The Story Behind Ohseio
The concept behind Ohseio has been evolving for some time now. While always moving forward, it's been evolving at a gentle pace to say the least. Understanding that the growth of such a business concept can only go so far in your mind was one of the preliminary hurdles. While pondering strategy over and over again in your head can lead to some great initiatives... There inevitably comes a time you need to just start putting things into action.
For those of us who work endless hours developing the business and marketing strategies of others - the first question is clear. When do we have this time to put our thoughts into action? Another issue arises when you consider that the task ahead defines what you do anyway. If your entire idea is founded upon growing others' businesses, then isn't creating your own a bit of a catch 22?
Anyone else with an irritatingly perfectionist nature will understand the flurry of questions that accompany these sorts of things. The overwhelm that comes with a 7-day work week was slowly eroding away at the plan too, hammering it into some kind of elusive pipe dream instead.
Despite this, Ohseio was somehow created, and that’s why you’re reading this in the first place. It was never a lightbulb moment. It was more of a snowballing synchronisation of the things I eventually figured out I enjoyed doing so much. The brand is the result of the experiences and problems that myself and my clients have faced throughout my time in marketing. It took a trip around Asia and an impromptu journey home to mould the entire thing into shape, however. This is about how it started; a gradual process that spans across continents and creative explorations.
Creativity and Copywriting
Having always been a creative person, I have often found myself worrying about the possibility that I would perhaps not end up in a creative profession. The thing about marketing in any form, however, is that it is inherently a creative industry. Standing out often requires some form of originality. It also involves having the drive or ambition to sit and think about your ideas in a certain way, a way that prompts you to do something that other brands in your niche might not have explored yet. The same goes for writing copy. If all copy was the same, nobody would read it anyway. Merging the creative and technical together whenever we write, say, an informative piece, is how we get the content to 'stick.' That's the goal of marketing.
Whether we're coming up with catchphrases or writing descriptively, emotively, or technically... Writing, at its core, is making something from nothing. Essentially, creating content from scratch = creation = creativity. So, despite having worried about ending up with nowhere to channel my creative energy in the professional world, as fate would have it, everything I do now involves some degree of creative input. These tasks have evolved over time, from the particular venture during which I solely focused on creative portraiture, to the carefully orchestrated implementation of SEO techniques, design elements and branding strategy that Ohseio takes care of today.
Branding Illustration and Design
Venturing into the world of digital marketing first started out with branding illustration and design. While travelling, in particular, it was a means with which I could fund my journey by doing something I loved just as much. An entirely unplanned trip to South East Asia was booked just a week ahead of the first flight, and despite my dwindling bank balance after I had actually paid for the flights, I had little concerns about funding the entire thing. This was possibly due to the extent to which I had felt the overwhelming urge to travel after the stress of final year. Not going wasn’t an option, so long as I scraped together the funds for the flights to get there.
The digital side of this comes into play when I considered exactly what could be squeezed into one backpack. It goes without saying that I wasn't going to take the plethora of A3 sketchbooks that I had sketched my way through so enthusiastically in university. My creative tools instead came in the form of my old iPad and pencil. While I'd grown so accustomed to dragging around suitcases of design work to uni each day, I was going to take much less than a suitcase on this trip.
Having dabbled in illustration for brands for a couple of years, and after just finishing such a creativity-packed four years on my course, the iPad was the one thing I did have to contemplate taking with me. I considered not taking it, as it seemed like a frivolous addition to what was otherwise a backpack of Birkenstocks and mosquito spray. Had I not just 'spent up' all my creativity in the 16-hour days that consumed me as I finished my graduate collection anyway? Even so, without a return ticket, I didn't know when I would be back, and it seemed somewhat practical to take.
Typing the Way From Thailand to Tokyo
Fast forward 9 months, and I was living in Vietnam, with creative and writing ventures having played a prominent role in how the journey even lasted that long. Vietnam wasn't a planned trip, no part of the journey was. It was a last minute, fly as your visa runs out, type of trip. It just turns out that I wasn't allowed to check into my flight from Tokyo to the Philippines without a pre-booked ticket to leave. So as hastily as anyone could ever book a flight, I sat down on the floor and booked the cheapest ticket out from the Philippines in a months' time, to Hanoi. This spontaneous lack of planning and the fact I was just a terrible traveller in terms of budgeting was (ironically) one of the things that led to the creation of Ohseio.
Where I started out in Thailand, I was making the most of one niche opportunity that people seemed to flock towards - drawing illustrations of people's pet dogs. So while a hard-earned degree in Fashion Design and Marketing wasn't altogether utilised there, the ability to sell someone something from the other side of the world was. And of course, having a creative background helped with the illustration side of things. It also helped me buy those cheese toasties from 7-11.
From there, I had pre-booked the flights that would take me from Thailand - Taiwan - Tokyo, and so I ended up in Tokyo, still drawing people's dogs, but also with another task that was growing on me. I was helping manage a fine art studio there, painting huge canvases, working on multimedia pieces, and liaising with clients.
