Designer Crafts Thoughtful Brand

by Autumn McGarr

Salisbury, NC — When Sara Lee started her design business in Salisbury, North Carolina, she knew just what to name it – SISU Home Designs. “SISU is personal to me,” says Lee. “It is a word used by my grandmother and mother of Finnish and Norwegian heritage. In one word, it embodies determination, potential, grit, freedom, courage, preparedness, strength, community and heart.” She adds, “In the business of design, there is inherent potential for what is possible.”

This inherent potential of design has, according to Lee, always been part of what drives her. “I always enjoyed setting up rooms and drawing house plans, even as a child,” she says. “Design school was a natural decision, and I specifically fell in love with kitchen and bath design. There is so much technicality, plus creativity. It’s problem-solving, communicating and wonderfully challenging.”

Branding a journey

Like most in the industry, Lee worked her way up from the bottom. “My first opportunity was with a large cabinet manufacturer, and I worked in marketing and sales, drawing plans for nationwide Lowe’s store displays and ‘The New American Home’ projects.” After a subsequent stint with a small dealer in order to gain more sales experience, she moved to Washington, DC to get a feel for the luxury market at a high-end showroom.

“A move to North Carolina in 2013 gave me new opportunities to serve a uniquely southern clientele,” she continues. “I thrived and felt a new confidence for what I could do for people and their spaces.”

When it came time to hang out her own shingle, Lee was careful to take her personal journey in the industry into account, working with an expert to create a cohesive narrative across all her digital channels.

“The branding [for SISU] was created by a lovely woman in London – we had much communication about who I am and what SISU represents,” she says. “The brand experience engages the senses and imagination through a visual narrative that is timeless, elegant and full of intentional detail – a visual identity that speaks with poetry and textural appeal to communicate inherent possibility and expertise.”

She adds, “Consistency is important. The brand carries over into social media and, I believe, sets a standard of credibility.” The Instagram presence of SISU in particular features a balance of crisp, beautifully staged project imagery, personal touches and anecdotes and graphics featuring the company’s sprouting plant-inspired logo.

New growth

Like the little sprout featured in SISU’s logo, Lee cultivates her client relationships carefully. “I get to know my clients through many meetings, calls and even texts,” she notes. “I have the privilege of going into people’s homes, and that requires trust, and I honor that. Our welcome packet actually goes over the entire process from beginning consultation to photoshoot day! It gives my clients a nice road map of what will happen over the course of the next few months.”

Looking ahead to the new year, Lee anticipates growth for her business. “Plans for 2022: I would love to hire some help and continue moving toward having a fantastic showroom.” ▪

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