Blogcast #22 Lauren Jones: Branding Genius and Founder/CEO of Boudica

Lauren Jones – Branding Genius and Founder/CEO of Boudica

Rebecca: Hello and welcome to The Entrepreneurial Journey podcast. Today I have Lauren Jones with me, who’s the founder of Brand by Budke. Hello, Lauren. How are you?

Lauren: Hi, Becca. Very good. Thanks for having me.

Rebecca: It’s all right. We’re laughing. This is our third attempt at doing this. It keeps crashing. So yeah, bear with us now, Lauren, you are a brand consultancy and we’ve known each other for how long?

Lauren: Probably nearly 10 years now.

Rebecca: Right. Cool. And you helped me right back at the beginning to devise and create the Tricres brand, which for which we are eternally grateful. So thank you very much for that. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is your experience of rebranding your own business, how it came about and what the process was like. So talk us through that.

Lauren: Oh gosh. Well, we turned seven in October last year, which is when we not uncoincidentally launched the rebrand. So after seven years, it was probably beyond time to do it. I think the moment that you feel that, I always call it the itch to scratch, from the moment you start to fill that with your brand to the time it’s ready for launch, it can usually at least six months. And by that time, sometimes you fall out of love with things or you’ve outgrown it already. I think the minute you start to feel that itch, and I think we started to feel that probably about a year ago, so it was a little bit overdue. We actually changed our whole company name and everything. So it wasn’t just an identity, I mean like a visual identity and verbal identity change. It was a complete relaunch.

And so yeah, we just knew that we had outgrown it for some time and we then had to walk our own walk and go through our own processes. And what was quite nice about that, that matched with the pain of that having to gone through what my clients go through now was for us to be able to test really stress test and pressure test our own processes. And we’ve really honed them over the years and we’ve layered in our growing experience and findings and other trainings with yourself with and NLP, we’ve managed to really finesse and refine things over time. That’s allowed us to work far richer and deeper with our clients. And so to do it on ourselves, even when it is for yourself, it’s still important to do those steps and to document it and to be very, very particular about it. That being said, it is quite a painful process to go through. How do you honour what’s been and build something new that’s going to kind of carry you through for the next seven years or however long? So yeah, having had gone through it now, I really have a lot of empathy for my clients.

Rebecca: Yeah. Your business has grown from when I first knew you, I mean way back, it was just you and I think you’ve got a team of eight freelancers now.

Lauren: Yes. We’ve got quite a smaller MI team. We cover everything from digital design, pure graphic design, other great strategists, verbal identities, strategists and copywriters, web develop, I mean the whole kit and caboodle. We’ve got people all over that we work with regularly.

Rebecca: But your secret sauce is this brand and really digging deep into the personality and the ethos of the business. And you’ve taken it to the States now, how did that come about? You’re based in Essex?

Lauren: I am based in Essex by the Sea. How did it come about? It was quite a serendipitous meeting of a particular individual through an acquaintance of both of ours. And I actually rebranded. She was also a brand consultant, but very much from a marketing lens and the creative aspect and bringing it to life. She didn’t have that skillset. So I was working with her in her business and building her consultancy, and we just kind of connected and clicked and she kind of realised there was a good marriage of skills there and turned into kind of a mental model. And we worked together for a little while and she brought me into a client of hers in the States and it kind of went from there. I mean, I think the biggest growth in the States has been through building relationships. The word of mouth is strong over there, I would say, than here. And the groups and the networks of people that I’ve been working with have very much been generous in recommendations and basically saying you need her. And that’s been a really good way to have other conversations with other organisations and foundations.

Rebecca: So for our entrepreneurial listeners, it’s through a friend of a friend. They were asking you for some help about branding their own business. You ended up working together, they made introductions, and you’re often away and you work with foundations in the United States. Not everybody in the UK knows what a foundation is. Can you explain that?