Image taken by Bornacelli in Tokyo
Somehow, the task of writing about artwork came about. It was creativity combined with something that was always so taken for granted by myself, at least, and something that I hadn't even realised I had an affinity for since primary school. This initial writing task was met with astonishment when it was realised that I had completed the page of copy in 15 minutes. Funnily enough, I hadn't even contemplated that utilising my writing skills was even a thing. From there, and from word-of-mouth connections to begin with, I was writing every day. Even on a ridiculously remote, private island in the Philippines where internet signal was something of a rare phenomenon, I found myself on a small rock about 20 metres out into the sea, sending emails to clients.
Getting used to this ability to work from anywhere, sea water splashing at my typing hands or not, became like an extreme hobby. Working from anywhere and in any situation was something I developed during the volunteering experiences I picked up while travelling anyway. Using my laptop was much easier than pattern cutting in a treehouse on the beach during a thunderstorm (crucial pattern pieces did blow away, and I did fall face-first in the rain going after them). Such is the situation when we have to manage tangible things, they might blow away. Digital, not so much.
Another Unexpected Journey
In Vietnam, I had a nice set-up working from a coffee shop that nobody else ever seemed to go in, which was a bit strange, but there were no weird distractions like sea urchins.
I had built up a solid network of clients as I typed my way through everything from chimney sweep websites to legal brochures. From there, the work thankfully seemed to grow - something I make sure I never take for granted.
As everything else was while I travelled, another rather unplanned journey saw me visiting family at home in the UK. I flew over from India at the beginning of March 2020, drastically unprepared for even a short visit. My backpack contained one bright turquoise sari, 2 bottles of garam masala, and 2 packets of poppadoms. No exaggeration here, I genuinely thought I’d be returning back to the flat in Hanoi that I was still paying rent on. I'd heard about the pandemic in December, as it was all happening relatively close to us. While the Vietnamese government handled the outbreak exceptionally well with minimal cases, donning a mask had become an act of everyday normality throughout my time in both Japan and Vietnam. I wore them almost religiously on planes, driving my bike, in airports and in any crowded spaces. Arriving in London, I had my mask on. Since the severity of the situation hadn't yet prompted the insurgence of mask usage in England, I was the recipient of some very strange looks on the Tube.
The thought that I would be messaging the Indian Embassy on Facebook two weeks later, asking whether they would let me in or if my visa would still be valid, didn’t occur to me. Such are the wonders of social media, but my questions and emails were met with a resounding “no”. Despite my return flights already having been booked, I resigned to my new situation. I found myself stuck in the UK, home-schooling my little sister in a sari and cooking lone poppadoms for tea.
After months of this – I did eventually go to the shop and buy some food and clothes – I obviously needed something to occupy my time. I had started making candles and earrings, re-decorating my sister's room that I had found myself stuck with, and trying to improve my very basic Japanese. It was a mixture of curiosity and spare time that led me to concentrate on SEO. I started learning all the intricacies behind search engine optimisation, having understood the cruciality of copywriting to any SEO strategy. It was this combination of creative and technical digital marketing services that I realised clients were often surprised to find I offered. I would complete creative illustration or copy for them, and upon mentioning SEO as an additional service, responses often included something along the lines of – “Oh, so we can do this, this, and SEO?”
The name Ohseio merges this "Oh?" and "SEO" together. Uniting creative elements with copy had seemed to generate increased demand. This soon translated into creating 50-page publications for print from scratch, including everything from branded illustrations to original copywriting content, and the use of InDesign to pull it all together. At the same time, offering the SEO and social media strategy experience I had gathered allowed clients to make sure their entire digital marketing approach, or most of it at least, was co-ordinated. It was a dedicated way to streamline everything. It seems like a lot of work for one person, but I can be dedicated too.
Somewhere, I had to find the time to pull my ideas together so they could live outside of my head. There was the feeling that if I got the concept out of my head, there wouldn’t be so many constant questions and worrying, overthinking and concerns about time.
I was focusing on clients, and rightly so. But I also wanted to find some time to get things started with Ohseio. I had gone from having so much spare time that I didn’t know what to do with myself to being busy every hour of the day. I much prefer the latter, though I found myself working through the night to bring my ideas together while still concentrating on clients. My housemate would wake up for a daily jog at 7 AM, and the noise of the alarm clock became the signal that told me I should go to sleep for a few hours.
After a month of this, I found myself with a website (though one considerably lacking in content), social accounts, a collection of overwhelmingly in-depth documents that I am yet to use, a brand name I loved, and most importantly, tons of support from those closest to me. I even found a completely renewed sense of enjoyment for what I had been doing for the past two years – digital marketing.
I still think about travelling and how I was so bewildered and even distraught with the thought that I was essentially estranged from the life I had grown so accustomed to. My home, my friends, and everything I owned and had built up at that point were (and still are) 5,700 miles away. But I know that my ‘two week’ visit here was one of the most instrumental motivations behind building Ohseio. I'm still here, building a new kind of lifestyle as the founder of a digital marketing brand. Travel, luckily, still presents itself as an option for those of us who take on the opportunities offered by digital spaces and the amazing clients that are led our way. For that, I am grateful.