The Dialogue with Dan Crask
This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So, here we go with our 150th installment visiting with Dan Crask, Creative Director & Co-owner of Brand Shepherd
, which is a product-focused, cross-category creative agency, developing products that come to life through diligent process and design.
How did you get started? The idea of shepherding a brand was inspired by a dear member of our family: Jake the Border Collie. He loved structure, herding our kids and whatever else we needed him to help get in order. We had an idea of Jake helping brands herd: Jake was strategizing, getting the brand's needs into order. He wasn't herding the brands themselves, but instead, their users and customers. The herding was by creating order, flow, and experiences that kept a brand's flock growing, moving, and thriving. This is how we see our role at Brand Shepherd. We don't see brands as dumb sheep in need of a shepherd. We see brands as having products that have users and customers that need to be given order, flow, and experiences that keep them at peace, wanting more. We are brand shepherds.
What is your background? I worked for several different creative agencies for years as a graphic designer and project manager. That led to working directly with business owners and brand managers, and I learned that those brands that made a tangible or digital product were the ones I always helped get the best results for.
Who is your mentor? During my years at Tandem Design in Ottawa, Illinois, I worked on a very small team led by owner, Lee Ann. She truly laid the foundation for how I conduct business because she entrusted her small team (all 3 of us!) with every but the invoicing for our work. We worked with brands of all sizes, too. From Abbott Labs in the Chicagoland area (a multi-billion dollar corporation) to a baby quilt maker trying to start her business out of a garage. She made sure we went about our business with integrity, and she also taught me a lot of business operations skills as well.
Describe your customers. Our customers make a product: tangible, digital, or productized service. The products require on-going needs, such as UX/UI for digital products, and packaging branding for tangible products. The products might also need support in the form of great websites, eye-catching brand identities (logos), or even printed sales materials -- all of which come from great product branding.
What environments impact your business? During prosperous times, brands look to us to help their products break through a highly competitive market through great visual design and UX/UI. During not-so-prosperous times, brands look to us to gain market share through their products by smartly creating designs that can be used in a variety of channels, from product to marketing and all points in between.
Name three things you wish you knew when you started. 3. It is good to turn away new clients when it's not a good fit because it helps our business do its best work, and creates an opportunity for us to make a referral. 2. Never start a project without 1/3 the total project budget paid for, and then invoice all time into a project every 30 days, due Net 15 for first-time clients and Net 30 for clients who establish on-time payments. 1. Move to Tennessee sooner!
What do you enjoy about running the business? Watching the delight on a person's (shopper or consumer) face when they interact with the product or product's packaging. I get to see this in the apps we create and also when I walk through stores like Walmart and Target and see products we've helped bring to market.
Any additional comments? From our very first day of forming our business, our co-owner and I have shared a phrase between us that states, "The Lord sets our table." It is a paraphrasing of 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 and provides a reminder to us that God sovereignly provides us what we need to grow our business.