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A Future Built On Our Past

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Around this time seven years ago, the idea of The Brandery was just starting to come to life. We didn’t have a building to call home. We didn’t have any funding. We didn’t have any employees. But we had our pitch deck and we were just crazy enough to think we could make this thing happen.

In other words, we were just like the startups that we one day hoped to help.

Seven years later, 66 startups have graduated from The Brandery, raised over $130 million in funding, and we have been consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the country. And in that time, the landscape of entrepreneurship and accelerator programs has changed. And it is time for us to change with it.

Many people do not realize it, but the underlying legal structure of The Brandery is based upon a 501©3, the mission of which is to support entrepreneurship in Cincinnati and the Midwest. Since day one, everyone involved in The Brandery has been involved because of that mission. The equity that we receive from startups in exchange for their participation in The Brandery does not go to investors. Instead, it sits in an endowment that we hope to use in the support of entrepreneurs.

I write that because in 2010, the city that The Brandery calls home was a very different place for entrepreneurs. There was no #StartupCincy as a rallying cry for the region. Aspiring founders didn’t have role models like EBTH, Dotloop, Assurex, or Modulus to show them the way. Cintrifuse did not exist and Union Hall was not the home of our hustle. As such, we viewed The Brandery as the opportunity to be an injection of talent into our ecosystem. It could be a reason for local entrepreneurs like Chris Bergman of FamilyTech to jump into the tech startup world. It could be a reason for entrepreneurs like Jim Fisher of Roadtrippers to move to Cincinnati sight unseen. We wanted it to be a reason to believe that Cincinnati and the Midwest could be a destination for startups – and the Venture Capitalists that invest in them.

We are a long way from ringing the bell and declaring success in that mission. But we have made amazing strides. As we move into 2017, The Brandery is refining the focus of the accelerator program in order to do our part in better helping entrepreneurs. As our announcement stated in early March, we are focusing the 2017 class (and beyond) on digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) and the retail/marketing tech companies that give these brands a new way to reach consumers.

In many ways, our future is about us doubling down on our past. We are called The Brandery because we believed (and still do) that the skills of building a brand could be as valuable for tech startups as they could be for large consumer packaged goods. We also believed that we could uniquely involve mentors from the halls of large CPG companies who were leading their organization’s efforts in embracing digital marketing and marketing tech. Those two premises still hold true today and even more so as we sharpen our focus.

The other reason that I am excited about this sharpened focus is the impact it will have on the founders as they go through the program and become alumni. Every year, I am asked the question of what helps a company achieve success in The Brandery. And every year, my answer is the same: the companies that help others the most are the ones that succeed the most themselves. This continues after Demo Day where the founders who give the most back to the Brandery community are the ones who continue to shine. With this new focus, every startup in the class will be complementary in same way. They might be able to partner together with a consumer brand serving as a customer to a marketing tech startup. Or they will be able to share best practices on B2B customer acquisition or user retention for digitally native vertical brands.

We have come a long way in seven years, but I look forward to seeing how much further we go thanks to the startups that join The Brandery family in the years to come.

Dave Knox is the co-founder of The Brandery, Managing Director of WPP Ventures, and author of the newly released book Predicting The Turn: The High Stakes Game of Business Between Startups and Blue Chips .

Why You Need the Brandery Agency Partnership: Spicefire & Goodwipes

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Over the last few weeks, we’ve been telling you all about our sharpened focus on Digitally-Native Full Stack Products (CPG are part of that) & startups that support these kind of companies (both large and small) for our 2017 cohort. If you haven’t had a chance to read over our thought process behind this shift, check out this blog post from a few weeks ago when we made the announcement.

As our General Manager Tony Alexander said in his blog post earlier this week, “While we always added some value to everyone who came through the program, the truth is we can help some companies tremendously and others in only limited ways. This is a function of the talents of our staff, mentorship pool, and the intrinsic nature of our close network of partners and sponsors. Pretty much everyone in our network is well-positioned to add tons of value to these kind of startups.” To illustrate this point, we’re going to share some of the success stories of Brandery alumni who fit into the categories of companies we’re looking for.

Meet Goodwipes, graduates of Brandery’s 2016 cohort. They are serious about being clean.

Charlie, Maria, and Sam: Team Goodwipes

Goodwipes had already sold 1 million body wipes at independent retailers and on Amazon when they came to Cincinnati last June on a mission to refine their brand and strengthen their company. Each company in our accelerator is paired 1-to-1 with a world-class creative agency, of which there is a high concentration in Cincinnati ( aka BrandHub, USA ), which is one of the most significant reasons Goodwipes applied to The Brandery. We spoke to Sam Nebel, Co-Founder of Goodwipes, for his thoughts on why The Brandery’s program is so uniquely suited to help a CPG company.

Goodwipes worked with Spicefire to create a brand as fresh as their products. “They did nothing but GIVE, GIVE, GIVE”, Sam says. “Time, energy, attention, passion, experience, knowledge and patience. They shared. They worked with us through seemingly simple, yet extraordinarily arduous critical thinking exercises to define Goodwipes as it is today: a modern, better-for-you take on wet wipes that empowers people to do more, feel good, and live clean. We could not be happier with Jason Hargis and the Spicefire team. I’m talking endless hours of their busy time they gave us. If you understand how an agency works, time is money, and they spent extra time working with Goodwipes. It was really humbling and incredible to be given so much time and energy by such a talented group.”

The Goodwipes Branding Case Study

Goodwipes's Branding, Pre-Brandery

With the majority of Goodwipes’ sales occurring online, having a slick brand and packaging wasn’t nearly as important to them; with their goal of appearing on more brick-and-mortar shelves, it was more important to create eye-popping visuals that would appeal to customers looking up and down the personal care aisle. The Spicefire team helped to create a beautiful, modern look for their packaging, which also carried over to their advertising and web presence.





Spicefire’s collaboration and work with Goodwipes is just one reason we’re excited about our 2017 program; our agency partners have always yielded fantastic work no matter the type of startup we’ve paired them with, but now that we’re looking to work with more consumer-facing brands and the technologies that support them, the Brandery Agency Partnership should prove to be even more successful.

Sam wanted us to publish his personal number so that anyone interested in talking about applying to The Brandery could call him – we are going to spare him, but we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about the 2017 application process. Contact us at info@brandery.org!