Dave Murray

3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

In 3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs, I pulled from my own experiences in an attempt to help you out. I put in a few jokes, but this is mostly a serious post. It focuses on you gutsy entrepreneurs, rather than your brands. It focuses on you as people, not you as founders, CEOs, or Big Guys. As I sat in the home office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I got introspective – almost uncomfortably so. But I hope my discomfort is somehow your gain. Fair warning: it’s a long one.

Dave Murray, Mayniax Branding - Introspection with the red glasses can get trippy

So now, for your reading pleasure, I present “3 Life Lessons for Gutsy Entrepreneurs”!

1. Know Who You Are at Your Core

If you’ve been reading my maniacal musings for any length of time, you know the heavy emphasis we place on the “why.” Here, however, is the dirty little secret: our “why” isn’t just the “why” of Mayniax Branding – it’s also mine.

When you check out our About page, you’ll see much of our story’s about my parents, their business, and dad’s death.

It’s largely because of this upbringing that the cause of entrepreneurship runs in my blood. Later in life, as Vanessa and I studied everything from politics to art, including neuroscience and branding, we decided the only way the world could become truly happy is through benevolent entrepreneurship – something that’s been a part of me since before I knew what it was.

But I haven’t always known my “why.”

For a long time I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was great with a pencil, and even got a degree in painting and drawing. I showed off my art at various comic book conventions, where I got to see a drunk Kenny Baker – R2-D2 – fall off a barstool. But I learned comic book pencilers made – at the time – roughly $100 per page, and those pages usually took around 16 hours to draw. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to sacrifice so much of my day for $100 – I also decided I wasn’t passionate about it, because if I were, money never would’ve been a factor.

Dave Murray, Mayniax Branding - When you're a short comic book nerd, you draw Wolverine

For a while, I wanted to be an actor. I took classes and even performed on stage. But alas, short, marginal-looking dudes don’t a leading man make. And I was getting typecast as the smartass. Go figure.

I even wanted to be a journalist, because I love research and was big into politics and world events. The local community college even awarded me a scholarship for journalism. That still sits in the back of my mind, but with the state of “journalism” today – not to mention politics – I honestly think I can do more good fighting for entrepreneurs.

I also thought about trying stand-up comedy. That thought didn’t last long. Plus, with my sense of humor and slight acting experience, I’d do much better hosting an entrepreneur-style internet show. Hmmm.

Something I discovered about myself in the last couple years is who I am at my core: a smartass who loves to help people. It could be argued the above things would’ve allowed me to be a smartass who got to help people, but none of it was enough. None of it would really change people’s lives for the better. Someone could get 15 minutes out of a comic book, then they’d be off to do whatever. With having a huge comedy and acting career, people could get hours of entertainment, but then they’d be back to the same ol’ same ol’. To be a smartass journalist who helps people, I’d need an opinion column. And all that’d likely do is piss people off, even if they enjoyed the column and agreed with me.

With branding, I can help a lot of people in a real way, and be a smartass while doing it!

Figure out who you are at your core. And if what you’re currently doing doesn’t gel with that person, stop doing it and do something else. Life’s too damn short.

2. Learn to Trust People

Trust can be tricky, and it’s tough for a lot of entrepreneurs – including yours truly.

Vanessa and I started working together under less-than ideal circumstances. The people I worked with had just been told they had to take a 14% pay cut. I didn’t know Vanessa at the time – all I really knew was she liked to take pictures, and I desperately needed help catching up.

I’d always worked independently, and was an insane perfectionist. My feeling was that no one could live up to my standards when it came to design – Vanessa was simply a necessary evil until I was caught up. She sat away from the studio, though it was clearly big enough for the two of us.

Vanessa had blown it on a few photos I’d asked her to do. “Oh good, another incompetent idiot,” I thought. One day she’d asked me for help on a photo, and I could see she was irritated. So I walked over, saw where she’d blown it, and asked to see the photo process sheet I’d made for her. I then realized something: Vanessa didn’t blow it because she was an idiot – she blew it because I was.

I missed no less than three steps in the sheet I’d given her.

