Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Teju, an Intuitive Empath and Founder + Chief Experience Officer of Branperience – a Full-Service Brand Experience Firm I opened in 2018 – in a coffee shop in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my two daughters who were 13 & 15 at the time.
For the past five years, I’ve spent my days strategizing and advocating for the use and consideration of emotions and feelings when brand building or rebuilding through a strategic experiential approach resulting in increased brand equity, loyalty, return on experience, and investment.
We’ve been able to impact and develop a diverse portfolio supporting an array of industries, most notably in Sports & Entertainment, Nonprofits, and Social Impact Organizations across the country with each Stakeholder partnership spanning over 19 months on average with our unique approach.
Our Stakeholders aren’t scrambling to find several different agencies to handle siloed areas of their businesses, with a bunch of different strategies and tactics, we’re all-inclusive - handling their internal & external strategy, email, website, social media, activations + events, text messaging, and much more. In turn, they get to focus on a Return on Experience for them and their Stakeholders while we handle the rest.
While we’ve been fortunate to increase our revenue by 22-37% each year, every day I'm most proud of the impact we continuously deliver while fostering great relationships throughout the process to maximize our stakeholder's return on experience. Our approach is a unique differentiator that takes a lot of discipline as it often goes against the grain of what society or the industry tells us.
We stay steadfast in our pursuit to champion strategy over tactics, two-way communication over sales pitches, and consistency over ‘prisoners of the moments’. We’re not positioned as a “quick fix” or siloed approach type of Firm.
Most importantly, we’ve been able to prove that experiential marketing should be utilized for more than events or activations – experiential marketing is a much more beneficial concept and more of a strategic principle.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I spent the first 12 years of my career in the branding and marketing space in various industries and leading organizations from corporate retail to professional sports. In 2014, I left my corporate retail job of 7 years, with no plan, no job – just my thoughts, feelings, emotions, bills, and two children. I was on a journey to bring people back as the focus within the business – both internally and externally.
From 2015-2017 I returned to my Almar Mater, full-time, and obtained my Sport Management degree –to add to the Business and Psychology degree I’d earned years prior. By the end of 2016, in my final Sports Marketing course, I began crafting what is now our unique approach, through a project assigned to us – prompted by experiential learning.
We were challenged to rebrand + revive an existing operating business with a strategic approach that would increase their equity, loyalty, and return on investment. It was my opportunity to bring people back as the focus within business, so I sought out the only semi-professional women’s basketball team in Wisconsin – who was on the verge of folding for numerous strategic reasons.
I created my 12-page proposal, submitted it for the course, received an A+, and received tons of praise from my professor. Although not required, I reached out to the Owner of the organization and asked to meet with her – as I’d like to present my proposal to her.
Two weeks later, we met. I pitched my research, findings, previous knowledge, and strategy and was offered a job as their Director of Marketing and Branding. I obliged, but took the job as an internship, as to not deplete the very little budget the organization currently had, to refine my approach with a practical experiential learning and application experience.
The strategy increased brand equity by 87%, revenue by 72%, and garnered an additional 87k in sponsorship dollars equating to a 231% increase – all within 9 months, by creating an experience that was both desirable and a destination for all involved – both internal and external by centering the people and the things that make us human – our feelings + emotions.
That strategy laid a foundation for the organization to stay afloat for three years after my departure.
From there, I planned to continue to use those academic experiences and the countless hours of research, testing, tears, and laughs over the years to continue to refine my unique approach and expand industries beyond sports.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I’ve always been extremely in tune with my emotions and feelings and how they affect every decision I make. I was known for being a “crybaby" or hypersensitive ever since I was a little girl and that became the superpower that I used to impact the world.
I found myself relying on my emotions and feelings to guide my decisions even if I was just purchasing food from a restaurant or clothes from the mall. Oftentimes, if I didn’t like how the shopping/dining experience made me feel – it affected all my decisions with those businesses going forward. What I learned through continuing education was that 90% of all decisions were based on emotion and not this rational thought process or measured consideration we were conditioned to believe.
Your business habits are an extension of the person you are outside of the business - that’s why mindset in entrepreneurship is so important.
That held in business too. I understood that if you can capture brand equity by fulfilling the emotions and feelings of the desired Stakeholders you’d separate yourself from the masses and build relationships that were based on fulfilling basic human needs.
I set out to create one package of services that were all cumbersome. My approach relied on a consistent experience that was proof of the promise. That required not only the strategic approach but the implementation and management of the strategy as well. That package was the first version of our service offerings.
I’ve always used my “if that, then this” formula: If emotions and feelings move us to action – 90% of the time – and you create a brand experience that fulfills those desired outcomes, then you’ll get the Stakeholder to move to your desired action and gain brand equity: awareness, advocacy, loyalty, and longevity – that increases your bottom line.
So, I continued to expand my knowledge in behavioral science – professionally, which backed my superpower with research, education, data, and real-life case studies to support my approach.
Between late 2017 - 2018, I continued to provide strategic consulting and management through the one service package I had. The goal always being to build Brand Experiences, not just campaigns and trends, that could compete with the “big guys” through this unique strategic approach.
I partnered with local small businesses to sustain their experiences, despite dramatic budget & capacity differences, through memorable Brand Experiences fueled by feelings and emotions.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I wasn’t receiving any income for my consulting work so it was challenging to sustain but I stayed steadfast in my pursuit to obtain results through my approach in different industries. I received several new contracts through word of mouth from the work I was doing locally.
