When summer comes, everyone has a particular place that is ‘their’ beach town, but how do places separated by mere miles stand apart so drastically in the minds of consumers? On this week’s episode we look inward at a recent branding project with the borough of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique branding agency, and this is One Big Idea. We record this on Wednesday the 27th of January, 2016 in a region decimated by the fourth largest snow storm on record. At least Philadelphia was, I’m north and west of the city so we had a couple of extra inches. It is not quite as cold outside but it is certainly wintertime and what better thing to think about than summer.

On today’s One Big Idea we’re going to do something that we like to do from time to time which is talk about a project that we think holds within it interesting lessons about building brands and building organizations. We chose this particular project because it was for the borough of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, an amazing, wonderful, warm, both in terms of interpersonal relationships, but also the summer times in Wildwood Crest that have become so legendary. We chose this because of the fact that I think we would all love to be there and love for it to be summer right now.

Here we are, Wednesday, the snow was Saturday. I’m still on a two-hour delay with my kids. Of course, all that matters is love and safety so I won’t even think about how disruptive that has been to the schedule. In any case, another thing we’re doing today that is a little bit different for One Big Idea is we have a special guest. I’d like to welcome Mandy Rippert, Brand Analyst of Finch Brands who was instrumental in the project that we’re going to talk about today. Mandy, so glad to have you.

Mandy Rippert: Thanks Bill. Happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Bill: Indeed. Indeed. In the spirit of summer and in the spirit of this recent project completed for Wildwood Crest, let’s talk a little it about The Crest. You were not only of great value in all that we do with clients, but in this particular case I know that you were pretty excited about it. Tell us why that was.

Mandy: Absolutely. I have been going to The Crest for a quarter of a century now, since I was a baby, I believe it was my second summer. My family has always gone there. We’ve bounced back and forth between a few different hotels that we grew attachments to. Friends of the family also have a house down there. We just love it. It has a special feeling. It’s different from not only other shore towns, but other boroughs of Wildwood. Wildwood Proper, West Wildwood, North Wildwood. It just has its own special feeling.

Bill: No question. That was something that you knew and that the rest of our team learned along the way. A little bit of back story here, the borough of Wildwood Crest does exist on the same island with Wildwood Proper, with North Wildwood, with other destinations that have their own assets, their own feels, their own aesthetics. One of the interesting things that led up to this, the commissioners of the borough of Wildwood Crest, I think, certainly spurred on by residents and business leaders in that town, did feel a need to think a little bit about distinctiveness. Even though sharing that island with other communities and obviously their close relationships there, Wildwood Crest does have assets and a feel all its own, to your point Mandy. They decided we need to try to express that difference through a logo and tagline and other work that we’re in the process of doing, but the logo and tagline are public, that really does represent the uniqueness of Wildwood Crest as a place to live and as a place to visit.

As we went about this process, there were some interesting balances that we needed to strike here. One of which, and Mandy I’ll ask for your input on this, heritage and progress. For those who are in this region or who have been there know that there’s a really unique style of architecture called Doo Wop, that really references in many ways the Bobby Rydell and Wildwood’s past – the ’50s and ’60s style of architecture that’s very distinctive. Then again, we’re in 2016 so people are looking about creating roots for themselves and their families. When you think about that balance between some of the history and what the future today looks like, how did you and the team think about this as we embarked upon the work?

Mandy: Personally as a visitor I had to be very careful of not playing into the retro aspect of it too much. As I mentioned, my family has gone down there ever since my grandmother was a little younger than me. She was taking trains and buses, back when you could get to Wildwood that way. Doo Wop was very important to her and I always had a special grip onto that. I think I had to be pulled back a little bit. Our creative director, Jordan, wanted this really modern feel. There is a strong attribute in the modernity of it because families are getting younger. Families, even couples my age, 20’s, 30’s, are really trying to figure out where to place their roots. We need to make sure that we have this modern feel and that we’re not trapped in the ’50s and ’60s, but at the same time appreciate it.

The Doo Wop was more of a Wildwood thing but it also encompasses Wildwood Crest, because they do get put together a lot. I really think that we did a great job of showing how Wildwood Crest can be fresh and how we can attract new visitors, but also show the ones who have been visiting us for years how much we really have to offer.

Bill: Right. The campaign that’s been ongoing for quite a while for the Wildwoods as a whole, has emphasized the tradition, love those Wildwood Days, and the songs playing, the Bobby Rydell Doo Wop feel of the past. To your point for folks who may not have roots, like you and in shore towns like this, it’s important that it seems to have a contemporary expression of what a destination may have to offer.

Mandy: Absolutely. I feel like I’m an old soul because I really did appreciate it. When the website, when the Wildwood Proper website, had Wildwood Days as the background music, I used to refresh the page just so I could see it. So I am an old soul. We really do need to think about people that are not only new to the area, but perhaps even new to Philly. Philly with a lot of businesses coming in here, Comcast is bringing in a ton of new jobs so there are a lot of people from other cities and they’re really gripping on to the Jersey Shore as that summer aspect. We want to show them that we have a lot to offer.

Now Wildwood Crest is more residential, there are hotels, but what you might call a party scene is down toward Wildwood. They have the boardwalk. Wildwood Crest is a dry town. That’s something you need to think about, especially the young families, that they may like to pull back toward the end of the night where they can have their young families and not worry about any partiers or people coming out of bars or any sort of traffic incidents that come along with that.

Bill: To your point, another balance we needed to strike here was between Wildwood Crest as a neighbor to Wildwood Proper, but also as sort of a breed unto itself. I think the night life as you mentioned, the boardwalk and all of the attractions and rides, and everything else, the bustling scene that is associated with Wildwood, it seems that visitors to The Crest, residents in The Crest, probably find a lot of value in being close enough to do that when they want to do that, but then coming home, or to a home away from home, every night that is a bit more quite, a bit more family oriented, that was an important thing to get across.

Mandy: Absolutely. It was definitely an important thing when my family was choosing where to go. We have visited other shore towns. I visited other shore towns as a teenager, but nothing quite felt like Wildwood Crest, just because you did have that uniqueness of look, you can have the nightlife and the parties when you want them, but then you come back and you can feel like it’s peaceful and relaxing. With people’s busy lives they want to be able to have a nice serene environment.

It’s very different in the winter. One of our contacts, Brian, at Wildwood Crest, he mentioned that it’s like Mayberry in the winter. That’s really something that we wanted to capture, that it is this small town feel and it’s this great little American small town.

Bill: Right. No question. The balance, ultimately, because you mentioned folks who may be new to the Philadelphia region for whom the Jersey Shore is sort of a birthright, it’s a rite of passage, it’s a summer time thing. The Jersey Shore successfully recruits travelers from all over, up into Canada, throughout the eastern part of the U.S. and beyond. I know that one of the issues that was important here was frankly when you use the word Wildwood and when you don’t, folks in The Crest call it The Crest and feel a great deal of pride in the distinctive qualities of Wildwood Crest, compared to anywhere else in the world, but certainly compared to their neighbors. At the same time, it seems when you’re dealing with folks who may not have that geographic point of reference to know that The Crest is really the borough of Wildwood Crest and its right next door so that all that nightlife is convenient if one desires. It seems like the logo system, the identity system that we developed, needed to have that kind of flexibility.

Mandy: Yeah, I think it’s great. We’ve developed a really awesome set of logos, putting Wildwood in it for billboards and a lot of outdoor advertising to show we are close enough to it so you will have the action. Although you said we have what we call the marketing logo for The Crest that we can’t wait to use on promotional items, bags and car magnets, so our residents and visitors can really grasp onto the brand and know that they are attached to this place, The Crest.

Bill: When you’re down there or if you’re someone who has the family history that you do with Wildwood Crest and you really want to wear it proudly, or if you’re down there traversing the island and you cross geographic boundaries and all of a sudden the signs and the trashcans and everything else you see, the banners suggest that you’re in a new place geographically. You’re now in The Crest.

If we’re talking about broader, advertising and marketing to folks who may not know the configuration of the Barrier Islands and the south Jersey shore, to understand that Wildwood Crest is adjacent or at least super close to what one may want from Wildwood seems to be important, so we built a flexible identity system that will enable folks who are making decisions about external communications to determine which is the right rendering to use it in at any given time, well obviously they both have the same level of power and consistency, they both are built on the same color palate and iconography. One of them has Wildwood Crest type set, the other just has The Crest typeset.

We have on our website going live simultaneous to this is a blog post which talks a little bit more about this project and shows the images and the identities themselves. Understanding the limitations of the podcast medium, do you want to, Mandy, speak for a moment about the logo itself and some of the stuff that’s going on there, the process to get there and things like that?

Mandy: Absolutely. The logo has a very distinctive C for The Crest obviously. What’s awesome about the colors of that is that the top half represents the sunrise and the bottom represents the sunset.

Bill: What’s the significance of that? It made a big impression on us.

Mandy: You can see the sunset from Sunset Lake and the sunrise over the beach. You can experience two amazing views within Wildwood Crest.

Bill: That’s distinctive to The Crest, [being able to see the sunrise and sunset over water], isn’t it?

Mandy: Yes it is. It’s something that residents love, visitors love and most importantly the key stakeholders that we met with they really wanted to put this across. This was a story that we were really excited to tell. One thing about that C is that it is like a stamp, so it’s very distinctive on our advertising, on our promotional materials.

Going through the center of the C, we have an awesome wave to show you this is a beach town. If you’re unfamiliar with it, from out of town, or maybe a little further south of here, you’ll understand that this is a beach destination.

We also, I’m sure Bill you’ll probably want to speak to this as well, we introduced a new tagline for them.

