My Brand Story Started in a Dubai Branding Agency

The fact that I ended up in branding at all was a divinely inspired accident thanks to a series of brave nearing on insane decisions. When I graduated from University, I was itching to be thrown into the deep end. I wanted a chance to swim, to prove myself, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I felt out of sorts when I responded to the job opportunities in Canada. Too many requirements and too many boxes to live inside. With $150 in my bank account I quit my well paying, secure government job and headed off to Toronto in search for something to inspire my path. I ended up paying the bills working for a crazy making lawyer (because law school was an option on my mind). But quickly realized having my nose in a book all day, working 1700 billable hours a year wasn’t my thang. Thankfully an opportunity came up for me to pack my bags for Europe. My first project was in the opulent land of Dubai and I pretty much never left. That’s where I started my love affair with branding.

Turns out working in a Dubai branding agency was all about swimming in the deep end. It gave me everything a young 20 something professional could ever dream of. Complete with helicopter rides, million dollar budgets, sea views, seven star hotel meetings, weekend trips to the Serengeti and of course Jimmy Choo. The studio I walked into everyday wreaked of creative talent, lessons learned and challenge. I l loved it. I got very good at swimming in the deep end.

I cut my teeth branding when I was managing eight major accounts simultaneously, exceeding yearly sales targets by 100% in six months. I was fortunate to spend one-on-one time with some of the gurus in the industry who invented branding. I’ve been the only unveiled woman flying to Kuwait on business to develop new markets I knew little about. I’ve facilitated intense workshop sessions with executive teams. I’ve seen CEO’s release tears due to the emotional depth of the branding work. I’ve had my pick of the accounts to work on from re-branding federal governments to luxurious hospitality groups. I’ve explored all of these things which lead to achievements and I guess a sense of significance.

Only to learn that what I had been searching for was not what I really wanted. I was confused though because I did love branding. It’s just that the work didn’t leave me feeling full inside. I craved something more but I didn’t know what. Stupidly and totally ignoring my intuition, I accepted a job brand consulting London to work alongside another branding guru. In London the voice grew louder.

On my way back from facilitating a workshop for a global pharmaceutical company the tears started to pour down my face and I knew something had to change. The pressure of pulling it all off had lifted and the reality of my personal life and uninspiring new career choice was suddenly an uncomfortable reality. I loved what I did, I just didn’t feel an ounce of satisfaction making the rich richer. Sprinkle in a bit of personal heart break and I was on my way to discovering what would really fulfill me.

So, I moved home to Canada in search of something a little closer to my heart. Mountains, trees and the friendly Canadians.

It was in the rainy lonely months that followed that my purpose finally hit me. I had been sub-contracting to a branding agency in town and had been sitting in on meetings with startup entrepreneurs who wanted to make a difference in the world. The moment we’d talk money in the tens of thousands of dollars mark, I could feel their shocking disappointment as the three hour meeting would promptly come to an end. We’d later learn that they’d result to buying a logo for a couple of hundred bucks online or choosing an affordable freelance designer to work with. The problem I saw was that the logo design was only part of what they needed. A logo design on its own was not enough to help these visionary entrepreneurs become world famous. I knew they needed a way of connecting their message to their customers. They had a vision to share. An audience to speak to. A promise to make.

It’s so much easier to help a company when they’re a blank slate then when they have already built a reputation, have a logo design and you have to reverse engineer a solution for them. The fact is, investing in your brand early means you most likely will avoid the re-branding expense later on down the road. At a time when it’s much more expensive and messy to resolve.

It got me thinking. Our customers knew they wanted a logo the challenge was that they didn’t know what they really needed (clarity). Making matters worse, the industry was set up in a way that the cost to get branded properly was inaccessible. This problem was a calling I felt called to solve at 12am one sleepless night. I literally got up and started writing down everything that was flowing through me.

I’ll be honest I had no clue how to solve it but something inside of me had found the answer for what I had been searching for. I knew the solution for would revolve around technology and providing strategic information freely. I also knew I’d have to find a way of attracting sophisticated designers who understood brand identity work. But at that point, I wasn’t clear exactly how I’d pull it all together.

For me this challenge I saw gave me purpose in a way I never thought I’d find it. I certainly didn’t ever picture myself developing a technology business. In the months following, I came up against plenty of my inner critique thoughts. It said things like “you’re the last person that should be developing a technology business” and “you’re not ready” and “how will you pay the bills this is going to cost a lot to set up.” Admittedly, I listened more to that inner voice than I did to the spark that ignited. In fact, I listened to it for more than a year.

But when I was told my contract was not being renewed because we simply didn’t have the business to warrant keeping me on, I knew it was the universe’s way of reminding me I had something to do.

I share this with you because stories such as my own are how brands begin. Every time I’m working with a client one-on-one I’ll take them back to their journey of starting their business. The journey leaves behind clues that helps form the brand into a powerful story your customers connect with.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Walt Disney


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