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…




On my break today, I bought the dogs this plastic toy shaped like a strawberry. It has a hole where you can put treats inside. The dogs have to roll it around and squeeze it a bit to make the goodness inside come out. Even once the treats have all fallen out and been snapped up, they keep at it. Just in case. They don’t know for sure if there’s one last treat hidden inside. Watching them go at it, I begin to see that the phrase dogged determination makes a lot of sense. They’re quite lost in the task at hand.

We’ve been talking about how to get lost in our work at SmallBox lately. This has all stemmed from our focus on people-centeredness. We want work to be a very human experience, one that is challenging and rewarding with elements of play. It should be a good outlet for our creativity, diverse skill sets and growing appetites to make the world a better place.

I also recently passed the five-year anniversary mark at SmallBox. To mark the occasion, Jeb has suggested I take a sabbatical in 2016. He took one last summer and has sung the praises of the break and focused thinking and creating time it allowed.

A sabbatical seems the perfect place to explore a blend of work and play, and to understand what getting lost with no constraints can really look like for me. Should I use it to travel? Take a crash course in cello? Should I spend the whole time making art or writing?

Right now, I’ve not made a single plan. Not which month to take it in, or what to focus on. This expansiveness of possibility is equally thrilling and daunting. I only know for sure I want to get lost in something… an art project, a collaboration, a meditation practice… something that grips me.

What would you do with a month sabbatical?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Thicken the Plot. We’re all writing the story of our lives as we go. How can you make your story interesting in 2016? And if you can’t see around the bend, it’s okay to dream. Let’s make 2016 one of the most riveting parts of our tale, shall we?”


I’m experimenting with writing on Medium – my first post is live!

Vulnerability + Business

It’s an exploration of vulnerability at work. It’s a post I tried to write for the SmallBox blog back in March, but never published because it didn’t feel finished. For whatever reason, the words came much easier this morning. Maybe it was the months of distance, but perhaps it was that Medium was the right space to publish it.

For more of my writing with a more business slant, you can also check out my SmallBox blogs.

From Accidental to Dream Job

During college I worked at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t intend to stay as long as I did. Nearly seven years in, I’d held 5 positions at 4 different stores in Evansville and Chicago. I had the chance to lead really diverse teams of booksellers and got loads of practice in hiring, interviewing, providing professional development and performance reviews, and building teams.

I loved many things about working there, including visual merchandising, hand-selling books, and the people side of human resources, though managing a book store was not my long term dream job. When it was time to move on, I got started with my first marketing gig at United Way, where I learned a lot about community building and digital marketing.

A couple of creative agencies later, and I’m just starting a new role that combines different bits from my past experience, including what I sometimes call my “accidental career” at Barnes & Noble. I had no idea how critical the things I learned there would be to my present day dream job.

I couldn’t be more pleased to take on the new role of Chief Culture Officer at SmallBox, where I’ve been working as a marketing strategist for the past couple of years.

In true SmallBox form, the job is mine to shape over time, but it includes a mix of marketing, business development, human resources and, of course, focusing on our culture.

Our CEO Jeb Banner frequently says he’s driven to design dream jobs for our team. In my case, mission accomplished.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Handwrite a tweet to a friend. What’s it look like?”

The Nooner!

The NoonerI’m stepping outside of my normal marketing and board member role at Indy Film Fest to curate some short films for a new monthly series. I’m pleased to introduce The Nooner. It’s lunch. It’s short films. It’s afternoon delight.

This has been a little pet project of mine for a while, as I’ve fretted over how little access there is to short film programming round the year in Indianapolis. I’m hoping this will change all that!

This new shorts program will take place on the final Friday of each month in the café at Earth House. The first edition is tomorrow at noon, and I can’t wait to kick it off. We’re showing past Oscar winning shorts for this inaugural outing. You can rsvp on facebook, or just show up! The screening is free.

Have ideas for a film to feature? Or maybe you’re a filmmaker and want to submit your film? Contact me here.

Bloggy Goodness

MOKBfilmMy love for movies is starting to take over my free time. But I couldn’t be happier to announce I’ve joined as editor, film. The blog has been a strong voice in the music scene locally and nationally, and I’m thrilled to pioneer film coverage for them.

Here are the first few posts:

You can also follow @MOKBfilm. I’m really excited to see where this goes!

Dream Team

It’s official – I’ve joined the board of the Indy Film Fest, a.k.a the Dream Team. It is such an honor to be part of this festival. I previously volunteered on the film screening committee, as well as helping with promotion and at various events. I’ll be focusing on marketing needs for the festival, along with the amazing team at Lodge Design.

It couldn’t be a more exciting time to increase my involvement with the festival. We’ve just started a new program called Roving Cinema, in which we bring movies to the perfect setting for viewing. First up was a sold out screening of Strange Brew at Sun King Brewery. We’re currently working on the 2011 schedule. We’ve also got a doc screening coming up at the Toby with our lovely partners at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Did I mention submissions have just opened for the big fest in July?

For me, being part of something like this provides a sense of purpose that I don’t get elsewhere. While I love both the work I do by day and my solo creative endeavors, there’s nothing quite like the charge of volunteering. I’ve heard volunteering can even add years to your life, a pretty sweet bonus if you ask me.


Please check out my new side project, Sundayed. I’ll be contributing a post now and again, along with some really sharp writers. The site was created by Jason Moriber to deliver provocative weekend reading. He says:

I pined for a site that intended to write ‘Sunday” reading material. Thoughtful, insightful, personal, practical, and intriguing. I discussed this idea over time with many of the contributors who have signed on to write for this blog and we decided to make this intent-driven site ourselves.Each week, either on Sunday (or just before), we’ll post a handful of writings by a widening list of interested contributors. Not too much stuff, just enough material to fit the hour or two during that splended weekend day when you’re finally free from the previous week, and are gearing up to conquer the week ahead.

My first post, Untitled [A Colorful Man] is a personal story of loss, and while it was difficult to write, it felt good to put it out in the world.