The very first brand I can remember identifying with was Hostess Raspberry Filled Powdered Donuts. I must have been around 3-years old at the time. When my Mom drove me to preschool every day she gave me a Hostess donut. I remember identifying the shapes and colors of the logo on the package and associating it with the experience.
Fast forward to age ten when I had the first “I want that!” moment. In third grade I saw my first pair of royal blue NIKE’s with a yellow swoosh. That was in 1980 and for whatever reason I just wanted those shoes (and ultimately wanted to work for the company some day). The NIKE brand struck a chord for reasons I can’t explain—I just thought those shoes were the coolest thing I’d ever seen besides my Atari. Another important thing that happened at that time was my best friend’s dad worked in the computer business. He taught me how to use a dial up modem to sign into usenet groups and how to program code in Basic. That was the only computer in our neighborhood.
My dream came true in 1995 when I was hired by NIKE to be an assistant designer in a category called Team Sports. I was the first person to be hired at NIKE from an interactive resume. My submission for employment was on a floppy disk with a self running Macromedia Director file that I programmed with samples of work and references.
While working at NIKE I fell madly in love with wine. The bottle that did it for me was 1985 Stag’s Leap Cask 23 served at a holiday party. The next day I subscribed to Wine Spectator and started reading voraciously about wine. During my eight years at NIKE I traded all sorts of NIKE stuff for wine and built up a cellar pretty quickly. I would read tasting notes, then look for the descriptors in the wines I was drinking. Living twenty minutes from the Willamette valley didn’t hurt either—Oregon was emerging as a prime Pinot Noir growing region.
The time I spent at NIKE was like getting a Master’s degree in branding. I worked on branding projects for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Oregon Ducks, Florida State Seminoles, NIKE Basketball, Jason Kidd, NIKE Golf among others.
In 2003 I left NIKE to move to Colorado in order to be near my Mom who was struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Her health was starting to decline. Leaving my dream job at NIKE was hard, but in Colorado I decided to get a job at a local wine shop working weekends. A large distributor (Charmer-Sunbelt) saw my hustle and hired me to be a sales rep with a territory. I used everything I learned at NIKE to build my sales and in-store marketing. The distributor gave me invaluable training and I set sales records for my territory. After two years I became a wine broker working for Bartholomew Broadbent. The best part about moving to Colorado was meeting my wife.
In 2007 I launched a mobile wine+food app called Culination when the first iPhone came out. It failed miserably, but it led to an angel investor who invited me to work for his start up in Boulder, CO. That’s when I started to understand social media’s impact on our world. I started applying everything I knew about branding to building my brand online. It all came together in 2009 when Murphy Goode winery launched A Really Goode Job. From that contest I was hired by St. Supéry winery to be the first Director of Social Media in the wine industry.
In 2010 at age 40 I became a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Fifteen years of reading wine magazines, working for Bartholomew Broadbent and the training from the distributor helped me cut my teeth and prepare for the exam. But the more I learn about wine, the more I realize I don’t know that much. There’s still so much to learn!
Family has always been (and will be) important in my life. Leaving NIKE to move to Colorado for my Mom was the hardest thing I ever did because I basically had to reboot my life. I hit bottom in 2005 when I barely had a pot to piss in. For whatever reason, at that low point is when my wife came into my world. She has been with me through difficult times (meeting her was the unexpected reward for moving to Colorado). Starting over is scary—so many people have been forced to do it. I tell other people who are struggling and need help the same thing I told myself—never give up! The slow, steady climb back has been possible with consistent hard work and patience.
The future is wide open for anyone who wants to work hard for it. The beauty of social media is it has opened up a world of possibilities. I want to see others succeed, especially if they’ve been struggling in recent years….it’s been a tough economy for a lot of people. I hate to see people miserable in a job they hate doing something they don’t like to do. Through all the ups and downs I can now say I’m doing something I love that combines my love of branding, wine and tech geekery.
Whenever I need a reminder of where I came from, I enjoy a Hostess raspberry donut.