Sam talks with Brand Strategist, Entrepreneur, and Business Owner Robyn Young about growing her agency from nothing to a multi-six-figure business in just two years. Robyn shares her thoughts on what makes the best brands stand out, the importance of culture, and her advice for first-time parents simultaneously in the early stages of business growth and entrepreneurship.
[Designing Growth introduction plays]
[00:00:00] Sam Chlebowski: Happy Thursday everybody, and welcome back Designing Growth. Sam Chlebowski joining you here for another great episode. This week we have a phenomenal guest with us. We have Robyn Young joining us I’ll tell you a little bit more about Robyn ‘s background and what she does currently as the owner of a strategic creative agency, as well as a second business that was launched this year.
[00:00:36] But first I wanna ask Robyn, how are you doing today?
[00:00:38] Robyn Young: I’m doing great. Thank you. The sun is shining. It’s a lovely day.
[00:00:43] Sam Chlebowski: I am a little bit jealous. You are in the, I think Southern California
[00:00:49] Robyn Young: Mm-hmm.Pasadena.
[00:00:50] Sam Chlebowski: Okay.
[00:00:51] Robyn Young: Pasadena, which is where they, they have the um, rose Bowl and also the Rose Parade, so already gearing up. It’s November and the Rose Parade is in January, but they’re already gearing up, like bleachers are going up over here.
[00:01:04] Sam Chlebowski: Wow. Yeah, I’m sure town must be crazy around that time.
[00:01:08] I am pretty jealous. It is like 28 degrees and there was four inches of snow on the ground when I woke up this morning here in Denver.
[00:01:18] Robyn Young: In California. Like going to the snow is a thing. . It means that we never really experienced snow in town, so you, you know, it’s like, it’s like a novelty. I’m like, oh, I’m going up to the snow. It means that you have to like drive to the mountains to actually see the snow around here.
[00:01:35] Sam Chlebowski: I was shocked the first time that I went snowboarding in California cuz I’m a big snow snowboarder out here. But, Had went to San Francisco. We flew into San Francisco and then yeah, we drove to the snow to Mammoth and it was like, what, I think three or four, maybe five hours away. And I was like, holy cow, this is a long ways away.
[00:01:58] Robyn Young: Yeah. Yeah. Well if you were in San Francisco, you really should have stopped by, um, Tahoe. that’s a much easier, uh, commute there. I think it’s maybe about two hours. We typically go to, Tahoe every year for skiing. We’re skiers in our, in my family, I, I snowboarded once. It was not pretty.
[00:02:14] we go skiing, um, once a year in, uh, Tahoe, and we don’t make. Quite as much to Mammoth, although I used to go there every year as a kid, so I have warm fuzzy memories of that area. Um, and then Big Bear, big Bear is only about an hour and a half without traffic. Uh, about an hour and a half away from us over here.
[00:02:34] So we actually just went to Big Bear a couple of days ago and just like went up for the day and played in the snow and went sledding and such. So yeah, we have a, there’s a few. You know here as far as getting into the snow, which is nice. This is what I love about California is like you got city, you got desert, you got beach, and you got the mountains all within maybe a couple of hours.
[00:02:56] Sam Chlebowski: Surf and snowboard in the same day.
[00:02:58] Robyn Young: Yes. Yeah. I have actually known people to do that too.
[00:03:03] Sam Chlebowski: Very cool. Well, awesome. So excited to get into it here. And just for some quick background, on Robyn and who she is, Robyn Young is a brand builder and strategist with a career spanning 15 years working with countless brands and businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries, and ambitious creative after quitting.
[00:03:25] Cushy job in tech with no cash or no clients and no idea how to get them either. And two months pregnant. Robyn launched a strategic creative agency, which is young and co from a couch in a co-working space and successfully built a multi six figure fiercely independent business in two years. And then on top of that, Robyn, I know you just mentioned that you launched a second business this year, which is DENTR and that is a brand and business strategy, organization.
[00:03:56] So could you tell me a little bit about, first, who are the types of bread-and-butter clients for Young and Co? And then what led into that decision to launch DENTR this year?
[00:04:07] Robyn Young: Yeah, it’s kind of a funny story too, because when I, when I launched Young and Co, you know, I know you mentioned that I, um, I left my Christi Tech job. I was two months pregnant. I, I don’t wanna say it was a whim. I was just not feeling that I was in the right place.
[00:04:24] I’ve felt that way at multiple stages of my life. And I think that that’s part of what drew me to entrepreneurship. It’s just sort of the recognition that, a traditional kind of career path just never felt like the right fit for me. especially within that company that I worked for, it’s called General.
[00:04:41] Oh man, we had the most fun, I had the most incredible team. Um, I liked what I was doing and I really vibed with the brand. but, you know, as happens with companies, they started to make some changes. They started to become more corporate. A lot of our autonomy went away. They did a, a round of layoffs.
[00:05:00] I didn’t get laid off, but it certainly changed some of the culture. Once we went through that, and I think after that happened, I was finally like, I’ve gotta find another path this whole corporate thing. It’s just, it’s not working for me. What could my next thing be?
[00:05:15] I had worked in branding and marketing in different facets, actually coming up in editorial. , but then switching to, digital media and and owned media and working on social content and branded content for influencers and and, brands as well as time spent, even just.
