Kareim Bakhsh December 31, 2019
We created Supervox in order to give ourselves the opportunity to exercise our skills and pursue our passions on projects that engage us, for clients who energize us. And by both those measures, the nature and variety of our work over the past twelve months made 2019 extremely rewarding.
As a new year dawns, let’s take a quick look at a few brands we helped conceive and deliver – including The Celeste of St. Paul Hotel + Bar, part of the Rebound Hospitality family of hotels; and Reunion restaurant in Northfield, operated by Rebound’s sister entity, Freetime Restaurants. What unites these projects – beyond some of their stakeholders – are their deep roots in the history of their communities. The Celeste, for example, used to be St. Agatha’s Conservatory of Music and Arts, run by the St. Paul branch of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. It not only housed a school (and a very prestigious one at that), it also served as the nuns’ convent. In naming the property (after the Sister who first ran St. Agatha’s) and creating its visual identity, brand story, website and other materials, we wanted to honor that heritage while projecting all the attributes of a refined, service-oriented, boutique hotel. We think we succeeded, and we’re grateful for this godsend of a project.
Meanwhile, an hour or so south of the Twin Cities, a venerable Minnesota property was undergoing a profound transformation. Ask anyone who lives or studied in Northfield about the Rueb ‘n’ Stein, and they’ll have countless memories to share, so central was this bar and restaurant to the life of the community. Thus when locally-owned Freetime Restaurants took over the property and engaged us to help create “the Rueb’s” successor, we felt a real responsibility to do right by the town; to respect not just its owners’ financial investment in the property, but the entire community’s emotional stake in it. Reunion was the result, and we’re proud to have been a part of it.
We also assisted Minnesota-based master landscaper Tim Johnson in the naming and branding of his business, Livit Site + Structure. A truly innovative artist and craftsman, Tim creates environments that go far beyond the ornamental, merging beauty and utility in a way that reflects and elevates the lifestyles of his clients. This year, we celebrated nearly ten years working with an equally creative client, Minneapolis-based Twist, led by Sandy LaMendola, a creator of spectacular interior environments. What a privilege it was to sit across the table from people who are so passionate about they do – and so good at it! It just might be the best part of our job.
Lucky for us, talent, passion and vision are traits shared by virtually all our clients. If you were to meet Christina De Bono, founder and co-owner of Altadena, California-based ClearTech, you’d know in mere moments that you were in the presence of an extremely savvy business owner and, more than that, an AV industry visionary. She engaged us to take her company to the next level (a real honor; that company is her baby) and we’re beyond proud of the refreshed brand and website we helped create. We gave ClearTech a strong, clear identity that captures the truth of who they are along with a hard-working, flexible site that’ll stand them in good stead, but we couldn’t have done it without a client who gave us so much to work with.
Something else about ClearTech: This is a company we badly wanted to work for. We’ve built a practice within the AV industry, and they represent the brightest cutting edge. We started by building the brand platform, then refreshed the brand and brand identity and, from there, constructed the website. Since it went live midway through the year, traffic has gone through the roof. And because the project began with thoughtful development of the brand platform, all that new traffic is arriving at a site that communicates precisely the messages that drive sales. It’s a great example of what you can achieve when a client allows you to go deep and get every part of the machine firing with maximum power and efficiency.
Also in the AV industry is Minnesota-based Excellence Marketing, a well-established manufacturer/integrator rep for storied brands like Shure. This year we gave them a new website grounded in a refined brand positioning that highlights both their vast knowledge of the industry and the depth of service they provide as a result of it. And speaking of service and expertise, in the Seattle area no one marshals greater resources in the residential and commercial markets for high-end audio, home entertainment and home control systems than Definitive Audio. We were fortunate to assist them with an identity refresh earlier this year. And we’d be remiss to leave out Audira Labs, a Northbrook, Illinois-based leadership consultancy that engaged us to help with brand messaging. Audira works with a wide variety of clients, drawing on its experience in the audio realm to give its clients new insight into team building and organizational management.
