The Coach Approach

The Coach Approach

Code name:
The Coach Approach (may also be the forever name, we’ll see!)⁣

What it’s all about:
As you all know, we have a deep love for super small business. For many years this was our namesake when we were “MicroBrand”. One person shops. Solopreneurs. Owner/Operators. Tradespeople juggling different hats from their mobile office. Jugglers. Cat herders. The two-phone’rs. The steel toed marketing managers. You get the idea… ⁣

After years of working, and talking with these groups and developing amazing relationships with so many great clients, we’ve become hyper-aware of two key challenges that are universal:⁣

First, business owners have a persistent desire to do more to push their businesses forward. Marketing, social media, advertising, branding, etc. It can be overwhelming. ⁣

And second, resources are limited. Budget yes, but also the time and knowledge to keep consistent action in their marketing and branding efforts. ⁣

Because of the first, we know there’s a deep need. ⁣

Because of the second, we are unable to contribute in all the ways we want to. We have conversations that go unfinished. We have brilliant ideas that never see the light of day. We have efforts that only make it halfway. ⁣

The Coach Approach addresses these challenges and increases the reach of the businesses we work with and the value we add. ⁣

We’ll be offering both a group format and 1:1 coaching to empower and provide marketing and branding guidance to small business owners. ⁣

Starting with a core group in December. ⁣
Everything will be online and we’ll help get your thoughts and efforts aligned, and push forward to kick off 2021.⁣

Apply here and we’ll be in touch with details and more!

How are you keeping things fun and productive with your team?
Reach out or send us an email at hello@mbrand.ca

A Softer Path – Tee Shirts

A Softer Path – Tee Shirts

In some recent research into sustainable gear lines available we came across one in particular that we wanted to give a little shout out to. They’re called Freeset, and they have a pretty cool story.

The shirts are handmade by survivors of sex trafficking in Kolkata. This opportunity for employment provides access to healthcare, literacy education and key social services.

When we came across this company, we got pretty excited about their approach, and in reaching out to them to see how we could learn more about trying their shirts for some upcoming projects, we were thrilled to discover that there’s an independent representative who carries their product right here in Victoria, and a larger one in Vancouver, so access to their product is fairly straightforward, which we’ve found to be a bit of a challenge with some of these cool producers.

We love the idea of buying locally and regionally first of course, but that seems a little challenging still in the garment industry, so we default to looking at something cool and intentional where we can make a difference. This company fits the bill in that regard for us. We talk about sustainable ethically produced gear over here as well, check it out.

How are you keeping things fun and productive with your team?
Reach out or send us an email at hello@mbrand.ca

Taking Your Business Online & Keeping it Fun

Taking Your Business Online & Keeping it Fun

With teams all over the world suddenly shifting to a remote model, we thought we’d share a few quick thoughts on some ideas to keep things fun. For more of a deep dive on some thoughts for working from home, check out this post.

Connect Over Music

What better way to connect than through music? Sharing playlists and music recommendations can change someone’s day and whole vibration in a great, big, lovely way.

Video calls

A number of free solutions exist on the market. Duo, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom meetings, etc. etc. etc. Make use of these great tools and stay connected!

Virtual coffee bar

This is something our little team did a few years ago when we were struggling to stay connected across timezones, cultures and working hours. Using Podio, we created an app to re-create the concept of an office coffee pot. The first person in for the day would create a little entry in the app as the “first pot of coffee” kind of thing… A bit geeky yes, but it worked to create conversation and connection, and evolved to be a spot to share a photo of something happening in our respective days / locations, etc. A fun little idea.

Silly challenges aren’t just for social media!

Go ahead, challenge your teammate to do some pushups, plank, or a silly dance. Whatever. It keeps things fun and engaging and keeps the smiles flowing.

How are you keeping things fun and productive with your team?
Reach out or send us an email at hello@mbrand.ca

COVID-19. We’re here.

COVID-19. We’re here.

The last couple of weeks have been really challenging around the world to say the least. In every business and team we work with, we’ve seen complete upheaval, a staggering number of sudden closures, hundreds of people laid off, and uncertainty at every turn.

That’s the less than lovely stuff we all know about. Let’s move on to the good… We’ve also seen the beauty of community and outpouring of love online, families becoming closer and teams coming together in ways they have not done in the past. So much beauty happening all around the world.

We’re aiming to assist our clients (current and new) in a number of ways, and look forward to discussing anything that’s on your mind. Some of the areas we’ve been discussing around here include:

Communications

Ensuring you have a response during this time is key. We can help with updating your online presence and message. Sometimes having an outside partner to help with your messaging can keep things a little more objective and clear.

