COO of Umbrellux DAO, Kurt Cameron, let me pick his brain on the brand, and marketing advise. Here’s how this writer turned COO created his own career path.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was raised in Fargo, on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. I began my career writing catalog copy for a national supplement retailer based in Fargo. Later, after a brief period writing for a national medical/dental supply company in Minneapolis, I returned to Fargo where I live with my wife, three kids, and Hobbes the cat-dog.
How did you get started with your business?
While my goal in college was to become a speechwriter, I quickly found that my education provided an excellent foundation for copywriting and marketing. While in school, I took a break to open a successful coffee house (pre-Starbucks era), which gave me a taste for business, branding and marketing. After nearly 25 years of copywriting, brand development and eventually complete product development, I joined with a former colleague to assist in the launch of Umbrellux DAO.
What has helped you succeed in your industry and on your business path?
I’ve found that honesty and integrity are the two underlying virtues that drive success both personally and professionally. I can’t work on something I don’t believe in, and that comes through to both colleagues and customers. Being honest, forthright and compassionate with employees, vendors and customers is the only way to build strong, lasting relationships and promote confidence in the company.
What was a mistake you made in business and what did you learn from that mistake?
Moving too fast is a common mistake I’ve both witnessed and engaged in myself. It’s easy to do when you’re excited and passionate about your venture, but it’s important to slow down and fully consider all aspects of operations before you go full-throttle into the market. Without proper systems in place before you begin, you’re setting yourself up for potentially catastrophic challenges down the road. Slow your roll in order to prepare yourself for success, or your success could turn out to be your failure.
What surprises have you had along the way? What have you learned from those surprises?
I’ve been surprised by how quickly and completely our culture changes, and that pace continues to accelerate. I started writing for catalogs. My kids ask “what’s a catalog?” That’s an obvious one, but another more important example is consumer expectations. Technology has not only influenced the channels through which we do business, but has also contributed to a shift in how we as consumers engage with companies. Again, I’ve learned that it’s important to slow down, consider the temperature of the market, and be prepared to serve the customer in a manner that meets and exceeds growing expectations.
What advice do you have for those just starting out in your industry or for other entrepreneurs?
If you don’t love what you do or believe in what you sell, find another project. There has to be more to your objective than base profit motive. And don’t be afraid to fail. Failures, large and small, are educational. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
What helps you stay passionate about your goals? What are your upcoming goals?
I think anyone with an entrepeneurial spirit is always chasing success in ways both large and small. I’m rather task-oriented, so I approach even small tasks as opportunities for success. And I celebrate those small successes privately, which gives me confidence to tackle the next challenge. It could be as small as completing this questionnaire. I’m not great at talking about myself in this manner, so when it’s complete I will give myself a pat on the back as I let out a sigh of relief.
What key factors help you position your brand? What makes your brand unique?
We are in the enviable position of having a truly unique product with virtually no competition. We serve a very specific niche market in desperate need of solutions, with a proven product that really works. Moreover, we spend as much on consumer education as we do on marketing, because we know that histamine intolerance (HIT) is vastly under-recognized. We believe that millions of people suffer for years without knowing that there even is such a thing as HIT, just as I did. In short, we have a product with a unique ingredient that is exclusive to us (and our partners), and we believe in that product and use it ourselves. At risk of using a tired buzzword, it all comes down to authenticity.
What marketing advice do you have for others in your industry?
Go where the market takes you. You may begin with a focus on a particular channel, or a particular message or brand identity, and find that the real opportunities are elsewhere. Be agile. Listen to your customers and watch the numbers. They’ll tell you where you need to be and how you need to present yourself.
How do you build relationships with your customers or clients?
Back to my earlier screed on honesty and integrity, to which I will add perseverance, empathy, and respect. We treat everyone as a partner, whether you work for us, work with us, or purchase from us. We are all partners in each other’s success.
Any tips or insights on leadership, communication or growth?
Leadership is a tricky thing, and the old cliche holds true–we lead by example. I believe that strong leaders empower others to succeed and do not engage in demonstrations of power or superiority. Again, we are all partners in each other’s success. Communication is key to building a strong team. It should be timely, honest and forthright. When it comes to internal teams, I always opt for providing too much information rather than not enough. The more your team knows about your business the stronger they are and the stronger the company will be. Growth in business is directly correlated to personal growth, in my opinion, and that is true at all levels within the organization. When we support the personal and professional growth of our team members and ourselves, we support the growth and the health of the company overall.
Tell us more about you. What motivates you? What relaxes you? How do you find balance?
I’ve approached my entire career with one goal: to provide the best service or product that I can to whomever my customer may be. In my coffee house days, that customer was the individual across the counter and my business partner. In my corporate days, that customer was the end consumer and whomever my task was serving–that could be the CEO, the telephone service representatives, the quality control team, the production team, etc. I am motivated by satisfying the needs of those who rely on my work product. I relax by unplugging, ignoring the phone, and reading. My true happy place is in the kitchen or at the grill. That’s the one reason I stifle all my entrepreneurial inclinations toward the culinary industry–I want to keep that pleasure for myself. I’m a libra, so balance is built in. If I don’t maintain it, life has a way of letting me know. And back to the start, if you love what you do, work can be play and play can be work. Balance doesn’t have to be sought, it manifests on its own.
Where can people find you?
On Facebook @umbrelluxdao
On Instagram @umbrelluxdao