[00:05:34] Creating imagery and being a stylist on set. I’ve always had something of a creative professional’s life, , right? Sort of jumping from lily pad to lily pad, and then I got serious, you know, working for UCLA and general assembly. Just trying to find my place, you know, as you do in your twenties.
[00:05:50] And so in my early thirties, I found myself like working for this tech company and just sort of not feeling like I was in. Position not feeling like I was right. Really in the right place in my life. Which is, which is not uncommon for you to have that quarter life century crisis.
[00:06:06] Right. So anyhow, , I jump ship. and I decided at the time that I wanted to start a travel blog, Before I realized that I was pregnant, before I had actually left my position. I was like, I’m gonna start a travel blog. Then when I realized that I was pregnant, I was like, I’m not gonna be doing a whole lot of exotic travel right now.
[00:06:22] This. So what else is there? So I started this branding consultancy as just a way to keep some cash coming in the door while I was maybe working on building this travel blog. And what happened was, is that the travel blog just never went anywhere, but the branding consultancy took off.
[00:06:42] At the beginning it was just me and a graphic. And that was it. I was doing the copywriting, I was doing all the project management. I was doing the strategy and the creative direction. Just everything, everything, everything. Um, wearing all of the perpetual hats. Right.
[00:06:55] But I did have a graphic designer that I would work with and. We worked on a few brands and some of those people are, were friends. Some of them came from, personal relationships. I actually have a really fun story as to how I got my first few clients. I sent out a mass email to all of the people in my inner network, and because I had worked for this tech school, I actually had an insane, I had developed an insane network of instructors, students, like partners that I had met along the way of this two years working for this.
[00:07:25] I sent this mass email out and I was like, I’m doing this thing . I will buy you coffee if you. Come and meet with me. Like, just meet with me, hear what I’m out, hear what I’m doing and let me see if there’s some way that I can help you, or you can add value for me.
[00:07:39] Like, let’s just see what synergies exist between us. I still do this. I call them virtual coffees or I like to call them meetings without agenda. I still do this to this day because, It generated business for me in the beginning when I had no website , no logo, no nothing.
[00:07:55] I had no business cards. I was selling branding without a. .
[00:07:58] brand It was almost like an experiment and can I even do this? Like, can I even be an entrepreneur? Can I even start a business with no money? No money, no clients, right? And two months pregnant.
[00:08:08] So I, I felt the pressure of I need to. Work, like my husband was very sweet about, you know, while you’re getting things going, like, I’ll cover things for us. But it’s not like we were rolling in the Gucci, you know what I mean? I needed to figure out pretty quickly, like, how am I going to make this work?
[00:08:28] How am I going to at least make an income here? because remember, I had left my job. Most entrepreneurs tend to hold onto their job until they start making money in the business. I didn’t do it that way, so I needed to figure it out pretty quickly. So what I found was, is that I had already developed a reputation, a personal brand for myself, and I had leverage relationships, friend.
[00:08:50] You know, partnerships that I had developed along the way and just trying to be somebody who, um, who likes to be a, a problem solver, who likes to connect other people. I felt that people really showed up for me. So I signed those first few clients just by scheduling those virtual coffees with people. So, , for those of you that are listening, that are interested in how, you know, how do you do it at the beginning?
[00:09:13] Like if you don’t, if you don’t already come in with that pipeline, that network, that Rolodex of clients already. Ready to, to hire you. How do you do it? That’s how I did it. I just, I plugged into my personal network. Thank God, you know, I had provided value to these folks ahead of time and, and they felt the need to pay it forward to me.
[00:09:34] Sam Chlebowski: and I love hearing that strategy and understanding how you did it and then seeing it works because things like cold email, outreach, getting down in the trenches and just doing anything you can to grow is like that necessary hurdle. I think every business owner, every founder has to overcome and it’s something that we have done a lot of, specifically cold email outreach and just saying, Hey, would you be willing to look at this product that we’re developing?
[00:10:03] Or would you let us interview you about your process for working with clients? And I know you know you were kind enough to let me show you around motion io a little bit, but it’s amazing for me to see firsthand. How willing people can sometimes be to respond to things like that because somebody else has helped them.
[00:10:21] And then I’ve been on the other side already where somebody’s like, Hey, I’m developing this new product. I saw you were in the SaaS space. Could you give me 15, 20 minutes of your time? And I’m like, yes, absolutely. People did this for me. It’s time to return the favor. So I love that.
[00:10:36] Robyn Young: Yeah. Yeah. So coming back to your original question, young and Co was never intended to be for any sort of specific audience, but I think over the, you know, six years now that we, we’ve just celebrated our six year anniversary over the sick. Thank you. Um, over the six years that we’ve been in business now, I think.
[00:10:55] We’ve gotten to a point where, you know, I think we have a much better sense of, and we, and we strive to attract an audience that has a certain mindset rather than a certain vertical or industry. Now that said, bread and butter, butter, we tend to work a lot more with sort of B2C clients, so that we’ve worked with some B2B as well.
[00:11:17] We’ve worked with small, we’ve worked with big, we’ve worked with, two guys in a garage, and then we’ve also worked with. A 90 year old company with a thousand plus employees. So we’re across the board as far as life stage, whether they’re branding for the first time or they’re rebranding.
