Entre-SLAM Brand Pivots: 1, 2, & 3

Hi, I’m Christa Chambers-Price, the CEO of Entre-SLAM, Inc. and I hate networking.

With. A. Passion.

Not because I hate people, I guess I’m just way to tuned into other people’s energy and let’s face it, in many networking settings, folks just aren’t showing up in their true ‘skin’, if you will. Plus, I’m an introvert and prefer a fabulous comfy and roomy pair of sweat pants and a silly rom com movie. BUT, meeting new people is kind of necessary for entrepreneurs, if growth is remotely a part of the strategy. So, at the time, I shared with a client in Maine that I was thinking of starting this event where entrepreneurs would experience the following:

  1. have fun

  2. enjoy, real, authentic conversations with folks who were fully present in a DIVERSE crowd

  3. eat really good food, have some great drinks and laugh…a lot.

A name was on my heart and I floated it past her: Entre-SLAM.

My client said, ‘Oh no! Entre-SLAM just sounds aggressive and negative. What about Entre-SNAP, like the beat poetry slams, where folks clap by snapping their fingers!’

Uh…maybe? Feeling extra introvert-y, I thought that maybe she had a point.

A few months later, the concept of a networking event for ‘people who hate networking’ came up with again with a client here in Ann Arbor. We met at a jazz club to talk about it and I floated the name Entre-SNAP. We both felt a general, ‘nah’. So, I brought up the other name, Entre-SLAM that I was in my head (and heart). She went nuts. Happy nuts.

So, Entre-SLAM is was.

Brand Pivot #1: The Beginning

After a whirlwind of coming together as partners, we settled on a first event where we would invite a few friends and have a night of storytelling. Modeled similarly to The Moth, our kickoff theme was: Going Against the Grain. Our location was in downtown Ann Arbor at Kerrytown in the Zingerman’s Event Space. (the pic below was taken an hour before folks showed up…and BOY did they!)

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Because we felt that we were like rebels with (or without) a cause, we wanted a look that reflected more of a grunge/steampunk feel and was meant to look anti-establishment. As much as we tried to visually create a space where entrepreneurs could be authentic, it was almost like, the die was already cast. The storytellers that night seemed to evolve as the night went on from those who were stuck in the pitch (the first five storytellers, btw) to one, midway through the show, who GOT IT (Emilia Sibley) and opened the floodgates for the rest of the storytellers to shine authentically.

The night was like MAGIC. The place was packed, standing room only. The local/regional press loved it. We scored our first national hit with an article in CNN/Fortune.com. The success of that first event opened up monthly storytelling events in Ann Arbor and they were CRAZY fun. In addition to the storytelling, we added entertainment: rappers, improv teams, costume contests, a Celtic band, a flame thrower, a magician, a TON of food and great drinks. We accomplished our goals for entrepreneurs to have fun. Even with the all of the fun, business deals were made and lasting friendships started.

But there was a catch.

We were broke.

NONE of the events generated income, so behind the scenes, were starving and robbing Peter to pay Paul and slapping Timothy on the way out the door to find scraps of ANYTHING to keep going. Unfortunately, the strain of making ZERO dollars was too much for the partnership and my partner left.

I shut down the events because not only were they not sustainable but we got our proverbial asses smoked one night when a competitor opened up a similar event on the same night, same time and three doors down from our event in Detroit. Our attendees: 65. Their attendees: over 1,000.

Ouch.

So, after being cussed out by my advisor for not being able to clearly know why this concept was worth fight for, I put myself on a self-imposed exile and Entre-SLAM on ice. At that point, it was not clear if Entre-SLAM would continue. This period was particularly painful but necessary. But the good news is that I DID figure out why I was bound and determined to commit to this concept. I dusted myself off and decided to start again.

Brand Pivot #2: Refocused

I spent the first few weeks, quietly tightening my focus from creating an experience for groups to building experiences for individual entrepreneurs and giving them the space to explore why they were bound and determined to see their visions come to a reality. The results were immediate. By working with individuals, I was able to have a direct impact but also be given the space to slowly test out the new ‘shell’, if you will. I was essentially working ‘underground’ for months and slowly building relationships and helping entrepreneurs break through internal barriers tied to them not knowing why their brands were ineffective.

Feeing more confident, I decided to fire up the events machine again and well, ‘get back out there’. The format of the shows had to change because Entre-SLAM was different now. The experience had to be more intimate with a vibe that celebrated authenticity. I came across this artist: Josh Agle and his work just hit me:

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This mod/retro feel was EXACTLY what I was hoping/trying to achieve. I worked on another logo because with the partnership dissolved, a new look seemed appropriate.

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I pushed to create that vibe with our first event which was held in a coffee shop in Downtown Ann Arbor. We transformed the space to have an intimate, fun feel to it.

Again, the community embraced the changes because the storytelling was not tied to a theme but to the brand story itself. As time moved on, this look/the icon worked.

Sort of.

The icon reflected what we thought Entre-SLAM was build to accomplish: help entrepreneurs use their story to start dialogues that leads to new sales and/or customers.

But something was still off and it was clear after being stagnant again, we were missing a critical piece. Was the actual outcome to deliver/start conversations? Yes and no.

Brand Pivot #3: Pushing Movements Up

One night during a show in Chicago, Entre-SLAM caught the attention of a VP from The American Heart Association. Eventually, I was asked to deliver a similar event for their multicultural division who was seeking ways to invite innovators to help solve big health problems in urban communities. The opportunity was overwhelming but I felt 100% ready. After years of putting on events, we used every tool/skill and all of our creativity to deliver an experience that has grown into a signature, revenue-generating event. The process of working with innovators across the country to help them not just build compelling stories but create an identify for the brands was just …amazing and well, perfect.

I was in love. Finally.

I was in love with this brand that I fought for, cried over, bled on, tried to shun and through all of the angst, this concept of giving fuel, direction and momentum for brands to conquer the world…represented the REAL reason why Entre-SLAM exists. We work with brands who are trying to make the impossible happen. We help uncover and focus the reason why they must get up and keep fighting while giving them the tools and strategies to make ‘it’ happen.

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So, of course, we needed an image and an icon that represents what a lot of hard, smart work can deliver: powerful, momentum that fuels brands to deliver great ideas thats moves the world.

Context:

I was born in 1967, my journey has meaning that informs what I do and why.

2012 is the year that Entre-SLAM originally started, I’ll always honor those innocent and hopeful moments.

The rocket. I’m a space/NASA nerd and am fascinated with how an organization like NASA can continually deliver incredible missions that are in direct alignment with a compelling purpose.

So there you have it. The evolution of Entre-SLAM and if folks have been following us, these are the reasons why we made the pivots. I believe we’re probably in the right place now and who knows:

Maybe I’ll get a tattoo.

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