by Lindsay Odom
Communications Manager, Endeavor
1. How did you get started in your career?
I worked for Brains on Fire for over 20 years, which is a branding, word-of-mouth company based in Greenville with an office in Los Angeles. I did everything there, as an art director, creative director, and 12 to 13 years ago I became director of insight and strategy with a focus in branding, rebranding, and building word-of-mouth movements, or community.
Fresh out of college, I was fortunate enough to be asked by the Office of Drug Control Policy to work on President Clinton’s drug control program for teenagers that focused on refining messaging around marijuana, inhalants, meth, alcohol, and primarily, tobacco use. It was very influential to me while I was in my early 20s. In school, I thought life after college was going to be all about winning awards and being able to say, ‘Oh, I produced that TV commercial! I designed that billboard!’ However, my mind was completely changed one summer while sitting at a kitchen table with mothers and fathers who were losing or had lost children to drugs.
That fire sat in my bones until six years later when the state of South Carolina issued an RFP to build youth tobacco prevention programs. I decided to do something radical and put my whole career reputation on the line. I convinced Brains on Fire as a creative director, who was not involved in strategy, to do this project differently – not as an ad campaign, but through peer to peer conversations involving teens who were passionate about empowering others and building a curriculum about tobacco prevention on the local level.
Eventually, this project became a case study for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), won many awards, and we documented several books.
2. What inspired you to start your own business?
In February of 2015, I was feeling ill (as I was on my way to Disney to speak about a wellness project, ironically). After a medical emergency, I found out that I was a severe diabetic, which made me question what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I ultimately made the decision to leave Brains on Fire after 23 years to pursue my own business, The Shared Ship.
The Shared Ship is driven by the quest for exploration and discovery. I love digital communication and face- to-face communication, and I believe we’re missing far too much physicality in our life and in our work today. Far too often, we fail to build true empathetic strategies because we’re not taking the time to get to know our customers. We’re too fast, we’re too quick, and impatient to walk in the footsteps of the people we serve. I’m constantly asking, how do we fit in the lives of our customers? Do we really matter? That’s what I’m exploring through The Shared Ship.
I’m inspired by pirates. I grew up loving pirates, the brand, the Jolly Roger flag, the patch and the stories. If you study the history of pirates in our nation, every decision that a pirate made was a business decision. It’s funny because even though they’re villains, I admire their branding, including the branding on a pirate ship. What symbol more than 300 years old, other than the cross, is as iconic as the Jolly Roger flag?
3. What projects are you working on right now?
The Shared Ship has two parts. First, it is a true consultancy. I’ve been conducting what is called The Shared Ship workshop, a five-part workshop – fight, code, flag, crew, and yarn – that helps organizations identify and spark their culture through opportunities that build community. Secondly, I’m in the early stages of working with social cause organizations, some on the global scale, to host my workshops and build communication strategies for them. My client base is mainly in education, and I help build an internal culture through community engagement, empowerment, and volunteerism. On my business card, there’s a Latin phrase that says, ‘do brave deeds and endure.’ That’s my lens for The Shared Ship, I want people to wake up and do good for themselves and for their customers.
4. What is your favorite part about Endeavor?
One of the reasons I looked at Endeavor and why I have so much respect for Joe Erwin is because of what he’s done for Greenville – he put Greenville on the map for advertising and marketing, and we’ve all benefitted from the flag that he was able to fly.
I love the vibe at Endeavor. It’s calm here and it’s very aesthetically pleasing for small start-ups like myself – it makes me look better. When I bring a potential client here, the space is a good reflection on me and what I’m trying to do with The Shared Ship. Endeavor fits the quality of what I’m trying to do for my business. It’s unique because it brings a lot of different people together, but our creativity is our common denominator.
5. What advice do you have for other creatives?
I think the biggest thing that holds back potential freelancers and entrepreneurs is fear. When we get a job, it pays our bills, allows us to have a car, a house, pets, and sometimes we fall in a trap where we wait for the week to end and the weekend to come. One day, you’ll wake up 20 years from now and say, ‘what have I done?’
My suggestion to everyone would be to invest time in yourself. Find out what makes you feel good and what you’re proud of. It goes back to your fight. Do you wake up every day and feel inspired? Take some time to do something meaningful and see if it stirs something in your bones. Life is too short not to jump ship and explore, and if you don’t explore, you can’t discover.