What the hell has been happening?

Some people reading this won’t care, but some people have said they’re enjoying the open and honest “behind-the-scenes of building a startup” side of this story, so I’ve forced myself to put away the work and sit down and write another chapter – this one simply an update.

Which I shall attempt to make not boring.

Because it’s not, for me. It’s been quite exciting, actually. And VERY exhausting. And stressful. And frustrating. And elating.

I don’t want to just share the facts with you, but my experience with it all. So here you go!

Two major projects have dominated the last couple of months for Cult Tribal – Parcelpoint and Makefree May.

Parcelpoint was our very first partner (still not bloody comfortable with that word, ha! But I’m sticking with it, hoping it’ll start to feel more natural). Some of you might have read my very first post, back in September last year. If you haven’t you can read it here.

I was a bit of a mess. Afraid, actually. Unsure. Julian, Parcelpoint founder and CEO, called me, after that post, and we talked about many things, mostly human things about trying to build and lead a company, but also about the rebrand he was attempting, and how he wasn’t so happy with it.

Anyway, Parcelpoint became Cult Tribal’s first partner, as I’ve said, and we dove into trying to uncover the truth about their WHY – their purpose, what they stood for.

There’s always a purpose, I’ve come to trust. It isn’t always there when founders launch their startup, and it may have changed over time, but it’s always there, if you can uncover it. It’s a truth, and there’s only one true purpose for each brand, and it’s always connected with a fundamental human need.

For Parcelpoint, it was connection.

Their purpose is to help people feel more connected, by bringing the communities we live in together to help each other.

With things like getting a parcel to you, wherever you are, whenever you like, in their instance, but more broadly than that.

Why? Why is this important to them, to the world?

To feel connected, to feel part of something, part of a community – this is something we all crave. Belonging.

And for all the online social connection that is possible in this world, still we find ourselves more disconnected from our own local communities than ever.

For Parcelpoint, they liked the idea of a community where everyone knows their neighbours.

What do they stand for? Corner store connection. This was the core idea around which we built the brand.

That feeling that comes from being in a new place, and you find the local bakery in the morning, and they do fresh croissants and the baker’s name is Annette; you find the laundromat and they’re open until midnight; you find the corner store and Gerry behind the counter welcomes you to the neighbourhood.

That’s corner store connection.

People helping each other, with things like looking after your parcel until you can come and collect it.

And the feeling of connection that comes with it – that is at the heart of what we need as humans.

How did we figure all this out? A workshop. A day with Julian and Tash, their Head of Marketing, just talking. I have since (fourteen workshops later) developed a bit of a methodology, but then it was mostly just probing questions and honest, human answers.

And so, armed with that understanding of the HEART of the brand, I started articulating all of it – the what, the how, the why, the brand pillars, tone of voice, the cultural values, and then we started designing the new look and feel, around this idea of Corner Store Connection.

After not getting quite there with a design studio, I engaged a designer named Tom Lucey who worked out of The Commons co-working space in Collingwood, where I was working. It was a better way to work for me. We got to sit down and shape things side by side, and he would produce these inspiration Stylescapes in the development phase, which was perfect for a non-designer brand person like me.  

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. It’s not easy to all agree on the new look of a brand, I have discovered, and I empathise with all the designers out there who put meaning into their designs, and purpose, only to be asked “can you do it in red?”.

But Tash and Julian were good to work with, and we got there. They needed to build a new website, and so I brought on Nick and Andrew from Lynx Digital, who also worked out of the co-working space. They had helped me get the Cult Tribal site up (just this basic blog at this stage, but soon to be much more!), and I liked working with them.

Still, I didn’t know really what their capabilities were, and it was quite a complex project. So we all flew up to Sydney to spend some time with the Parcelpoint tech team to figure out if we could do it. They’re quite smart, Nick and Andrew, as it turns out, and so we started building the new site, plus about a hundred design assets for this brand that had 1500 Parcelpoint agencies around the country, and 200 major retail partners.

I think it’s come up well. Have a look, tell me if you think it evokes what Parcelpoint stands for – Corner Store Connection.

https://www.parcelpoint.com.au

There’s more to come, but it’s the biggest project we’ve delivered so far. And in the process, Cult Tribal found itself a dev team and a designer.

I’ve worked with some very talented people before, but this was just easy. We all spoke the same language, we were all very human and egoless through the whole process. They’re just NICE people, and smart, and good at what they do, and they CARE. And do you know what? That is the job description, in my opinion.

Second big project has been Makefree May. This is our own project. And it terrifies me, and it makes me so proud.

The idea for Makefree may came from a discussion with Eliza, who has since joined Cult Tribal. It was the night before I was doing a workshop with Renee, founder of Cinch Skin.

I had met with Renee, and I really liked her. She was in the trenches, building this company pretty much alone, bootstrapping, with a four month old baby and a toddler. That is the founder spirit, right there.

But I was having a bit of a values crisis. I didn’t know much about cosmetics, or skincare, nor did I particularly care for any of it. Who was I to be charging this founder a lot of money to help uncover the truth of what she stood for?