Lauren: Sure. So foundation can be born out of a few different avenues, but often they come out of a thing called family office, which can be high net worth individuals that put their money into for investment and what have you. And then from that, they may set up a foundation, which is basically a philanthropic arm. It can come in a number of guises. Sometimes it’s the check writing grant making. Sometimes it can be more programmatic, which is where I tend to work in. So people that then will find people to support, offer them some funding and also some resources and programmatic support that can be quite specialised, such as visibility in communications or filmmaking or arts programming. So yeah, it’s a philanthropic endeavour usually from a high net worth individual family.

Rebecca: And you are involved in one in particular, and you’ve been involved from day one. Tell us about that

Lauren: Elevate found. Oh gosh, yeah, real honoured to be working with them still. So they’re based in Miami. They’re called the Elevate Price Foundation. And yes, we’re just last week announced our fourth cohort of winners, and they’re on a mission to make good famous, and they do that through visibility storytelling. They have a number of another initiatives within the foundation, which has grown obviously in four years, pretty quickly. And they have various number of awards. They leverage celebrities that use their platform for good. They work with grassroots foundations and nonprofits and fund and resource them. They also find other great entrepreneurs doing great work. And there’s a social media award as well, which is even smaller organisations called Get Loud, which is a great initiative for young up and coming organisations to get up to $25,000 a month, which is great.

Rebecca: Is that prize open to non-US organisations? Yes.

Lauren: They just have to have a certain categorization and everything for the Get Loud Award. It’s themed every month. So it’s constantly changing and yes, gaining a lot of traction. And that’s opened up partnerships with people like YouTube for the Streamers awards. They now sponsor one of their awards for social impact on social media. So it’s really opened up a lot of avenues for them to get their brand out into different audiences with a really core, very strong message about making good famous, they’re covering all their bases.

Rebecca: I’m a trustee for the Women’s Fund for Scotland, and they produce an excellent podcast. It’s really good, actually, I wonder if I should get them to enter that for that award. That wouldn’t be a bad idea. Idea,

Lauren: Yeah, why not? Alright.

Rebecca: Okay. Alright. Food for thought. So that’s led you onto a whole host of work and a lot of people, their heart is in the not-for-profit sector and they really want to give back. I think people find it hard sometimes to make a living out of that, but what I’ve noticed with the foundations you work with, they’re really serious about investing in their own growth as a foundation. And what differences do you see between the UK sort of charity sector and the US Foundation sector?

Lauren: I mean, it’s an interesting question in that my experience with the UK sector isn’t great. We have slightly different categorizations of nonprofits, charities, 5 0 1 3 Cs and what have you. I think they operate slightly differently. What I would say, what I’ve noticed in the States is the investing in the impact, they’re very, very passionate around amplifying the good and trying to make their impact. It’s like a ripple effect. Amplify their impact, they can do more good and it self perpetuates. So they really focus on where can you get your biggest bang for your buck And for this day and age, marketing, communications, brand campaigns, exposure, visibility is one way to do that. And sadly, equally in the same breath, it’s usually the first thing to be cut. If it’s in terms of funding, especially, I mean in any organisation, it’s always got its head on a block, the first thing to go.

But particularly with nonprofits, if they’re trying to get engagement, they still need the activation of the audience. And that’s to do something. It’s either to donate their money, their time to engage with their content, sign a petition, buy some merch, whatever it is, you still need that emotional hook that you would have in a commercial space. So if you are really clear with the message why it really, and you are able to package that in an eloquent way that’s going to grab people’s attention, it’s equally as important. Brand is equally as important for them as it is for any commercial entity.

Rebecca: Yeah, I agree totally. And you’re right. I think the foundations in the US get that and perhaps some of the larger charities in the UK get that. Definitely. I think sometimes the smaller charities, it’s seen rightly so. They’re focusing on their core activities if they’re tiny charities, and I know the Women’s Fund is one of the things our recipients of the grants have asked for is that the women’s fund is their voice can amplify their voice. They don’t have the resources to do that. So very kindly, a foundation that funds us allocated money and said, look, use that to amplify other people’s voices. And we’ve used it to hire a social media person so that we can showcase the work we do and raise other people up. So completely get that, and it’s been fantastic. The podcast has been a part of that, so it’s really helped. Definitely interesting.