Bill: Yeah. Tell us. Don’t leave us in suspense.

Mandy: All right, here it is. ‘It’s Better in The Crest.’

Bill: It sure is. Tell us about how that came about and what it means.

Mandy: The latter half of that, The Crest, is another way to really put through The Crest and put that name into visitors minds. We thought about ‘It’s better in The Crest’ because there are just so many different aspects of life that are better in The Crest. The beaches. Recreation. Of course, you could just use that word I said before, life is better in The Crest. We really love the variety of uses.

We’re also applying it to some of the other departments of Wildwood Crest. The Wildwood running club is going to have a similar logo. Wildwood Crest running club, that is. A similar logo and tagline. We’re building these brands based around the Wildwood Crest’s new logo.

Bill: Back really quickly to the logo, it really is an abstract rendering of sunrise and sunset and the unique ability that folks in The Crest have to see them both over water, which really I do believe is unique in the Jersey Shore and well beyond. The C as noted becomes this recognizable form that underlines the uniqueness of Wildwood Crest compared to anywhere else in the world. The wave shape yes, it signifies a beach town, but I know that we struggled mightily to resist the predictable beach town iconography. Your flip flops and here’s your flying bird and here’s your sun. While we do have some of the beach town feel in the identity, at the same time it was important for us that we didn’t do it in the same way that everyone else wants to do it.

Mandy: Absolutely. We really wanted a sophisticated style. We didn’t want it to look cartoonish at all, or common place. It’s a very thin, classic wave that we think is timeless for the Wildwood Crest.

Bill: Interestingly during the process, in the how the sausage is made type part of the conversation, at least it was interesting for us, early on the wave form that we were using in community meetings and others, there was a minority, but still enough voices that indicated that they thought it looked a little bit more like a mustache. Obviously, that’s not what you’re going for. You don’t want the logo to be confused. Even if you did a test and three out of a hundred said a mustache, three is too many.

I know we went back to the drawing board and it is perhaps not as easy to understand without doing it, how many different wave forms we needed to test to find one that worked. I know that one of the things that kept happening is even when we liked waves, different sort of ways of illustrating a wave, sometimes it would make the C look like a G, which was the exact opposite, again, of what was intended. Finally finding a wave that had the right kind of feel and recognizability, but also maintaining the discrete C, that is an important part of the icon, it was quite a process, wasn’t it?

Mandy: It was quite a process. We heard the Facebook comments and everyone’s opinions and we were glad to hear them, this is a logo that they will see for a long time. I think that in the end, I’m very glad that we got pushed to where we stand now. It’s a great, classic logo and things turned out great in the end and we ended up in a really good place.

Bill: When you go down next summer for your 27th year, most likely one week at a time, two weeks at a time, what do you hope people are saying about this identity, when we look forward, how do we want people to feel about it?

Mandy: We want them to feel excited in that they have a place that they really belong to. I think that we felt it internally and they might know how to verbalize it, but now they can see it visually. I imagine in the beginning of the summer there will be a lot of talk about this new logo, when did they do this? I wonder who did that? Maybe in a few summers from now they’ll just think of it as something they wear like a badge of honor.

Bill: Sure. ‘It’s ours.’ We want people to feel ultimately that they have a piece of ownership of it. It represents and symbolizes a place that they love, a life style that they’ve chosen their way into. That often, as in the case of your family Mandy, they choose again and again, and certainly in the case of folks who live there year round, they’ve chosen to make it their home.

Wildwood Crest branding project, very honored on behalf of our company to have played a role in it. Interesting process, as always, in terms of strategic and creative elements. On the strategic side we certainly needed to balance heritage and progress, we also need to balance the reality of the borough Wildwood Crest having an obvious and appropriate association with Wildwood Proper, which in many ways is very, very different. Maintaining and nourishing that association, while at the same time striking out in a distinctive way to symbolize and express those things that make Wildwood Crest so unique, and so special, and so valuable. That balance being struck creatively.

Then you get into the process, this was because of the way that the municipality makes decisions both by law as well as just the general sort of style of the commissioners with whom we were working, all of this was done in public or much of it was. We were able to see small government in action. We were able to receive very immediate and passionate feedback at every stage here. Like you, maybe, I’m super proud of where things ended up and can’t wait to see this start to be on bumper stickers and beach bags and banners and everywhere else that we know that they intend to place it to represent Wildwood Crest the borough.

There’s also a seal version which we hadn’t mentioned that will be used in official capacities from the seal of the borough. It will sit in the courtroom, which also doubled as the official meeting room in Wildwood Crest. It’ll be on the wall there. It’ll be involved with law enforcement, different official uses. There’s multiple versions of this thing but they all are designed to convey that unique thing about what makes Wildwood Crest so special and as the taglines say, why it’s truly better in The Crest. Mandy, any closing thoughts before we adjourn?

Mandy: I’m just really proud to work on this project and really happy that we delivered a really great product for these folks, not only for the town but for the commissioners we worked with. We love them all and are really happy to have completed this first phase of the project.

Bill: Absolutely. Thank you Mandy, to you and to the rest of the Finch team for working so hard and so well on this. I know that we’re all proud of this and excited, honored to have been entrusted with it and then excited to see where it goes as well as to play a role in it taking the marketplace by storm.

That’s One Big Idea this week. As noted, from time to time we try to pick a story, tell a story of a project, some of the things that were relevant to it on a messaging or strategic level and then talk a little bit about where the creative may have ultimately landed.

The Wildwood Crest logo and tagline were approved in public right around the holidays, so it is fairly new even though we have inches and inches of snow on the ground still, we can’t help but think about summer so we’re gratified to tell the story. If you do want more information, if you go to FinchBrands.com the Finch Post blog has a post, as well as some images of the logo and tagline. As always, we love your feedback.

There’s really three ways to support us here, making sure you subscribe so that it pops into your inbox. It’s 100% free. It also makes sure that you don’t miss a one of these. We would love, as always, the second way is to keep the dialogue going on Twitter @FinchBrands, @BillGullan, other social media and ways. We always love feedback, ideas for future guests, future shows, future topics, etc. Then lastly, again, of course if we deserve it, we’d love a rating in the app store of your choice. It helps our own marketing in making sure that those who will find value from this podcast are able to locate it easily within how ever they search for things to please their earbuds.

That is it from here. Every one bundle up. We’re moving slowly but surely into February and then that’ll mean spring training soon, final four, Wrestle Mania, a lot of great things happening in February, March and April and then of course, we’re back into summer time and it’s love those Wildwood days for Mandy and family. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post One Big Idea: Summer Dreams appeared first on Finch Brands.

Why do some new businesses succeed and others fail? Dreamit Ventures has been ranked as one of the top 10 business accelerators in the world, and David Bookspan, Founding Partner, shares his insight into the role of the brand in growing early stage companies. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and give us a rating!

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David Bookspan: Most fabulously successful companies are brands first. I think you have to build your company around the brand. It’s never to early to start thinking about it.

Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, your host and President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Here we are, January’s in full swing. It is freezing on the East Coast, with possible snow coming this weekend. Back to the balmy days in December, when we recorded the interview that we are going to express to all of you today with David Bookspan, who is a lot of different things. Recovering attorney, he’ll take you through his career journey. Two important things to note were his role as founder and currently board member of Monetate, as well as a founding partner of DreamIt Ventures, which is an accelerator for early stage concepts that has had a profound impact on the entrepreneurial scene in greater Philadelphia and beyond.

Seems like we’ve really been focused on start-ups with the last couple of interviews, and One Big Ideas, etc. but at Finch, our business is obviously broader than that. Thinking about brand and as it relates to business concepts, it’s so interesting when you think about the start-up community, and there’s just so much oxygen around entrepreneurship these days, in higher ed, and certainly well beyond that. We want to make sure that start-ups and idea driven ventures are well represented on the roster of Real-World Branding guests and topics. Enjoy, David Bookspan.

Bill: We are here in the wonderful, chaotic, crazy, innovative, fun, high energy headquarters of DreamIt Ventures, with David Bookspan. Thank you for your time sir.

David: Thank you Bill.

Bill: Our pleasure. What an environment this is. The energy level in this part of Philadelphia, and certainly here in these offices is palpable. Tell us a little bit about, where we’re sitting, and what this all about here at DreamIt.

David: We’re in the heart of the innovation neighborhood in West Philadelphia, at 3401 Market, on the second floor. Right now, the offices are a bit quiet because we’re between sessions. The last session of DreamIt just finished up, and a new one will begin in March. This all came about through the Science Center, Drexel, and DreamIt, coming together to locate an innovation hub and headquarters here. Prior to this, we were located in other offices in the Science Center, for each of our Philadelphia cycles. We also have operations that we run in New York, Austin, Texas, Tel Aviv, and in Baltimore. When we came together with Drexel, we decided to make 3401 our world headquarters.

Bill: Terrific. It’s a great boon to this region, and obviously all the entrepreneurs who come through here. Let’s move backwards a bit, into what has been an amazing journey of a career for you. Could you tell us a little bit about the major twists and turns that have led us up to today.

David: Sure, and you’re kind, thank you. I started out, my professional life, as a lawyer. I was a litigator for 15 years.

Bill: We need more of those.

David: Not according to Shakespeare. I had an idea for a business, that was based upon a need I had in my practice, where there was information, which was obscure but important that I needed in my practice. I looked around, was sure somebody was providing it, but nobody was, and I decided to launch off with my partner, Mark Pankhurst, who was a technology guru. MarketSpan was the fourth company that Mark had founded, and I learned at his side.

Bill: Wow, that’s really cool. I think you have indicated you’re a recovering attorney in your bio. Bachelor undergrad, typical Liberal Arts guy, or was is more directed?

