Small business spotlight: Hilary Hartling HQ

Hilary Hartling received her BBA in marketing from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Shidler College of Business. After spending 15 years marketing movies from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Touchstone and Dreamworks, helping launch multi-million dollar franchises, and managing global brands with fiercely loyal fans, she has a deep knowledge and innate skill in growing and leveraging strategic brands.

Hilary made the leap from corporate to founding her own brand strategy business to apply her experience in helping others create unforgettable brands to inspire their audience.  She’s on a mission to help visionary entrepreneurs, experts and business leaders make an impact by translating their brand vision into aligned strategies and clear messaging that resonates.

We asked Hilary a few questions about her work, how her UH education has helped her along the way and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her business.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Working at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures for 15 years, I had accomplished a huge goal of mine by creating my dream job marketing films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Touchstone and Dreamworks.  Once you realize a dream, you need to begin the journey towards a new, bigger and exciting goal so you continue to grow and don’t feel stuck.  I didn’t know my next big, audacious goal for awhile, but I knew that I was always inspired to be my own boss.  After some time off, inward reflection and creative pursuits, I decided to start my own brand strategy business (an online business that gave me the freedom I craved) in order to design a lifestyle of my own choice with work I love.  And, I did!

What do you love most about your work?

What I love most about being a Brand Strategist for Entrepreneurs is the fact that I get to help others realize their dreams.  Most entrepreneurs I work with start their business because it’s work that inspires them and makes a difference in the world.  I like being part of making their vision become a reality by positioning their work to attract their best clients and helping them clearly spread their message in the right way, at the right time and with the right audience.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part of starting my own business has been seeing the benefit of investing my time and energy in developing my own perspective, voice and offerings. It’s really helped me clarify my own bigger purpose and know that I’m on the right path with my business! 

The most challenging aspect of starting my own business is simply the amount of new things to learn well in order to be successful: from bookkeeping, legal stuff, learning new software and programs to create better systems in my business, to keeping up with the newest ways to effectively market an online business.  It can be fun, but it’s alot!

How has your UH education helped you in your career?

UH is where I fell in love with Marketing….the examples of brands we’ve all come to know and love, the creativity required and the need to be nimble with it has driven the success I’ve had in Marketing & Branding (both in my career at Disney and in starting and running my own business).  It taught me that business is not just about making sales, it’s about appealing to your target market…it’s about inspiring your audience.

How has the covid-19 pandemic changed your day-to-day operations?

To be honest, it hasn’t!  I was already an online business offering education, consulting and coaching services to my clients in the U.S. and internationally through my 1-on-1 programs that I conduct via Zoom video.  It seems that I’ve created a pandemic proof business, and I’m so grateful for that!

To learn more, visit or follow Hilary on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn. To browse other alumni small businesses, visit our Alumni Business Directory.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni