Growing Business at COCO: KNOWN Branding

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Chris Everett and Jeff Turner had been sharing office space and collaborating on projects for several years before they officially joined forces and co-founded KNOWN Branding in January 2013. Both men are creative directors and brand strategists, with complementary skills as a copywriter (Jeff) and designer (Chris).

For its first few years, KNOWN was based in the same Loring Park office space the two had shared as freelancers and collaborators. In 2016, with a client list including General Mills, Thrivent Financial and Whitman’s Chocolate, KNOWN made the leap to COCO, where they set up shop in a startup suite in the Northeast Minneapolis location.

Q: It’s a big transition to go from freelancers to small business founders. What was that process like for you?

Jeff: For us, incorporating came after we’d been working together for three or four years. You begin to realize that you can step into higher-level conversations and projects as a company than as a pair of freelancers.

Chris: The right partner (or partners) is key to the whole thing. If you start from a place of shared values, from there anything is possible. That transition from freelancer to company is a mind shift of leaning on and counting on someone else, and learning how that can amplify what both of you have to offer. We’re still realizing that the value of KNOWN is not Chris and Jeff, but the company we’re building that’s bigger than us and beyond us.

The thing you make takes a breath and becomes its own thing, and that’s where the value is.

Q: What inspired you to abandon the Loring Park office space and move to COCO?

Jeff: We wanted to be around more people. We’re very self-sufficient, but we were feeling isolated. We wanted to be around some other disciplines, get a little shot in the arm.

Chris: At a certain stage of growth, you want to ask yourself, Are we working this way because this is the best way for us to work, or because it’s how we’ve always worked? We wanted to sort of clear the table and start with a blank slate to gain some clarity about the best way for us to grow.

Jeff: And we are busy and growing.

Chris: I love having people to greet when I come in to COCO in the morning. Everyone knows my poodles Bishop and Lucy, and those simple rituals mean a lot, that you’re part of a community. In some ways joining COCO was an experiment, a need to stir things up and experience a different space and perspective and see how it may help us move to the next thing. It’s given us a lot of clarity.

There are a lot of people here in early stages of business growth, and there’s a lot of advice to gain. A lot of companies in moments of change, either just starting out or in a moment of transition. It’s sort of a train station for what’s next, and that’s really great energy to be around.

Jeff: Especially for startups, if you keep your ear to the ground and participate, having all the resources a business needs contained and packaged at COCO can be really helpful.

Q: What’s on the horizon for KNOWN in 2017?

Jeff: We’ll possibly be adding some more partners and employees, and we might need a little more elbow room to match our growing business.

Chris: We’re in a place where we know what we’re doing, we’ve gotten affirmation that it’s valuable, and the next question is how we can scale. It’s an exciting place to be.

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