BA Workshop Diaries: The Art of Branding

The first BA 2014 workshop kicked off at our Piano House studio last Tuesday. In anticipation for this year’s BAs’ arrival, we completely redecorated our 50’s retro kitchen, transforming it into a cozy living room complete with projection screens, dim lighting, leafy greens, and of course, wine. It was practically a page out of House Beautiful.

Everything looked so lovely that for a moment, I wished I was a BA finalist, soon to be sitting amid all this homey warmth whilst learning some top-notch branding skills.

The buzzer started ringing as early as 5:30, and didn’t stop ringing for the next half hour. As I opened the door to welcome them, I was greeted by a rapid-fire succession of shining faces, beaming with anticipation. They were thrilled to be here, and I was thrilled to finally meet them.

An amusing note, even though I offered everyone a glass of wine, most opted for water. These business girls are intent on staying fully alert for the next two hours of intense study, ready for some serious brand amplification.

JP opened the presentation with standout BA alumni from past editions that serve as shining examples of what the current edition participants can achieve with their new-found post BA branding prowess. Among the BA Superstars, the most recent one was Julie Hannay, Gold Winner from 2013, who started small with her jewelry line, but has since skyrocketed into an international sensation with stocks in Harvey Nichols, Harrods, high street, and luxury outlets across the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Central America. Then there was Victoria Holt, Silver Winner from 2012, whose award-winning lingerie have graced the pages of little known-magazines such as GQ and featured in Britain’s Next Top Model.

Did I mention our inaugural BA alumna, Ronke Ige, founder of Emi & Ben, was recently featured on BBC The One show alongside Oprah Winfrey? The ladies were duly impressed.  I know, I had the same reaction when I first heard about the Oprah connection.

The cornerstone to BA success is its breadth of contestants. We’ve trained startup founders in a variety of industries ranging from wellness, beauty, technology, event services, consumer goods and fashion.

This year is no exception. Among the 2014 BA finalists, we’ve got nutritionists with F1 racer clients (which conjures up many fantastical thoughts in one’s mind), foodies, techies, PhD’s and neuroscientists, lawyers, girl powered van drivers, lingerie designers, and even cleverly named posthumous digital asset planners. The eclectic mix and the gusto the girls bring to the table are what make BA events so excitingly invigorating to attend.

JP shared from her private arsenal of inspiring reads, secrets to effective networking, tips on conquering fear, treating your brand like a friend, and “hitting it like a rugby player” on days when you just want to bury your head in the sand.

We all know Content is King, but few know Conversation is Queen. Our other Jeannette, Head of Content, presented our Spring edition BA 2014’s with a conversation-sparking Instagram challenge. As part of our ethos of Brave Branding, we’re incentivising these ladies to adopt a high-potential yet underutilised (in Jeannette’s humble opinion) platform to amplify their brands by engaging communities. Watch for #brandamplifier on Instagram to check out the contestants’ mandatory photo and video uploads to be in the running to win a JPC studio designed social media Twitter skin and a bespoke social media strategy for the superstar social media butterfly of this edition.

The Art of Branding and Instagram challenge was done, now it was time to hear from our contestants. These passionate, devoted and audacious women each stood up to introduce herself and tell her own brand story. The energy of the room whisked into a mini cyclone of everyone’s collective enthusiasm and mutual support. People leaned in, laughed, clapped and cheered for each others’ triumphs and victories. As JP said, “BA is not just about the presentation. There’s magic in meeting other women on a common startup journey.” I found myself fascinated by their inventions, solutions, valor, humour and uplifted by the potency of their dreams. Planning BA was no small feat, they had worked hard to get here… and we’re asking them to give a final sprint as any dedicated coach would.

By the end of the short 2 hour workshop, people lingered to chat, and I began to see this interesting migration of clusters: techies with techies, foodies with foodies. Everyone started off the evening in their own corners with their clipboards, and at the end broke into earnest chatter and sisterhood bonding.

Looking forward to workshop number 2 tonight: how to do PR with no money at all?

I’m intrigued.

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