Get to Know … Branan WardSep 02, 2022 03:20PM ● By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Branan Ward grew up in St. Augustine, has moved five times in his life within St. Augustine, and has been married to his high school sweetheart Jackye for 38 years. His background has proven to be the key to his business success, recently marking 15 years in business as the Ward Design Group. It all began when Ward created a website for a large organization that he worked for at the time as a technical director. He learned about graphic design, layout, print, video, and video editing. He then began to transfer old VHS tapes to a digital format for people, editing and cleaning up old home movies during the process. It was a side hobby that turned into a business — something that would become a familiar theme for Ward over the years. Ward continued to concentrate on video work and website development, creating his video company “Laugh and Cry Media” in 2007. Through a networking group that he had joined and a mentor’s advice to choose between video work and website development, Ward narrowed his focus. “I had to pick a lane. So, I decided to build websites. It became a renewable source of income, and I really enjoyed it,” said Ward, 56. Then the early 2000s hit, and social media presented another opportunity for Ward to help his clients, this time through digital marketing. “This directly affects the business owner’s bottom line,” he said. “It was another opportunity for me to take care of folks.” Eventually, Ward’s business expanded even further and became somewhat of a family affair. Jackye, whose family is deaf, became a licensed sign language interpreter within the medical field once their children were grown. When grandchildren came along, Jackye retired as an interpreter but still wanted to be busy. “She was always a maker,” said Branan. Hippie Wick Chick, Jackye’s health and beauty company, was a natural development.
Q: Describe Hippie Wick Chick and The Hippie’s Husband.
A: Hippie Wick Chick is an all-natural health and beauty company with handmade natural candles, apothecary items and gifts. Over the years, we have developed a little following. That’s when I decided that I wanted to do something a little more physical. I tried woodworking and found that I was good at it. My hobby turned into a revenue stream, so I created a specialty woodworking business. It was a complement to what my wife was doing, so I named it “The Hippie’s Husband.” I go out of my way to find exotic wood to use from places such as Brazil and Africa.
Q: What is your approach to business and life?
A: I focus on showing up and always taking care of folks. What helps me sleep at night is I really do get a charge out of helping people. That has been an overriding theme in my life. I am on a personal mission to make things better.
Q: You have been involved with the area Business Networking International (BNI) group for 13 years. How has this been helpful to you?
A: We have the largest chapter in the country with 90 – 100 people attending the meetings. I have gotten most of my business through the relationships that I have built at BNI. It is a great place to find referrals, and, with such a large group of people, someone is always bound to know the person you might be inquiring about.
Q: You belong to another networking organization called Karen D. Nutter’s local Mastermind group. What does this entail?
A: There are only six of us in the group by invitation only. It is all about problem-solving, and it is very private. We help each other out, and it is a very rich experience for us. It is another opportunity for me to give me experience, my suggestions, and my advice and to receive it back as well. That makes me tick.
Q: Talk about the volunteer work that you do.
A: I am the chairman of the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Johns County. I have been a member for six years now. I have done video work for St. Francis House and the Boys & Girls Club of St. Augustine. I love to be able to share my creativity and my marketing side with the community.
Photo courtesy Branan Ward