[00:11:31] , and even in verticals, I mean, we’ve worked in. Some tech, some education, kids, brands, fashion, cpg, beauty across the board. But the difference for me is, is that this needs to be a company that is actually genuinely interested in creating a brand that has some soul to it, that wants that 360 brand development.
[00:11:54] So it’s, we never take on clients that are just looking for a logo. You know, Listen, I get it, but that’s just not our customer. We’re not a design shop. There are plenty of fabulous design shops out there that do beautiful work, but I will tell you that it’s actually a lot simpler to just do beautiful work and that doesn’t really get that, that’s sort of the entry point for your brand.
[00:12:17] Just because you have a beautiful brand doesn’t mean that you have a brand that actually. Authentic to you, or that has something to say. So the difference for us is that we, we work with, um, clients that are actually interested in projecting a strong point of view, something that’s different, something that differentiates them within their industry and more than that, that they want to actually make an impact.
[00:12:40] And that impact can either, can be on their own culture, it can be on their, their industry or category, or it can be on the world at large. So, um, it, you know, you, I don’t find that you need sheer size in order to make an impact. There’s a really great book out there that talks about this, actually. It’s called Small Giants, um, brilliant book.
[00:13:02] It’s a little bit on the older side, so I think it was written about 2005. Um, but it talks about these brands that really prioritize being great and. You know, strong impact, whether they’re two people or, you know, a $300 million company. So I think we have some of that same mindset that we look for in our audience, that they, that they both, you know, understand that a brand is more than a logo and, and a color palette and some, you know, icon.
[00:13:30] It’s so much more than that. Um, and that you need that strong point of view that is connected with some kind of impact that you wanna make, whether small or.
[00:13:40] Sam Chlebowski: It’s a really interesting thing for me to consider because you mentioned that you kind of run the gamut of working with a lot of different sizes, a lot of different types of industries, but, What I would ask you is do you think that your niche or your ideal sort of client that you take on is that type of person who wants to do this all encompassing brand and strategy where it can flow from everything to not only the imagery, but the culture and your mission and how they’re promoting that.
[00:14:13] Would you say that’s kind of how you would categorize the types of clients that you work with Co.
[00:14:19] Robyn Young: on both companies. So actually I felt like that, that clarity came to me only once I, I developed that second company. Like when I really looked back at the types of brands that we worked with on Young Co, I was like, what do they all have in common? Cuz we’ve, we’ve been across the board as far as industry goes.
[00:14:35] And I actually think from a strategic standpoint that’s actually really important to me that we do work in so many different verticals. Cuz what I noticed when I. Created my company is that especially at that time, this was five or six years ago, there were a ton of shops that were very specific to one vertical.
[00:14:56] Now let me explain why that’s a problem. When you’re talking branding, if the whole point of brand is to differentiate yourself, right, , that’s the whole point. To stand out. How do I get my product, my company, my message to stand? Why would you go hire a company that is specific and works with only your competitors?
[00:15:20] Because honestly, they’re going to have a, a way of doing things, a sort of, you know, this, this is just our engine that we put you through. Don’t think that they don’t, because that, that, you know, that’s the whole point of them picking a lane is so that they can be efficient and. Their, their process. So they, they kind of put you through a machine and say, okay, this worked for these companies, so we’re gonna put you through the same machine.
[00:15:43] Do you really expect to come out with something different at the end? , you’re not going to. Right. So for me it was actually a really strong point of our message, of our position that we are industry agnostic. That we don’t focus on one vertical because what that allows us to do is to pull from other industries that we’ve worked, worked with, um, some inspiration, some ideas, some angles that our clients may not have considered.
[00:16:11] So we use that outlooking perspective to generate. You know, the creativity, the, the things that we’re known for, which is kind of bringing in our intelligent naivete. That’s part, that’s part of the reason we call it young and co. It’s, it’s got nothing to do with age. Yes, we, you know, yes, we work with young people, but that it really has more to do with the mindset, the perspective that we bring, which is, If you’re looking at something for the first time, you’re gonna be able to see it with fresh eyes.
[00:16:39] Our clients have a hard time doing that because they live and breathe these brands every single day. It’s, it’s impossible to think objectively about your brand when you do that. So I think that, um, I think absolutely we can, we can serve that customer base that’s looking for a more robust brand. You know, there, there’s this.
[00:17:00] I like to call it like brand mojo, right? They call it that in this, in this book too, and I think it’s brilliant. It’s that intangible, sort of indescribable, but you feel it. It’s still palpable spirit. Soul to a brand, right? And that’s the thing that we’re after. And it’s really hard to nail. It is really hard to nail.
[00:17:22] I think that we are best suited for helping a brand get on their way to developing that. But I’m certainly not quick to say that we can just give that to a brand. That takes time. It takes time and a lot of work and a lot of clarity and a lot of getting. Multiple people to buy into the same idea and keep running with it for a, you know, for a good amount of time and culture.
[00:17:49] I mean, great brands are built from the inside out, which is why culture is so important to us. So, and young and co you know, we can actually create the things, the, the symbols, the rituals, the collateral, the things that actually help to, to develop that employee experience. But with DENTR is where we do that tough inner.
[00:18:10] Alongside facilitative with these team members to help them suss out for themselves what is the culture that they wanna build? What’s the heart and soul of this brand that’s going to make it sustainable, make it last decades or more, right?
[00:18:25] Sam Chlebowski: One thing I wanted to talk a little bit about, because I think it’s a really interesting position where you are in that, you’ve been doing this now for six years and you started, it was just you. You were working with one other person. How big is your team now
[00:18:43] Robyn Young: Just one , so official employees. Just one. That’s me. the reason I say. I started with one graphic designer. I literally had one graphic designer like that I worked with, that I partnered with, and now I have an excess. I have an entire network and pipeline of creatives, copywriters, art directors, uh, photographers, illustrators, animators, ux, ui, uh, web, web designers, web developers like I have an insane network of people and pipelines that I can pull from to vet and bring in the best team members depending on what the project needs. So essentially when we book a a client,
[00:19:27] we put together a bespoke team that will help us to create, to execute that brand. The nice part about that is that yes, it’s kept us agile, which has allowed us the flexibility to work with only the companies that we know are going to align with that mindset, that align with and those goals of what we want to accomplish with the brands that we work with.
[00:19:49] But also because we’re project to project, we’re not, it’s. It’s not ongoing. It has allowed us to, you know, to still stay in business even when things have gotten tricky, like during the pandemic, right? So it’s, it’s, um, to be honest, I think that this is a new way of working. Um, when I looked at the traditional agency structure, you know, these, these agencies, They work with only a couple of big brands and when those brands, you know, inevitably leave like this isn’t like the sixties where, you know, brands would stay with agencies for 10, 20 years plus, you know, you’re lucky to keep a brand with you, you know, to be an agency of note for 18 months.
[00:20:30] Two years is like a long engagement with a, with a company these days. So what ends up happening is that these agencies have to lay off, you know, 10, 15% of their, of their workforce or more if it’s a bigger brand, if it’s a bigger account, they have to lay off even more of their team if they, you know, if they lose that, that, uh, account.
[00:20:52] obviously we’re structured very differently and we work differently than a traditional agency does. But when I, when I created this company originally, it was just, I did this out of necessity. The, the way that I structured it was out of necessity. Now I see it as an added value, and really, frankly, I think it’s just an innovative structure, you know, because the nice part is, is that the creatives love.
[00:21:15] It’s almost like they’re running their own little companies and they work on the projects that they really care about and they wanna be involved in and don’t, on the ones that they don’t, they’re incentivized to work more efficiently and better because they know that if they don’t do great work that I’m not gonna call them again.
[00:21:31] So there’s, there’s an incentive built in there. And then also I think that there’s. There’s a level of freedom. I think that this is the other reason that I really wanted to start my own thing is I simply wanted to create the kind of environment, even if at the time it was just for myself, where I could have a little bit of creative carte blanche where I could have the freedom of my time, the freedom of my space, the freedom to work when and where I wanted, and.
[00:21:59] Before the great resignation, you know, about a, a good four years before this became a trend. We were already doing this. So I feel like, um, especially in Los Angeles, you, you find a lot of creatives who want that, who want that same thing, and why should I deny them that? I wanted that. So it just sort of made sense to, to build it that way.
[00:22:21] And then once we built it that way, and it worked, it worked. decided to just keep it that way, and until it doesn’t work for us, it’ll be the way that we’re structured.
[00:22:32] Sam Chlebowski: You sharing your business and this sort of new progressive agency type model where you are working with other freelancers, contractors, bringing them on for select projects. It honestly has my head like buzzing right now because I just realized, I have spoken with probably a dozen other businesses who have this model, but I haven’t put it into words or fully like realized how impactful it is and the implications for. Advertising, marketing design industry at large. , I went to school for advertising at the University of Colorado Boulder and did, some internships, have some friends who work at, Crispin Porter who work at Widen Kennedy, and what you had said. Light bulb went off those agencies, and I’ve heard some firsthand experiences from my friends that I’ve talked to.
[00:23:24] They lose one big client and it’s like the next day there is a hundred people cut because that agency is so tied to that client and the people are tied to that project that like at any second. A risk that they could be gone the next day. So I could see why the model that you’ve adopted works better for you, but also better for the people who are working with you who want to be able to have that work.
[00:23:51] Flexibility to not be tied to one project and think that, everything that they’re doing is on the chopping block right now. It’s really, really interesting to hear it firsthand and hear how you break it.
[00:24:03] Robyn Young: and listen, I’m not blind to the challenges that we have either, you know, I, I don’t think that there’s any one perfect system. This is what works for us. I would say that, um, a lot of these more. Agencies, bigger agencies, they, they bring team members on, and those team members want something a little bit more.
[00:24:23] Solid, secure, more of a full-time job. Now the client, the creatives that we work with are full-time freelancers, which means that they’re accustomed to keeping a pipeline of work on their own. So they recognize that we’re not giving them full-time work and they are fine with that. They’re fine with that.
[00:24:41] And that’s not to say everybody, cuz we have absolutely worked with creatives that have also full time jobs. It doesn’t matter to me when they’re getting the work done, as long as they can get it done on time
[00:24:50] Occasionally we would have creatives that have full-time jobs and also Lance with us, but I’d say the vast majority are full-time freelancers. So, there are challenges like that. There are also challenges around, pretty quickly our creatives have to develop a rapport with each other.
