There’s no doubt that the online beauty space is saturated, to say the least. Looking through beauty-focused social media and websites sometimes feels like being inundated with an endless scroll of highly-stylized brands and aesthetic influencers. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are, what makes them unique, and how the hell they’re going to make it memorable. In a space that often poses the threat of being forgotten, what can you do to stand out online? To answer this question, we chatted with one of the most influential figures in the ever-changing and coveted online beauty and wellness space: Jhoanna Marissa.
Not one to stray from a challenge, Jhoanna’s demanding lifestyle consists of not only designing and executing some of the most aesthetically pleasing websites you’ve ever seen, but also owning and operating her own business, Willa Creative. Keep reading for her insights on brand building, adapting to the new normal that COVID-19 has created, and of course, her beauty favorites.
I was super passionate about the magazine and editorial industry growing up — everything beauty and fashion. My plan was to study communications, get an internship in marketing and design at a magazine, and climb the ranks, and I did. But it got tough — it was around the time magazines were struggling and the talk about digital kept surfacing. I figured out how to make WordPress sites in college, taught myself some front-end, and would do that to make extra money. Then I pitched the magazine I was at to let me design and build emails. No Mailchimp, no Klaviyo, just good old fashion HTML (I swear I’m not that old!). That was how I started diving into design and development. I started taking a few different courses online through Cal State Dominguez Hills and UCLA and from that magazine job, moved to another agency that was more experiential and event-focused. I convinced them to let me start offering digital services to clients, like slash pages for events and social engagement. Then after around 5 years working at these companies, I figured I would start my own agency offering those services. I wanted to focus on designing and developing websites for fashion-focused lifestyle brands. I needed a strong case study, so at the same time, I started my own eCommerce and editorial brand called Lily+Jasper. It was a dress and accessories line and was the first brand I ever built on Shopify (à la 2012). “Made in LA” fashion was booming at the time, and I used the brand as a creative outlet but also to showcase my style and ability. Things just took off from there. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always exciting. Fun fact: My first office was on Wilshire and La Brea, which is where the name Willa came from! Starting an agency was fun, but there were always highs and lows. There are always gut-check moments of “am I doing this right” and “what’s next” but I am proud of what we do and the culture we have built at Willa. I love owning my own company – the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you are hiring an agency, the most important thing is finding a team that you really vibe with and who gets your vision. At Willa, our core process is discovery > design > development > QA/testing. We start by really thinking through the technical aspects of the site and what it should provide for its customers, as well as what the client needs to manage the site. We also at this time think about tech stack, or what platform, language, tools, and plug-ins we should be using. Then we design for it. We design mobile first, and design all the way through to a clickable prototype to get sign off to move into development. Then development on a staging site, testing all aspects of the site, and finally launch.