This is my story and a collection of my work.
What you will find here are photographs and videos that come from my efforts in event production, branded content creation, and story telling.
my STORY SO FAR…
I’ll start with this:
I was in Philly starting in 2000 and got a degree in Industrial Design at the University of the Arts. Why art school? I originally intended to go to school for political science but felt that artists and advertisers held more sway over culture and change. The verdict is still out if I’m right or not.
Philly is flat, so if you want to climb outside, you need to get creative. Climbing gear on hand, we looked around for vertical surfaces to session. Derived from the term “bouldering,” we called it “buildering.” This idea became a project as I was finishing up my senior year. Could I create a product for a potential white space “sport.” Was it absurd? Sure, but it also lead me to investigating climbing culture further and experiencing what happens when you are willing to pick up the phone and step out your door.
Basically, school kid meets real world.
A series of serendipitous meetings lead to me writing the “Finish Hold” for a new magazine called Urban Climber. Unknowingly, I had just provided a stamp of approval for my first job interview in San Francisco weeks later.
“What do you need?”
Chrome didn’t exactly hire me at first. I just kept showing up. Every day. For a month. No job description, no plan, just putting effort into whatever was needed. This resulted in product photography, sales catalogues, trade show materials, advertising creative, and a website upgrade into the newly minted Web 2.0.
As a first job, Chrome set a high bar on the employment experience. We were working with a cultural moment; “Messengers” were cool, an affordable Post-DotCom San Francisco, the start of the urban migration by Millennials, a rise in bicycles as transportation (pre-Uber), gentrification of cities globally, and investments in and attention around the outdoor industry. The once niche outdoor market had begun appealing to mainstream audiences as fleeces gave way to puffy jackets. Not a bad moment to jump in with city-appropriate, reliable, cost-effective, weatherproof gear. A scene I’d be returning to a couple years later, but first, hats.
Systems & stories are good for sales.
I landed at Goorin, a San Francisco millinery brand with extensive production in China. Four generations deep in selling hats, the Goorin family had successfully rode the economic wave since 1895 in one fashion or another. While archiving the extensive family history for use in future marketing materials and telling the Goorin history, the strength of having a singular brand story to support a takeover of marketshare was apparent.
In a relatively short time there, I learned a lot. Larger than Chrome, there were systems there that needed to function to produce roughly 300 SKUs per season. One could not strong arm your way though that many styles without a database. Especially when you were working simultaneously on 4 consecutive seasons in different phases of design, production, and sales. Seeing the problem, I proposed and then implemented FileMaker to modernize the design and production process, ensure real time communication between departments, and develop accurate sales materials for wholesale and Ecomm on the fly. Lastly I’ll add, only having one noun for hundreds of semantically different styles taught me a couple things about copy writing.
We got the band back together.
With the same crew I worked with at Chrome, we started Mission Workshop. In 2009, down an alleyway in what was once referred to as “The Messenger Ghetto,” surrounded by taquerias and dive bars, we rolled up our sleeves and refurbished an old warehouse to call home.
In roughly a year’s time, this product-first brand was globally recognized. We introduced unique products like this into the then crowded “messenger bag” market and created sustainable growth. We incorporated music, product overviews, bikes and distant locations like this. I was given a gift as a marketer - an enduring product. It never fell short of the promises that it made to customers around the world. So we headed out to meet our customers in their own cities and ride their trails with them as the brand grew.
Mission Workshop became a “Best in Class” gear brand.
The product line was driven from a simple point of view; we were making product we wanted and couldn’t find. As it turned out, it also set in motion new standards and trends as our work got others to think about how they could be their “best.” It was product you would save up for as you progressed in your own endeavors.
Digging deeply into any topic creates expertise. We started to celebrate and work with experts we respected, like photographer Mattias Fredriksson, company founders like Mike Sinyard, hard working journalists like John Watson, along with up and coming creative talent like Kauas Creative, Luke Abiol, and Perrin James. You hang around with people like this, and it starts to rub off on you. We found ourselves pushing everything we could do to be better and we sought out others who felt the same way.
We threw parties, like, everywhere.
Over the years, Mission Workshop SF became known locally as a spot to enjoy free beer on a school night, learn about a bike brand, or get Free Bicycle Coffee on Friday.
Growing a small brand required collaboration. Thanks to the ever-traveling Lyle Barton, we worked with great people all over the world. As it turns out, companies get by with a little help from their friends, and Lyle has a lot of friends.