[00:25:04] You just don’t have that same camaraderie that you do. Been working with somebody for years and years and years now again, I think that that is part of vetting, right? So, so I consider that part of my job is keeping that pipeline of people that I know are just great team players. They are fantastic at what they do.
[00:25:22] They love to collaborate. The other thing is, is that my creatives, they are part of the strategic process. So because we, because we have a very collaborative process in terms of developing the narrative that we’re going to, you know, that will then become the, the cornerstone of the brand that we develop.
[00:25:41] I like to involve the creatives as part of that process. So every time they come to the board, they’re bringing their fresh perspective, their fresh eyes, and they can help develop ideas, they can help us look at things differently. So they provided that. Added value on top of the actual executionary work that they do.
[00:26:00] So in that way, we’re a little bit different too. I know that especially the bicker agencies, they tend to, you know, like to keep their creatives in one category, in one category only. There’s not this, you know, there’s no, there’s separation between church and. State, and I don’t, I don’t like that. Again, as a creative, I didn’t want that.
[00:26:17] I wanted to be able to have my hand in different cookie jars. I, I felt that it, it made me better, you know, I was a copywriter at one point. It made me a better copywriter to actually be engaged in understanding what happens in UX u I, what’s, you know, what is my art director going to do with this copy?
[00:26:34] So the more. Dove into other disciplines. The more I realize, like, this actually makes the work stronger when I can have a point of view, when I can give suggestions on things that aren’t in my own wheelhouse. So that’s how we, you know, that’s how we treat things. Yes. You know, you, you have sort of the, the piece that you’re responsible for, but then everybody collaborates on ideas and on strategy.
[00:26:58] Sam Chlebowski: working. Freelancers and kind of bringing them into projects, is that something that’s ever challenging to organize? Like who is responsible for what, this person isn’t available right now, we need to find something else. how do you keep that organized?
[00:27:12] Robyn Young: I spent time as a project manager so rightfully so. I have some of those tools. We use Sauna and Notion and, we, are good about communication, especially because we all work remotely. So yes, my creative director she’s local, but most of us are all around the country.
[00:27:32] So it’s important. I think communication is key. We also use Slack. So we use Slack a lot of times for internal communication, and we have a process. We have a, you know, we have our sort of key things that have just made organization and communication and, you know, moving the project workflow through.
[00:27:50] Easier. So I think those best practices, I’m pretty diligent about us doing them and from time to time I’ll have to remind a new creative follow process, we have project managers on every project, so that helps because we have somebody that’s owning that piece that is their entire job is just to make sure that we keep on schedule as much as we can.
[00:28:11] Not everything, not everything stays exactly on schedule. Stay on schedule as much as we can and that the project stays organized, that our deliverables stay organized. So we’re, we are very diligent about that part. And I think, again, be, you know, because we’re not talking about we’re, we are not, Typically at the scale or working with the kind of clients that have like 200 deliverables, like that’s just not, that’s just not the scale of client that we typically work with.
[00:28:38] So I think it makes it, um, easier because we tend to have less deliverables. We have several rounds on those deliverables, but, and we have to track those rounds. Um, but when you have good workflow, when you have a good process, it does make things easier. I think I’m a firm believer. Creative. It’s important to keep enough flexibility and creative to not be so stringent and you know about the process that it just kills the creativity.
[00:29:06] But it’s good to have framework. It’s good to have some best practices in place, and most importantly, it’s, it’s important to have a, have a structure and then be a little bit flexible as to how that structure might need to change for each project.
[00:29:23] Sam Chlebowski: Yeah, I like it. It’s almost like taking a road trip where you know, you’re on a road trip, you gotta get to point a to point Z somehow, but you can get creative with it. You know, take a random exit, explore a new town, go to a national park, things like that. So One thing we had talked about and we kind of skirted around it, was talking about culture and I’d love to know your thoughts on culture. both what it means to you as a founder and business owner, but also what it means to the brands you work.
[00:29:53] Robyn Young: Yeah, absolutely. I think that this is super tied to, um, DENTR, the new brand. And it’s simplest format it’s almost as if Young & Co. works on the tangibility of the brand, and DENTR works on the intangible. Right, and the thing is, is that the intangible is that mojo, that magic, that you know, that that palpable sort of soul to the brand.
[00:30:15] Right now I’m a firm believer that the best brands are built from the inside out. So it’s not just a matter of me coming in with my brilliant frameworks and whole it, it’s not that I wish it were, I could sell it for a lot more if, if that’s what it was. It’s about getting the right people in the. room It’s about, um, having a, a, a case for why you’re rebranding in the first place, a, a strong case for what?
[00:30:42] That, why are you changing in the first place? You don’t want just change for change sake, right? The point is to be intentional. About that change right now, the thing to know about business is that business is constantly changing anyways. You have a number of different reasons why you would need to change.
[00:30:58] There’s other players in the market, the technology changes and therefore your business needs to change along with it. Maybe the market changes. Maybe the market needs change, maybe. , politics even can change your market. And in some cases it might be that the founder gets too old and you know, now we need a different group to shepherd the brand through.
