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Meet Jian Huang and Holly Peters of pH Collective in Pasadena & Inglewood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jian Huang and Holly Peters.

Jian and Holly, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We met at a PR agency many years ago. Over lunch one day, our conversation took a turn to how much we both loved homemade hair conditioners. Funny how friendships begin!

While we bonded over the ins and outs of deep conditioning, we also found that we had other things in common: we came from similar modest backgrounds — Holly’s parents worked in nonprofits, and my parents were working-class immigrants. But we also had complementary skills, we really cared about our clients, we had creative ideas to help our clients get more for their budgets, and we had specific strategies for how we wanted to implement. But we weren’t in a position to make those kinds of calls — the clients belonged to the agency we worked for, they didn’t belong to us.

And then one of us asked, “Well, why not us?”

That question was how we got our start.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We never expected the road to be smooth or easy. Having a business means a lot of freedom and agency, but it also means responsibilities like taxes, accounting, finding clients, negotiating, and managing client expectations. We’ve had wonderful clients who go out on a limb to refer us more business, but we’ve also had not so great clients who second guessed us every step of the way and some who have skipped out on their bill altogether. Running a business is not for the faint of heart.

But our biggest lesson yet has been confidence. Learning to be confident in what we do, in how we present ourselves, in our pricing, in the quality of results we deliver, and when necessary, we have the confidence to stay firm and politely say no.

We’re still growing in this area, but having a partnership means we have each other’s backs. If you’re going to go through tough times, be sure to go through it with a good friend.

pH Collective – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
pH Collective is a socially-conscious creative agency specializing in branding, marketing, and business development. We work with three main types of clients: nonprofit/organizations, individuals/entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Whether it is launching a digital campaign, media relations, or designing new marketing materials, our goal is always to align our services with sustainable long-term growth.

We like to save our clients money, and often clients will come to us with services they think they need. We take a holistic approach by getting to know the client at the beginning of the project: What communities are they serving? What are their goals for the next three to five years? What are the tools that they actually need? And do they have an infrastructure to support the work they want us to do?

One of the key things that set us apart is our sustainable approach for clients. Because we work with many nonprofits and individuals, we have to be conscientious of budgets, of time, of staffing, and of the audience they serve. For example, if we launch a fully-integrated website with a robust database and a vendor login, and our client has a one-person marketing department, that website will be ineffective within a few months. Likewise, if a client asks for expensive print advertising in a national newspaper when a bi-lingual digital ad campaign will be more targeted and cost-effective, we like to discuss that with them during the assessment phase.

In marketing and branding, there is no one-stop solution and each client must have a tailored approach. It starts with getting to know who we are serving.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
One of the main reasons why we started our business is because we wanted to work with clients that aligned more with our values and we wanted to take a better approach in how we served them. Of course, this is a difficult choice to make because we also have rent to pay. But each year more people are finding out about us, more of our clients have hit their goals, more of them are coming back as returning clients, and we find ourselves doing our work with renewed creativity and enthusiasm. I think that makes us pretty successful.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Noe Montes

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