Today is National Write Your Story Day. As a partner at an agency that specializes in storytelling, through visual elements and words, I can’t help but approach this day with delight. We’re celebrating our 15th year in business and I want to take the opportunity to look back on all that has changed around us, personally and professionally.
It was late fall 2003 when we incorporated. We shook hands as newlyweds and new parents at a campground in Dorset, Vermont, pledging to create a company that puts family first and would have an unerring focus on design and communication that hit the mark. The early months were lean, with late nights and light paychecks (if any). Two of us held full-time jobs to keep us all covered by health insurance, the books were done after bedtime, headlines written before sunrise.
Our first studio was reminiscent of an old-time private investigator’s office—frosted window on the door, black and gold foil lettering, levered transoms and wood paneled walls. There was an elevator operator who warned us, “Don’t be leaving the windows open, the pigeons’ll get in and leave a holy mess in the place.” It was the first of many times we listened to the wisdom of others. Another gem, “If it doesn’t work kill it fast.”
We’ve moved three times since that first office, grown from two full-time employees to 16. The staff and partners are raising a total of 8 kids—with one in college and another heading off next year. Family first continues to define our corporate values.
These days, we text from meetings and display work on iPads, when we started it was printouts and Nextel walkie-talkies. LinkedIn launched in May of 2003, but all the platforms that we use today were still years from development. Annual reports were printed, websites were standard-issue html that hadn’t yet been influenced by user reviews, and the Yellow Pages still featured prominently in advertising plans and budgets.
We hired our first full-time employee in 2005, which was the year that YouTube came on the scene. It was also the year that Trampoline was voted the New Business of the Year by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce. Things began to move quickly after that, as Twitter and Facebook opened to the public in 2006. Sadly, it also marked the final season of The West Wing.
In 2007 Apple launched the iPhone, and Mad Men made its debut. We continued to avoid creating a public-facing niche for ourselves, preferring instead to adapt to the needs of our clients.
Since that turning point we’ve made jumps in size from 6 to 9 employees, 9 to 12, and to our current size of 16 with three new job openings. Through the shifts in size and industry trends, and client goals, that Vermont handshake has been at our core. Our studio has a designated pumping space for new moms. There are dogs in the shop more often than not or trips to let dogs out, as the definition of family is interpreted broadly and enthusiastically.
The connection to family and the understanding that young people are the most potent connection to trends, keeps us honest about how we research and execute ideas. A memorable example was a project partnering with the local high school’s innovations class to produce a 3D printed rendering of mountains for a ski destination project. We endeavor to keep the ‘Trampoline family’ balanced in age, experience, gender, and perspective to keep us on a track toward audience engagement.
As social media platforms have been embraced and as people’s sensitivity to cost, the environment, and timelines have impacted printing, it’s become more critical than ever to generate concepts and execution plans that consider the various scenarios in which an audience will be delivered a message.
We have seen the turn from a traditional studio environment to a more remote model. We’re impressed by how some companies have made that work for them, but outside of snow days and childcare/pet sitting emergencies, our product and process are more effective face-to-face.
As we look at what we hope will be our next fifteen years, we can’t wait to see the new tools that are sure to come in the evolution of language and communication. We’ll do our best to keep up, but more importantly to focus on keeping what works for us, and for our clients, and letting the rest become small footnotes in history.