David: Psychology major, but yeah, pretty typical liberal arts guy. I chose a major that doesn’t have a thesis, and I was fine.

Bill: Fair enough. That’s sometimes the way to do it. How did you get from there to law school, was it a fairly obvious thing, or did it hit you one day?

David: Yeah, I decided that I was going to embark on a career as a film producer, so I went to law school.

Bill: Perfect, right?

David: Yeah, exactly. Between college and law school, I took a year and a half off. Part of that journey was to Los Angeles. Met with a very famous, and very charming producer, Arthur Hiller. He was the producer of great romantic comedies, like The In-laws, and Outrageous Fortune, Plaza Suite. A whole bunch of great romantic comedies in the 80’s and 70’s. He was kind enough to meet with me and he said to me when I told him that I thought that I wanted a career producing film, he said, ‘Well, there’s two ways to go about it. One is, I can help you get a job in any of the movie houses right now. You’ll start in the mail room, cause they want you to know where everybody is and who everyone is. You work your way up after about six months, you’ll be a system producer, or associate.’ I forget which one it is. That’s basically running coffee.

‘Then you’ll take the next step up, which is a little bit more hands on. Then the rest of your career is based upon your own talent and achievement. Or you could do what I did.’ He said he went to law school and he flunked out in his first semester. My take away from that, of course, was that the way to become a very successful producer was to flunk out of law school.

Bill: Sure, so you went to law school. You’ve got to go first.

David: Yeah, exactly.

Bill: Contrary to the intent, you made it through.

David: Yeah, I had the misfortune of doing well.

Bill: Yeah, right. Darn it!

David: At that point, fairly typical in the 80’s, from a middle class background, you follow the path of least resistance. If you do well in law school, at least at that time, the market certainly has changed, at that time you do well in law school, and a lot of law firms are throwing lots of money at you. It’s hard to resist.

Bill: From that springboard in law, and a need in your practice, moved you into the entrepreneurship realm. MarketSpan was first. What are some of the stops along the way? Obviously Monetate is one we’re going to spend some time on. Could you tell us kind of the steps up to here?

David: Sure. In terms of the personal journey, I started MarketSpan. We released the product commercially on September 1, 1997, and sold the company in June of 2000. If people remember what happened later in 2000, a lot of people think that I was really, really smart, but the truth was I went kicking and screaming to the closing table. I didn’t want to sell the company.

It turned out real well. After that, I sat on a bunch of boards, including the company that acquired MarketSpan. Did a bunch of consulting, but really spent a lot of time trying to make up for lost time with my kids. I was at every doctor’s appointment, every parent-teacher conference, every sporting event, and just had an absolute blast. Around 2007, I was doing some advising and things along the way, and I had an idea for what turned out to be the germ of Monetate, but no where near what it turned into. Also, Mike Levinson came to me with the idea of DreamIt Ventures.

At that point, my older son was already out of the house, so I went to my younger son, Jesse. What I said to him was, I said, ‘Jess, we know what I’m like when I’m starting a company. I know what I’m like when I have customers. I know what I’m like when I have employees. I can’t say it would be any different this time around, than it was previously. I don’t have to do either of these, or I could do both of them, or I could do one of them. What do you think?’

Jesse said, ‘Dad, after all these years of all Dad, all the time, I think it’s a great idea.’

Bill: That’s funny. At what point did the entrepreneurial bug kind of grab you?

David: My friends would say from the very beginning. One of my early entrepreneurial ventures was when I grew up in Westchester County, New York. We had a lot of snow and we did the winters there. I had a business, shoveling walks, shoveling stairs and walkways of the houses in the neighborhood. My friend and I, we would go up, knock on the doors, and we’d have the shovels and the ice choppers, and the salt and everything. Lugging it up the stairs to somebody’s house, and ask if they wanted their walk cleared.

After we negotiated the deal, our third friend would come along with a snow blower. That was probably among my earliest entrepreneurial ventures.

Bill: Find a better way, manage more. You were the neighborhood kid, do they exist anymore?

David: Those kids still exist, thank God. Those kids are wonderful. I love them.

Bill: Everything would be clean. Leaves would be strewn all over the place [without them].

David: We have people far more creative than that, who come through DreamIt, and who I have had the privilege of working with in all of my businesses.

Bill: Right. Indeed. You mentioned the germ of the idea for Monetate. For those, the uninitiated, Monetate is an incredible personalization platform for leading brands. Tell us about, the vision for it, the operating thesis, if you will, and how Monetate became what it is today.

David: The vision for it has been consistent throughout, which is helping brands create fantastic experiences for their customers, one experience at a time. The way we evolved to that, was that I had an idea for something, which didn’t work out along those lines. David Brussin and I co-founded Monetate, and Lucinda is the one who introduced us. The current CEO of Monetate is the person who introduced David and me. She served as the original, independent board member. She was the third member of the board.

Bill: A referee.

David: Yeah, exactly. After she had introduced us, David and I started kicking around an idea that I had. We killed it off pretty quickly, because it was dependent on large companies. We needed to get access and content from large companies in order to do it. It was all based upon the information that came across in the browser session and what we could do with that information to create a great experience for different brands’ customers. We killed that pretty quickly because we realized that we wouldn’t be able to get it to market in any time frame that was acceptable to David and me by working with the big brands.

David came out of a company that had built technology that David had invented, which was truly brilliant, in terms of stopping spam at its source. Before it ever hit the server of the company. At that time, spam was a huge problem. That company was called TurnTide. Lucinda was the CEO of TurnTide.

Bill: All fits, doesn’t it?

David: Josh Kopelman was the chairman of TurnTide, and David was the founding CTO of TurnTide.

Bill: I like that name. I always liked the name TurnTide.

David: That was a huge success. They spun it out from another company privacy group, and 6 months later, they had sold the company to Symantec.

Bill: Yeah. It works.

David: Yeah. It worked really well. It’s one of the terrific Philadelphia success stories. David’s experience in e-mail, led him to think about the germ of what we had been talking about, in terms of how can we use the information coming across in the browser session to create a great experience for different brands’ customers. He thought it would have great application in retail.

We started testing it with various customers. Testing it in concept, not so much in build. We decided that there was something there, and decided to green light it. David and I started working, basically full time on it in October of 2007. We launched the company formally in January of 2008. We built a prototype. Got our early customers. We’re fortunate in the Philadelphia community to have great support from early customers, like QVC, PetFoodDirect, and Urban Outfitters. Fantastic early customers, RevZilla. That really launched us forward.

At the time, we probably were a little ahead of the market. We had various detours along the way. Until the market started to catch up with us. And it finally has. Even with all of the great success that Monetate has had, the future is unbelievable, in terms of where the market is catching up to the whole personalization concept.

Going from testing and targeting, which is where we tucked in originally, and had our initial success, but the path all along for Monetate has been personalization. Creating that unique individual experience for every visitor, to any brand’s digital platforms.

Bill: It certainly sounds like the right idea, at the right moment. You mentioned early on, that your exit from MarketSpan was fairly well timed. Now, when Monetate began, little did we know, 9, 10 months later, the world would change. For you all, bubbling through that, was all of a sudden demand choked or not? How did it feel?

David: I love starting companies in bad economic times. Seriously, I do. Largely because if you can navigate your way through that, you’re incredibly well positioned when the market strikes. Our biggest challenge then, was to be cash conservative.

We understood and David as CEO, I think made some exceptional decisions, in terms of how to manage us through that. We started slow. We worked really hard on making sure that our customer experience was spectacular. Both in terms of the UI/UX, the user interface, and the user experience for our customers, as well as the impact that it had on our customers’ customers. Then we used the time very effectively to basically nail it.

We kept our burn very low. We worked very closely with the customers we had. Luckily, our customers were able to weather the financial storm of 2008. Then when things started to pick up, we were on the rocket ship.

Bill: That’s terrific. In your own career, and sort of moving us back into the name of the podcast, Real-World Branding, in your own career, as well as all the counseling you do with entrepreneurs, what’s the right level of thinking about the brand, for early stage companies, or for concepts that are sort of still coalescing?

David: I think that most fabulously successful companies are brands first. I think you have to build your company around the brand. It’s never to early to start thinking about it. A brand, it’s fundamental, it’s the promise of an experience.

Apple, one of my favorite companies, is really a lifestyle brand, it’s not a technology company. Obviously, it’s a technology company, but the reason that it is so valuable and the reason that people are such fanatics about Apple products, is because of the experience that they deliver. Something like the Nest thermostat also. Everything from packaging, to the presentation, to the experience itself, it’s all very brand conscious.

I think that, getting to the subject of the podcast, I don’t think it’s ever too early to start thinking about brand and to start building it. I don’t think you can fake it. It has to be an authentic brand that’s built around an authentic experience.

Bill: One of the things you mentioned, PetFoodDirect. We spoke recently with Brock. One of the points he was making is, we’re up here near Drexel University, which is obviously involved in this, and teaching folks to think through and understand some of the functional excellence’s that drive entrepreneurship and company formation. Brock and I were talking about how we do notice that there are some folks who are kind of white space entrepreneurs. One of the challenges I think that we identify, with some folks, not to paint to broadly, but you have to have a ‘why’ to your point.

Sort of the point of departure for the business has to be some sort of identified righteousness, around ‘this could be better,’ or ‘let’s do it this way.’ When you think about the profusion of entrepreneurial education and the systems, and the structures that exist like DreamIt, to help channel and accelerate that in entrepreneurial ventures. What’s the difference between intuition, or the role of intuition and depth of feeling on one hand, and sober market analysis and structural business building on the other? That was a meandering question. Did it make any sense?

