Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elizabeth McFadden, CEO of Novella Brandhouse, located in Kansas City, MO, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Novella Brandhouse is a branding-focused, full-service ad agency. As a scaling company, we understand how a brand evolves over time. Whether you’re becoming a multi-million dollar business or evolving into a different kind of company, you need a brand that communicates your true identity. Our team specializes in branding and marketing strategy for scaling and established businesses.

As a full-service advertising firm, we develop, design and implement campaigns and strategies across all platforms. Our services include Brand Development, Naming, Logo + Identity Design, Marketing Strategy, Advertising Campaigns, Website Design + Build, Social Media + Content Strategy, Marketing Collateral, and Photography.

While you would generally categorize Novella as a boutique ad agency, the Brandhouse has found its niché (or “sweet spot” ) in brand messaging, positioning, and brand integrity. By helping companies find their “voice” in the market, we define ownable messaging that we then take to create unique selling positions for their advertising, social and online needs.

Our business model, and our groundwork with any new client, is to authentically create an honest, true brand messaging platform that not only tells their story but connects in a meaningful way with their customers to create an ongoing, long-term loyal relationship. Every service we offer a client begins there and dictates every move we make for that client. Your brand strategy really does drive everything.

In creating Novella Brandhouse, we formed a program where small and growing businesses can get top-notch design and branding while collaborating with senior leadership every day. Every person is different, so why wouldn’t businesses be unique as well? We created a program tailored to our client’s business size, capabilities, and strengths. It seems simple, but it was a platform that was uncommon before we entered the marketplace.

Novella Brandhouse is certified by the State of Missouri as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and by the City of Kansas City, Missouri, as a Small Local Business Enterprise. We have been recognized by our industry for outstanding work, winning awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Business Marketers Association (BMA), International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Nonprofit Connect Philly Awards, PRINT Magazine Regional Design Annual, KC Press Club, and the Social Media Club of Kansas City.

Tell us about yourself

At Novella Brandhouse, I lead the brand strategy side of the house in addition to leading the firm as the CEO. I consult with both b2b and business-to-consumer clients in industries ranging from commercial development and non-profits to food & beverage and lifestyle brands. Over a decade ago, I developed a process to help organizations of all sizes find their voice in a crowded market. Taking the brand strategy model used by Fortune 500 companies, I designed a method for smaller companies to develop their brand.

During my career, I have successfully positioned small to mid-size businesses in the marketplace by developing brand strategies, engaging copy, and executing marketing and media plans. Over the years, I have worked with mega-brands like Sprint and Bayer, local favorites like Brookside, plus emerging companies like Union Horse Distilling Co. and FlutterHabit.

As the CEO of a small firm, I wear many hats! From managing daily operations to new business development, my core responsibilities include overseeing company financials, building relationships and partnerships, and strategically scaling the business to the next level.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I created one of the first virtual ad agencies when high-speed internet came along in 2006, and everyone told me it was a dumb idea and that changing the traditional ad agency model would never work. The moral of the story is if you know you're on to something, don't let the people in the cheap seats tell you otherwise! Very quickly, I had lots of clients who needed the expertise of a full-service ad agency but not the high overhead. I also hired other women-owned businesses, mompreneurs, etc., to be part of my virtual ad agency, then called elle marketing. Empowering other women to start their businesses when they had young kids at home. Over the years, I have worked with and created brands for women-owned/female startups and solopreneurs. I always felt like it was important to make sure they had the right marketing and branding to complete.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Starting a business from scratch and then operating, growing, and scaling that business has certainly come with some struggles. Like most business owners, you don’t know what you don’t know. You make a lot of mistakes along the way, but the best thing I did was learn from those mistakes. I feel like those lessons are the ones that stick with me the most. The areas where I struggled the most were finance, partnerships, and ops. I started the business as an excellent practitioner of branding and marketing, not necessarily a business executive. I had to learn pricing, how to manage money as a business, forecasting, HR, processes, etc. The list goes on and on, but over the years, I have sought out resources, programming, peers, and mentors who could help guide me. That is the key. Knowing when, where, and how to access help.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Create a peer group of other business owners. This will be a great sounding board for you as you learn how to run a business and navigate challenges.
  2. Apply for programs such as Goldman Sach 10,000 Small Business and learn how to scale your business the right way.
  3. Know your numbers. They tell a story and should be guiding your decisions on all fronts.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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