Creativity and Data-Driven Analysis Integrate to Build Brands at VENN Growth Collective

VENN Growth Collective has a seemingly ubiquitous goal for most consulting firms: help businesses grow and thrive. It’s how they do it that makes the new collective unique.

Silos be gone in a proprietary strategy that combines data-driven science with creative ingenuity. It’s a process that comes from two industry veterans, each bringing a skill set necessary for the equation.

Eugenia Erlij and Mike Bills met nearly 18 years ago while Bills was chief development officer at Resource, and Erlij a consultant for the agency. Fast friends, there was talk for many years of need for an agency that focused not just on business strategy or branding, but intertwined the two.VENNlogo

Their careers would take them on to other opportunities, gaining experience in their respective specialties, Bills on the more creative side, and Erlij in business strategy. Bills spent time at Fitch before more recently residing as Executive In Residence at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Erlij spent time at L Brands and in corporate strategy at Ashland Inc.

Erlij found herself at a career crossroads about a year ago: follow her executive position at Ashland to Wilmington, DE or stay in Columbus. She opted for the later, touching base with her business contacts, one of them being Bills.

The pair finally found themselves in a position where they could take a plan many years in the making and turn it into reality. Create the kind of firm they saw a need for.

VENN spent the better part of last year taking on opportunistic clients, before officially launching last month on July 10.

With behemoths like Amazon, there’s a need for VENN’s hybrid approach now more than ever.

Retailers, consumer good brands and even B2B businesses are facing an unprecedented amount of interruption in the marketplace,” Bills says. 

He positions VENN as a growth strategy firm that subsequently does brand positioning.

Melding those two is a very rare thing indeed,” Bills adds.

VENN has four core service offerings that are sequential in nature. First comes Insights & Implications. Through hands-on work, the VENN team learns as much about their client’s consumer insights, future foresights, market dynamics and core competencies as possible. That information is used in Scenario Building, the second step. VENN identifies three or more directions or opportunities for growth, all hopefully equally viable but differentiated from one another.

In comes the science. VENN runs each scenario through a diagnostic, enabling the comparison of key qualitative and quantitative metrics. With the optimal scenario selected, it’s on to Brand Positioning – step three. The final service offering deals in the implementation of the scenario, creating the tactical plan around how to go to market.

“We’re very excited with the tools that we’ve developed and we’re looking at revising those on an ongoing basis through our client work,” Erlij says of their proprietary process.

VENN has found a sweet spot of clients in the $100 million to just under $1 billion range.

“The middle market is a great area of opportunity,” Erlij says.

Mid-size companies need to move quickly, but don’t typically have deep teams. VENN can help internal teams maximize their capabilities, and create a more integrated approach that accelerates decision making and improves ease to build consensus for brands.

VENN has piloted their strategy with local clients to companies across the globe, including Highlights for Children, Charles Penzone, German cutlery brand Wusthof and Japanese medical device company Gunze.

VENN’s uniqueness doesn’t stop with its melding of brand and business. The ‘collective’ piece calls on a network of experienced peers delivering work quickly and at a fair price.

“Our model is we’re experienced individuals who actually work on our projects, but also have, through our 20 years in our respective areas, have developed very strong networks with other individual practitioners,” Erlij says.

VENN will do it all from an office at the Idea Foundry in Franklinton. The ingenuity of the makerspace intrigued both Bills and Erlij even before they were in the position to look for an office. With shared capabilities and low overhead, “We have access to very inspiring and exciting spaces,” Erlij says.

“And people,” Bills adds.

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