David: I think I followed it, or at least I can take it in a direction. I think that fundamentally what drives people to create great companies, is a passion for people. You can be looking at anything that goes on during the course of your day, and think, ‘How can I make this better?’ Not necessarily for yourself, but how can I make this experience better for other people.

I don’t think intuition plays a particularly large role in that. It might provide the spark for a thought, but the fundamental decisions have to be data driven. I like to quip that I’m the market for zero products. That has served me well because I don’t want to hear what people think.

Bill: I love that.

David: I don’t want to hear that. I want to see what people do. The first thing I advise entrepreneurs to do, is to sell it before you build it. Take the idea, whatever the concept is. Take it to your customers. See what the reaction is. You don’t need a product in order to do that. You can do that with wire frames. You can do that with mock-ups. Now a lot of this is in the tech business, which is where most of my business is. The only time you’re not burdened by legacy code, is when you don’t have any code.

If you think you know what the market wants, and you’re building it without having that validated, you are going to have trouble. Even if you’re ultimately very successful, and navigate your way to what the market really wants. You’re going to have a tremendous anchor that’s going to be holding you back because of all the things that you put a lot into before then.

Fundamentally, find something that you think really will make people’s lives better. Understand what that market is, and go talk to that market. Then build quickly, and start the continuous iterative process of launching, learning, and then releasing.

Bill: If you go to someone and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could, or I could, or we could blank.’ If they say, ‘Yeah’, then the process of delivering against that becomes obviously critical. It’s critical the whole time, but then it becomes sort of linear and yeah, that makes sense.

David: You found something earlier, Bill, which is you don’t want to hear the, ‘Oh, that would be wonderful.’ Cause when you talk to people about an idea that you’re thinking about starting a company around, people are just generally very polite. They’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful, that’s great, of course I would use it. I don’t know how I’ve lived without it.’

If you can really dig down deep, and figure out a way to make it a real experience for somebody then see what they do. One of the things that we advise DreamIt companies to do is, to see how much you can learn for little or no capital.

Spend intellectual capital before you spend financial capital. Can you buy adwords that will validate the underlying theme? For a couple hundred bucks you can see how that theme resonates with a broader audience. You can actually see how many people click. Things like that, where you’re not dependent on people, or even a survey, or a focus group, where there’s all sorts of other pressures that influence people’s behavior.

Bill: Well as a firm, Finch does a lot of sort of structured and formal custom market research. One of the challenges always, to your point, drawing the distinction between sort of reported and observed data that the costs to a focus group participant of saying, ‘Yeah, I’d buy that and spend eight million dollars’, is zero. You’re not making them write a check, and so you need to build question constructs, or find a different way to observe the way that people are interacting with ideas. It’s fascinating. It makes perfect sense.

Along those lines, we talk about brand, we talk about product development, we talk about the role and the sequence of this. You said earlier, when you were talking about your younger son, the preparation that you gave, that if dad is going to get back to this world, you know how I am. Obviously evoking or expressing something that you’re passionate about and the way you behave when you have one of these concerns that are going. What is the role of passion around this? Product development has to be excellent, you have to be a strong marketer and seller, you have to go through, you have to raise money responsibly, and all these different things, control burn. Talk about the role of passion in business success.

David: Yeah. I think passion is critical to any business success. Passion I think is, what gives you the fortitude to persevere when times are bad. In the good times as well, it’s got to make you feel good. What you’re doing has to be fun. Otherwise, you don’t get through those rough patches. I think that passion, as I said earlier, passion for people, I think is essential. Passion for improving people’s lives is essential, and then passion for the mission is what motivates you to success.

Bill: When you see entrepreneurs who come through DreamIt here, obviously focused on different categories, with different ideas, different products. Are there common denominators of the kind of barriers and hurdles, some of which may be structured in obvious business building processes? Which maybe emotional or psychological, are there any common threads of experience that you see that maybe the types of hurdles that entrepreneurs through this experience and in general, will need to surmount if they’re going to be successful in the way, that perhaps their concept gives them the right to be?

David: Yes. I think that, first of all, I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be able to work with people who are way smarter than I am, and way more capable than I am.

Bill: Don’t believe that David.

David: It’s really true Bill. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

Bill: Right, or you’re alone.

David: Exactly. The confidence to be able to surround yourself with people who are better at anything that you set yourself to do, than you are in some aspect of the business, is something which I think does mark a successful entrepreneur. Certainly the successful DreamIt entrepreneurs.

Also, the lack of fear of failure. Nobody wants to fail. Failure can be a great motivator, but it can’t control you. I frequently quip that after I sold my first business, I became a whole lot smarter. After I sold MarketSpan, I became a whole lot smarter because I didn’t have the fear of getting fired, or the fear of financial impact. Being able to say that I’m making this decision, not because I’m afraid of getting fired, but because it’s the right decision for the company, is incredibly liberating. That is a common denominator.

All of the DreamIt entrepreneurs, both academically, as well as in their life – we have had Grammy winners, we’ve had Olympians, we’ve had unbelievable successful people – the academic credentials are much better than any that I ever have achieved, or could have achieved. A lot of Ph. D’s. Unbelievable talent, unbelievable education, but in terms of the leadership components of what they do, the really successful founders are the one’s who are not afraid, who have confidence, but are also humble.

Bill: We’ve spoken to many folks on this podcasts over the past, almost a year, not quite, and there seems to be … when we think about life stage, you are refreshingly atypical of some folks. We talk about Nick Bayer, who is across the hall in Saxbys, he did it early, no kid, maybe even single, no spouse. The cost of failure, set it in quotation marks is different.

Then you see folks who parlay success in something, into something else, but you’re somebody who, right in the throat of that career litigating, decided that you wanted to do something else. All of the risks associated with that, all of probably the nights of terror associated with that. Could you speak about perhaps, you had responsibilities along the way, you talked about that? Once you had achieved success with MarketSpan, you were able to go back and make up for lost time with kids, and sort of ride that period. Talk about your own life, as it relates to choices, and fear, and risks, and all of these different things.

David: A lot of people give me way too much credit for, perhaps being brave or courageous, when I don’t think of it that way. My decisions may have been naïve, but I certainly don’t think they were brave or courageous.

In that, I figured that I had a very marketable skill, and I was a relatively good lawyer.

Bill: You could always go back, right?

David: Yeah. I knew the kids would get fed, they’d get educated, and the mortgage would get paid. It might take me a while to dig myself out of debt if things had gone poorly, but this wasn’t courageous. Courage is on the battle field, and for people who overcome much greater obstacles. Perhaps naïve. It wouldn’t have been fun if it had failed, but it was not that much risk.

Bill: It’s what we would call a ‘first world problem.’

David: Yes, exactly.

Bill: That said, you’re humble and thoughtful about this. You talk about path of least resistance, so maybe courage isn’t the right word, but the awakening at a certain point when you’re on that path, when you’re 12 years into a career as a litigator, or progressively successful career that, maybe on some level you knew that wouldn’t satisfy you until the end of days. There was a u-turn for you.

David: Yup.

Bill: Whether brave, courageous, may not be right – you’re not fighting ISIS, but at the same time that’s … Was there a shock to the system? How … I sort of asked it a couple different ways, but do you recall the moment where you’re like I want to do this, I want to zig instead of zag?

David: Yeah. To a certain extent, it was sort of an opportunity that I didn’t feel I had to do. I liked being a lawyer. I really liked my cases. Every case I had, I had to learn a new business. I was working, again, with, the constant in my career has been incredibly smart people. My partners were unbelievably talented and unbelievably smart. That is an incredibly invigorating environment to be in.

I had the support of my ex-wife at the time. I had the support of my kids, in going ahead and starting MarketSpan. It was really just sort of thinking it would be fun.

Also, going back to my partner, Mark Pankhurst. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He’s my best friend today. Just the ability to be able to learn with somebody like that, seems like it would be fun.

Bill: It certainly has been. Baseball guy, right? You a baseball guy?

David: I have a bit of a baseball problem.

Bill: Do you? Where are your loyalties, if I may ask?

David: Now I’m going to get in trouble. I grew up as a Red Sox fan, and I still am.

Bill: From Westchester?

David: I lived 10 miles from Yankee Stadium, as a Red Sox fan.

Bill: I was going to say. That’s tough.

David: I could only afford bleacher seats when I would go to the games. Of course I would go to Yankee stadium for the games. Wearing my Red Sox cap in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium, was an early test of character.

Bill: It’s where you learned to box. Right?

David: I learned to run. The most humiliating experience I had was opening day of the 1979 season.

Bill: Bucky f’ing Dent.

David: You got it. I was sitting in the bleachers. The Red Sox were opening against the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium that season. This really beautiful woman about 3 rows ahead of me, turned around at one point and just showed me her t-shirt, which said, ‘And Yaz popped up.’ That was it. For people who don’t remember how that game ended, that play-off game ended with Jim Rice on third base, and Yaz at the plate. Yaz popped up to third, Greg Nettles squeezed the ball in foul territory and that was it.

Bill: That was it. You couldn’t ask her out after that. That’s a shaming.

David: Yeah.

Bill: The Sox are spending a lot of cash here, if they want to. They seem to have this horribly surprising last play situation, write some checks, and then they’re back the next year. I wish the Phil’s were. Optimistic for the men of summer?

David: I wish I could be more optimistic. I think that the Phillies still have a lot more to do.

Bill: Here they do, certainly.

David: I’m impressed with what Dombrowski has done, in terms of the Red Sox’s team. I’m not a big fan of spending that kind of money.