We were not phoning it in, we went there.
The “field test” captured by Daniel Wakefield Paisley, culminated in a poster insert in Bike Magazine by Chris McNally to hype the Acre brand launch at Interbike that year. Where we showed off our gear with photos and book with the work of photographer Dan Barham, by partnering with Santa Cruz Bikes, SRAM, and Trans-Provence. This book below and other MW identity work by Lyndi Priest, who’s arrival at MW completely elevated the brand look.
We asked pioneers how this all came about.
In my effort to launch the Acre brand, I needed a better understanding of Mountain Biking. It’s been around for only a handful of decades, and those who made it happen are still around for the most part, so we asked them. A couple of guys at Bike Magazine, Mark Milutin and Morgan Meredith were not only supportive of this they also had all the connections to bring the founders of iconic MTB brands to tell their story and take questions from a not only the live audience, but from social media as well for those able to watch the live feed no matter where they were in the world. Trek for instance, used this Ask A Founder talk with Keith Bontrager to better inform their UK team about this legendary engineer and his unbreakable bikes. Photo by the hardest working photographer I know, John Watson. Jump to the Conversations page for highlights of the Ask A Founder talk series.
Time to snuggle up with new friends.
Seeing success in fun, comfort, and Kickstarter, I decided to help develop the then year-old Rumpl brand. After six years of serious dudes in dimly lit industrial spaces, the chance to spread the word of coziness felt like a good change.
It was also a cultural reset for me. The casual attitude of a “sleeping bag blanket” brand is welcome everywhere. Founder Wylie Robinson has a way about him that cultivates good will and community. Echoing his mind set in marketing strategies yielded excellent results.
Again, we took advantage of cultural winds - this time, the ones that brought us #Vanlife, AirBnB-ing A-Frame cabins, food trucks and evenings in city parks, backcountry ‘grammable camp fires and we brought our blankets with us. We made friends in each area and grew our brand through social media organically. This groundswell peaked the interest of REI whose adoption of the line brought ever-more exposure to a young brand that took the risk to innovate in a formerly untouched category.
Blankets and parties.
It was this friendly disposition that resulted in Rumpl bringing about the first Outpost in Bodega Bay. This photo by Jules Davies shows how we thought business for active lifestyle brands should be done. We proved that money spent on trade shows could be better invested by bringing the tribe together.
As this heavenly photo captured by Aly Nicklas depicts, blanket, wine, pencil, and vacuum-sealed mug companies can show off each other’s best traits by working together. At Outpost, we removed the booths from the trade show model and replaced them with fun brand experiences. This made for fertile ground for networking and collaborations between traditional media, young influencers, and like-minded brands.
Experience > Ad.
As this photo by Linnea Boullion captures, hurling your body though space and time has nothing to do with social media likes, promotional content, or post sponsorship. Life is only as exciting as you can live it in the real world. This principle is the driving force behind #outposttrade.
Cross-pollinating between brands changed our approach to event space, content collaborations, and led to the development of “micro-events” - happenings created with handful of brands, in an intimate setting. From this, the Outpost agency roster grew quickly from the rolodex of event partners.
Familiar roads with fresh bikes and a new outlook.
My interest in motorcycles started in the Chrome days in San Francisco. My approach to capturing content on the fly and Outpost’s growing client list allowed me to work with Harley-Davidson® to create content that demonstrated the value of passion for the things you can’t get from behind a desk or in front of a screen.
While my point of view has grown and broadened, my direction has remained constant – look inward to discover your interest and look outward for like-minded individuals to make things happen.
Working with long-time friends on new projects.
I again had the opportunity to work with Mark Falvai, bag designer and co-founder of Chrome and Mission Workshop. This time it was to document the bags that he had developed to house the telecommunications equipment used in Mars deployment simulation exercises by NASA’s BASALT research project.
Utilizing the Arkiv® modular system we had launched in Berlin years earlier, Mark made an innovative backpack harness system to best fit each team member to carry the delicate equipment in rugged terrain with intense weather conditions.
Shooting in Kilauea was an unforgettable opportunity that I’ll probably mention to you over drinks at some point.
So what now?
I’ve started Exact Change, a consultancy focusing on sustainable brand development and marketing, utilizing the experiences I’ve outlined here.
Living in Sacramento, new ideas of civic involvement and branded advocacy are starting to percolate. More on that later as this new chapter unfolds.
If you want to work on something together, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org