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This past March I attended South by Southwest in Austin Texas thanks to Professor Michael Myers. He pioneered Marketing, Technology, and Innovation and it was the single best educational experience of my life. Never have I felt such excitement and genuine interest in a class. The following article is an overview of a panel at SXSW titled: Products with Purpose: How Indie Brands Go Big. All three of these panels took place during the first day of SXSW Interactive.
This Panel offered a range of entrepreneurs who made their brands a success, whist still retaining and fostering their genuine passion and values. There was a heavy focus on brand image and alignment. The panel consisted of: Ms. Jessica Knopp (Founder of Son of a Sailor), Mr. Evan Streusand (Founder of Fortress of Inca), and Ms Amy Cazin (CEO & founder of Primal Pit Paste). Ms. Tracey Wallace (Managing Editor of Bigcommerce) moderated the Panel. She proved to be both an insightful moderator and relevant choice, as her company handles e-commerce for each of the panelists. Her close relationship with the companies allowed for more insightful questions. The juxtaposition of B2B and B2C was a recurring topic which was a heavily weighted consideration, hurdle, and defining moment for all three entrepreneurs.
This session provided fantastic insight into the process of successfully building a brand from scratch, whilst retaining the priorities of the entrepreneurs and the integrity of the products. Each panelist discussed how they managed to grow their brands and companies whilst retaining their values. The insight provided and the hurdles discussed give fantastic background knowledge to any aspiring, struggling, or successful entrepreneur. All panelists began their paths through B2C sales, and referenced the importance of building a base before climbing to the next echelon of growth in their business.
Once a brand and customer base had been established, panelists discussed how trade shows allowed them to begin expanding their businesses. Their experiences at trade shows were an important mile marker in the growth of their businesses. Ms. Cazin makes a natural deodorant, Mr. Streusand imports shoes from Peru, and Ms. Knopp makes jewelry. Not all entrepreneurial endeavors are centered on products such as these for which trade shows can be as impactful, but nonetheless the general trends hold true. All panelists said that their first wholesale agreements stemmed from trade shows.
This introduction to B2B is representative of a turning point at which all panelists held true to their vision for their brands and products. They considered the alignment of their brand with that of the wholesaler, as well as the impact on their production and existing B2C relationships. In addition to solidifying their resilience to stay true, the wholesale leap provided opportunity to expand their brand and their reach. The customer base the wholesale contracts exposed them to more than compensated for the wholesale prices. Throughout this tumultuous period of growth there was a delicate balance which tested the resilience of the entrepreneurs’ commitment to their Images.
This session provided a beautiful opportunity, to learn from the lessons learned the hard way by others. Maintaining the true identity of a brand as it grows requires confidence in the value of what one is doing. Overcoming tribulations in pursuit of a deeply rooted and steadfast passion, is reflected in the product & brand in a manner which could never be anything but organic.
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