Sometimes I look at what you do and think you create these incredible brands almost out of nothing. You have some crazy entrepreneurial foundation owner like myself going, I’ve got this idea. I think it might look and sound like this. And you come up with these colours and styles and beautiful stories. They are, they tell, each sort of brand you put together tells a lovely story. Where do you get your inspiration from when you’re working with clients

Lauren: From them?

Rebecca: Okay.

Lauren: I mean, one of the things I always say when we enter our first round of workshops after our discovery phase is we are just putting a mirror up, but we reflect back what we’ve heard from team stakeholders, stake maybe happy clients or other people that are involved in the organisation, beneficiaries of the organisation. We speak to as many people as we can that have a 360 view on the thing, which sometimes you can have a one dimensional view on the thing when you’re in it. So we speak to as many people as we can and we speak to them and we ask people to also write and speaking to an NLP. We know that that accesses different parts of the brain. So we get lots of varied different responses even from the same individual when we engage them in different contexts. So we spend months, sometimes months in that to really hear and see what people are saying and how they view the organisation.

And we kind of then just piece bits together. We see the common threads and we just pull on those. And every now and again, you might get the odd little glimmer of another nugget, which could lead to something else that maybe other people haven’t seen of. So really the inspiration comes from them. Their work is all there and they just need someone with a bit of perspective and that ability to kind of connect the dots to really put that mirror up to it and maybe shine any light on it. So I mean, that’s an endless stream of inspiration from these people. They are doing such great work. I call it the good work. They are really doing life-changing work. So they are constant inspiration for us all.

Rebecca: And through Elevate, I know you work with the individual prize winners, which has taken you to the far-flung corners of the world. Tell me about one of the individual projects that you’ve worked with recently that’s most inspired you.

Lauren: Oh gosh. It’s a fabulous woman called Cindy Eggleton in Detroit. We were just talking about it this morning. It’s quite emotional project to be working on. It is quite an honour to be working with this organisation. They are born out of Detroit. They have developed a highly flexible, yet hyper-local and highly effective model to connect community and resources right in the heart of the neighbourhoods that really need them. I mean, I could talk about them all day, but they have the opportunity to scale and it’s coming thick and fast and far quicker. So we are trying to catch up and build not just the Detroit arm, but the bigger global lens on what this organisation will be because the opportunities are already there from UK, Germany, as well as there’s at least eight other cities across the states that want to adopt it to smart group. But more than just a smart group of people, they truly care. And there’s not one member of team that don’t have that same feel. And I think that that’s a real testament that they have embedded their values across the organisation so that they have attracted the right people for them that can represent the brand and deliver in the communities time and time again.

Rebecca: So how does their model work?

Lauren: Their model works by listening first. They don’t have a cookie cutter approach that they go round to these neighbourhoods and go, we’ve got the solution, this is what we’re going to do. They actually wait until they’re invited by the people in the neighbourhood. So that’s kind of a bit of word of mouth and going, well, so-and-so is aware of it. There’s an awareness piece in the community. Then they actively ask for it. They go through five listening sessions where they get lots of different people in the community to really understand what it is that they need. And then their model is to find, in Detroit, they use old disused buildings, usually residential property. In other cities it may be different. It might be a corner store or an old warehouse, what have you. But they engage with the local community and renovate it, and they create these hubs or homes that people can come to.

And not only does it employ local people and engage and build awareness and sense of community, they paint the door orange, which is their brand colour. So everyone can see it on the street that they have a, it’s called Brilliant Detroit, A brilliant home, sort of a hub in their community. And then basically they kind of act as the connectors. There’s all these fantastic resources already being put on by local governments or local authorities that can’t get the access to the neighbourhoods that they need. They might be housed like a centre in the middle of the city, but people from the neighbourhoods can’t get there for whatever reason. So they bring all of these resources that they’ve heard that were required into this hub, and so everyone can get access to it.

Rebecca: Oh, brilliant. Genius. Absolute genius. Now I’m going to circle back to you, Lauren, because we’ve talked a lot about your work, which is fantastic. And your old brand was Box Creative, and your new brand is brand by Boudica. So how did Brand by Boudica come to be named Brand by Boudica?