Dave Murray, Vanessa Symington, Mayniax Branding - Still alive after all these years!

Oddly enough, after the process sheet was fixed, she stopped blowing it. Shortly after, she moved her stuff into the studio, and I started calling her “Newbie” – because she was new and I like the show “Scrubs.” This was 2009. I stopped calling her that in 2014. Not only that, but with both of us now on the same page, a lot more work was able to get done!

I used to start people at 0 / 100, always sure they’d disappoint me. Now I start them at 50 / 100, because it assumes some degree of trust-worthiness. And also because there are people like Vanessa out there – people who will surprise you at every turn. I don’t wanna give her a 100 / 100 yet, though – there’s no need for both of us to be cocky *heh heh*

Today, we’re surrounded by people we trust to help us out. And I can’t wait to find more so she and I can focus only on strategy.

Moral of the story: Find your Vanessa, and trusting becomes way easier.

3. Never Be so Focused on Your Mission that You Miss Opportunities Outside of It

This one’s for that special group of entrepreneurs who have their “why”s nailed! That group who believe so strongly in their missions that nothing can make them deviate! The ones who are, well, like me!

Yeah. Stop that.

In Personal…

On June 19th, Father’s Day, I received – from someone totally unexpected – the kindest text I’ve ever gotten from anyone. The text spoke of what I’d written about dad on social media, saying she loved what I wrote, that dad sounded like a great man, and she finished it with, “The people we love never really leave us.”

Ken Murray, Dave's dad, Mayniax Branding - "The people we love never really leave us."

I saw the text and honestly had no clue how to respond. As a smartass, my friends tend to be smartasses. We reply to texts with smartass comments and use the medium to tear each other up whenever possible. Now, don’t get me wrong, my people are great people and we’d do anything for each other – we just don’t send or get texts like that.

One friend of mine delights in calling me any number of the following words whenever she can: clueless, dense, oblivious, and unobservant. And she’s right. And I’ll get to why that’s relevant in a second.

I’d started getting to know the woman who sent me the aforementioned text at the beginning of 2016. We each already knew the other to be cool, but that was it. As we got to know each other more, however, we realized we had a lot of things in common – and important things, not just, “Oh my goodness, you like cookies too!”

Side note: if someone doesn’t like cookies, they’re obviously a bad person and not to be trusted.

I was so struck by the kindness of the text that, shortly after replying, I began thinking about the times we’d spent together. Was I again being clueless, dense, oblivious, and unobservant? Should this woman and I give the whole dating thing a shot? “It doesn’t matter,” I thought to myself. “I can’t deviate my focus from Mayniax.” But it gnawed at me. After over a month, I decided taking a chance and deviating from my focus was worth it. But by then, I sensed it was too late – and half-ass tried anyway, which has only made things awkward.

And who knows? Maybe it wasn’t an opportunity at all. I may’ve gotten the “no.” Or maybe we would’ve tried a date and realized it was no good. Maybe we would’ve dated for a while before she realized I drove her crazy, or I realized she bored me to tears. In a fit of anger, perhaps she would’ve killed me and dropped me off in the Everglades on her way to a party in Miami. Why the Everglades? Because no cop’s gonna ask a bunch of gators if they’ve seen a nutty, short man.

Or perhaps we would’ve gotten along great, and it would’ve lasted a long while. All I know is I was too focused on Mayniax to even notice.

After far too long, I finally recognized the importance of a personal life. And you need to recognize the importance of it, too.

Mayniax Branding, Alligator - "Yeah, I seen him. But he wasn't very filling."

…And in Business

Sometimes you can be too focused on your brand. You can be so focused on it, in fact, that you lose touch with reality.

Vanessa and I started on our own in 2010, and we started racking up business debt right away – business debt that we’re still paying off. In fact, every day, I feel like I’m behind the 8 ball. So what should we have done differently? Simple: we should’ve done everything else we’re good at.

Much of brand strategy is about focus. We tell our clients to focus on selling one product / service per brand, since brands are easier to remember that way. Because we know about branding, we could’ve built several around all the things we can do. But we got so focused on the mission that we didn’t do that. But here’s something I didn’t think about until recently: another way of making money may not impact the mission directly, but it can help impact the mission indirectly.

