Inside a brandgym start-up: the Vrog story
A key part of our business model is creating time and energy for brandgym partners to pursue their personal passions. How? We have only senior partners, each running their own business, with a shared set of values, principles, tools and processes. This frees up time as we have no junior teams to manage/hire/fire or to find work for, no management meetings and no infrastructure (most of us have home offices).
One of the most exciting examples of this approach is the start-up business called Vrog launched by Anne Charbonneau, our partner in Amsterdam, and her hubbie Peter. This is a huge and exhilarating sports venue where you can do free-running/parkour and trampoline.
Here are a few of Anne's learnings from life inside the start-up.
We started with 2 insights and passion points: 1. The growing need we saw for urban youth to move more and practice sport with more pleasure, 2. The frustration we had in the Netherlands with going to kids birthday parties in the zoo, playground or laser game places and being bombarded with junk food, sweets, crips and fries. Based on these, my husband and I launched Vrog, which is both a hard core sport venue and training centre for free-running and a cool hotspot for kids' parties.
It’s a hugely competitive category so I can’t share our strategy and marketing secrets, but here are a few insights on what it is like to run a start up like VROG, in addition to my day-job of being a brand coach:
1. Find a great brand name:
If you like in the UK, Netherlands or US, you’ve probably seen trampoline park mushrooming like crazy. They all have pretty explicit names combining words like Jump/High/Sky/Mega/park, in various orders.
We wanted something different. The idea of Vrog came from one of those morning coffee with one of our entrepreneur friend. We started from Frog, but to make it less childish, we swapped the F for a V, which in Dutch is pronounced V.
Having an intriguing and non-descriptive name has many benefits: you can evolve your business offering more freely if you want to. You can be found more easily in Google search. And you have a little story to tell.
Our logo was done by a top creative designer who totally got our vision to NOT be a happy clappy children playground, but to convey sport credentials and cool.
2. Get people involved:
We got into crowdfunding from the start of the project. Crowdfunding is not just a way to finance your project, it is also a way for you to profile yourself business and build a network of early fans that commit to your project. Even if you have financing, it forces you to sharpen up your pitch, a useful thing to do anyway.
3. Micro marketing:
One of the exciting things I have discovered from running a bricks and mortar business is how you can use social media at a very local scale. What we’ve found in our months of activity is that even for local stuff, people still search online. So everyday, depending on school holiday or the weather, we adapt our online activity to connect with our target customers.
4. WOW (ways of working) from the start:
I know from my brandgym experience that ways of working (WOW) can make a huge difference to outcome and performance. So, from the start I tried to design WOW with the team at Vrog with this in mind. It is easy when you’re a start up to rely on informal ‘catch-ups’. You can end up running at high speed without ever stopping to take stock and reflect.
We do proper weekly reviews. And we use some key techniques such as the 10 minute rule: anything you can do in less that 10 minutes, do it now not later. Ruthless prioritisation from a huge and diverse list of to-do’s is also key: from finding the right supplier for cereal bars to preparing a presentation your business to the city council!
In conclusion, launching a start-up whilst having a day-job is challenging. But its given me a chance to apply my brandgym experience on a real-life, personal project which is really satisfying. And I'm hoping to take some of the learning back into my brandgym work.