Blog: Paul Jenkins, Jr.

"If you think you can do it, or you think you can't do it, you are right." – Henry Ford

Poly-entrepreneur Paul Jenkins, Jr., has gadded about the world but the home state of Ford is his base. This week the restaurateur and owner of What Crepe? creperie writes on starving doubt.

Post 1: The Only Way to Change Your Position is to Move

Allow me to satisfy the pundits and scholars by giving the textbook definition of "brand". According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a brand is defined as a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer or a characteristic or distinctive kind.  Branding has continued to evolve, encompassing identity - it affects the personality of a product, company or service and now more commonly any individual who works to become more of themselves.

OK, now that we've been all politically correct let's get right to it.

What are the real strategies to developing a recognizable brand?

While strategies should be designed to fulfill the needs of your individual effort, development of that strategy should be guided by the following principles:

Fearlessness. Sometimes heavy contemplation or too much forethought makes a task more difficult than the action it takes to just do it. You want to develop a brand? Do it! It's that simple. Close your eyes, and take a leap of faith and let your eagle wings fly. The only way to change your position is to move.

Artful Imitation. While it is essential to remain true to what you initially believe makes your brand authentic and different, imitating the efforts of great ones who have achieved in their respective fields is not a bad idea.

Passion. This, in my opinion, is where branding really begins. It doesn't take too much effort to follow textbook models for success. It does take guts to discover and relentlessly pursue whatever it is that drives you. Lend your thoughts to these conceptual geniuses: Wolfgang Puck, Russell Simmons, Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. You're probably assuming that money is what they most have in common. I would venture to say that the wealth of passion that it took for them to risk it all for the sake of their dreams and the return on that passionate investment is what they would all be talking about if they gathered to swap stories over a good meal.

You Are the Brand. Much like how Michael Jordan is in the sole of every shoe he sells, or in the way Bill Gates is infused in every Microsoft script, you and your brand will operate fruitfully in the totality of your limitlessness.  

Find a Niche. Part of the process of developing a brand is to look for niche projects. I was always taught that the meeting between preparation and opportunity produces success.  After becoming inspired by international travel and internalizing the places visited, I felt it was a natural progression to develop my inspirations into a brand at the right opportunity.

The brand What Crepe? was mainly inspired by my travels to Toronto. Frequent visits to my favorite creperie in Yorkville, Toronto begged the question: "Why am I unable to experience this in my hometown?" At that point the vision came to life. I relentlessly began researching crepe restaurants in Michigan. After countless hours of research it dawned on me that the concept was non-existent. The void appeared to me as a challenge.

I chose to build my brand in Michigan for several reasons. First, because Michigan is my hometown and I understand my accountability to the place that raised me. Second, the challenge of creating a brand that from its inception was a huge motivational piece, my great pleasure lies in creating a model from scratch and bringing it to life, often without prior experience or training. Lastly, I saw an opportunity to help revive the economic climate in Michigan. The job market was in dire need of a boost and the entrepreneurial morale was low. By introducing a new and exciting concept to a community in need I could create a successful ripple effect. I was able to show that even in economic turmoil, if you have a good idea it will still work and the people in the community you seek to build will support you.

This project also helped me to give to local charities across the tri-county area. I could have taken this concept to any other market but my roots, heart and support are with Michigan, and I want to be on the team that is staying in Michigan to help bring it back to life.

With that being said, I encourage you to FIND THE REAL YOU. Soul search. Rebel. Travel.  Spend time alone. Do something that scares the hell out of you. Get creative. Seek and be an inspiration. Enjoy the person you are. Find the true great things about yourself. BE THE BRAND and share it with the world.


Paul Jenkins Jr.