Early Attempt at “Branding”

Vermont is deceivingly rich with investors. Angels, angel-like groups, venture capitalists, firms, equity shares – it all exists right here. I learned quickly that to gain their attention, a business or person needed to be much further along than I was.

I kept hearing the term “traction” – in a nutshell, prove that people want, and are buying, what you have to offer – and lots of it. Not quite there yet.

Understanding that for the time-being I would be self-funded (read: debt-funded) I focused on furthering StrollRunner’s engineering and further educating myself on what I would need to run a business.

Densham had suggested I look into the class offerings at the Center for Women and Enterprise. Their mission is to educate and empower women to start and run their own business. Fitting.

Meanwhile, I also connected with a local maker-space called Generator. Tucked off the main “arts district” street of Burlington’s South End, it is a warehouse that houses a ton of super-overwhelming tools, equipment and private spaces for resident makers.

For a small membership fee, a maker can take classes on any of the equipment and use any of it to make their product. In my mind, this could be a very low-cost way for me to continue prototyping. What didn’t come with the membership was an engineer to help me figure out the design changes through R&D. These tools were really for those creators of art who just needed the means to make. Nope.

Creativity – check. Ability to test different designs by running with them – check. Learning mega-tools and making things – no, thank you.

I know what I know and I’m humble enough to admit what I don’t.

I also very much believe in learning something new – if you are excited about it. This, I was not. However, the workshop series this space was hosting very soon, Generator JumpStart, I was.

The workshops were a series of speakers on topics early entrepreneurs craved learning about and from some of the best in our area. Patents, branding, finances, business structuring, legalities…

As I awaited the first workshop, I continued to be engrossed in the business learning. I was making connections, having meetings with business owners (more to come on those), learning their stories and getting their advice, and continuing to attend any and all speaker sessions and workshops.

You can make a full-time job out of this if you really want to. It’s addicting.

And speaking of… I’m going to shamelessly gush a bit now about the speaker I didn’t know but who has left a lasting impression on me, Michael Jager.

I had no idea who he was. His topic, “How Will People Know About It?” – Your Branding, changed me.

Michael, it turns out, is the much sought-after genius who heads the company Solidarity of Unbridled Labour, a graphic design and brand strategy studio located in Burlington, VT.

As a good 50 of us sat on chairs set up in one of the concrete floored tooling rooms, beers in hand and pizza generously set out for us to munch on, Michael confidently led the group through a mind-bending glimpse of how his through process, and perspective, guides his approach to branding.

🤯 This is where I learned that a BRAND is NOT a LOGO 🤯

It’s not a font, or a set of colors, or pretty staged photos, or even your website. It’s not things, it’s IDEAS; living ideas, as Michael puts it.

Ideas that create a set of experiences that deliver on a product.

It’s feelings, emotions, connections.

His thoughts broke through a barrier I had created for myself. I had been hung up, like many others, thinking I needed to create some perfect symbol for my company that would tell the story – a logo. Thinking about it, some of the most recognizable logos we encounter everyday are the most simple.

The stories behind them that caused us to connect with the brand led us to remember the logo – or the jingle – or the commercial. The relevant content – the living idea – hooked us, and THAT is the branding.

I connected with Michael’s brilliance and fell a little in love with his creativity. Such a genuine soul and the ease at which this all seemed to come to him, to relay it to us so we could use it, was powerful. You know when you meet someone and you think, “I need to be friends with this human”? But it’s a little awkward because maybe they have no idea who you are? Yeah. I was there.

I wrote his info down and made a plan to have that opportunity someday. I wanted to show him StrollRunner. What thoughts would roll out when he heard about and saw what I was doing, creating. Or even what he may further inspire in me, just by being in his presence.