What’s so humbling about this business is the degree to which clients go out on a limb to create something new, and the extent to which they trust us to give them what they need. It’s not just another project for them; it’s their lifeblood. We felt this very strongly working with Prescott, Pearson & Tande PPC, one of the Twin Cities’ most venerable bankruptcy law firms. In fact, As Twin Cities natives, we were tickled to work with Prescott. After all, we’d grown up seeing their TV commercials on daytime TV, and when founder Dick Prescott said, “Bankruptcy is all I do,” we could all chime in with “…and I do it well.” In 2019 its youngest partner, Matt Tande, assumed leadership of Prescott and asked us for marketing assistance. We began by updating and refining their digital marketing, and the results we achieved prompted Tande to greenlight a more profound transformation, involving a rebrand and new website. This past fall, it went live, and their business grew even stronger. Now they’ve trusted us with even more of their digital marketing, and we’re honored and excited to prove them right in their choice.
Pulling back a bit to review not just this year, but the past decade, we’re struck by the expanding breadth of our industry expertise. Ten years ago, for example, we had a bit of AV industry experience. Today we’re an official marketing partner of the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), a preeminent association of AV industry integrators. But that doesn’t mean we’re any less committed to our restaurant industry clients – the ones who emboldened us to break off on our own in the first place.
Ten years ago, actually, we began working with Charlotte-based Firebirds Wood Fired Grill restaurants. It was the beginning of a relationship that has withstood massive industry changes and two ownership transitions on the client side. This past year was an especially fruitful one in our shared history. Firebirds opened its 50th restaurant (in North Wales, PA; and actually its 51st, in Dania Beach, FL), and is now rolling out new Firebirds Cellars Chardonnay and Red wines with wine labels we designed. We’ve also helped them introduce delivery with third-party services like Doordash, Postmates and Uber Eats – all while keeping the core brand fresh, vibrant and relevant.
Moreover, we continue to work closely with our oldest client, Parasole Restaurant Holdings of Minneapolis. In 2019, we created new websites for Manny’s Steakhouse and Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouses, and we partner with them on consulting projects for clients nationwide. Also in the restaurant industry, we’ve embarked on digital marketing and brand work with two of the Twin Cities’ finest restaurants, Eastside and Grand Café, led by Jamie Malone, a chef of national renown. And BTW, if you’re familiar with Jamie but did not know that she’s brought her talents to Eastside in downtown Minneapolis, you owe it to yourself to visit. She and Eastside executive chef Ryan Cook are creating truly thrilling food that’s unlike anyone else’s.
Having a local impact gives us great satisfaction because, hey, we’re Minnesotans to our core. Which is one reason (among several) that we’re so thrilled to be working with Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse team on Join the Circle, a new campaign to promote reuse (vs. buying new stuff that you don’t really need). This endeavor began with in-depth market research and brand planning to understand consumers’ and retailers’ attitudes on the issue, and it has resulted in a truly impressive communications endeavor that will roll out this year. The goal is for Hennepin County to send zero waste to landfills by 2030, and we’re proud to be a part of that undertaking. And lest you think that public sector clients are any less passionate or committed than private sector ones, we wish you could meet the Hennepin County team we’re working with – they’re inspiring and visionary.
Really, we’ve been so fortunate to work on the variety of projects that have come our way. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day is a learning experience – and a heady one at that. Just this year, we’ve also worked with Nura Precision Pain Management, one of America’s most innovative medical practices dedicated to helping people overcome chronic pain. We continued our work with UnitedHealth Group in the areas of investor communications, ethics and compliance. We also began work with healthcare startup Bright Health on its email communications. And we’ve continued to partner with Minneapolis-based Conservis, a creator of farm management software that’s of tremendous utility to today’s family farmers. And the list goes on.
Before signing off, we have to mention two other 2019 achievements: First is the hiring of Kareim Bakhsh as our digital strategist, and Casey Wesselink as a designer. We spoke with so many candidates who were almost right, but when we met Kareim and Casey, we knew they were the ones. Kareim has that marketer’s sixth sense for knowing where the target audience can be found, and how to bring them the message, and Casey combines remarkable creative talent with the attention to detail our clients rely on. Plus, they’re just a pleasure to work with. We’re thrilled to have them aboard.
Second, we have to give ourselves a pat on the back for completing an arduous office move. After the lease in our North Loop neighborhood was not renewed, we confronted the challenge of finding a space that we liked as much as the one we’d occupied for the prior nine years. We found it at 811 Glenwood, a building we like in a neighborhood we adore. You have a standing invitation to visit us anytime.
Thanks to all our clients for helping make 2019 a great year – and, more than that, for making Supervox a viable business entity. We love what we do, and the people we do it for. We wish you every success in 2020.