So, we’ve each been looking for side projects to help kill that debt – a debt that would’ve been gone long ago had we thought about it sooner. We’re also looking at ways of generating passive income. And don’t let the “passive” fool ya – there’s a lot of front-end work needed to make that happen.

Brands can take a long time to take off, so whether you’re in the early stages of entrepreneurship – or even just looking at getting into it – make sure you find other ways to make money. After all, to be a true entrepreneur, you need more than one source of income, anyway.

And remember that doesn’t mean you’ve lost focus on the mission – it means you’re focused on keeping the mission alive.

In Closing

That’s it, folks. I sincerely hope you’ll all learn from my mistakes, as well as my successes – and go kick all kinds of ass, entrepreneurial-style!

And now I’m gonna have gator nightmares.

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!

Dave Murray

3 Branding Predictions for 2017

3 Branding Predictions for 2017

As with any article where someone gets all Nostradamus-y, “3 Branding Predictions for 2017” is an opinion piece. So neener.

Also, am I the only one who thinks “neener” should be a business term?

Mayniax Branding - Really terrible artist's rendering of Nostradamus with red glasses

Number 1, on the list of Branding Predictions for 2017

More Entrepreneurs Will Understand the Importance of Their “Why”s

If you haven’t yet, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on starting with “why.” Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I think people are taking the “why” a lot more seriously. They’re starting to understand that, when it comes to things we actually care about – such as our favorite brands – our decisions are never based in logic, but rather emotion.

We make decisions emotionally whether we’re talking our personal lives or our business lives.

Let’s say you ask someone out, and they completely blow you off – not that that’s ever happened to yours truly *gulp*. The next time they see you, they’ll justify it, but what likely happened is their gut told them it was a bad idea, or you did something to irritate them, or you just weren’t that high on their list of priorities.

Now let’s put that knowledge to use in business. You meet with someone. The chat goes great and they promise they’ll run it by their people and let you know whether or not you got the deal in a few days. And you never hear from them. Again, what likely happened is their gut told them it was a bad idea, or you did something to irritate them, or you just weren’t that high on their list of priorities. And the next time you see them, they justify it.

Fortunately, an authentic “why” makes you relatable. With it in place – along with decent brand strategy – clients you want to work with will seek you out. People who want to work with you will seek you out.

Though I’m not sure how that’s gonna help ya on a Saturday night.

We see it as being the most important thing in branding, along with four other things you can read about here.

An authentic “why” makes us all relatable.

Number 2, on the list of Branding Predictions for 2017

Old School Brands Will Continue to Suck at Life

We’re already seeing it this year with Kmart, Sears, and Macy’s. In fact, the one thing Sears had going for it – Craftsman – was recently sold to Stanley Black & Decker. Macy’s doesn’t have anything behind it besides, “Hey, we sell middle-of-the-road clothes,” and Kmart hasn’t been relevant in years.

Fun fact: I used to work at Kmart. One day, a guy came in looking for a “…really good phone.” And I had no choice but to say, “And you came here?” This is why I’m a terrible employee.

The problem with old school brands is two-fold: First, they likely have old school thinking based fully on logic and spreadsheets, and second – even if they don’t – they’re too old to establish a believable “why.” Yup, there’s that friggin’ “why” again. Their only recourse is to try to instill a “why” to the public consciousness one bit at a time, so it doesn’t look fake. But they’ll try sales, and tricky accounting practices, and buyouts, until the brands have lost all of their power.


Unfortunately, bad brand strategy’s old news.

Number 3, on the list of Branding Predictions for 2017

“Branding” Will Continue to Be One of the Most Confusing Terms in Business

Let’s face it, even we branders have a tough time explaining what branding is in simple terms. Every time we think we have it nailed down, someone inevitably hits us with, “What does that mean?” Even when we, ourselves, finally distilled it down to “We build brands around entrepreneurs’ ‘why’s, stories, and competitors,” we’d still get, “What’s a brand?”

