Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Branding of Booze + Passion Projects

Last week my co-worker and friend, Emma, invited me to an event titled The Branding of Booze hosted at Brooklyn Winery by Vine Pair. My thought process was as follows: Branding? Booze? HECK YES! The event took place yesterday, May 6th, and though I had initial hesitations when 5pm rolled by – let's face it, after a long day of work sometimes you just want to go home – I was very glad I decided to go after all.

Full disclosure, I wasn't planning on writing about this event. However, early in the conversation an ongoing theme became apparent which I knew I had to write about: passion projects.

The event was a Q&A with founders of three very different Brooklyn-based alcohol brands yet they all shared a similar vision around product, branding, and following through with passion projects. Speakers included: Brian Leventhal of Brooklyn Winery, Marshall Thompson and Eric Feldman of Braven Brewing Company, and Jahil Maplestone of Descendant Cider Company and was moderated by Adam Teeter of VinePair.

Having recently started a passion project of my own (this blog), I was able to relate with them on several occasions. Passion projects are one of those things that you want to do "just because" – regardless of the logistics and outcomes. You do them because it's something you genuinely enjoy and love doing. For this same reason, people (myself included) tend to over think it and sometimes never even start. Below are five tips and takeaways from The Branding of Booze event for anyone wanting to start working on a passion project, "just because."

1. Do It Because You Want To

Passion projects take a lot of work, energy, and most of the time even cost some money. However, the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come along with starting something you are passionate about are priceless. These projects don't always make sense in writing and people may even question why you're doing it in the first place which is why you have to become comfortable saying, "I'm doing it because I want to." Of course, we all know there is a lot more behind this phrase – like that feeling in your gut telling you to do it and knowing that if you don't you'll regret it. It was great hearing how all three brands started as small passion projects that didn't quite make sense – all four founders were previously in very different fields like law, tech, and marketing. Stop worrying about what others may think and do it for yourself.

2. Be Authentic

Figure out who or what your passion project is and let that shine. Identify key characteristics that will help answer questions down the line. If you want to be quirky, bold, simple then make sure everything related to your project stays true to those characteristics. Whatever you do, be sure to stay true to yourself and not try to be something or someone you're not. That's not to say your project can't change down the line. A good example would be VinePair's co-founder who mentioned that when they first started, VinePair was a totally different concept which evolved over time.

3. Talk About It

Tell people about your project even before you start. Mention it to friends, family, co-workers – anyone you can. Many times people try to keep their passion projects secret for fear of being judged or someone stealing their idea. However, talking about it will only open more doors and help make you more accountable for actually getting started. I had been thinking about starting this blog for a while now, but didn't start mentioning it to people until January. Fast forward a few months and people were actually checking in on my status. "How's the taco blog coming?" and "Have you launched it yet? Let me know when you do!" were some of the questions and comments I started getting. Let's be honest: that felt good and ultimately encouraged me to finally do it.

4. Make Friends

I am fortunate to have a few friends who also have blogs and other passion projects who have given me advice on how to get started, what platforms to use, how to think of content ideas – the list goes on. Their advice has been extremely helpful in getting started and figuring out how running a blog works. Surround yourself by people who's passion projects are similar to yours and ask questions. Most of the time people will be more than happy to offer you advice that can be of real value. After all, who doesn't love talking about their passions? Their drive and enthusiasm will help keep you going.

5. Just Do It

Getting started is the hardest thing to do. During the Q&A an audience member asked what advice the panelists would give to anyone trying to follow their passions. Braven's Eric Feldman immediately responded, "Just do it." Though it may sound easy, it's a lot harder than it sounds. Between figuring out exactly how to execute your passion, making the time for it, and worrying about how others may react, it may seem impossible. However, "just doing it" is the only way you'll get started. Stop worrying about all the details, start small, and go from there. You don't need to have all the details in place, those will come with time. Every passion project is different and the outcomes may vary but one thing they all have in common is that they all started as an idea which someone finally decided to execute on. That's pretty awesome.

When I finally decided to make my blog public and post it on my social channels, I honestly thought nobody would read it or even care… and I was fine with that. However, I am beyond lucky to have awesome people (like yourself) cheering me along with this little passion project of mine. Between text messages, emails, and Facebook likes, I couldn't have asked for a better response! Thank you! :)

I hope these tips will be of help to you as I know they sure resonated with me.

Do you have a passion project you're working on? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below or on Twitter via @mromja!

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