Breathing Life Into Earthling

When I first learned I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29, I was pissed and shocked. I had no family history that I knew of. I’ve never been a smoker and have never set foot inside a tanning salon. I had just taken a big leap in my health several months prior by switching to a 100% plant-based diet. How could I have stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma?

Due to a genetic mutation, my tumor grew rapidly and aggressively. As I prepared for a year of treatment that would involve five months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and most likely radiation, I tried to get used to the concept of baldness, physical weakness, and lots of drugs. My husband Greg and I consulted a naturopath to see how we could offset the hardcore Western medicine cocktails that would be regularly running through my veins. Learning more about the amazing nutritional power of plants made me even more confident that my diet would serve me well in this fight—and it sure as hell did. Not only did it help my body crush cancer quickly and efficiently, but it also allowed me to skip the entire last phase of my treatment plan. The day I found out I no longer required radiation was one of the happiest, proudest days of my life. I was proud of myself for staying disciplined, and I was proud of my body for kicking ass.

A year later, I find myself at a small studio, sitting in a room at ATLAS Workbase in Seattle with Greg, my brother-in-law Tony, and soon-to-be sister-in-law Christine. The four of us have had the magic of plants touch our lives in different ways and starting a food company together is a beautiful no-brainer. But with no experience starting a business, we needed some help.

Through a serendipitous connection, Greg participated in the two-day Launch Camp for the first Seed Spot cohort in Seattle to structure our initial ideas into a path forward. The Launch Camp was a godsend—Greg learned the entrepreneurial nuts and bolts of identifying a problem people are experiencing, developing and structuring a data-driven solution, and centering it all around Earthling’s audacious mission: saving the planet. Greg’s hard work combined with Earthling’s industry-disrupting passion earned him the (unexpected) “Most Impact” award! On top of that, John Johnson made the additional surprise announcement that Earthling’s reward was a full-day brand-identity workshop at his firm, a small studio.

John also invited us to present our business at 1 Million Cups in Seattle, where we took the opportunity to test our first product—a 100% plant-based potato, egg, and cheese breakfast burrito. We included a comment card with facts about how many CO2 emissions, gallons of water, and square feet of land were saved by choosing our product over the animal-based version. The valuable feedback we received from both meat-eaters and vegans alike gave us confidence in our decision to continue building this thing, and the 1 Million Cups community’s insight and support have been the integral force in our concept’s maturity.

But what is a business without a brand identity? I’m not talking about just color palettes and website layouts. I’m talking about the unique voice and personality that breathes life into a business. Thanks to a small studio, our family had the opportunity to devote an entire day to figure this out for Earthling Food Company.

Looking back to before the workshop, I feel like we knew so little about Earthling. Through a series of mind mapping and word exercises, they pulled us out of the traditional way of thinking. In our brand identity workshop with John and Kenzie, we started with creating a list of our peer companies and the industry “anchor points,” and after careful deliberation, we also identified three anchors specific to Earthling. This gave us incredible clarity concerning the elements of the Earthling brand that will set it apart in the industry and ensure its success. We then used a similar method to determine Earthling’s top three unique strengths and values.

Through this process, we discovered qualities about the brand identity that weren’t previously apparent, and we ultimately learned that Earthling’s identity already existed—and John was the identity architect who helped us excavate it. By temporarily suspending our preconceived notions of what Earthling should be, we were able to establish the foundation needed to conceptualize our brand persona, develop a market strategy, and move forward with a much deeper sense of where Earthling is headed. Did I mention this was only an eight-hour workshop?

When it comes to establishing a brand identity, every word matters. Working through these exercises with a small studio helped us get out of our heads to build an identity for Earthling that is separate from our own, yet embraces and reflects our convictions. By the end of the workshop, we had developed our identity statement, and each time I revisit it, I know we’ve made the right decision to go all in. Thank you, John and Kenzie for believing in us and giving us the love and support needed to make a big impact.

I can’t wait to share the healing power of food with others through Earthling. We’re so grateful to our mentors at Seed Spot, a small studio, 1 Million Cups, and Studio Wild for supporting us through this early, yet critical stage!