[00:31:19] So there’s a number of different reasons why a business would need to change or why things are con are, you know, constantly changing. Um, but. The point that we make on dinner is just that you can either sit around and be, you know, be, be, let things change for you, , right? Or you can be the one driving that change.
[00:31:43] You can be the one that wants to make the impact and therefore is staying ahead of the curve, right? You’re being the one to actually curve and make the change, right? You’re being intentional. What you’re changing. It’s not just constantly pivoting. Cuz that’s chaos, right?
[00:31:58] That’s not good branding. That’s just chaos. It’s about aligning with what is the purpose behind what you’re doing, who you are as a company. And even if that needs to evolve, if you really find that good, strong positioning, then it can last you and you can, you can continue to tweak it just a little bit and a little bit to make it, you know, ebb and flow with the changes.
[00:32:19] So I think the important part, Developing that culture is, like I said, that case for change is, is huge. You have to have a reason, a rhyme, and a reason and intention behind why you wanna change. You need to have the right people. You have to have the right people in the room. You need a strong process.
[00:32:37] , you need to have some structure to what you’re doing. You need to be open to, you know, making those adjustments. And then, and then important too is also you have to, you. You have to be able to, um, you know, not only implement, execute, and implement, you have to be willing to, once we’ve determined what the new positioning is, you have to be willing to then go and actually make those changes and follow through on them.
[00:33:03] So there’s a few important, key points, but I think at the core of it is having those right people, those people that have that clear and compelling reason for being in terms of their brands. They have to agree to what is the identity, what is the purpose, what is the main goal of this brand?
[00:33:23] And it needs to be something bigger than just the products and services that. you sell because people are just not interested in that. , nobody cares about whether your company’s worth a hundred million or a billion or nobody cares. Maybe your shareholders do, but like your customers just don’t. Like at some point, if even if you have a great product, if you don’t have a great brand, then somebody who has a better product is going to take that business from you.
[00:33:51] No problem. Right? No problem. So it’s not to say that you don’t need a good product as well You need both. You need both. You need a brand with soul. Something that’s gonna motivate your team, something that’s gonna pull in, resonate with that ideal audience. And then a product, you think of but your product as almost like the follow through, Especially these days because so much of our purchasing power is, is. it’s different than how it was, you know, back in the day where you, you’d go into a store and you’d feel a product and, and at that point, maybe the attributes of the product were more important.
[00:34:24] But especially now, people are buying with their values. They’re ba they’re buying with what, what lifestyle, what emotion they wanna feel. purchases are, are such an emotional decision. The more expensive they. The more emotion there is behind it, right? That’s why car companies are fantastic about branding
[00:34:44] I could pretty much name any car company and you could pretty easily without, even if you don’t nearly know anything about branding, you could tell me some attributes of that brand, of that car company and what they want, what they stand for, what kind of lifestyle they’re projecting, right?
[00:34:59] Because the more expensive your product is, the better you have to be at the branding.
[00:35:02] Sam Chlebowski: it’s interesting. I mean, I can already think of the examples the catch phrases, you know, built forward tough, things like that. What you had shared about brand and culture, the way that I sum it up in my head, because I love your approach and it’s the first time I’ve really heard an in depth explanation of this approach.
[00:35:22] Maybe it doesn’t exist elsewhere, I don’t know, but it’s almost. The brand and the culture of that brand reverberates off of the people who work there and the people who make up the day to day, whether that is producing a product, whether it is a software service. What do you think about that? Am I totally off base or am I spot on?
[00:35:43] Robyn Young: You’re not off base. I think that everybody has their day to day role to play and that that’s different though than them feeling connected with what the bigger purpose of the brand is. So Patagonia per a perfect classic example, I know, but that is a brand that stands for something so much more than just athletic.
[00:36:08] their customers, their team members love them for it. That brand has fans that don’t even necessarily wear the clothes, but just love and appreciate and respect the brand. It is so hard to nail that magic, like it’s just hard when you get to that point. That kind of equity in your brand, like people just feel that you, that wearing your brand is a reflection of their own values.
[00:36:39] That is the, that’s the brand gold right there, . That’s the, that’s the cream of the crop, right? So like using a, a more recent example, liquid Death. They’re a very cold example. And it’s funny here, here’s what I think Liquid Death does really well too, is that they’re unapologetic about, Rebellious and scrappy and they have not let their growth change the change, sort of that challenger attitude that they have.
[00:37:07] And I so appreciate that about the brand because I gotta tell you the more that companies grow, the more corporate they get, the less they wanna take those risks, right? And that brand is not for everybody. That brand got, since day one, has gotten a ton of hate. But what they know is that you have to be willing to have some haters in order to get the people to, to really suss out the people that just love you.
[00:37:32] And it’s kind of funny because I think that projecting that point of view, People, it, it attracts them because we’re living in a very PC world. and I, I think to some degree, it’s like this brand becomes like the mouthpiece of things that you wanna say, things you wish you could say. And they have the audacity to do it right.
[00:37:54] And that’s why we want to use their product and wear their clothes when we feel like it’s a reflection of the way that we feel. That’s the connection with the brand. That’s when it goes beyond product. Cuz I will tell you, I don’t think that the product’s all that innovative good for them that they thought to put it in a can.