Bill: That’s true. The price is high. It’s not your money but still.

David: It’s 7 years. Even for somebody as great as David Price, who I think is fabulous, to spend that kind of money is … I’ll be singing a different tune, when they’re playing in October but as of right now, looking at it from the business side of it, you need a hell of a return in order to get that.

Bill: Great new first base coach, right?

David: Great new first base coach. Unbelievable.

Bill: Hey, it’s history. I want to get down and wear the uniform.

David: Although I’m a Sox fan, I have season tickets to the Phillies.

Bill: Good seats available.

David: Yeah. Now there’s really good seats available. It’s one of those wonderful things, where our seats have been too good to give them up. Which is why we continue to be, my syndicate continues to be season ticket holders.

Bill: Even while a losing baseball season, that is obviously a losing season, gets pretty boring after July, if there’s young players out there. Just the overall experience, particularly here in Philadelphia, with the stadium and the food. Summer without baseball, no matter how bad the team is, I can’t even imagine.

David: The first game of the season for anybody, whatever your individual first game is, just walking into the ballpark, and seeing the green expanse of the field is to me, a transformative moment every year.

Bill: Yeah. No, same here. Growing up as a Phillies fan with … I was 7 in 1980, which was great, and 10 in ’83, but then there was the meaningful kind of gap. Then in ’93, out of no where … Makes you think, if you walk in and everyone’s 0 and 0, you never know.

As we wrap, and this has been terrific, and thank you so much for your time and insight, and all the things you’ve learned, and how deeply you feel, all of this is palpable. Any other words of wisdom for those who’ve been inspired by your path, maybe that we haven’t hit on. Things that are either important to the curriculum here at DreamIt, or just important to you as a business person.

David: Yeah. I would hark it back to make other people’s lives better. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, who are better than you at what you do. It’s like that thing, inverse of that Saturday Night Live skit that use to be on the affirmations. ‘No, I’m good enough.’ ‘I’m smart enough.’

Or another take on that is Will Smith’s commentary about when he was on the Tavis Smiley Show. Which I do use many times when I talk with people about innovation and entrepreneurship.

Bill: Local guy as well.

David: Terrific local guy.

Bill: Doesn’t get back probably too much.

David: Here and there.

Bill: Got a part in the Sixers, right? Small part.

David: Yeah. I understand he owns somethings around Philly as well. He said there’s two things that will happen. He said, ‘You may be smarter than I am, you may be better looking than I am, you may be sexier than I am, but there are two things. If we get on a treadmill, you’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.’

Bill: Perfect. It’s true. Everyone has what one has, but you can control the amount that you work, and how much you care, how hard it is. David Bookspan, very inspirational. Grateful, for obviously all you’re doing for this region, and to nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as what you share with our listeners today. Thank you so much.

David: My pleasure, Bill. Thank you.

Bill: Many thanks to David. What a passionate, interesting, obviously smart person, who is a great asset and resource for entrepreneurs in this region and beyond. His thoughts about the role of the brand, and the passion in business building as driving forces, as people figure out things about product and channels and everything else are tremendously valuable. Thanks to David for his time and insight, and for all the work he does to help nurture the entrepreneurial community in this region and well beyond.

Three ways, as always to support us at Real-World Branding. We’d love a review, if we earned it in the app store of your choice, we’d love it if you’d click subscribe, so you don’t miss a one of these. Every two weeks, we do an interview with a brand and business builder. On the intervening weeks, we do what we call, One Big Idea, which is more of a focus topic, shorter form. We really enjoy all the time we spent with various folks, and helping us think through some of the lessons of their careers, as well as, our ability to think through some of the things we’re seeing, as we’re serving clients, and helping them accelerate profitable growth, and activate the full potential of their brands.

The third way to help us is to keep the dialog going here. We would love to hear, and we’ve so enjoyed hearing from listeners, primarily via Twitter @BillGullan or @FinchBrands. Ideas for future guests, future topics, questions to ask those guests, as well as just general feedback. We’re not quite a year into this. Our skin is thick. We’re trying to provide as much value as we can, and we’re having a heck of a good time doing it, so we appreciate feedback of all types. We want this to be as valuable as it can be. Signing off. Huddling down for warmth, with snow on the way. All best from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post Accelerating the Brand: David Bookspan, Founding Partner of Dreamit Ventures appeared first on Finch Brands.

When it comes to brands, core values are about defining cultural distinctiveness. In this week’s episode, Bill examines how to properly develop core values that help steer an organization as well as the inherent benefit to defining and embracing a set of fundamental brand beliefs. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Happy New Year to all. Forgive a bit of the rasp in my voice, which is reflective of the time of year and the temperature change, and having two kids at home etc., but I sound worse than I feel, fighting through it and hope everybody out there is doing well.

This is One Big Idea. This is what we do in weeks between longer-form interviews, and we focus on one particular concept and go into it a little bit but in a short timeframe, 7, 8, 9 minutes. Today we’re going to talk about values. We’ve done on previous One Big Idea episodes a bit of a meditation on vision mission and other elements of building and thinking through central and fundamental beliefs that companies use to rally and unify the internal team, and in many cases, these are public facing as well or at the very least the behaviors that they’re seeking to create and reinforce, extend into the public domain when one interacts with companies and brands.

Let’s talk about values a little bit. Typically, values or core values, or whatever you want to call them, are really about the behaviors that a company wants to hold up to a level of prominence and to live by. There are tons of things that companies want to be part of their internal culture, or that the culture has organically held up as important things to how they function, how people work and how people motivate. The core values, and they really ought to be a pretty self-contained list of 3, 4, 5 major beliefs and behaviors, are those that rise to the top of the table, that drive distinctiveness, that propel people and teams forward, to help cultures form and to help work, ideas, and everything else come to fruition.

Many organizations historically have done this in a way that can come across as a little bit limp. ‘Our core values are innovation, or creativity or whatever,’ and that’s not enough. It is our perspective, and I think it is a gathering consensus in our industry, that the best values are verbs; they’re things that we do. They’re statements that are memorable and clear, that are motivating. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, our value is innovation,’ but what does that really mean when you compare that to focusing [on action], like Facebook does in their core values: ‘Move fast – We have a saying, move fast and break things.’ It’s one thing to say you’re innovative; it’s another to say that you ‘move fast and break things.’

Let’s talk through actually some of Facebook’s 5 or so core values, because I think in some ways, they’re instructive of best practices in terms of thinking through and developing core values and writing these things down so that everyone, whether it’s new members of the team that you’re interviewing or onboarding, or whether it’s folks thinking through what behavior to celebrate and reward and encourage. Facebook has 5, and some of the greatest brands in the world, it is no coincidence that they also have the most well constructed, mature, and widely understood core values. Your Zappos, your Nordstrom, your Four Seasons, some of these brands that have really thought through what they mean. They believe it so deeply that it cannot help but be central to the customer experience that they provide. Facebook’s 5 core values, and the value is phrased and then there tends to be a sentence to explain and reinforce it, so here are the 5.

’Focus on impact: If we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on solving the most important problems.’ That’s about priority. That helps team members think through whether or not they’re spending their day in the right way and organizing the way that they’re thinking about their job and their team in the right way.

‘Move fast: We have a saying, Move fast and break things. The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.’ That is designed to suggest to members of the team there that Facebook has a tolerance for risk, has a tolerance for everything not being perfect, and there’s a bias towards action, speed, and aggression in a positive way when it comes to thinking through and executing new things.

‘Be bold: We encourage everyone to make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time.’ That’s the 3rd core value, and it’s not dissimilar to the 2nd one, but they are clearly stating that their culture is more about doing than it is about planning or analyzing, and of course, it’s important for every business to plan and analyze. They’re full of data at Facebook, they make very concerted decisions, but at the same time, underlining boldness is a part of their values, and indicates the type of person who’s going to be great there and effective in terms of what they do.

The 4th one is, ‘Be open: We believe that a more open world is a better world because people with more information can make better decisions and have a greater impact.’ That not only applies, of course, to the internal team in terms of how they want their culture to go and how transparent they expect teams to be when working with one another, but also as a company whose product and whose currency is information, that has many issues and topics related to things like privacy policy and everything else. It’s important that Facebook is exhorting its team and its leadership to focus on openness, transparency, and impact as an outgrowth of that.

Lastly is, ‘Build social value: We expect everyone at Facebook to focus everyday on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.’ Today, when people decide the types of brands and companies with which they want to bond, patronize, and of course, transact, often this notion of congruence of values between what a person values in their life and what a company wears on its sleeve (in terms of what matters to it) tends to be a much more important calculus than it used to be.

Those are Facebook’s 5 core values. We at Finch, both on behalf of our clients, as well as internally as we always seek to strengthen our culture and everything else, have been thinking a lot about values. When you think about the constellation of statements or ideas that are essential as companies start, certainly as they grow and decision-making becomes a little bit further from the founder or the core leadership team, you really need to empower team members to make decisions as they think through various processes within the company. There is an importance for vision, for mission, for values, and then on the externally facing side, lots of elements of this in terms of positioning. That often lends itself to tagline and identity and everything else. As noted, the best brands in our opinion are built from the inside out, and values are an important part of that. I think the couple rules of the road when thinking through values are really as follows, just to summarize them here.

One, it should be a pretty contained and manageable list in terms of size, 3, 4, 5, that everyone can remember and understand, and there aren’t so many that people are swimming and feel like their behavior is overly prescribed and not so few that they tend to not be exhaustive of some of the important things about culture and about how the business runs. That’s one thing, keep the list to a reasonable size.