I didn’t have a plan for entrepreneurship because I was always taught to get a job/career and make a name for myself by association. Although that didn’t fulfill me or maximize my impact during the 12 years prior in Corporate – that was all I knew.
After my fourth contract, I promised myself that if I received another contract I was going to make it official and open my Firm. Two weeks later, I received an email from a Nonprofit looking for my services. We were scheduled to meet two days later at the coffee shop I was using as an office. I kept my promise to myself and got started on pushing Branperience into fruition – the launch.
I got started with about $65 in my bank account. I used about $25 for gas to pick my daughters up from school and make it to the meeting to sign our first official Stakeholder, under Branperience, at the coffee shop, which was free. I used about $3.50 to print a contract at the University, for about $0.10 a page.
Spent around $10.00 at the coffee shop buying myself a coffee and a bagel for my daughters to split for a snack. And by the time the meeting started, I had spent about $40 of the $65 I had to jump-start my business - the initial capital.
I was banking on closing that deal that day in the coffee shop to officially open Branperience. The proposal was for $1500 to manage three brands for 90 days. At the time I thought I did this grand cost analysis but it broke down to $500 a brand at 90 days each which was about $17 a day or $2 an hour or sometimes less on the 16-hour work days - wild times but it worked.
We closed the deal, signed our first official Stakeholder, used $350 to obtain an LLC and register the business, another $100 to create a Stakeholder portal, $150 on additional operations systems to help manage the brands, and invested $300 into putting on our first live activation to land addition Stakeholders with the results we were going to achieve post the 90 days with case studies + testimonials.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Within three months of launching Branperience, we secured three additional full-service Stakeholders through referrals from either a current Stakeholder, previous colleagues, friends, family, etc. We got our start from a referral and we’re extremely big on return on experience (ROX) and bring proof of the promise.
We value those relationships – and the impact & results we deliver is a direct reflection of that. Our approach is very unique but what’s even more unique is the approach we have to fostering Stakeholder loyalty. It’s very different from many agency/firm relationships. It’s about so much more than just the “work” when we’re collaborating and our Stakeholders can feel that.
We have a 91% retention rate year over year and we still have the very first Stakeholder that we signed in 2018. Our strategies are designed to build and support sustainable businesses beyond their time with us – we’re not just implementing plans that ensure that they need us to survive. Our relationships share a lot of common characteristics: trust, collaboration, chemistry, mutual respect, accountability, and honesty - and while it should be, that’s not always the norm in the branding and marketing space.
Stay disciplined and diligent in the process. Embrace the joy and stay steadfast in your pursuit.
Those intangibles keep our Stakeholders coming back and eager to spread the word in advocacy to those in need of that sort of partnership for their businesses. And most importantly, we’ve been able to prove that experiential is more of a principle than just a marketing tactic and we’ve yielded continuous results to support our approach.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have grown exponentially over the past five years, increasing our revenue year over year and minimizing our operating expenses – while growing our team. But, we’ve been bootstrapping since 2018 so our short-term and long-term goals look the same – to access capital.
With capital, we plan to expand the team to add more full-time employees to increase our capacity to take on additional Stakeholders on an annual basis. We also plan to expand our services to partner with additional government agencies and corporations for strategic consulting.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a business owner is to understand, embrace, and choose joy – every day. Choosing joy has been very advantageous for me, and I can’t express that enough. There are so many ebbs and flows within the business and it's tough to not get caught up in the singular desired emotions – like wanting to always feel happy.
Business ownership takes you on a whirlwind of emotions and feelings and joy allows you to not get caught up or throw in the towel when undesirable emotions like fear, sadness, anger, etc come at some point – even for a short while. Joy allows you to embrace those emotions and stay steadfast in your pursuit. And in my experience, that’s an important helpful concept to understand as a business owner.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Some of my personal favorites are Loomly, our Social Media + Campaign Management tool as it allows us to streamline our entire social media marketing process by managing the digital assets, storytelling, content, approving messaging, engaging our communities, measuring performance, and more.
Tableau is our data analytics platform that streamlines complex data making it digestible for us and our Stakeholders.
Milanote is our collaborative mind-mapping tool because as a visual learner, it allows me to convey my thoughts and insights through a storyboard process that everyone can access to keep us on one accord.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of the most influential books I’ve read was “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. It was gifted to me by one of my friends, Nicole Smith – a Life + Executive Coach and Founder of Smitn, after a conversation with her about my next steps in life and business. She’s amazing at identifying needs and this book was right on time.
The essence of the book surrounds doing less but better, to make the highest possible contribution. The book helps you adopt the Essentialism mindset, which if you’ve ever felt overworked, stretched too thin, busy but not productive then this concept and book would be extremely valuable.
It can be applied personally + professionally – which is great for us business owners because our mindset in our personal lives bleeds over into our businesses.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Invest in your mindset – personally + professionally. Your business habits are an extension of the person you are outside of the business - that’s why mindset in entrepreneurship is so important. Poor personal habits will bleed into your business, so continue to “work” on yourself in both aspects of your life.
Stay disciplined. There’s a big learning curve in entrepreneurship - especially in the beginning stages, so you have to stay disciplined and diligent in the process. Embrace the joy and stay steadfast in your pursuit.
Make decisions. Make them when you’re nervous, unsure, certain, etc for your business. It’s not necessarily the act of making decisions that is so frightening, it is the uncertainty of the results and repercussions of those decisions but that's where the power lies. On the other side of fear is freedom, so decide.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings