In The Business Of Creativity
By Akeem Johnson-Pierre
The One & All conference that took place in Montreal profiled the creative minds behind companies to discuss branding, content, and marketing. A successful entrepreneur knows that without creativity, there is no growth. Luckily, there’s a driven group of people out there who are conquering obstacles and working to turn ideas into reality. The conference brought together ten speakers in the hopes of sparking a progressive discourse on creativity. Everyone who hit the stage shared their inspiring stories.
One of these speakers, Alan Gertner, embarked on a long journey to discover himself and his business. It was after leaving a lucrative job at Google and travelling to over 50 countries that Gertner decided to start Tokyo Smoke, a marijuana business that combined his three passions: coffee, clothing, and cannabis.
Tokyo Smoke is a brand of weed and weed-adjacent products that appeals to the sophisticated smoker. Everything about the company, from their in-house apparel to the retail experience, has been curated to fit the lifestyles of those who see smoking weed as a responsible recreational activity. During his presentation, Gertner pointed out that alcohol advertisements are geared towards creating a certain lifestyle. Through Tokyo Smoke, he is bringing this same idea of a cannabis lifestyle to an industry that, although growing, is plagued by stigma.
With ideas that revolutionized online shopping for Nike, Sebastien Speier demonstrated the importance of customer-product interaction using innovation and fun. To sneakerheads, nothing is more important than owning that one pair of exclusive sneakers.
This is where Speier stepped in and used his skills as a designer to create the SNKRS app for Nike. SNKRS made it virtually impossible for people to buy out large orders of the same shoe and ensured the app would never crash under heavy use. More than that, he recreated the nostalgia of waiting in line and proving commitment to the most recent Nike release. In the new age of technology, Speier wanted to maintain the excitement for sneakerheads, creating digital and real-life challenges and surprises in the race to purchase the most coveted new shoes.
Andrew Herzog is a designer at the HAWRAF new design studio in Brooklyn. Herzog stressed the importance of interactivity, communication, and creative accessibility. Together, he and his team came up with completely original ways for people to interact with everything from books and poetry to photography and protest signs. This includes something as using art to transform everyday objects, or more well-known, they are the brains behind the Google AutoDraw, an interactive interface where people’s drawings can be transformed into one of many stock drawings.
Ali Weiss, the Senior Vice President of Marketing at online makeup company Glossier, spoke on the importance of branding and interacting with the target audience. Rather than send products to Instagram celebrities for greater visibility, Glossier focuses on building a community with micro-influencers – those who may not have that big of a following but actually use the company's products and truly represent what the company stands for.
SSENSE is a niche online shop for all high-end brands. Staying true to what they stand for, the company has grown a loyal customer fan base around the world filled with people who truly appreciate fashion. Fanny Damiette, Director of Brand and Marketing Strategy, explained that although three brothers started the company as a school project and were more focused on the technology behind the website, SSENSE has since grown a massive audience. This has allowed the company to rebrand; it now offers editorials and original content to those who visit the site.
Dress to Kill had the opportunity to sit down with Carl Schmidt from Unbounce, an artificial intelligence-based tech company that creates landing pages. As a co-founder of Unbounce, he discussed his role in the company and the challenges and benefits of running your own business.
Can you speak on how Unbounce first started?
I remember getting pulled out of a coffee shop, [when] Rick pitched us two ideas. One was for some kind of add network thing, thankfully we didn’t choose that one, and the other was for this landing page thing. And he said well, look, how hard can it be, all we need is a little tool that lets you put up a little bit of text and a picture of something, and that’s it. Of course, [it] turns out that as we started to dig in and learn more, it was much more than that, but that was really the genesis of it.
What were some important lessons you learned during the development stages of Unbounce?
I think one of our keys to success was the ability to focus. Over time that’s become even more clear, that as we’ve kind of focused on a particular segment…that if you try to address the whole thing, you can really get yourself in trouble, especially as a young bootstrap company. And I think for us, focusing on a particular segment of [the] market has been really valuable.
How important has creativity been towards the success of your company?
It’s [been] key. I mean, most of the six co-founders have a creative background. I think that that’s really come out in a lot of [the] things that we do. Early on, I think a lot of credit [should go] to Oli Gardner for really driving our marketing through creativity. We would put out really unique content pieces and so our entire business was grown with inbound marketing. I mean, you’ve got to have content that people want to share and talk about and that offers actual value, right? And so, creativity is huge.
The industry you are in (i.e., the tech industry) moves very fast, is there any pressure felt towards staying ahead of the competition?
There's pressure from all around to stay competitive, to introduce ideas faster. It’s definitely not a sit-back-and-just-let-the-money-roll-in sort of thing.
What should young entrepreneurs know before starting their own tech company?
I think a lot of folks look at the world of entrepreneurialism as scary, intimidating, and our experience has been that once you get out there, put yourself out there, the community of entrepreneurs is very supportive. There’s always folks who want to help you. Yes, there are folks who don’t, but you know what, the community at large is really supportive. And so, the biggest lesson is to get out there and ask for help, and don’t be afraid of that. Try to be less afraid, it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Is there a thrill behind coming up with better ways towards helping companies reach their goals?
Oh yeah, totally! That's actually one of the most gratifying parts – is knowing [we are]. And we get this in the feedback all the time. We’ve actually got a dashboard in our foyer with customer feedback rotating through and it’s always, “Wow, the results I got so quickly were amazing.” And people tell us all the time at our conference, in other contexts, just how much of an impact we have. And for me that's actually what makes it worth it, right, is [the] impact we are having.
The common thread between many of the speakers was about customer satisfaction, teamwork, creativity, and interactivity with a target audience. Listening to needs and creating a platform on which there can be a dialogue creates a community between buyers and sellers. Creativity and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. From fashion and makeup to design, online shopping, and marijuana, the speakers each provided insight into how they were able to create change within their industry.