Secondly, they should be things that you do, things that a company does, things that a company believes in that are distinctive to it or that are animating. It’s central to it. Again, the things that are table stakes when it comes to being successful high-growth businesses like being creative, like being financially focused, all the things that anyone could say, the values is probably not the place to put those ideas, because value is about defining cultural distinctiveness.

The 3rd thing is, again, let’s make them verbs. Let’s make them descriptive of the actions we want people to take. Let’s imbue them with a level of energy that help people connect these values to what they’re doing day in and day out, and in some ways to check themselves in terms of how they’re thinking and what they’re doing, how they’re spending their time against elements of the values that indicate that they’re living up to or living within what the company seeks to accomplish and how it seeks to operate culturally.

Those are 3 things to think about. Again, one example of moving from a noun to a verb, so instead of integrity, which is a fairly generic value that doesn’t have any action associated with it, a verbal approach to that might be, do the right thing. Instead of innovation, a verbal approach to that might be, experiment every day. Instead of courage, a verbal delivery of that might be, share your opinions and stand strong. There’s a bunch of ways to express ideas that may be familiar and comfortable in a way that is distinctive and animated.

That’s it from here. The Value of Values is ultimately about tethering the belief system of a company to all the individuals who occupy and the various roles within the company and who are empowered to bring these beliefs to life day-in, day-out for their colleagues as well as, ultimately, for their customers and the world at large.

Three ways to support us at Real-World Branding, if you so desire. One is to subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any episodes of what we do. We do this weekly, again, every other week as a longer-form interview with a business and brand builder, and the weeks in-between, we do these One Big Ideas that we hope are practical and valuable and focused. So we’d love it if in the app store of your choice you click that subscribe button, so whenever a new one goes live, it flows right in as soon as you open your podcast app or whatever it is.

The next way is to continue this dialogue with us, on Twitter’s probably best, @BillGullan or @FinchBrands. We love to hear comments. Our skin is thick. We certainly love to hear ideas for future guests, future topics, future questions for specific guests or questions you’d like me to take up with One Big Idea. I think maybe one of these in the future we might do a Q&A mailbag type of feature, so if you have a certain question you’re thinking about or an idea that you’d like to hear our take on or my take on, please forward it our way via Twitter, and one of the things we’ve enjoyed as much as anything else about this podcast 10 months in is the dialogue with our listeners.

Lastly is if we’ve deserved it to give us a rating, 4 stars, 5 stars. We are told and we believe that the degree of visibility we’re able to achieve here does have to do with the number of listeners that we have, which is steadily growing, but also the degree which those listeners seem to really enjoy the content that we’re putting forth. Again, we’re trying to make it as valuable and as interesting as we possibly can. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty, have a wonderful week.

The post One Big Idea: The Value of Values appeared first on Finch Brands.

When used correctly, technology can enrich brand experiences. In this week’s episode, Nicole Staple, Co-Founder of Brideside, shares her insight into the how optimizing the customer journey has helped her company provide a better experience for bridesmaids. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Nicole Staple: First of all, the millennial woman and the millennial consumer really values brand and she really values that emotional connection to the brand that she’s buying from. So we knew that was going to be very important.

Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all, this is Real-World Branding and I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Today, a conversation with Nicole Staple. Nicole is a co-founder of Brideside, which is a fascinating, progressively multi-channel business that at least started by focusing on a better experience for bridesmaids’ dresses. If any of you have sisters, or spouses, or are yourself a woman who has been a bridesmaid, you will relate to the horror stories that one always hears about bridesmaids’ dresses. And so Nicole and her partner Sonali [Lamba] went out to change that.

What they’ve built is a very very, again to use the word, progressive, approach which includes certainly an e-commerce piece and they have that national scale through e-commerce. It does include a physical showroom, has a really innovative try-at-home program that e-tailers are using to kind of blur the lines and close the loop on the customer journey and she’ll tell you about it and do it much more justice than I ever could. Nicole Staple, founder of Brideside.

Bill: We’re joined by Nicole Staple, the founder of Brideside. Nicole, thank you for your time.

Nicole: No, thank you. It’s great to be here.

Bill: Is holiday a big time for you all? I would imagine that a lot of the events that people are purchasing from you for is a summertime type of thing, although not exclusively, but obviously many e-commerce and retailers, holiday is it. Is your business really seasonal like that?

Nicole: You know, it’s not. It shouldn’t be necessarily seasonal as people in our category aren’t buying for the holidays. With that being said, people are buying 4-6 months before their wedding, so it’s funny you should ask that as a first question because we’re doing this interview on December 1st. Actually, November was our biggest month ever in the history of the company. Largely actually driven by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Bill: That’s great.

Nicole: So we are coming off a really big month and are just really excited internally here.

Bill: Congrats. We will do a virtual hoisting of the glass or whatever in your honor. Why do we still call it Cyber Monday, by the way? Nobody calls it cyber space. We should probably rename Cyber Monday.

Nicole: I don’t know. It’s so silly. We are a big fan of Mondays. We do #MaidsMonday. So maybe we should just call it Super MaidsMonday or something.

Bill: Awesome. Not to get ahead of ourselves, your journey to where you are, the paths, the twists, the turns, I won’t steal it, but involved in finance and venture capital, going to grad school, could you take us sort of through the career journey up to this point and kind of how you landed here at Brideside?

Nicole: Sure. Absolutely. I went to Wellesley College outside of Boston, it’s an all-women’s college. Early on, I had pretty strong passion for, at the time, economics and business. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so it was always something that was at the forefront of my mind. Particularly, going to Wellesley where there’s the messaging of women who constantly were taught to really break through glass ceilings and enter into non-traditional industries for women, which even just a few years ago, women in doing technology startups was even more unrepresented than it is now.

I always had that sort of fire in the belly, but I didn’t really know where to apply it. Like every good college graduate in the early 2000s, I went into investment banking and actually was in the healthcare industry. The funny story there and one moment that completely changed my career trajectory was when I was on my final round interviews in college for my investment banking job, I sat next to this man and he started chatting with me. He asked me ‘If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?’ I was like, ‘This is ironic, because I’m going to this interview for this job that I’m pretty sure is going to be terrible.’ It turns out that guy was Jeff Pulver, he was actually a pioneer in voice-over IP, and an incredibly well known investor and start-up guru.

That conversation ended up changing my complete trajectory. He’s still someone I keep in touch with and I knew that when I went into finance that I wouldn’t be there for very long, but I needed to figure out how to get to where I wanted to go. After doing investment banking for two years, I decided that I wasn’t quite ready to start a company because I had no operating experience and I really didn’t know anything about start-ups. Back then, in New York City, there wasn’t really the Silicon Alley that there is there today.

I got a job at a venture capital firm. The venture capital arm of Silicon Valley Bank, actually, SVB Capital and moved out to Palo Alto. That’s really where this entire path was born for me and Silicon Valley was incredibly inspirational. It allowed me to learn about the growth path of early stage tech start-ups. It allowed me to build a really strong network, and from there I went to business school knowing that someday I’d probably be in this position.

Although, at the time, I was much more focused on social enterprises. I helped launch a national non-profit chapter here in Chicago before business school, was pretty involved in the social enterprise space while at Kellogg, but always kept my ear to the ground in technology and Brideside was born out of my time at Kellogg, which is another story as well.

Bill: To that end, someone with a really strong finance background who was an economics person, at least undergrad, Kellogg has such a strong reputation across disciplines, but we hear of it a lot in the marketing and consumer packaged goods realm. I know that you’re concentration was innovation and entrepreneurship. Was there some grand plan at work in terms of why Kellogg made sense for you versus anywhere else? Was it that you liked the campus or other people you met?

Nicole: I did have a boyfriend who lived in Chicago at the time.

Bill: Ah.

Nicole: Although, I don’t like saying that. I had a little bit more of a focus on the Chicago area, but I was actually deciding between Chicago Booth University of Chicago and Kellogg at the time. The reason I chose Kellogg in many ways is one of the reasons that I think Brideside has been so successful. Some of what you mentioned, Kellogg does have a reputation in marketing and CPG, but it’s actually broader than that in that they’re really, really good at teaching students to think about their customer first.

For us, that was the way we were. That was the lens with which we were taught everything that we learned. That’s really, really important. I chose Kellogg. The culture seemed great. I actually liked that it wasn’t known for ‘finance’ because I wanted something different. If I were choosing Kellogg today, it would even be completely different. They’ve completely overhauled their curriculum towards more of an innovation and entrepreneurship focus. I told my husband last night ‘I think I would have saved a year of my life had I gone to Kellogg now and launched a company,’ because it’s amazing. I think every business school is starting to teach much more practical courses around how to start and scale a start-up.

Bill: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think what we can take from your journey, among other things, is that you’re smart. Which brings us to Brideside, and anyone who’s ever either been a bridesmaid or has friends or siblings who have been bridesmaids, spouses, has certainly heard the ballad of the bridesmaid when it comes to dresses and everyone’s got to wear teal, and you never get to wear it again, and you have to pay for it, and you’re an afterthought, and you can’t choose. Tell us about the founding thesis for Brideside and how all this came to you and you knew that this was what you wanted to build.

Nicole: To your point, Brideside was definitely born out of personal experience. Actually, my co-founder Sonali was planning her wedding while applying to business school, and she had 14 bridesmaids in her wedding. She was relatively young when she got married and she experienced the emotional turmoil that goes with coordinating women of different body types, personalities, and all of that. She came in to Kellogg thinking about the wedding industry.

She often tells the story that she showed her wedding planner Google Docs and her wedding planner had never seen such a thing. Her mind was blown, and she was actually one of the most well-known wedding planners in the Orlando area. Sonali was like ‘You know what? There’s something here.’

