camera equipment?
Camera equipment is not as important as the equipment you are using behind the scenes of your business. So having a strong brand and website is huge. I wish I had done that a lot earlier and then also having software to manage my clients, that has also been huge. So creating workflows and automations to keep you on task and make things easier.
We see a lot of photographers apply a certain style or their edited photos all have a similar look and feel or filter applied, what you would you say works best and do you follow trends?
For someone who is starting out as a photographer, what could they do to create an amazing customer experience? How can they create raving fans?
Serve your clients well! Do what you can to ensure that they are taken care of from start to finish. Be good at communication. Make sure that you are managing expectations well so that you provide what you promised to provide within the timeframe you promised. That's the best way. Build a strong business and take care of people.
How has having a proper website helped you and your business?
I think it helps big time with building trust. It’s create a feeling of this is a legit business after a user finds you through Google search. It helped me have the right content and flow on the website and that the content is informative, and it has my personality and values come through.
When you are a solo photographer at what stage do you need to hire or outsource certain elements of your work?
What area of your business takes up most of your capacity?
Editing! Editing! Editing! This is the part I like the least and takes up most of my time. So if I can contract this out, that brings me joy because I am also trying to raise kids and be a good wife and mom, so having that extra time helps me with work-life balance and spending it on other areas of the business.
How do you build brand awareness and market your business?
Just service your clients well, because word of mouth is one of the biggest organic awareness tactics you could have. Free avenues like social media helps a lot and then having a strong online presence, so my website is a huge piece of the puzzle! In this day and age you have to be on the internet, if people find you on social media, and they want to Google you to find out more about you, and you don’t even show up, that could hurt your business and brand.
What has been your wildest shoot to date?
Oh, I mean I have been on multiple helicopter rides which is awesome. I’ve been to two different tropical destinations for photoshoots, and I was supposed to go to Vietnam but then Covid hit, so that probably would have been my most epic one!
If you had to start your photography business today, what are those essential business elements you need to create a strong foundation?
Besides making sure you have all the legal and financial elements, I would say a reliable set of gear and having a back-up camera if possible and then one decent portrait lens. Then the very next thing would be building out a professional brand image and website!
Last most important thing or take away from Jete:
Finance is the heartbeat of your business, you have to keep a pulse on your pipeline of leads, cashflow and how much you are charging out and what profit margins you are making to make sure your business is sustainable for the long run.
And lastly, if you are a mom or parent trying to run a business like this, you need to come to the fact or realization that you are not just a mom or person with a camera running around shooting photos for a hobby or because you are passionate about it. You have to treat it like a business, own it and become a boss who takes charge. Find a good balance between work and home life.
Return On Investment:
When Jete and Urban Fig came to us to help build out their new brand image and website, it was an investment and a stretch financially. But Jete saw and understood the value in getting it done properly from the start.
Here are some technical stats to show her return on investment, which all forms part of building a strong online presence:
Performance score went from 49% to 94% — 45% increase
SEO score went from 75% to 90% — 15% increase
Domain Rating (DR) & Authority went from old website 14 to new website18
*Sources: Taken from Google Lighthouse report & Ahrefs