MO.com is proud to partner with The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
Matt Cheuvront embraces that good brands aren’t simply born; they’re carefully crafted by a team of skilled experts in order to elicit a specific, desired response in a target market. A self-made entrepreneur, Matt has helped countless companies and groups think creatively, strategically, and articulate their brand both on-and-offline in order to grow well.
Proof Branding is a full service branding and design firm located in Nashville, TN. They provide brand solutions for small to mid-size businesses, organizations, startups, and entrepreneurs. He’s also the author of Life Without Pants, a blog about living life less restricted.
MO: I saw that your title on the Proof site is ‘brand craftsman.’ What makes you view the process of branding as a craft?
Matt: A brand is greater than the sum of it’s parts. A website, a logo, a catchy tagline, or a visually compelling print piece, these are all extensions of your brand, but are not the brand itself.
When we started Proof, we committed to looking at everything through the lens of branding. It’s our goal to sit down with clients, whether they’re looking to establish a totally new brand, or are rebranding something that’s been around for decades, and to help them think creatively and strategically about their brand.
The worst thing we see is for a business to go and spend a significant amount of money to have a website built or a logo created, and are simply delivered with a product. An end result that may look great and work well, but hasn’t been thought about in relation to the business’s space in the market, their target audience, and their overall goals.
We want everything we do to have purpose. We sit down (face to face in most cases) and truly get to know our clients and what their goals are for their business, organization, or idea. As a small firm, it allows us the opportunity to have a much more personal and intimate connection with our clients, which we believe is one of our greatest defining qualities. Working with people you’ve met, you’ve had a drink with, and you know well, makes the overall process and experience, for everyone involved, much, much better.
MO: Why did you decide to start Proof?
Matt: We saw a real need in the market for someone to step in and fill this branding void for smaller businesses. We’re not getting calls from Pepsi and MTV at this point, and we likely never will. We’re passionate about smaller businesses, startups, folks with an idea and who want to bring it to reality, or those companies who have been around for years, have done a little brand soul-searching, and are ready to take steps in a new direction.
At the time, I was living in Chicago designing and developing websites, my partner, Sam Davidson, was here in Nashville consulting with organizations and small businesses, and others who we work with were doing their own freelance work.
It made the most sense to bring our talents together. The “divide and conquer” approach works for some, but we’ve experienced that by bringing in passionate people (most of them still technically contract workers), we’re able to service, and service well, almost any client need that comes in, from designing a website to shooting and editing a video, to writing a press release. Being able to offer that “one-stop” branding experience was and is very important to us.
MO: You’re a member of the member of the Young Entrepreneur Council. Why do you think it’s important to encourage and support entrepreneur’s and what tools are you giving them that will increase their chances of success?
Matt: I am and always will be passionate about working with entrepreneurs. As a young entrepreneur myself, I know the value of having other people to talk to, relate to, and share ideas with.
Entrepreneurship is hard. Damn hard. From the outside looking in it may seem like we all sit and watch movies and do nothing or travel the world and somehow make millions speaking at conferences. But being an entrepreneur, especially one who is still in the embryonic stages of developing something great, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The roller-coaster effects your mind, your body, your relationships, and your overall will.
That’s why having a group like the YEC is so crucial. These are great, passionate individuals who truly get it, and are more than willing to help others. We understand that they’ll always be competition, but that there’s more than enough opportunity out there for everyone to be successful. It’s a community of folks who are passionate about helping with ideas, and who aren’t afraid to give honest, constructive feedback.
I focus on doing everything I can who wants to embark down the path of entrepreneurship. Guidance, advice, honesty, and offering the tools (logo, website, business card, press release) that helps turn that idea into a tangible reality that can go and share a brilliant message, make a ton of money, or whatever the goal may be. In 2012, we’ve got something very exciting in the works at Proof specifically geared toward startups and entrepreneurs.
MO: Why is it no longer enough to just get consumers interest?
Matt: Today’s world is about building awareness. It’s still important to be deliberate and targeted in your efforts, butt if you’re focusing solely on who you specifically think is your customer, your likely missing out on a world of opportunity. For some, of course they are seeking something specific that you provide, but in many other cases, a customer doesn’t know they’re a customer until you enlighten them or present something in a compelling way that taps into their psyche. Most of us don’t realize we’re customers until we’ve been marketed to very well, often without even knowing it.
Becoming a thought leader is important. Sharing knowledge, blogging, tweeting, they probably won’t have a direct effect on the success of your business, but they without a doubt increase influence and recognition.
It’s imperative to think outside the box. Don’t get tunnel vision and look straight ahead at who you think is the target, keep your peripherals open to the opportunities all around.
MO: What’s your favorite part of creating and defining a brand?
Matt: Simply seeing something come to life is most rewarding to me, and to everyone at our company. It’s extremely rewarding to sit down with a highly motivated business or individual, help them think through their ideas, distill down the best of what they have to offer, and package that in a distinct, compelling, and exciting way.
We don’t simply build websites and design logos. It’s not even limited to building brands. We create opportunities. We ignite ideas. We create realities. That’s the core of what we do, and it’s what makes our day to day work so exciting.
MO: Do you have anything exciting on the horizon for 2012?
Matt: If you know me at all, you know I am idea-crazy. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I’m never at a loss for new ideas.
As I alluded to earlier, we have an exciting new “extension” of Proof coming to life in early January that is specifically geared toward startups and entrepreneurs. Without giving it all away (yet), we see a void between branding/design shops and coaches/consultants. We want to fill that void from conversation to creation by working with individuals to fine-tune their idea, distill it into it’s best offering, and then package the brand with tangible deliverables (logo, website, print) – everything you need, in one all-inclusive package. The goal? By the end of our time together, you literally have no excuse not to go and start building your business. Crafting your vision. Doing big things.
Our momentum has been increasing steadily over the past 18 months, and we of course will continue that moving into the new year. It’s an exciting time, and it’s THE time, especially in our current economic state, to give serious consideration to building your brand and bringing your ideas to life.