By Julie Tingley, The KNOW Women

teena cardozo

“Never forget where you came from.”: How a minority female business owner earned the recognition of President Obama and landed deals with brands nationwide.

When Teena Cardozo wanted to branch out from her corporate graphic design job, she took a leap of faith and started her own creative design firm. Ten years later, BrandMunki is now considered one of the leading boutique branding and advertising design firms in Tampa Bay and beyond. An artist, a hustler, daughter of a Jamaican-born dentist and Puerto Rican mother with big dreams for her little girl, Teena was born with a spirit for entrepreneurship and the discipline to know the value of hard work. As a leader among other Minority Woman Owned Businesses in Tampa, Florida, she met President Barack Obama during a 2012 campaign event very early into her career, and has been recognized for her accomplishments with BrandMunki in multiple media outlets. Today, Teena shares with us what we need to KNOW to remain true to your own story as a business leader, and grow a brand worthy of national attention.

teena cardozo

 KNOWing you were made for more…

I was bored. I was working for an amazing boss that really inspired me to think and dream bigger. She never held me back or discouraged me. One night I took her to dinner, we tossed back a couple of cocktails, and I presented the idea of BrandMunki to her. I had already created my logo and showed her that evening. I knew it could go one of two ways: she would either fire me for not being committed to her company, or she would fully support my vision. And she ended up giving me her support! She allowed me to pursue my own clients, and run it through her company as a new division. After a year and a mere $10,000 in revenue, she saw where my heart was and pushed me out of the nest like a mama bird. I worked part-time for her and part-time on BrandMunki.

KNOWing the journey to success is long and winding…

In those early days of owning a business, I don’t want to say I worked for free, but honey,….I WORKED FOR FREE! I took any and every job that I could get. I networked, I went to events, I posted to social media like crazy…and the biggest part— I made sure every single one of my friends knew exactly what I did for a living. Your friends can be your biggest and greatest sales reps! Most of the time, if you have good friends, they want to see you succeed and will do anything they can to help.

As time went on, I discovered that being a woman in a male-dominated field can definitely stir self-doubt and make you question your worth. I have navigated through this business and through those years with many lessons learned, sometimes the hard way, and came out so much stronger for it.

Today, my team’s extreme passion for the art behind design and advertising makes us stand out. We have no ego. I truly want to set each of my clients up for success, and if they no longer need me, that is a beautiful thing! I care for my clients and their businesses. A lot of people can sell you on the “fluff,” but I think our work speaks for itself. We lead with the genuine desire to help the people we get to work with.

Currently, we are working with some pretty incredible clients. One exciting addition is the famous Ford’s Garage restaurant that just opened up their 16th location. We handle all of their social media and advertising. We are about to launch a commercial that we recently shot for them. We have also just signed four other restaurant concepts and a watch company in the last two months. This year alone we have rebranded three companies, launched seven websites, have had 26 video shoots, 33 photoshoots, and hired three new staff members.

KNOWing the biggest mistakes brands make that could have been avoided…

Because I am in branding, I see a lot on the front end of business start-ups. First, too many owners/ founders don’t look into trademarking their business name and a lot of times that gets them into trouble. I could tell you stories. Secondly, they don’t have any idea where the logo files are, what font was used previously or what the colors should be for their brand style. Finally, they don’t know when to make their first hire. To that point, when you start making money, you need to get help. When you get help you can focus your attention in other places. A lot of business owners don’t like to take that first step in hiring, but you need to in order to scale the business!

KNOWing what you learned along the way that others should know too…

My top tips:
– Hire a lawyer out of the gate to write up your contracts.
– Don’t give up.
– Work harder… no, like seriously…harder than anyone else.
– Hire the right people for the right positions at the right time.

KNOWing what makes you the ultimate leader and brand monkey (aka: BrandMunki)…

My father was born in Kingston, Jamaica and worked extremely hard to become a dentist and owner of a very successful practice. From him, I learned the meaning of hustle, character, and how to treat others. My Puerto Rican mother is the one that taught me how to truly believe in myself, and that no one should out-work me nor ever take advantage of me. Their life lessons and support have guided me to be successful in this business of branding.

Learning and listening to my employees has helped me be an effective leader of my own company. I know that it’s not all about me and what I need from them. I ask my team all of the time “What can I do to help you be better at your job? Are you happy? Let’s talk about your goals…” Most importantly, I am always learning. I don’t leave everything up to my team. I should be working just as hard to understand the role I place each of them in.



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