Entrepreneur’s Summit: LaVon Lewis and Sherrod Shackleford Break Down Branding

Pencilworx Design Group co-founders share tips on small business survival

(Image: Subjects)
(Image: Subjects)

When the 20th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneur’s Summit (ES) comes to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis May 11-14, Pencilworx Design Group co-founders LaVon Lewis and Sherrod Shackleford are prepared to empower the crowd with essential knowledge needed to make brands stand out. Confirmed to head up BE’s Small Business Success™ Boot Camp: Mastering Your Brand, Lewis and Shackleford will bring their unique tag-team take on breaking down branding to company leaders in attendance.

Partnering 15 years ago in a dorm room at Alabama A&M University, the men have made Pencilworx into the premiere “need-to-know” success story. Garnering multiple industry awards and contracts thanks to a demand for their brand, Lewis’ gift of compelling gab and Sherrod’s scientific strategizing makes the two a formidable force in the world of marketing imagery and design.

BlackEnterprise.com: How do you plan to make your workshop at the Entrepreneurs Summit different from others you’ve presented across the country?

Sherrod Shackleford: We’re going to bring our A game. So we’re going back to the drawing board, rebuilding new content, rebuilding new ideas and coming with an expanded approach. And making sure [Black Enterprise’s] followers and customer base are getting new and original content and being served in the way we’ve served people the last 14 years with that new current 2015 edge.

We’re very good at reading the room, understanding who’s in the room and what’s needed. We have the content laid out, but most of the time we begin to sense where people are, what their concerns are in real time and deal with that. I think that is what people really like about us. You get the yin and the yang, the good cop, bad cop. And then you get dynamic content. We’re not standing up there saying, ‘We said this yesterday.’ A different audience gets a different event because a different audience has different needs. And we have the keen ability to sense that.

What are common small business branding pitfalls and why?

LaVon Lewis: The ability to communicate with the mass market. There’s a difference between communicating with friends verses social media or in an interview. It’s just the science of knowing how to communicate your value to the next person, 1,000 people, 2,000, or 5,000. There’s a difference.

Shackleford: Dealing with a lot of CEOs, entrepreneurs and people who are used to or attempting to be in full control, what I find is that control element is what holds them back. It comes from two sides. You have one side where it’s the fear element. Some people don’t want to work hard or [don’t want] the scrutiny.  They want comfortable immeasurable amounts of success that keep them in their comfort zone. That’s one of the reasons.

On the other hand, you have people who think they know everything. CEOs will feel their idea of a good brand is [based on] how their brand makes them feel as an individual. When they see that logo they have a personal emotional attachment to it.  Remember 20 years ago when everyone was converting over to digital?

There was a sector of people in small business that would not convert, because that’s what they knew. Right now there’s no way they’re still in business today. But the people who had no idea what the digital transformation was going to do to the world, but knew they had to be a part of it because that’s where the world was going, they embraced the fear, let go of the control, learned the new technology, and converted their business over. Those people are probably still in business.

But that guy who said, ‘I like paper,’ put himself out of business. So one of the biggest pitfalls we find in business is their personal, emotional, attachment to the things that stop them from doing the proverbial transition to digital.

What’s the key to great branding?

Lewis: Some people think branding starts with the visuals. But it truly starts with the strategy and understanding where you sit in the market. We’ve heard that called, ‘Positioning.’ And I think it’s what a lot of small business owners miss. If you’re the 24 hour plumber versus the one that closes at 5 p.m.

Or if you’re a grocery store that’s high end verses the typical grocery store, it’s about understanding. Why am I here? Who am I helping? What makes me different? And how am I going to communicate why I’m different?

That may sound like a very simple concept, but that’s what makes a customer choose you over the competitor. And that’s how you continue to grow: Knowing where you sit. So I think positioning is one of the biggest pieces we often miss and that we talk a lot about in our workshop as well.

Are you one of two or more co-owners of a small business? Take advantage of our special registration deal for business partners and co-owners attending the 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit! To learn more about this special discounted offer, click here!

The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide is set for May 13-16, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve.  To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/es/. Join us at the Entrepreneurs Summit, Where Innovation and Capital Meet.

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