Personally, I think a brand is the soul of a business – it’s cause / mission – with some strategy and design thrown in for reinforcement. But that’s just me. Other people will define it differently. It’s not like a vet, or an accountant, or a grocery store – it’s a lot more fluid.

And that’s why one of our brand strategies for 2017 is to educate more entrepreneurs on what branding is.

That’s All Folks!

So, there’s our branding predictions for 2017! I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope I can dig through my stuff to find my Kmart smock. Because that’d be funny. To me.

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!

Dave Murray

Our Goal and Brand Strategies for 2017!

Our Goal and Brand Strategies for 2017!

For this “Our Goal and Brand Strategies for 2017!” post, we wanted to let you know what we’re doing, in the hopes that it’ll help you with your efforts. Also, marketers hate this title because, unlike yours truly, it’s just not sexy *ahem*. They do, however, love the fact I’ve already typed “Our Goal and Brand Strategies for 2017!” four times. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Dave Murray, of Mayniax Branding in Ann Arbor, with wacky hair! He's dead sexy!

Goal: Help 100 Entrepreneurs

That’s right, we have one goal. We preach simplicity, and we keep it simple for ourselves. As such, our goal’s a simple one: sit down, one-on-one, with 100 entrepreneurs to help them figure out the most important part of what they do – their brands. But to be able to do that, we need to make sure they know who we are.


SEO and Social Media

The reason we feel comfortable implementing the above strategies is because we’ve built a strong online brand foundation through our SEO and social media efforts. Not only can you find us across all local search directories, but you can also find us all over most major social media platforms. And we even keep them up-to-date! *gasp*

I’m not comfortable talking SEO and social media tactics because we don’t handle most of it. If you’d like to talk to the person who handles our SEO, contact Spencer from Orange Cube Group – spencer@orangecubegroup.com. And if you’d like to talk to the person who handles our social media, contact Stefanie from S. Mitchell Marketing – stefanie@smitchellmarketing.com.

I do feel comfortable telling all of you, for SEO purposes, that you need to constantly update your websites. For a brand that offers a lot of products, like Target, keep adding new products to the site. For a brand that offers services, keep updating your blog. For anyone in-between, do a little of both.

Public Relations

Because we’ve built our online foundation, the next step is to let the world know who we are through some public relations.

We’re still researching the best tactics to make this happen, but we know it involves meeting people in the local news media. Fortunately, the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti region’s small enough where that shouldn’t be too tough. I’m assuming we’ll be using a few connections here and there. And maybe a fake press pass.

Educate People on Branding

This is going to be the tough one. Many entrepreneurs and business owners still don’t know the difference between branding and marketing, for instance. And while we come up first on the “ann arbor branding” searches, it doesn’t do us much good if people aren’t looking up branding.

So, the best way to educate people on branding is to get in front of them. And our plan is to do that through talks and workshops all over the area. We’ll keep ya posted.

Get Our Logo Seen

A logo isn’t a brand, but with a bright red postcard in area coffee shops and a call-to-action for entrepreneurs to check out our website, it won’t be long before interested parties know what we’re all about. Our plan here is to talk to area coffee shop owners – because that’s where a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners meet – about putting a small stack of cards in their shops, so people are at least seeing the logo. And maybe even thinking, “What the crap is this all about?” We’ll also be putting them up anywhere else we can think of where entrepreneurs dig meeting with people.

Referral Program

We haven’t ironed out all the details on this one yet, but we want to do something extra for our entrepreneurs – the ones who let us help them. We figure they’re already maniacs for Mayniax, so they’re the perfect advocates. Plus, the money they’d get from us for referrals would hopefully go a long way toward getting them the things they need to keep their brands running smoothly!

Branding With The Big Guy

Dave Murray, of Mayniax Branding in Ann Arbor, will start his Branding With The Big Guy podcast this year!

We announced a podcast last year, and have some episodes in the can, but have had so much stuff coming up that it hasn’t received a proper launch. We’ll be doing that this year, so an even larger entrepreneurial audience can hear us, and hopefully implement some ideas we fire off over the podcasting airwaves!

And now, to finish off this first blog post of 2017, here’s a lot of what I typed above, in video format! Because YouTube channel.

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!