Monday, November 16, 2009

Applying the "Think Different" (a look back at the last three years)

It's pretty safe to say that no single company has ever inspired me more than Apple Computer. I have read (maybe) ten books in my life and Steve Jobs' biography makes that very short list. The first time I walked into an Apple store two things occurred to me; one, if there is a heaven this must be what it looks like, bright white, open and beautiful. The second thing that I immediately realized is, this place isn't just built for selling computers, but it was also built to sell their brand, the lifestyle and most importantly the human experience.

Three and half years ago Hero called a 250 square foot office on Main Street, "home". We were busting at the seams there, using a hallway for our poster inventory and printing our posters in a friend's basement, miles away. People would walk by and bang on my window, and proceed to yell to me that they wanted to come in, to purchase a poster. Although it was cool to sell our posters using the same system as a meth dealer, it was time for a change.

We needed more space, but we also needed more money for said space. It was time to get even more creative than we were already trying to be, but instead of being creative with a "Built To Spill" poster, we needed to be creative with our entire business. In times like those, I have to take a step back and look at everything I love and admire, and everything that inspires me, to see how I can apply it to my personal situation. I immediately thought about the Apple Store and thought, "WHAT IF?". The design industry for the most part is a closed door world, hidden away on the third floor of some office building. What if we took it to the street and opened the door? What if we invited other creatives or fans of creativity, into a space and offered them a chance to experience all things design? What If we applied what we had always loved about Apple and started to "Think Different" about our own little business?

Three years later, we're on the street level and we have had an open door that entire time. People have been able to come in, look over the four-foot counter that separates our store from the design studio, to see what we're designing. They have been able to look in the back and see us screen printing our current project, they've been able to look at the walls to see the posters we've created over the past 4 years and they have been inspired from shelves and shelves of designer toys from artists all over the world. It is 700 square feet of all things design and creative, all happening in real time, right in front of your eyes. Three years later, in our hometown of Buffalo, more people than ever know who we are and we realize we are selling so much more than our posters, toys and design services. Just like our inspiration, Apple, we are selling ourselves, our brand and our own personal human experience.

The second best thing about this entire experience, which came as a surprise to me, has been the people. Many of our customers have become some of our best friends. After all, we help their loved ones pick out their gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and other special events in their lives. We have spent many of our favorite nights in Buffalo with these people in our tiny little store, drinking, eating and listening to good music, all while celebrating our common bond, a love for design. Some come in every other month, some a couple times a month and a few every single week. They don't always buy something, but for us it's not just always about making money, it's about getting out of our chairs, putting the project or client on hold, and just shooting the shit with a good friend. The people, our customers and friends, have made this business enjoyable to us and they make going to work even more exciting than it already is.

What has been the BEST thing about this entire experience for me, you ask? It is doing what I love for a living, with my favorite person, who is both my partner in life and in business, all while our dog is laying at our feet. I may not be a wealthy man and my bank account can prove that, but I am a happy man and my laugh lines are a badge of honor. This little store has supported my dreams while others are still dreaming.

Thank you for three great years! Let's make it thirty more!

Mark Brickey
Husband, Designer, Printer, Store Owner, Businessman, Friend, Dog Owner & Community College Drop Out


Delicious Industries said...

Huge congratulations guys! I love the idea behind you store and studio space - long may it continue :)

Buffawhat said...

Congratulations on 3 good years! You guys rock Allen St. don't evar leave.

Beth Vaughan said...

Maybe you haven't read more than 10books in your life, but you sure can write and design!! Brings a tear to my eye, I ljust love you guys!