Bill: Yeah, there’s an opportunity we have to progress how this category works, right?

Nicole: Exactly. When I joined, I really didn’t want anything to do with the wedding industry. I was like, ‘You know, I know a little bit about start-ups from the investing side, so I can maybe help, but I’m not sure I’m really going to be involved.’ Once I started building up the financial model and we started truly working on it together, a lot of things came to light for me which convinced me that this was the right business to jump into.

Bridesmaids, there’s a very clear pain point, right? There are women that live all over the country. They have to coordinate all of these purchases. There’s a very clear pain point there and they spend a lot of money. We felt it emotionally, and we wanted to solve that problem that we are feeling. Bigger than that, bridesmaids really, there’s a Trojan horse for the entire bridal retail industry, which is a 14 billion dollar industry. Bridesmaids’ dresses make up just under 2 billion of that, so its really just part of that bigger story.

For us, at the time, 98% of retail transactions were happening offline in this industry. It was incredibly antiquated. It hadn’t evolved with the way that women like us were shopping, and there were some business components of this industry that made it really interesting to us. The first was that there are incredible network effects among these groups of women.

We had historically heard that customer acquisition costs in the bridal industry is incredibly high. It’s really hard to get a bride’s eyeballs online. It’s a very long purchase cycle, it’s a one time purchase. It’s just really tough. Everyone told us ‘Don’t do it’. We said, ‘Okay, if we can get these women to love us, there are 8 of them that buy at one time. So while we might spend a lot to get the bride, we’re getting 8 purchases out of it, and all those women are either going to get married themselves or be in other weddings.’ Then you start to have this sort of viral coefficient and word of mouth that starts to spread, and actually makes a unit economics of a bridal party quite attractive.

The other part of it is what’s super cool about this industry, for people that know retail, is that bridesmaids’ dresses, in many ways, is still a cut to order industry. We only carry inventory for our home try on program, which makes the working capital of starting the business in this space really interesting, because then you really can focus working capital on customer experience, technology, and marketing, and not so much on the inventory and overhead risk of that side of the business. We still operate that way. We don’t place the final order with the manufacturer until the entire bridal party has ordered, which is pretty cool.

Bill: You obviously have a strong grasp, not surprisingly, of both the emotional side of this and the economic fundamentals that drive the category and in particular, these types of purchases. Back to that sort of softer side, being true to the name of our podcast, could you take us back to when you all were starting out? You had the idea, you gamed it out financially, and the time came to think through the name, the identity, and the brand personality. How was the thinking and how did it evolve on that?

Nicole: We knew that we needed a really fresh approach, from a brand perspective, to this market. Some of what I mentioned to you before, what comes to mind when you think of wedding boutiques, for example? At least what came to our mind was appointment only, expensive, rude salespeople. When you looked, at the time, at what was offered online really was nothing. It was these discount retail sites, websites that looked like they were built in the early 90s. It was a complete mess.

Back to what Kellogg taught us, which was really customer first and brand first, the first thing we did was tons of focus groups and tons of data collection on our customer. What we realized is that, first of all, the millennial woman and the millennial consumer really values brand and she really values that emotional connection to the brand that she is buying from. So we knew that was going to be very important. What we also learned early on was that it was really stress, emotional stress, which was driving the dissatisfaction in this industry. We knew that every part of our experience, from the user experience online, to the way that we communicated to the customer, to the products that we offered, and to the pricing needed to focus on removing that stress and drama from the purchase process. What we say now, and that way that this identity has evolved, is that we’re here to provide peace of mind to wedding parties.

We say internally that we want to be the exhale that every wedding party feels when they walk down the aisle. When you come to Brideside, you want to feel at ease. You want to feel taken care of, you want to enjoy the journey and this moment because it’s an incredibly emotional time. It’s important to the bride, it’s important to her friends, so she shouldn’t have to think about the coordination aspects, and that’s what we want to remove from her plate so that she can really enjoy the emotional experience of getting married.

Bill: The name, as one artifact of that brand development process, is a great example of ‘nailing it’. It rhymes; it has sort of a great acoustic rhythm to the way that it sounds. It speaks to, as you say, being on the bride’s side – if you’re a bridesmaid, being by the bride’s side. It really kind of checks all the boxes, and obviously you’re able to own it and use it in the digital sphere. Was that name sort of a thunderbolt or was it a painful laborious brainstorming process? How did you settle there?

Nicole: It was a little bit painful, I’m not going to lie. Actually, if I’m going to be totally honest with you, the name was originally Bella B. That was our project name, our working name when we were at Kellogg. We were sitting around a kitchen table drinking wine one night, brainstorming all of these names, and Sonali’s husband, from the kitchen, who was cooking dinner – actually, I think he was playing video games. Not even thinking about anything, he screamed over ‘What about Brideside?’

Bill: That’s perfect, that’s the right way to do it. You play some Grand Theft Auto and you figure out the name, that’s super cool. There’s so many stories of coming to great things that way, whether it’s names or other things. That’s really funny. She was married when this happened, were you also? If I may pry.

Nicole: No, no. I was not married. I got married just about a year ago. I met my husband at Kellogg. I had only been through this experience as a bridesmaid before, and she actually only been through it as a bride. She hadn’t yet been a bridesmaid. It was interesting experiences and point of views that were coming together.

Bill: Yeah, perfect, and having 14 bridesmaids, she’s either too popular or doesn’t want to make tough choices, but either way.

Nicole: I’ll leave that to her to comment on.

Bill: Fair enough. You mentioned a few, in the try it home program, obviously Warby Parker and other kind of retail pioneers are driving this and really connecting a bridge between traditional pure e-commerce and all the other things that are important in an experience like this. You have the try at home piece, you do, I believe, have several showrooms in the Chicago area, obviously, you have the e-commerce storefront. Given the channels involved here, the touchpoints in your business model, how do you think about the customer journey as you choreograph what it feels like for her, to deliver all the things that we know are important to the brand?

Nicole: This is an incredibly good question. I’m glad you’re asking it. It was very insightful for you to ask this question because, in fact, the customer journey, in my opinion, is our biggest competitive differentiation, and in many ways is where we’ve positioned in this market by having the best understanding of the customer journey.

Our product really is the way that we manage the customer journey, almost more so than what we sell, it’s how we sell it. We often call it our bookend. The bookend being how you reach your customer and how you sell to the customer, and the book in the middle being what you sell. Which is sometimes to us, it’s less hard than figuring out the customer journey. Around the customer experience and understanding, from start to finish, it’s an incredibly long sale cycle. It required us to have and to manage a bunch of different touchpoints, and what was important to us is that every part of the company aligned around the customer journey we were trying to build. That’s our front-end technology, that’s our internal business processes, that’s even our organizational structure.

The way that we think about it through our sales funnel is a combination of online, offline, and human touch. We have a team of internal style consultants. It is one of the pieces of the business we’re most proud of. Every bridal party that signs up on the site, regardless of where they live, is assigned a style consultant. That style consultant can manage up to 300 or 400 active bridal parties at any given time.

Our communication tools, our internal technology, and funnel management systems allow them to easily understand and have the right data to personalize their messaging, to make sure they’re touching people at the right point during that process. Then the offline piece, our headquarters is in the West Loop of Chicago, and here we have one big showroom with multiple fitting rooms. That experience is incredibly complementary to the online piece, because if the bride lives in Chicago, or maybe she’s here for a weekend to visit her sister, she can come in, meet her style consultant face to face, and then use her online account and her bridesmaids that live in other places can use our home try on program to still go through that same concierge process and have the same style consultant that the bride met that first day in the showroom. Everything is actually very complementary and provides this really smooth experience for the customer.

Bill: Yeah, that’s super smart. Obviously this is a business with the digital piece of this that scales geographically, you mentioned the fact that everyone’s all over the place, all over the country and all over the world. What is the incidence of the actual live showroom participation within the customer base? Is it a big chunk of it?

Nicole: About 20% of our customers touch the showroom.

Bill: That’s a lot. That’s great.

Nicole: Yeah. In the stage where we are now, where we just have really this one offline showroom, that’s about where we want it. We’ll see as we think about geographic expansion. Chicago’s actually the biggest wedding market in the country, and it’s really this hub for the Midwest. They often say if you win the Midwest, you win the rest.

Bill: Right. If it plays in Peoria, right, perfectly. One of the things that may be part, and don’t tell me things that are private or that you don’t want to tell me, just slap my wrist through the phone. That full sort of authentic Brideside experience, by the way the showroom obviously isn’t required to have a great experience but does seem to enhance it, possible geographic expansion around, bricks and mortar isn’t exactly the right term, but I mean, is it an important part of the expansion strategy to think about more showrooms in more places?

Nicole: Absolutely. Yeah. Weddings are actually not as seasonal as you would think. Nationally. They are seasonally by geography. When you think about how to balance out that seasonality throughout the year to build a really big consistent and stable business throughout the year, and not just in certain months of the year, that’s where you think about geo-targeting.

Bill: Makes sense. That is maybe one piece of it, and again, feel free to keep secrets secret, of course. When you think about the growth path from here, some of the major hurdles, the significant opportunities that the size of this category, the foothold that you’re gaining within it, major topics that are on your plate and that of the team? Obviously, there’s continual demand generation and awareness and conversion, all of the normal mechanics of this, but what are the kind of top of the table types of topics that you’re dealing with at this point?

Nicole: This year, recently, the second half of this year, we’ve almost quadrupled the size of our style consultant team, or our sales team. That has been managing that growth and keeping our culture and everything that, moving to a new space, everything that goes with increasing headcount so rapidly has been a big focus as we started to near the end of 2015 and we’re on-track to triple revenue this year over last year.