Helping you work remotely

We can help move your workflow to the cloud with great tools such as Dropbox Business, Podio, Asana, G Suite, and many more. We’ve been working this way for years and can help map out the journey with you.

Innovative ideas

We are ideas people through and through. Ideas are the spice of what we do with and for our clients, and thinking through how businesses innovate and remain nimble and dynamic is an area that fires us up in a big way.

Objectivity

We work really closely with our clients, but one of the beautiful aspects of being external is that we maintain a little bit more objectivity in times of stress and might be looking at the market a little differently than you are. This adds real value when making key strategy decisions surrounding how you keep moving forward in this tough time.

Flexible engagement

This is something we have always been open to looking at with any of our clients and while we need to be very careful with our own cashflow in this time of course, we will do everything we can to work with you in a way that fits into a new way of doing business. Phasing projects in, splitting payments into monthly fees, and whatever else is needed to create a win/win scenario. We’re into it.

How are you keeping things fun and productive with your team?
Reach out or send us an email at hello@mbrand.ca

You might see us sitting in your lobby like weirdos.

You might see us sitting in your lobby like weirdos.

Some of the work we are most passionate about involves bringing brands to life in public spaces, and designing experiences that people will engage and interact with. When dreaming up solutions for this kind of project, you might find us spending a little time sitting back and watching the space.

Not just going through the motions of an experience once ourselves (though we’ll likely insist on doing that too!), but watching how others are experiencing it. Where are things flowing? Where are they not? Where is there opportunity for an improved user experience? Where is there opportunity to make the interaction shine just a little more for your customers / clients? Where is there opportunity to reinforce your brand expression and create some energy? Where is there opportunity to tell your story?

It’s amazing what you can learn about a public space (or any other user experience for that matter) by watching it in use. All kinds of interesting patterns and issues and scenarios arise that we’d never see if we only asked our clients about it, or if we only ever look at it from “behind the counter” so to speak.

So, if we’re working with you and it’s possible to do so, this is an area we might ask about, or insist on doing in order to provide the best solutions possible.

We’d love to see how we can help fully bring your brand to life and improve the experience and flow of your business! Reach out. Let’s have a virtual coffee and discuss your project and how we can help. Cheers!

Working From Home

Working From Home

With the world turned a little upside down lately, it seems everyone is tossed out of their daily routines and comfort zones. Working from home instead of going to the office, figuring out tools to stay connected to the office, access files, collaborate, and generally keep pushing forward.

Our little team has been distributed for years and we designed our operation around a remote model.

By no means an exhaustive list of all the great steps you can take to keep work flowing from home, we have a few thoughts we’d like share for how to keep your health, sanity and work all moving in the right direction. 🙂

Setup your working space with intention

Give yourself this gift. Create a clean space to work that is free from “home stuff” , other to-do items, or general clutter. Whatever space you have available will work, just create it with a little intention and remove this all-too-easy objection you might have for why you’re not able to focus and get moving.

Go easy on yourself

The world went into a bit of a collective shock over recent weeks, and it’s a tough time to create focus and flow no matter what. Add to that that you’ve tossed yourself completely out of your usual approach to work and routines, and you might be finding it hard to focus and get things done.

This is okay! Go easy on yourself. Try setting a 20 minute timer where you focus intently on your work, and then take a little break, move around, take a quick scroll on social media, or whatever your mind wanders. Then lean in again for another 20 minutes.

Take movement breaks

In line with the thought above, and for your overall health, take some movement breaks. At least every hour, get up and move your body. This isn’t intended to be your daily exercise, but rather a brain and body break to keep yourself awake and productive and engaged.

Elevate your heart rate. Some of our favourites include doing jumping jacks, having a plank competition, cranking out some pushups, or running up and down some stairs. Keep it quick and simple and easy and aligned your overall fitness level, and have some fun with it!

Let your kids and pets crawl on you!

If you’ve got kids in the house, as we all do in ours, don’t push them away when they come to see you! Let them crawl and climb on you. Take this moment as a break and put work away for a few minutes. This is an opportunity to show love and care for these little humans (or fur babies), and to show them that they come first. It also provides a lovely reset and shifts your mindset back to one of positivity and love.

Have flexible hours, but know when to walk away!

Your work hours may be different now. You might be juggling kids and various schedules and lunches and a whole range of things you aren’t in the habit of dealing with throughout your day suddenly, and maybe you’re finding yourself working in the evenings, early mornings, etc.

Be flexible here. It’s okay to work in what might feel like an unconventional way. But also know when to walk away and turn your screens off. There’s a tonne of amazing research and findings on the impacts of blue light on our brains, nervous systems and circadian rhythms in general, and in particular when working on devices after dark, when our bodies want to be winding down. Plan your work periods with this in mind, and know when to park things and walk away for the night.

