Reflections for the inner life.
Everything I need to know about launching a brand, I learned in middle school art class and Young Life...
Meet my 7th grade art teacher, Mr. (Ed) Obermeyer. For fun away from the classroom, he shaped and air brushed surfboards for WRV (Wave Riding Vehicles). He drove a sweet dark gray Toyota pickup truck with surf racks with his board/s on top and wetsuits locked up in the bed of the truck that had a shell on it. Half-way through the school year he gave me a huge stash of his old Surfer Magazines to keep. Who knows how many times I poured through those magazines. Mr. O loved teaching art. And he was good at it!
I'm pretty convinced that almost everything I learned about building a brand I learned in that middle school art class. One of my favorite art projects was to design our own brand of cereal. That required peeling apart an old cereal box and studying everything about the box, the coloration, the logo and the hook trying to reel you in as a consumer.
My enthusiasm for this particular project left me shuddering with excitement. Just by peeling back the glued down tabs of a cereal box, Mr. O ushered me into a world that I did not even know existed. It was like being invited into Narnia through the wardrobe.
A few years later, in college, I woke up again to the idea that I could be more creative with the manner in which I approached life beyond college. So many dimensions of my volunteer work with Young Life engaged so many dimensions of who I am and how I am made.
One of my favorite roles on our team apart from actually hanging out with high school folks, was making the Club flyer. Club was a gathering of high school folks that mirrored the set of Saturday Night Live. Every week was a different theme so every week I made a different flyer. Growing up I drew all kinds of cartoons and so I incorporated cartoons into every flyer...for the next decade.
Along the way, I learned to peel back the box tabs of my life, to imagine what images would capture the fleeting attention of my high school friends and allow them to feel absolutely wanted and welcome to come to Club every week. Thankfully Young Life is not a program driven organization, it's relationally driven. So, that much more care went into crafting this half sheet of paper than probably was ever necessary.
In many ways, it's like the PB&J that my mom used to make for me. The actual sandwich was not much different than the next PB&J...except for the little slice of love that my mom included. My hope has always been to evoke that same kind of personal touch in my work whether as a Lifeguard, Young Life leader, teaching swim lessons, serving as a Youth Pastor, or most recently as a licensed counselor.
The last six years have been marked by my work with Elbow Tree in Chattanooga, TN. So much of our brand is personal touch. From the time a potential client interacts with Elbow Tree, they are interacting with the actual therapist, not a front office. That personal touch, or little slice of love, is what we want folks to experience from the moment they reach out to take such a brave step to get the help they are looking for.
So, not only do we glad assume the role of Counselor but we each embrace the many roles we play as entrepreneur, community builder, brand strategist, marketing team, accounting department, janitorial service, landscaper, interior designer, barista...did I mention counselor? It's not a burden to wear so many hats. In fact, it is what keeps things fresh and in touch with what it going on. This blog wrote itself while I was sitting in the car line waiting on my daughter on her first day of school.
In this season of conceptualizing a new business, I am learning so much about the world of small business. For the last six years I built a solid counseling practice under the umbrella of an existing practice designed that my friend built before my very eyes. To weave into that mix was relatively seamless. It was predictably stressful to cultivate a new client base but it was thrilling to have the freedom to focus on the client development without having to build a practice from the ground up. It was riddled with risk but my friend carried the lions share of burden for the day to day liability of that practice.
This summer I have loved getting my hands dirty with creating the infrastructures for what will hopefully become a flourishing counseling practice. Already I've been contacted by a number of interested professionals curious about how to become more formally involved with Elbow Tree here in a Saint Augustine. That is really exciting.
A few minutes ago I stopped by my new office that is being renovated near downtown and I picked up some mail that had come in. It blows my mind that mail, addressed to Elbow Tree, is arriving in Florida. In today's mail was the code for officially verifying my business with Google so my business is discoverable. Again, it just blows my mind.
So as this new venture prepares to launch soon I will continue to write about the adventure of business ownership as it collides with matters of the inner life. What does business ownership or entrepreneurship have to do with the inner life? Everything. There are all sorts of interior feelings and experiences to make sense of and listen to. Not to mention the anxiety of others who Ar for my flourishing and equally as afraid it will fail.
As I look up from writing this blog (mostly on my phone in the notes), I see my daughter coming over to get in the car after her first day as a student in the middle school Arts Academy at her new school here in Saint Augustine. It's wonderful to be able to sit with my daughter in this moment and celebrate how she is being formed and imagine how the pain and awkwardness of today is preparing her for leading a brand of her own someday. I can't wait to hear about her art teacher, and all the many cereal boxes she too will get to peel back and explore this year. What a thrill for her to be invited into a whole new world of discovery as she even articulated in the car to me yesterday...on her own..."Dad, I'm pretty sure that between my art class and my digital design class, that I will be able to launch my own business someday."
She sees it...and this only confirms again...everything I learned about building a new brand, I leaned in middle school and Young Life.
One of the many beautiful waves by my 7th grade art teacher, Mr. Ed Obermeyer.
Elbow Christian Counseling