Insider Post: Emmett Shine | Pattern Brands
Emmett Shine | Co-founder & Executive Creative Director | Pattern Brands
- As Pattern, we see two immediate opportunities. First, to build a better business — one that celebrates balance, presence, creativity, and personal growth; one that creates responsible products based on need; and one that values their employees as much as their shareholders. And second, to make building a better business as appealing, resonant, and cool as the leading brands of the last decade.
Our mission is deeply important to us. In an age, that we know all too well, of data-informed marketing and slick commoditized messaging, taking a risk and doing something different that is true to you, goes a long way.
Hello. My name’s Emmett Shine and this past summer I was asked to speak at The Lead Innovation Summit. It was in mid-July, a month before the agency I helped found, Gin Lane, would announce it was transitioning entirely out of the service business, would now be known as Pattern, and would only be making our own brands moving forward.
The original name of my keynote was ‘How to Build a Millennial Brand Today’, which I changed to ‘How to Build a Good Brand Today’. I spoke on what I thought was necessary to build a successful brand in today’s landscape — empathy, hospitality, service design, anticipation, knowing your audience, and listening to what their needs are.
Gin Lane was riding a nice wave of some recent successes in the market, and the timing for our transition into Pattern got more attention than we expected nor could have asked for. Pattern also had a bold mission — to help our generation better ‘enjoy daily life’ by trying to combat chronic burnout, anxiety, the addiction economy, and “workism” culture.
So half a year later, how is Pattern doing and what have I learned? Well, let’s recap.
We announced Pattern in August and the next month we launched our first brand, Equal Parts. Equal Part’s mission is to compel our generation to enjoy home cooking more by offering a combination of high-quality, easy-to-use, easy-to-clean cookware, as well as access to personal chefs via a unique texting platform.
A few highlights post-launch — 1) doing a 5 part podcast series with Buffer, 2) being the subject of a feature-length article, “The Company That Branded Your Millennial Life Is Pivoting To Burnout” by Anne Helen Peterson of Buzzfeed (who wrote ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation’, a big inspiration for us), 3) receiving emails from thousands of people saying our mission resonated with them, and 4) seeing people across America cooking more with Equal Parts, including Jessica Alba and some pretty awesome early supporters.
In addition to working through the holiday season for Equal Parts, we are currently heads-down preparing for the launch of our second brand early next year. Essentially we’ll have launched three new brands in six months.
I’ve learned a few things along the way and maybe some of them can be helpful to you.
1. Operating is hard
While many of you know about this firsthand, I want to share some personal thoughts on transitioning from running an agency to a consumer-facing startup.
At Gin Lane we were operating a business, a successful agency, for over a decade. However, operating a consumer-facing business has been radically different. I have a lot more empathy for the entrepreneurs and founders we used to be able to tell what to do (ha). It’s been a thrilling experience launching two brands thus far, but it’s also been sobering, and extremely challenging.
Seeing sales numbers ebb and flow each day can be addicting, and it can be misleading. It took us about a month as an organization to find our footing in terms of how we dealt with processing data. Operationally, we’ve had a number of changes in our process, organizational hierarchy, and team dynamics. What we are learning is the importance of dealing with challenges head-on. As a new business, there are so many of them, every day and every week. If you let them linger in the background, they don’t go away but can attract other challenges to them like magnets. We’ve found it helpful to make a prioritized list of the three to five largest challenges every day and deal with them first.
2. Data is your best and worst friend
When we launched Equal Parts, we had every analytics package set up to capture, process, and analyze all the data coming in. Then we launched and it was a torrent of information. Unfiltered information. Some of the data was good, some was great, some was not what we wanted to see, and some was confusing. Within a week of launch, I stopped personally checking most of the analytics, leaving that up to the members of our team whose jobs are specifically tied to understanding the data.
At Gin Lane, we always had at least one filter — a CEO, or a main point of contact — between the raw data, and us. At Pattern, we don’t. Organizationally, that’s been something we have had to adapt fast, finding a cultural norm that is performance-driven, but also sane.
Data can also tell misleading stories. It’s an art to truly understanding what data is telling you, and I’ve found you have to have an extremely critical eye like a great reporter or detective when looking at data. What does it really mean? Don’t stop at the surface story. Dig deeper. Great analysts and workers who deal with reams of information know how to curate and cut through the noise to find signals. This has been a bit new for us, and we are getting piles of data on our desk every day. Curating, focusing, and digging deeper is what I’ve found to be most important.
3. Being right is great, but being nimble is better
We were right about a lot, and we weren’t so right about a lot. That’s ok. What we’ve been trying to do since day one, is to build a culture where winning is how you react to information, not if the information shows you were right or wrong.
I love areas that require an interplay between art & science, and running a digital-first startup is a great example of where both have to work in unison. Meaning, the science is your team’s methodology for iteratively getting things done and the strategy that serves as an anchoring North Star. The art then is how your team must smoothly shift gears as one entity between staying true to the larger vision, testing, and applying the scientific method to everything, every day.
It’s not about being the smartest, it’s about iterating, listening, and learning your fastest. For every successful startup that comes out the gate with a perfect product-market fit, there are probably ten more successful ones than had to iterate, test, and evolve into the great businesses they are today. To be honest, those are the ones that are probably more internally built for long-term success as well.
4. Confident vulnerability
This is a phrase I’ve been saying a lot since launch. To me, it means being confident in your vision, in your intentions, and in your decisions, but most importantly, being confident enough to admit you don’t have it all figured out. You are going to make mistakes, feel lost or confused, and be vulnerable. And that’s ok.
