The Making of YAY

For a long time, I had the entrepreneurial bug, but starting my own business was a moving target, always at least a few years out. In the last year, my energy started shifting. Suddenly, it became, Why not now?

When I was younger, I thought it made sense to wait until the timing was just right. I’d baked this ideal scenario where I could have the resources right out of the gate to hire a small team, maybe even have an office space, and vowed not to start until then. Being incredibly team-oriented and an extrovert who gets energy from working with others, I saw my ideal as necessary.

And because SmallBox was a once in a lifetime workplace, it was easy to be content where I was, pushing business dreams into a distant future.

In the last year, the energy shift began, slow but sure. The client projects I was working on had me completely enthralled: helping Regenstrief Institute with their rebrand as they moved into a newly built space, working with the former Partnership for Philanthropic Planning on renaming as National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, redesigning membership experience with the IU Alumni Association and teaching them design thinking methods along the way. Lydia Lodovisi, Sarah Herbert, and I created workshop curriculum and launched an educational offering for SmallBox. It was some of the most rewarding work of my career, and I’m sure will remain milestones for me, no matter what else I tackle.

At the same time, we were going through a long process to pivot the company. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but that process was helping me envision my future business. Jeb, our CEO always encouraged everyone to think like an owner. And I did! So much that I couldn’t let go of the vision I had for what would come to be Yes and Yonder.

Over my holiday break this winter, I had two weeks off for my reckoning. To make the leap, or not. In hindsight, I already knew the answer. It was more about sifting through the emotions of saying good bye to a great team, and starting the process of creating my new venture.

Once I allowed myself to admit I was starting a business, I thought of the name within a couple of days. “Yes and” is used in improv comedy, as well as by design thinking practitioners to build on ideas. This was one of the very first phrases that came to me. I love this positive, generative mindset. I tried it on with other words, but it seemed clunky. “Yes and Collab,” for example.

The other concept that commanded my attention is that generally when an organization hires a creative consulting firm, they have an inkling or spark of a better future, but they need some help getting there. Words like “inventive future” stuck in my mind. Also sort of clunky. “Yonder” emerged as the word that captured that place we want to go that does not yet exist, the one we will build together.

And there it was. Yes and Yonder. As a word nerd, I liked the alliteration. It projects two of three founding values (to be generative and inventive). All the better that the acronym is YAY.

Naming is one of the greatest (yet most fun!) brand challenges. It’s always disheartening to fall in love with a name, and find it is taken, or someone is squatting on the domain name. Having been hired for naming in the past, I can say it’s incredibly rare to choose a name so quickly. Even more so for it to be free and clear, available as a URL and social handles without compromising or changing spelling.

It felt like the universe was saying YES.

For the logo, I considered all kinds of images of adventure. Arrows and wayfinding. Horizons. Knapsacks. The idea of a treasure map led to the finished product. The x marks the spot.

yes-and-yonder-logoEverything else fell into place quickly. While the legal and financial side of things intimidated me, the reality was that for a small amount of money, a lawyer and the CPA handled everything. I simply had to provide a few bits of information and sign some papers. I am still stunned by the ease of the process.

More YES from the universe. And yonder we go…