Lauren: It was like, I’m sure other people have this when something really calls to you. I was reading a book by Dr. Sharon Blackie called If Women Rose Rooted Every book, but very good. And one of the tales, and it was quite a flippant, it wasn’t like an in-depth story about Boudica, but it was just this paragraph that talked about her and what she stood for and the social justice and the uniting of her people and other tribes to kind of rise up against the Romans in 66 ad. And there was something, I’m highly visual, so just seeing the word I had this visceral reaction to, because it’s quite a beautiful word to look at. And then hearing her story, it really, I felt something that really resonated with the work of the people that I support in the brand work that I do. And I thought there was a real resonance with her endeavours. And the people that I work with far less bloody these days. Far less story and brutal, but the sentiment felt very aligned. And so yeah, I just started looking into her and it just kind of clicked

Rebecca: Fabulous, because you recommended that book to me. And I read it last summer whilst I was on holiday, and I think I devoured it in about three days. Absolutely loved it. And at the same time I was listening to a podcast on BBC Sounds called Witch.

Lauren: Of course you were.

Rebecca: Yeah, I was immersing myself in the divine feminine reconnecting with nature whilst in Italy, living the Italian Dolce Vita and thinking, God, this is great. I love it.

Lauren: Who’d be you?

Rebecca: Yeah, and understanding the power of feminine energy, and I think that’s probably the best way of describing it and the book, and I would recommend it to anybody to read, is about how that feminine energy has often been crushed and oppressed and because it’s so powerful, because it’s so connected to nature and birth and life giving and all of those things. And it’s absolutely fascinating to read the history about it. So bringing that back to entrepreneurship, one of the things I observe out there is an increase in feminine energy across businesses. And I don’t know, I know you work with a lot of women, but you also work with a lot of men. What do you observe that’s happening out there?

Lauren: I’m really glad you brought this up because I’ve had these epiphanies over the last year or so about the role of feminine energy in the work that I do. And that took me down a few rabbit holes of research. And just to be clear, for those who may go, well, don’t make it about men versus women. It’s really, really not. The feminine energy is really strong in a lot of male leaders, good male leaders that lean into, and like you said, there’s the nurturing side, there’s the sense of community, the less hierarchical approach, the greater good, the bigger impact, the bigger than themselves. It’s not individualistic kind of approach to leadership. So I can see, obviously having worked in foundations, philanthropy and nonprofits, I’m surrounded with that sort of energy and female founders. I work a lot with too. I feel a lot of that anyway, that energy, I’m around that.

But equally tying that into the work that we do in terms of how to make those connections to unite people together, if it’s following a cause or to take action, it’s a very feminine, energetically feminine space. So I’m kind of intrigued with joining the lots of that conversation, which I’m kind of in the middle of, which is, I’m glad you brought up. But I can see that there is a bit more of an openness to what that means in terms of building business, in terms of leadership, in terms of how we can raise impact and how more important, and I’m not just talking about CSR, the rise of B Corp and things like that. There’s much more micro activations of the thing that can have a big impact with teams. In particular

Rebecca: For me. And you’re absolutely right to point out that men and women have feminine energy and men and women have masculine energy. And the word energy is specifically chosen. It’s not about masculinity or femininity. It is an energy without a shadow of a doubt. And if anybody wants to look that up, the best thing to look up is the Chinese yin yang symbol, and it describes the energies that need to be balanced out. But coming back to the micro and the community, I think that’s a feminine energy because the feminine energy is in the home. It’s about nurturing, it’s about community. And I think businesses now are much more aware of their impact on community and how important they are in the community, whether it’s a one person business or a 500, 5,000 person business, it doesn’t matter.

And I think, I actually think the role of business, yes, we make profit in order to reinvest, and part of that reinvestment has to be in the community, not just back into the business itself. And I think we’re beginning to realise that that’s where change happens. It’s not in a big governmental organisation. It’s actually the grassroots ground level. And you’ve seen some amazing changes with the organisations you’ve been working with. There was one you were telling me about in India, which educates kids. Just tell everybody about that because that’s a beautiful example of this.