We feel it’s important to give permission to our leadership, our team, our consumers, and our community to express doubt, concern, confusion or vulnerability. We want a culture where it’s ok to have tough conversations and to be honest that you don’t have the answers yet.
Honesty and transparency are two important values that have recently become increasingly touted in business circles. They are important, but sometimes they seem to become code for a culture of always having to present your best self, watch what you say, or having one-way conversations around curated information. That’s not how real progress is made, though.
In having conversations internally, and externally, we’re trying to be confident enough in our vision and team to say that sometimes we don’t have the answer, we don’t always know if we are right, and to admit that occasionally we make incorrect assumptions. That’s ok. We want to build real dialogue. People like helping and engaging. But if you only speak as if you are reading from a pre-written script, that’s not going to happen.
One of our mottos is ‘Direct With Consumer’ and to do this, we have to be able to have the real conversations.
5. Having an authentic message matters (a lot)
When we launched Pattern, we wrote a post for Medium on why were closing Gin Lane and starting a new company, and why it mattered to us. It was from an honest place, and I think that resonated with a lot of people. We talked about the issues that had become quite personal to us — feeling burnt out, anxious, overworked, and over-teched. We admitted that we didn’t know what the answers were, nor that we were perfect, but that this was something important that we all wanted to spend our professional time focused on.
We were soon overwhelmed with people reaching out to us, sharing similar stories, wanting to be a part of what we were taking on, and wanting to help. To be honest, we hadn’t thought through how to handle this influx of requests, opportunities, partnerships, or just the emails in general.
I like the phrase ‘when much is given, much is expected’. I think that people have given us a platform, one that they want to see us do good on, and thus they expect us to live up to their hopes for us. It’s been extremely humbling and gratifying, and we are listening to what people are saying.
I think this all stems from our messaging on being authentic. Our mission is deeply important to us. In an age, that we know all too well, of data-informed marketing and slick commoditized messaging, taking a risk and doing something different that is true to you, goes a long way. I hope that more of the corporate culture in America can be vulnerable, be honest, and be passionate about using business as a platform to do good.
6. Capitalism can have a conscious
This Fall, Pattern was the subject of a feature-length article in Buzzfeed by Anne Helen Petersen that explored the story behind our mission and our team. The article revolves around a larger central inquiry: “I was intrigued by the question of what an anti-burnout company, operating within American capitalism, might actually look like. Can a for-profit venture actually help reverse the cultural affliction it helped create?”
As she continued her investigation, Petersen probed with a more incisive question: “If capitalism caused the current state of the world, can capitalism help fix it?”
We believe the answer is yes. Capitalism contributes to the cultural affliction of burnout by impacting three primary players: 1) employees, 2) consumers, and 3) businesses. The first, by encouraging a culture of “workism”, the second by anchoring consumption based on wants rather than needs, and the third by focusing on shareholder profits above all else.
We want to build a business that can foster a future for individuals that prioritizes balance, fulfillment, and purpose. We want to bring back communities, conversations, and human connection. We want to promote a world where we don’t just live to work, and where we don’t spend an increasing amount of our free time isolated on our screens. Instead, we want to push for a world of higher empathy, vulnerability, and belonging.
Over the past decade, our team has excelled at making youthful brands appealing, resonant, and ultimately, cool. As Pattern, we see two immediate opportunities. First, to build a better business — one that celebrates balance, presence, creativity, and personal growth; one that creates responsible products based on need; and one that values their employees as much as their shareholders. And second, to make building a better business as appealing, resonant, and cool as the leading brands of the last decade.
Petersen’s piece concluded with the following thought, that has really stuck with me: “Pattern’s Equal Parts brand might, at best, make it cooler to cook for cooking’s sake — might help create personal change. But there’s also a chance that Pattern, alongside other anti-burnout, pro-sustainability industry leaders like Patagonia, might make their vision of corporate culture cool. And if they can change the way other companies conceive of work, and prove that their model creates a better outcome for everyone involved — that won’t bring down the system, but it has the potential to help make living in it more bearable.”
We’re not there yet, but we’re committed to trying.
7. Preach something that matters & practice what you preach
After launching, we released a 10 step guide to finding daily happiness that has really taken off. This fall, our team took ten weeks to try and live life one step at a time. It was at times super challenging. And at times, it definitely made us feel vulnerable. However, it was really important for us to go through and experience what we are preaching first hand. We learned a lot, got tons of feedback internally and externally, and have evolved significant parts of our positioning, wording, and philosophy from living out our words. It’s important for businesses to use their own products, but also to really make sure they are trying their best to live up to their standards — including their marketing messages.
Thank you to everyone who came to my keynote at The Lead Innovation Summit, thank you to the team at The Lead, thank you to the team at Pattern, thank you to our community and customers, and thank you for giving this a read.
I hope this was in some way helpful. And I’d love to talk more if you have thoughts around the above, or to learn what you are doing, what’s working, or what’s challenging. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or find me online.
Emmett Shine is Co-founder and Executive Creative Director at Pattern Brands. He was an early-stage investor, through his previous company Gin Lane, in Hims, Sweetgreen, Cadre, Quip, Haus, SmileDirectClub, Harry’s, Stadium Goods, and more. He is also an advisor to Care/Of, Recess, Sunday Goods, Arbor Energy, Shhhowercap, and Geneva and part of the founding team at JAJA Tequila. He lives in Bed Stuy with his girlfriend and dog. He is also a big NY Jets fan.