First Step

The only way to the top of the mountain.

February 20, 2020

A friend of mine and I met up yesterday. She's a talented artist and creative thinker, but she's struggling with getting her work out there and attracting commissions/clients. It's a common issue for creative types to stall the display of any kind of work to the public unless they deem it perfect. The truth... it's never going to be perfect. You have a better chance at winning the lottery than you do creating the perfect piece to show, especially if you have particular expectations.

She had asked, "what do I need to do to get out there?"

"You need to make something everyday, for fun, for yourself, and show it to the world."

Lo and behold, within the span of 45 minutes today, she had an awesome collage piece completed and ready to go. I'd call that a win.

Here's the thing:

You will always be nervous taking the first steps into a new venture. Be it founding a startup, putting yourself out there as an artist, starting a band, you name it. If you want to get to the top of the mountain, you have to take the first step. It's gonna suck at first, you're going to suck at first. But you will get better and it will get easier if you dedicate yourself to small habits that will make up your success.

Go for it, I believe in you.

More you say?

The Lie

What it means to genuinely build an authentic brand.

1.6.2020

Last year, I was talking to a man at a networking event. He asked what I did for work and I told him, "I work with rebels. Rebels are the startups challenging the status quo. I help them gain more confidence through branding and design."


He paused. "Ok, how would you help me?"


I told him that a brand is a person's gut feeling or perception of a business. The art of branding is using the business's personality, image, and beliefs to foster that gut feeling. This creates trust and an emotional attachment between the customer and the business.


He told me he had named his company Best ______. He said that his industry wasn't exciting, his business couldn't have a personality and that the only actionable "branding" route for him to take was calling himself "the best." His next sentence was what shocked me the most though:


"If I was to build a brand, I'd have to lie."


"You'd have to lie?" I questioned.


He believed that creating a brand would mean that he'd have to create a false personality for his company. I kept talking with him, asked him what he liked to do in his spare time, and what he valued.


Turns out, he builds full-scale medieval catapults in his spare time. He loved comedy. Diving deeper, his greatest desire was that his team would show up to after-work team-building events.


I looked at his logo, the name of his company, their colors, and the way they presented themselves online. Nothing about those elements aligned with who this man is. The brand was stoic, staid, and lacked any character.


What he had built was a brand that others would expect of him. He was putting on his business face, trying with everything that he could to be something he isn't.


If that's not a lie, I don't know what is.


Branding is not covering up who you are in the hopes of appealing to somebody. It's the direct opposite, it's showcasing who you really are and going all-in on it. That is what creates an emotional connection with someone else.

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Branding at Different Startup Stages

Whether you like it or not, your brand exists at every stage of your startup from Idea to Exit. Here's how it can help you.

1.28.2020

Most startups think they have to wait until they have a lot of money to build a brand. Truth is, you don't have a choice. The brand is how people feel about your company and whether you have a lot of money or not, they will still have an emotional opinion of your startup. So, it's better to be aware of how branding helps startups at varying stages.

Branding at the Idea Stage of a Startup

Strategic Direction
Ensures your startup is unified toward one goal. In mind, in actions, and in voice.

Positioning
Ensures you aren’t pegged as a copycat and that you know how you're different from your competitors.

Defined Audience
Ensures you talk to somebodyinstead of trying to reach everybody.

Branding at the Seed Stage of a Startup

Legitimacy
Ensures your startup appears trustworthy to investors and customers. You can't get that from Fiverr.

Emotional Pull
Ensures you get emotional buy-in to your startup and get more investment. This means more 0's in those investor checks and greater connection with customers.

Branding at the Growth Stage of a Startup

Streamlined Marketing and Design
Ensures you don’t reinvent the wheel when creating content about your startup. You can then focus on expanding to new markets and creating great content.

Compounding ROI
Ensures those marketing efforts are trusted and get a higher return that grows with time. As opposed to relying on discounts and cutting margins to increase sales.

Strategic Expansion
Ensures you coherently and cohesively expand your team. Specifically, it ensures you hire people whose values align with the company and augment the brand rather than detract from it.

Branding at the Exit Stage of a Startup

Higher Price 
Ensures you can leverage brand equity to command a higher exit price. There is a reason Apple is worth trillions and Samsung is not (hint: it's the brand).

Easier Transition
Ensures their isn’t a massive overhaul of the company post-exit.

Legacy
Ensures you left your mark and made an impact beyond financial gain.

Branding exists at every stage of a startup's life. The question is, will it help you or hurt you?

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