So it’s been really successful. When we look into 2016, now that we really have this model down, there are a bunch of cool things in the pipes. One that is very public now is the launch of our new exclusive collection with an incredibly hot bridal gown designer out of New York City called Kelly Faetanini. So we launched the Altar Ego Collection, A-L-T-A-R Collection with Kelly. It’s actually a new concept in bridesmaids’ dresses. It’s a series of short dresses and long skirts that can be worn together or separately for lots of different types of looks, so it plays into that idea of mix and match, it plays into re-wearability and it’s something that’s exclusive to Brideside. Not only the actual dresses, but also the concept was really differentiated and really cool and different to the industry.

When we think about how do we stay ahead of the market, I think all the proprietary technology we’re building both on mobile and desktop and in our showroom is important, but also exclusive product and collaborations is incredibly important as well. That’s heading to the New Year, we’re also thinking about new product categories. We recently launched men’s accessories; socks, bow ties, pocket squares to help with color matching and the stylist then has more tools in her toolbox to help up sell that bridal party on different things that help them complete the look. We also just launched flower girl dresses, so we’re thinking about now how can we really leverage that personal concierge experience that we’re providing to sell more items to the bride and help make her life ultimately easier.

Bill: Yeah, and part of that is making sure that when her bridesmaids look as great as they do that the groomsmen are not a bunch of schlubs here-

Nicole: Exactly.

Bill: You got to measure up. We got to get the cuff links done, we got to get everything done.

Nicole: Totally, totally.

Bill: Historically, one of the reasons why this is so interesting, in addition to it being just super smart given anecdotal experience hearing from angry, disaffected bridesmaids over and over, is that, as you say, the traditional bridal channel, where they’re selling the dress to the bride, is antiquated but seemingly the primary way since forever and ever. There are economic reasons for that, but do you think that this ultimately gets to the gown, or are we really focused on the concierge sort of constellation of services around that central gown piece? If you don’t want to answer, feel free not to.

Nicole: It’s a great question, and it’s hard to know. For a bride that’s a bit more casual, we actually sell her some of our more formal dresses now as the gown. The gown is definitely much harder, and there are several real players that have entered that space in the consignment space, which I think is very cool, and are helping brides lower the cost that way. To be honest, it’s probably pretty far out. I think there are other things that make more sense for us, but you never know.

Bill: For the traditional gown experience, obviously the more showrooms you have the greater the potential to deliver, glass of champagne, hopefully not the snooty women working there but the positives of that experience.

Nicole: Absolutely.

Bill: Super interesting concept and the growth that you’re experiencing and obviously the way you all think about this is very progressive, and it’s a breath of fresh air for a category that seems to have desperately needed it.

Nicole: Yeah.

Bill: When you look back at both the art and science of building this company, and all the other things that you’ve achieved, I’m sure that many of our listeners, in addition to furiously Googling or entering Brideside into their mobile browsers, are also saying ‘Wow, this woman is awesome and very inspirational.’ From your career path, for those who have been inspired by it, a couple of words of wisdom or sort of rules that you followed as you’ve built this incredible career?

Nicole: I think one of the biggest learnings for me is that this is really a marathon and not a sprint. We went through a tech incubator. You probably know this, Dreamit Ventures in the Fall of 2012 and I’ve been in your offices before, obviously. At that time, thinking back to those days when you see all the momentum that builds around articles in TechCrunch and massive fundraising rounds, it is incredibly easy to get caught up in that and have the expectation that your business is going to go from 0 to hero in less than 12 months.

My attitude is that’s actually how really strong, long-lasting businesses are built. It takes a lot of testing and a lot of fundamentals to lay the infrastructure for the business you really want to build. The first thing, and I think this is a very Chicago attitude as well, is just really keep your head down. The longer that you are plugging away at your business and tweaking things and fixing things and testing things, and just keep going at it and figuring out the right solution and hanging in there, the better you’re getting at honing your own business model. The more competitive you’re inherently making your own business by becoming an expert at the field that you’re in.

That’s really important for us, is just staying really heads down and just staying focused on the fundamentals. With that, I think it’s important to set the right milestones for your business. What are the right metrics that are going to determine your success? We got some great advice very early on from a well known venture capitalist who said, ‘Strip away everything that money can buy and find the thing in your business that you can do right that doesn’t need a lot of money to do. That’s your secret sauce.’

We focused on that a lot, in a lot of our key performance indicators and a lot of the internal milestones that we set for ourselves are really focused on that. We challenge ourselves to not always just think about top line, for example. Many times, top line is the most important thing, but there are underlying levers in our business that might be more important. How can we set appropriate milestones for ourselves that we know in every given point in time if something is working or if it’s not? For someone that’s just starting a business, it’s important to know if you should keep working on the business or if you should not.

We’re not naïve about that. We’ve always, even times that we’ve had harder months or harder stretches of time where we said, ‘We don’t know if this is working’, we’ve said, ‘is this really not working? Are there things that we can find in the business that are working?’ By sticking with it and figuring out our own model and what makes us special, we’ve now seen a tremendous growth and tremendous success this year, I think, in many ways and I’m really glad that we stuck with it.

Bill: Yeah, that’s great. Do you and Sonali have a clearly defined division of labor? You were co-founders, you were friends, you were obviously business school colleagues that had a great respect for one another and warmth to the friendship, but how easy or how clear are those lines functionally within the company?

Nicole: They’re very clear, and one reason that I decided to jump on board with this company and to launch it with Sonali is because she was so tremendous and because we both had such clear strengths that were complementary and not competitive. Sonali operates, the lines are very split in that she operates essentially as COO and manages everything that services revenue. Everything from customer care to sales operation, she manages our whole technology team. She manages merchandising, all of that piece. I’m really head of growth, so I oversee sales goals in the sales team. I manage all of our marketing and fundraising and business development. That’s really actually how it’s been from the very beginning, so it worked out really well.

Bill: That’s great. You mentioned some of the growth that you’ve experienced on the stylist side as well as obviously throughout the company. When you look at, and again it obviously depends on the function, but when you are bringing new members of the team in, what are some of the characteristics that you’re looking for? What do you think can be taught versus what someone needs to walk in the door with to be a productive member and a happy member of the Brideside team?

Nicole: That’s the name of the game for us. Particularly given that we do have a sales force that’s a different sort of structure from a lot of tech businesses maybe. This is the coolest thing for me, personally. It’s been a challenge for me, and one that I really welcome, and has been super cool to learn about.

First and foremost, what a lot of people say is cultural fit is first. That’s the do you get to keep talking to us type thing. With us, what cultural fit means is incredibly down to earth, a little quirky, tends to be just very sort of flexible person. We need to see that you’re going to be okay with uncertainty. We try to get the best and the smartest talent we have, and often that means recruiting people from really top tier, brand name companies and asking them to take a 50% or more pay cut, right?

A lot of it is telling the right story to them to get them on board, and then making sure that they’re truly okay, that they have the gut for it. From there, particularly when it comes to our style consultant team, there are very different types of personalities that make a great saleswoman. Particularly here where they’re working with customers offline in a more traditional retail styling and online, where it requires them to be incredibly tech-savvy and understand how to analyze data. We’re really looking for unicorn-type people. We walk them through a series of case studies. We do a lot of mock appointments. We’re testing a lot of different right-left brain characteristics just to see do they have that perfect mix?

So far, we’ve had a pretty amazing retention rate. The team, I think, is tighter than ever. We often say one of our values internally for the style consultant team, we want to be a team of cool girls who sell you what they wear and tell you what no one else told them. We look for people that are honest, smart, witty, and can sort of play off that broader brand that we talked about earlier.

Bill: That’s great. We’ve overstayed our welcome in addition to me fiddling with the audio for what seemed like forever before we started, so thank you so much, particularly at this exciting moment, best month ever just completed, the excitement of the holiday season ahead. Really grateful for your insight and your time, I’m sure that coming out of this conversation our listeners will be incredibly excited to see where this career and this company goes, and really grateful for you sharing what you did.

Nicole: My pleasure. Thanks so much.

Bill: Nicole Staple, co-founder of Brideside, a fascinating business concept that just looking at her career and the way that she’s thought about obviously the practical elements of the business model, the financial model, the structure as well as the sort of emotional side of this, the why -the problem that needs to get solved, the thing that needs to be improved or done differently. Brideside is it in that category and it’s going to be a really, really fascinating story to watch unfold. If any of our listeners are in the market, I can guarantee you that you’ll have a great experience with Brideside.

Three ways to help us at Real World Branding, sound like a broken record here, but we’d love it if you’d give us a rating if we deserved it, I’ll mix up the order this week so we stay fresh. 4 or 5 stars if we do deserve it, and our skin is thick, so we certainly want to hear feedback. The best way to do that is on Twitter: @BillGullan or @FinchBrands. Ideas for future guests, ideas for future topics, questions to ask different guests, let’s keep the dialogue going. As noted, we are doing this in a humble way, learning every time. Both on the production side as well as certainly on the hosting side, so we’d love to hear feedback. Things that we’re doing well, things that we could do better to make this ever more valuable. Then, the third way to help us is to make sure you do not miss an episode by subscribing in the App store of your choice. Every other week we have an interview with a business and brand builder. In the off weeks, we have what’s called One Big Idea, where I focus on a particular topic and talk about it for 8, 9, 10 minutes based on our experience here at Finch, and what we’re seeing in the marketplace. That is about it. It’s hideous outside. Winter is coming. However, a great week to all of you, and in that spirit, we’ll sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post A New Day for Bridesmaids: Nicole Staple, Co-Founder of Brideside appeared first on Finch Brands.

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