In every other workshop I had done, I had gone in with some inkling of where it was going to lead. I could sense the truth. But with Cinch, I didn’t know. I wasn’t connected with the brand, or what they did. I just really respected Renee, and I really wanted to help her.

Eliza and I talked about this concept that Renee had shared with me during our meetup beforehand, how after her experiences as a teenager, which were quite traumatic, that she just wanted girls to feel like it was okay to be themselves, whoever they were, whatever they looked like. The Cinch brand didn’t really reflect that yet, but it was certainly in Renee’s heart.

We had this idea of a “Makeup free” instagram campaign for the brand, but soon realised that such a thing, to be done properly, was bigger than any brand. It was a movement. An important one.

This became an idea for a “Movember” type of thing – a peer to peer fundraising campaign where women could go a month without makeup, to raise money for some charity that was all about empowering women.

That’s how Makefree may was born. Here’s the site, it’s launched, people are joining, and starting to raise money, it’s quite something:

https://www.makefreemay.org/

“Wow, you’re sticking your head in the lion’s mouth with this one, André,” Paul, my mentor and Cult Tribal’s chairperson, told me when I ran the idea past him.

“Good cause, but you really want to be telling women what they can and can’t do with their makeup?”

That was a very good point, and indeed the first thing that happened in the campaign was that I shut the hell up and started gathering good women who cared about this to be the campaign’s ambassadors.

Here’s the messaging. Have a read, and I’ll tell you how THAT came about:

“This May we invite you to go makeup free to raise money for the Human Kind Project, educating and empowering women and transforming lives and communities around the world.

Why makeup? Who cares? And what has it got to do with empowering and educating women and transforming lives?

It’s not just about makeup, which is so normal in our culture, and for many of us simply a form of self-expression.

It’s about freedom.

The freedom to choose, the freedom to question, and a chance to express gratitude for these freedoms we’re afforded, by supporting those who have less.

By going bare, just for a month, we give ourselves a chance to connect with and love our raw, natural selves in all our glorious diversity and imperfection, and we get to show our girls that we are each of us enough, whatever we choose.

Because for some of us, and increasingly for girls growing up exposed to so many expectations of “beauty”, we feel pressure to change the way we look.

This an opportunity to remind our girls that who we are and what we do with our lives is what makes us beautiful.

We know this may be confronting for some, and if giving up makeup entirely is too much, then feel free to choose to give up something – foundation, mascara, lipstick.

Together we will support each other, step by step. Share our experiences, and maybe change our world. Open our hearts and raise money for the women seeking to change theirs.

Will you join us?”

It’s not yet perfect, but this whole campaign has been a lesson in “just shipping it”, as Seth Godin would say.

Around the end of March, I was thinking we’d probably left it too late to start this year (given it had to be May), and indeed every single person on the planet with one exception told me it was too late, and we should leave it and do it properly in 2020.

So I told myself that I would spend one entire day on it, and see what came together.

I broke it down into the essentials:

  1. Get a charity partner
  2. Get a site up and running
  3. Get some good ambassadors

Well, in one day I had an amazing conversation with an even more amazing charity, The Hunger Project, who I’d come to know through the Business Chicks, and I’d found a very good platform, and their founders had agreed to get the site up quickly, for contra, if I’d help them with their rebrand.

So I decided to go for it.

I also quickly learned that this was a sensitive issue. I’ll be honest, I thought it was quite straight-forward initially, which is undoubtedly a very male way to look at it all.

I’ve learned better. It’s been quite profound, actually. I was doing some in-house mentoring at another co-working space in Melbourne, UnitedCo, and once Makefree May started happening, every founder was female, doing something inherently for women. It was like I was drawn deeply into the world of women for a time.

There have been some stressful setbacks, exacerbated by our time frames – we ended up not being able to partner with The Hunger Project at the eleventh hour due to a conflict with another partnership of theirs, but the very next day found Jacinta and her Human Kind Project, which was a gift.

Anyway, the campaign launches next week, join if it speaks to you, and spread the word!

I also made the decision to raise some angel capital for Cult Tribal, just a little bit to allow me to bring a team together right away, so we’ve just started pitching that. Looking for ten very aligned people, just a $25K investment each – the First Ten Cult Angels.

We’ve got most of the spots filled, but if you know someone who might be right, and interested, feel free to introduce me. (Sorry to slip in that pitch, but why not?)

Plenty of other exciting things have been happening, but that’s really what has been the focus.

I’m a bit exhausted, to be perfectly honest, I think I’m feeling now that I didn’t take a break between leaving Vinomofo and starting Cult Tribal, and perhaps should have. Sometimes I want to just take off around Australia, but I can’t. Couldn’t even if I could.

But mostly I’m inspired by it all.

I haven’t compromised yet. Not on anything for anyone. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that against a wave of fear and caution, we’ve still managed to launch Makefree May, in just weeks, and it’s working. People are caring, and joining, and raising money for a very worthy cause.

I’ll let you know how it all goes!