Makers + Markets: Different by Design.

Lake FX panel discussion — May 13, 2016.

Simple Truth brand experts Brea Malloy and Steve Batterson joined a Lake FX panel of Chicago makers to discuss how design, technology and relationship-management can help entrepreneurs bring their products and ideas to market. Fellow panelists included Maya-Camille Broussard (Justice of the Pies), Craighton Berman (Manual) and Anijo Mathew (Vamonde). Jake Trussell of World Business Chicago was the moderator. Here are some key takeaways to help you make the next great thing.

Create a story people can be part of.

We all connect with one another — and with brands — through stories. And brands that tell good stories do better. When your audience hears your story and gets what you’re all about, they want to be part of it. And almost as important as making sales is creating fans. Storytelling gives you the chance to do both.

Consider how to tell your unique story in an authentic way so people will want to connect with it.

lakefx panel 3
Image credit: Yolanda C. Richards-Albert

Stay true to your passion and purpose.

Do not start a business without a purpose. Be sure that whatever you’re making — pies, kitchen tools, apps, etc. — comes from a deeper purpose and a place that’s meaningful to you. As a lawyer, Maya-Camille’s dad spent his life around people who needed a second chance now and then. She built her pie business to honor his legacy while giving people that second chance through employment and training. Recognize that your purpose will drive success, help differentiate you and keep you motivated when things get tough. Aligning your purpose with consumer pain points is how successful brands get built.

Consider what you care about and how your business can grow from that starting point.

Obsess, obsess, obsess.

Before launching his coffee maker start-up, Craighton spent a year obsessing over coffee: drinking it, photographing it, studying it and writing about it. The result of his obsession was authenticity that came through in the final product and an understanding of coffee that allowed him to make something no one else would. Anijo pointed out that in today’s new economy, there are as many producers as there are consumers. You have to continually ask yourself, How can I make this better? Competitive advantage: It’s very hard for big brands to be this authentic.

Start with an idea you know or love, and then get obsessed.

lakefx panel2
Image credit: Yolanda C. Richards-Albert

Show them something they don’t know.

Through human-centric and culture-centric design and new technologies, small business entrepreneurs and even mid- to large-scale businesses are connecting the dots in more imaginative ways than ever to give people products and services that solve problems or enrich their world in ways they don’t expect. Steve shared how brands are connecting seemingly disparate ideas — think TOMS combining style and humanitarianism, or Justice of the Pies connecting gourmet baked goods and second chances. Anijo’s hyper-local storytelling and experience-sharing platform, Vamonde, is another example of a way of connecting we never knew we wanted until now.

How does what you’re making (or the way you’re making it) relate to people’s lives and the world they’re living in?

Remember, it’s about them.

Most entrepreneurs or small businesses can’t afford traditional advertising and marketing to get their products known. Instead, the focus leans on being creative and resourceful. Some use social to turn campaigns into interactions or experiences their fans can actually drive. Brea talked about the power of creating partnerships that allow others to join in and extend your reach. Maya-Camille said she relies on generosity to build her following: “If you give with a closed fist, you receive with a closed fist. Promote others and they’ll do the same for you.” The maker mentality is to understand the problem and invent ways to solve it.

How can you get in front of your audience in an unexpected and engaging way?

LakeFx panel1
Left to right: Steve Batterson, Anijo Mathew, Jake Trussell, Brea Malloy, Craighton Berman, Maya-Camille Broussard. Image credit: Yolanda C. Richards-Albert