Lauren: Yeah, it is a great example of that. If you can change behaviours and activate en mass, then that is the ripple effects to, well, you need both actually. You do need systemic change to support it, but it can start at the grassroots level, which is what the Detroit project is kind of proving. But the one in India, it’s called Rocket Learning, and they have utilised a growing tech that’s now much more readily available in India, which is smartphones, and they use them and WhatsApp in particular, and content to deliver at-home education activities for rural mothers and caregivers and community workers as well for kids under six. So all child brain development is largely happens before six years old, and yet the education system doesn’t support that. And India had great moves in recent decades to focus on nourishment and nutrition, and these community workers have largely been in the space of making sure that they’re nourished.

And now they’re realising that actually it’s not just about just nourishment, it’s also education. So they’re trying to engage on that systemic level for the community workers to have both in the classroom, but you also need the caregiver at the home to be doing both those roles too. So the education piece or the stimulation and growth mentally and the nutrition too. So they’re a tech company. They’ve got some very, very bright people in the team, five co-founders or phenomenal. And they are making a huge impact because they are at grassroots level, and they’re able to have the relationships at a government level to be able to have that distribution model. So with the huge population that there is in India, the impact can be huge.

Rebecca: Yeah, I think that model should be adopted in the UK actually.

Lauren: Great. It should be everywhere.

Rebecca: It should be everywhere we think with this sophisticated developed nation. But so many of our young children, not six, don’t have access to that level of educational play and stimulation, and so many of their parents don’t have access to that kind of nutritional support either. And that when you were telling me about that last week, I was thinking, God, my eldest daughter is a trainee social worker and five years thinking most of her clients could do with this. And it’s so simple, and it’s not expensive, I don’t think, is it to deliver? No,

Lauren: It’s $1 50 a year per child to run that with the tech that they have and they’re expanding. And I think the scary statistic that I learned, actually, I think it was from the Detroit organisation, they’re very aligned. Those two in terms of through literacy trying to support the community, is that people that come from under-resourced and underserved areas, the children, by the time they’re six to eight, have heard 30 million words less than those that are in other environments and more privileged backgrounds. And so they’re really trying to tackle that because the longer term impact of that is huge. If you invest in it this age, who knows what great business people and world leaders and scientists and what have you is going to come out of that because the opportunities are there for them.

Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I’m going to ask you this question. I ask it of everybody, Lauren, and if your business had a personality or character, who would it be? But this is too easy for you.

Lauren: Oh, dear. Well, I don’t think mine’s changed. I did this a little while ago, and there’s an element of box still that’s around. I mean, obviously Boudica is a huge influence to me, but previously, and there’s still a bit of that hang around is a mix of Mary Poppins and Jonathan Van Ness, because I mean, I don’t think you can not smile and be inspired by Jonathan Van Ness at any moment. We don’t have quite the outlandishness, but there’s a little glimmer of bringing a bit of joy and kindness to people and the Mary Poppins-esque. We have a few sayings that we adopt that sound a bit Mary Poppins-esque, and in terms of being the mix of methodical and caring and organised and having a bottomless bag of tools that we draw on. Yeah, that’s kind of how we describe

Rebecca: Ourselves. Right. You’re going to have to tell me who Jonathan Van Ness is because I don’t know.

Lauren: Oh,

Rebecca: I dunno.

Lauren: Queer Eye on Netflix.

Rebecca: That’s right. You keep telling me to watch that, don’t you? And I haven’t got around to it. Right. Okay. Right now, I know who, he’s the Mary Poppins of that world, isn’t he? Really?

Lauren: Well, you should watch it. He’s something else.

Rebecca: I’ll watch it. So yes,

Lauren: He’s just fabulous in every way.

Rebecca: Right. I’ll watch it. Okay, cool. I’ll get around to it. Yeah, right. Lauren, that’s amazing. It’s a delight and a pleasure to talk to you as always. Thank you so much for your time. I know you are crazy busy. Thank you.

Lauren: Oh, pleasure. Always, always got time for you and your listeners.