[00:38:10] You’ve got something to work with that’s different. Right? But there are water companies spending. I mean, just insane amounts of marketing dollars that have not had the traction that that brand did simply by projecting a more deliberate, more, you know, provocative point of view.
[00:38:32] Sam Chlebowski: One of my favorite examples of a brand out there. Absolutely. Just crushing it. I mean, I started seeing that stuff everywhere I listen to this sort of niche snowboard podcast and they’re a sponsor, and then I go to Up to the Mountain and all of my friends are drinking liquid death.
[00:38:48] I’m like, who got these snowboarders to start drinking?
[00:38:51] Robyn Young: Yeah. I mean, I think that, when you have that strong brand identity, and I, follow one of the co-founders on, LinkedIn, so I know his past. I know he comes from TBD Chiat Day, which is a big agency. So this man knows brand. He also worked for Vayner Media, so.
[00:39:08] He knew what he was doing. He knew what he was doing. But I think the, the fact that he was willing to take such a big risk when they started with this very like, Tongue in cheek brand, I think is what, what made people love him for it. And now you can find people like getting their logo, like tattooed on their hands and stuff like, or just like they’re talk, you know, I was reading an article the other day.
[00:39:30] They’re talking about college kids collecting, like packaging and stacking it up in door rooms and stuff. I mean, that is a, that is a level of brands love that most of us just aspire to. That’s not easy to do. You have to have that kind of gumption.
[00:39:44] You have to have those right to like really lean into your difference. What’s funny about that, why I love that example. It has really nothing to do with the product. They are a perfect example of where brand and why it’s so important and how much you can leverage it. Right, because there’s nothing inherently different about their product.
[00:40:05] And that category is saturated with companies that are, that have been market leaders for years, and here comes this brand just like stealing that share away and good for them. So it’s like you have to know your industry if, yeah, great if you have some fantastic, innovative product. But the thing about time and change is when other people catch onto it, if there’s enough market for.
[00:40:29] You will start to get those look you loos. So at some point, and it’s helpful to do it early on, right? Because here’s the thing. If you don’t project a strong point of view of what your brand is and you put all of your effort into just your product, but, and people kind of know you just for your product, but not really anything about your brand, what you’re essentially doing is letting other people decide what to think about your brand.
[00:40:55] And it’s okay to do that for a little while so you can get a sense for, well, you know, what are our lanes, what are the opportunities for us to. You know what, what kind of point of view would make sense for us? It’s okay to do a little bit of that, but if you let that go on for 10 plus years, essentially what you’re going to have to do is start correcting the perception, the reputation that you have for your brand.
[00:41:19] You never get the same fire or spark that you do right at the beginning when you are brand new. Cause people like new stuff. They like new, you know? Oh, it’s, it’s the new kid on the bro, you’re never gonna get that again. So it helps to. Have a plan to have a strategy, you know, for exactly what is it that you think is lacking in the world, in your category, in in our culture, whatever, and how is your product a representation of what your belief is Then in reverse of that problem, right?
[00:41:53] If you can nail that part of it, that’s the beginnings of a strong point of view, which is then, which can then trickle down into what is your. So I don’t know anything about, liquid death’s culture. I do actually have a couple of friends that work there, but I can only imagine like if they have an office, if, they have these events.
[00:42:12] I don’t see them, sponsoring, pro beach volleyball, unless there’s a way to make that liquid death, you know, it makes. To me that they’re sponsoring these snowboarders and snowboarding event because that has the same energy that liquid dust does.
[00:42:26] So I think , when you have that strong point of view, it trickles down into, well how, what does that look like internally? So that’s a thing that I think not a lot of companies tend to think about. They put all of their emphasis on what’s the external reputation, but internal has so much power, especially now when it’s hard to hold onto.
[00:42:47] Money is only one aspect, and frankly, for millennials, I don’t even know that. I feel like it’s the most important one. Yes, pay them a, a decent wage that they can realistically live on, but I don’t think that just by paying them a little bit more that, that it means that they’re going to stay with you longer, that there’s more loyalty there.
[00:43:05] I think if you can give them a deeper. You can connect with what they actually care about, what they actually value, and you can give them a sense for why their work is important, what it means on a greater scale. Because all of us have these just tasks, just this day to day stuff that we have to do. Even I, you know, even for me, I do, and it’s so easy to lose perspective as to why am I doing this?
[00:43:33] Why does anybody care? It’s, it sounds so Macau and depressing, but seriously, all of us can get to that point. It can be very frustrating. So, I think if you can give, if you can give your your team members a rhyme, a reason, a value behind what they do day in, day out, why they’re working on it, and why they care about that, make it connect for them individually and then more importantly, Hire people that also care about those things.
[00:44:02] That’s the thing that will create and perpetuate that culture. What is the culture that you wanna create? That’s one. And the other part is you need that.
[00:44:13] You can’t force it. you need to help your team members commit to what they’re working towards, what you are working towards as a brand.