Move to the cloud

Having a great cloud file management system is going to be critical if you don’t already have one. There are a number of life changing solutions out there, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.com, Sharefile, iCloud, and many more. We’re not aiming to comment on all the tools available here in this little ramble, so we’ll simply say that we use Dropbox for Business, and it’s worth every penny we’ve ever spent on it and more. Our devices can crash and burn and we wouldn’t lose a single file. We can send files to clients from our phones, comment on files as we go, etc.

Have a project management system

This is likely worthy of it’s own post, which we’ll do, so for now, we’ll mention that a good online project management system will pay for itself very quickly.

A good PM tool will allow you to track projects, tasks, clients, reminders, calendars, etc. There are dozens of amazing solutions out there with free levels and trials, and this area too is worth paying for without a doubt. We have been using Podio (www.podio.com) for years and can’t imagine our business without it, and there are many others too, such as Asana, Monday.com, Flow, ZenKit, and many more.

Just remember the GIGO rule 🙂 (Garbage in, garbage out)

Jump on a call

This isn’t necessarily specific to working from home, and it’s likely something we need a reminder of ourselves, so we’re including it! Don’t lean too heavily on email, and don’t be afraid to jump on a quick video call. Not only does it help to have a little social interaction, but it strips out a lot of the issues that can come up with back and forth emails. WhatsApp, Messenger, FaceTime, Duo, Zoom, GoToMeeting, whatever your preferred platform is, jump on it!

As a team we have been working in these ways for years, and as authorised Dropbox and Podio Partners, we can help. Reach out.

Do Good.

Do Good.

We aren’t gear providers, yet we work on a wide range and growing number of gear projects these days. We keep running into a similar issue over and over again: garments are made in unsustainable and damaging ways, and clients are seeking something different. Something better. A softer, more intentional way.

So we spent some time researching ethically sourced and produced garments made from organic and sustainable materials. We came across a number of really cool companies producing garments and gear in beautiful ways. From reclaimed materials in Canada to companies specifically created to lift women out of human trafficking in Kolkata, there are some really cool things happening in this industry.

Price points are improving as these products become more in demand, and as consumers, businesses can continue to influence this by making the choice to purchase with intention.

Ask your shirt printer or brand partner what they have available for ethical and sustainable products. If they aren’t currently carrying or working with anything in this area, challenge them to do so, and let’s all create a better tomorrow.

INTENTION ATTRACTS RETENTION

Whether it’s team uniforms or promotional garments for your gift shop, people are increasingly drawing to gear crafted with intention and purpose.

We’d love to see how we can help fully bring your brand to life and improve the experience and flow of your business! Reach out. Let’s have a virtual coffee and discuss your project and how we can help. Cheers!

Flip Your 9 to 5

Flip Your 9 to 5

Flip Your 9 to 5 is a concept brand for a little pet project of ours that we have in the works. We’ll keep things a little quiet on this one for the time being, as we don’t want to spoil any surprises of course, but here’s a little teaser of some of the fun stuff we’ve come up with. 🙂

POSTER LOVELINESS

Over time, the Flip Your 9 to 5 brand will come to life in a number of ways, possibly including these ideas for posters, stationery, etc.

We’d love to see how we can help fully bring your brand to life and improve the experience and flow of your business! Reach out. Let’s have a virtual coffee and discuss your project and how we can help. Cheers!

Packaging Matters!

Packaging Matters!

Packaging is wildly important to the success and viability of a product. This seems fairly clear and obvious, yet there are countless poorly packaged products on shelves that have not taken the basics into consideration when being prepared. And when small businesses are making packaging decisions, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole.

While researching a recent compostable packaging project for Karma Coffee Roasters for example, we discovered that a lot of the packaging available on the market is single use, disposable, cheaply produced, and very generic. Even the ones that on the surface are described as compostable or recyclable often have valves or fasteners that will not break down or come off the packaging easily to be recycled.

These traits aren’t signs of a quality product, intentional company, or people who care. They are the traits of something unsustainable and finished that cannot go on.

While the exact packaging recommendations and directions are still in the works for this client, we thought we’d share a couple of the concepts we created.

We learned a tonne on this project and would love to discuss packaging your products for success!

Bringing it to life

Applying the Karma brand to our concepts for the packaging was fun and vibrant. We created a series of custom icons and colours specific to each roast and ensured there was a consistent and harmonious expression across the full line. We’re looking forward to seeing this roll out!

We’d love to see how we can help fully bring your brand to life and improve the experience and flow of your business! Reach out. Let’s have a virtual coffee and discuss your project and how we can help. Cheers!