This is my story

"I found my dream job.

All I had to do was get excited about selling things I didn't believe in."

At 23 years old, I had landed my dream job. I was a graphic designer at a branding agency in New York, creating ad campaigns for globally-recognized brands. And yet I was profoundly unhappy.

 

I was hired as a student during my junior year of art college -- my boss convincingly explaining that I'd learn more during my first month on the job than I would in an entire year of college. Despite my parents' initial horror, he was right.

 

The advertising world in New York was exciting and glamorous at first. Our company's motto was "create desire" and that's exactly what we did. Our logo was a bunny with a carrot dangling in front of it, forever out of reach. The key to my job was convincing the public that a new car or lipstick would make them happy. 

 

My career path was laid out before me: impress clients, get promoted, become a senior Creative Director with a corner office on Madison Avenue like Don Draper from Mad Men. All I had to do was get excited about selling things I didn't believe in. 

 

This was the opposite of how I wanted to live my life, but I was too afraid to leave a career that seemed so promising just a few short years prior. 

 

I didn’t like who I was becoming so in an attempt to revive my soul, I began looking for ways to help others instead of myself.

charity: water

"To everyone, it seemed like I was going backward. But I’d never felt more alive."

One day in 2006, a next-door neighbor of mine introduced me to a guy named Scott Harrison. Scott had a crazy dream of building a charity to give clean water to the (then) 1.1 billion people who didn't have it. This was the opposite of selling lipstick and cars - this was a product I could truly get behind.

 

Drained and disappointed with the advertising industry, I made another crazy decision and traded an office desk for a spot at Scott's kitchen table (our office at the time). My parents were utterly confused. My friends thought I was crazy.  To everyone, it seemed like I was going backward. But I’d never felt more alive.

 

Our vision was to build a one-of-a-kind charity — one with an epic and extraordinary brand. We believed that if we did it right, our brand could be our secret weapon.  

 

Scott was at first my hero, then my boss, and eventually my husband and father to our two kids. He hooked me in with his mission of changing the world, and together we dreamed of reinventing charity for our generation.

"I remember the long nights and weekends spent in front of a screen figuring out how to build a website."

When I think back to the early days of building charity: water, I don't think of smart, strategic planning sessions with highly-paid consultants or a trendy branding agency giving us the keys to our perfect brand.

 

I remember the long nights and weekends spent in front of a screen figuring out how to build a website or fighting with accounting software to get our logo to display properly on customer receipts.

 

Our progress was messy and riddled with rookie mistakes, but it was authentic. We learned through each experience and devoured every bit of advice from mentors, fellow peers, and experts. 

 

What we lacked in knowledge, we made up for in spades with humility, persistence and a relentless desire to learn from the best.

I'm here for you.

The early days of a startup are exciting, exhausting and confusing. I understand that as a new entrepreneur, you're wearing all the hats.

 

You're making changes to your business model, building an audience, launching a website, creating a social media presence, answering customer service emails and so, so much more.

 

You're building the plane as you're flying it.

 

know you know that public image is important. Your brand is the one area you can't afford to overlook. But who has time to read a million articles on the internet just to learn how to build a successful homepage? And hiring an expensive agency to do it for you isn't an option right now.

 

If you're anything like I was ten years ago, I bet you're desperate for advice and guidance. And let's be honest, a shortcut or two once in a while. 

 

I got you. That's what I'm here for.

 

This is why I created The Branded Startup. To help first-time, creative (design experience not required) entrepreneurs like you navigate the early years of building a startup. I'm here to help you build a remarkable brand and save you lots of time and headaches along the way.

 

And yes, have all the fun in the process.

 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my story, and getting all the way down here. I admire you for taking the plunge and starting something of your own. I know the courage it takes, and I'm here to serve you as you fly and build the plane of your dreams.  

 

xo, Vik
 

photos by Cubby Graham

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