[00:44:21] Sam Chlebowski: Incredibly powerful stuff, and it’s almost like what we’ve just been talking about. You’ve shared is like not only a masterclass in branding, some of the best brands out there doing it right now, but also a really good lesson in, know, culture means? Both for, you know, if you have a creative agency and you’re working with other brands and what it also means internally and how that can drive the mission forward, whether it’s your own business’s growth or the growth of a client that you’ve taken on.
[00:44:50] So The first part of the episode, we talked a little bit about your background and it was resonating with me deeply. I have been in those exact same shoes where I’d worked at a small business for five years.
[00:45:03] We got acquired, went to go work for the person who acquired us. Hated it, found it just totally life sucking. And here I am back now again in the startup world. then the second part is my wife and I are expecting our first child in January,
[00:45:18] Robyn Young: Well, congratulations,
[00:45:20] Sam Chlebowski: you. Thank you. We’re super excited.
[00:45:22] But I’m also. With my other two co-founders starting motion.io and launching this company. I quit my job in June. No salary, no nothing. My wife paying all of the bills. And I wanted to ask you, you know, from your experiences, what would your advice to me be as, somebody who’s an entrepreneur, a co-founder with a baby on the.
[00:45:46] Robyn Young: Oh man, Don’t do what I did at the beginning. at the beginning, I think I still had a bit of that employee mindset, which is just like, oh, work harder, work harder, work harder. A little hu little hustle culture. I almost burnt out doing. So I think the most important advice I could give you is set boundaries
[00:46:07] and then be disciplined to follow through with those boundaries.
[00:46:12] So this looks different for everybody. Figure out the hours that you work best. Make those hours count, but be realistic with yourself. Nobody does great work for 10 hours. That’s just not realistic right now. At the same time, don’t expect a four hour work week just yet either, right? So it’s like find your, find your middle ground, what that looks like for you because everybody’s a little bit different, but set those boundaries and just be absolutely disciplined in keeping them no matter.
[00:46:46] No matter what, make everybody aware of you, your co-founders, any team members, et cetera, aware of those boundaries, and then continue to reinforce them. I think that more than anything else will help you once the baby comes and even like once they, you know, even once they get a little bit older, I mean, now my daughter’s five, she just started kindergarten this year. And now it’s a, yeah, I mean, I, there there’s like a level of autonomy that I had gained back we had a lot of support from family and, you know, my husband, I think he saw the deeper value of like, allowing me the time and the space to do this. And now he’s reaping some of those benefits.
[00:47:25] So good for him. But, um, I think that setting those boundaries for myself and be, and learning to make it a habit to. I don’t work on weekends. I don’t work holidays, I don’t work evenings. I never bring my work home with me if I can manage not to. So I’m really diligent about when I’m there, I’m there and I’m a mom.
[00:47:46] And I’m a wife, right? And when I’m at work, same thing. you know, my husband kind of knows like, only call me for emergency. It’s like, let me be here. So that that way when I’m. I can be with you. you’ll also learn the importance of balance. It sounds so cliche and so woo woo and nothing makes me wanna vomit more than than that. But it is so important. It is so important. Like that creative flow and. You cannot be your best if you don’t have space.
[00:48:19] If you don’t have that time, that time to just unplug, to unwind, to, you know, find other hobbies to, you know, be inspired by something your, your kid did, or your husband, you know, your wife did, or whatever, right? You have to bake in the time for that. if nothing else for your sanity, but also for that creative inspiration.
[00:48:39] The thing is, is like you may not be in a creative field, but you’re an entrepreneur, and what are entrepreneurs, if not artists who just use their business as their blank canvas?
[00:48:49] Sam Chlebowski: It is amazing advice, particularly because it’s so actionable and it’s something I haven’t had shared with me yet. So thank you so much and it’s great to hear it from somebody I know who’s you know, already went through that process and you know, the stress, but also the success and all of the happy moments that come with it.
[00:49:09] Robyn Young: Hmm. Yep, of course. Happy to be here.
[00:49:12] Sam Chlebowski: Thank you so much, Robyn, for coming on, sharing your story, your advice. I so, so appreciate it. This has been an absolute blast of an episode and I’ve learned a ton. If people wanna find out more about you and the work that you’re doing, where should they go?
[00:49:26] Robyn Young: Yeah, so you can go on our website. This is young.co. That’s dot co not.com. also, our Instagram handles we’re at, this is young.co and then also, um, we’re on TikTok and I think you know, we have all our social channels lined up and we’re considering leaving Twitter at this point, but we do have a presence on most.
[00:49:48] Social channels. So if you go to our website and scroll all the way to the bottom, you can, find the social channels that we’re located on. You can also sign up for our newsletter, which is called Yes. And it’s a bimonthly newsletter and we give lots of fun inspiration, you know, other brands that are doing this well.
[00:50:05] Tips, prompts for how to just bring more creativity to your businesses. How to, how to really blow away with your brand. Feel free to sign up for that too.
[00:50:17] Sam Chlebowski: Amazing. And we will put all of the links for the, or we will put the links for all of those things in the show notes for this episode. But yeah, go ahead and check them out. I’m gonna sign up for that newsletter too. I didn’t know about that. That’s cool.
[00:50:30] Robyn Young: Please do. That would be great.
[00:50:32] Sam Chlebowski: Amazing. Well, thank you again, Robyn. This has been a phenomenal episode of Designing Growth and see you next Thursday everybody.