Live Your Brand Tour: Entrepreneurs Across the U.S. Take Us for a Spin

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The following is the first in the series "Live Your Brand" in which branding expert Melanie Spring takes us along on her three-week road trip across the country to meet innovative entrepreneurs whose experiences offer lessons learned to businesses big and small.

In November 2012, I moved out of my home, said good-bye to my dogs, coworkers and friends and drove away. I’d spent the previous four years as many entrepreneurs do: nose to the grindstone, head under water, working days on end to get my company up and running. It was time to take a break.

I had a longing to see more of this great country and decided what better way to see it than through a cross-country road trip. I also wanted to meet new people who were kicking butt at business. People with stories to tell.

As a branding geek teaching companies how to live their brand, I wanted to uncover the companies rocking their brand so I could bring back their stories and share them.

Related: Why Every Personal Brand Needs a Target Audience

Why did I do this? I had grown tired of the same old stories. You’ve probably heard these classic business tales: how Nike got its start, how Apple became so innovative, how FedEx changed the face of mail. You may have studied these companies -- how their logos evolved, their business secrets to success, their path from founder’s garage to multinational status. But I wanted to know: who is doing something different right this minute? Who is living their brand while it’s growing?

Business is the heartbeat of America. People are starting companies every day for any number of reasons. But many don’t make it. The biggest problem is that while most business owners know how to run their business, they lack the marketing skills to brand themselves well enough to grow.

I wanted to uncover new businesses doing this well -- businesses breathing their brand daily, from their logo and marketing materials to their employees and culture. I couldn’t read one more article or listen to another interview about the same great companies. I wanted to find the ones that haven’t had a chance to tell their stories.

Related: Why Americans Love Small Business

So, with nothing but a suitcase and a car, I hit the road and drove across the U.S. to meet all kinds of people with all styles of businesses to find out their secrets. From Washington to San Francisco, down the West Coast and back, I drove through big cities and small towns chatting with restaurants, startups, jewelry stores, non-profits, dog toy makers and so many more. For three weeks, with a Moleskine notebook and my favorite pen in hand, I listened intently and pulled new tips and tricks from unexpected people and places.

Finding out that Kyjen, a Colorado-based dog toy innovation engine, and Timbuk2, a messenger bag creator, both hire for family was astounding. So many business consultants will tell you never to do that and here were two successful companies rocking their brand with their office families. Getting a taste for how LiveFyre, blogging community builders, has set up their brand to still feel tiny to their customers by reaching out to every person who installs their software while growing exponentially in a very short amount of time showed the big difference between mega-brands and the startups competing with them.

My three-week road trip ended, but this brand tour is just beginning. I’m still learning from all of these brands and have been sharing their tips with clients and audiences. These are the stories of companies that know how to live their brand. I just got to go a on a killer road trip to find them.

Tune in to my weekly Live Your Brand tour to meet some of these remarkable entrepreneurs, learn more about how they are making big strides and how you can too.

Related: How Failure Made These Entrepreneurs Millions

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