Over the past few years, we’ve hosted conversations with more than 50 courageous BigCo leaders from organizations across the country. Now, our four interns are hosting their own Courageous Minds Only Chat for students, interns, and young professionals — the next generation of courageous minds! The panel discussion will feature leaders in their 20s who have courageously navigated challenging career and life transitions. We believe it is important to encourage our community, no matter their age, to lead with courage in the face of uncertainty. Learn more about the event below.


We’re Olivia, Leah, Cagla, and Emily, The Garage Group’s interns! As students and interns ourselves, we understand many of the challenges accompanying new beginnings and an uncertain path forward. We believe we can combat these challenges with courage through building a strong community in which can connect and gain inspiration from others in similar situations.

We’re pumped to cultivate this type of community at our first-ever Courageous Minds Only Chat: Next Gen on Wednesday, July 24th from 5:30-7:00 pm at Longworth Hall (700 W Pete Rose Way, Suite 333, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203)!

Join us for a conversation fueled by your curiosity and led by panelists’ stories and lessons. Here are the panelists jumping in:

Together, we’ll learn how to reframe the uncertainty of our futures as an opportunity to think and act bolder. We’ll chat about how to communicate our unique strengths and passions, how to view “failures” as learning opportunities, and how to feel empowered to use our voices to join important conversations in our community.

If you know anyone who would benefit from the Courageous Minds Only Chat: Next Gen, please extend the invitation!

Below is the event agenda:
5:30-5:45 pm Community Building
5:45-6:30 pm Panel Discussion
6:30-7:00 pm Community Building

The event is free to attend and there will be light refreshments provided. Please register below!

Pictures from the most recent Cincinnati Courageous Minds Only Chat:


We frequently leverage a Jobs to be Done approach to enable teams to root their innovation in the problem and avoid the pitfalls of their ideas being irrelevant to the consumer, incremental instead of disruptive, or simply not strategic for the brand, product, or company

Starting with consumer insights, teams identify pain points and translate it those into Jobs to be Done. And teams identify hundreds of Jobs to be Done within days. But from there, how do you prioritize to ensure that you choose to move forward with the most relevant Jobs to solve for your consumers?

Understand The Full Consumer Context
Before you even begin forming your Jobs to Be Done statements, it’s important to build an empathetic understanding of your consumer and the circumstances in which they interact with your category. Consumer Jobs must be rooted in consumer pain points, and it’s important to understand the full context surrounding those pain points. Immerse your team in the consumer’s perspective, and look for the following:

Understanding the answers to these questions, and taking it a step further to uncover the “why” behind each, is the first step to discovering the right Jobs for your team to focus on during innovation.

Start Broad, Then Dig Deep
Divergence and convergence are as important for Jobs as they are for solution ideation. Using the foundation you’ve built in research to understand your consumer and the full context, create as many Jobs as you can. Go for quantity and defer judgement for the time being knowing you’ll prioritize later. However, ask yourself the following to ensure quality for each Job:

Once you’ve achieved a divergence of Jobs, identify set criteria for your consumers and brand as a scrappy way to prioritize this long list and give your team some focus. For example, you can use the following simple criteria to help your team figure out the right areas of focus:

Be prepared to make hard decisions when prioritizing your Jobs, and have the courage to trust your team’s process and experience to prioritize the right Jobs.

Keep The Consumer At The Center Throughout Ideation
Even after you clearly prioritize your jobs leveraging the criteria, there is still more you can do to ensure your team is focusing on the right Jobs. By keeping your consumer at the center of ideation, you can continually check-in on Job resonance, and the alignment of your solutions to serve that Job for consumers. Get scrappy to create research touchpoints that enable your consumers to become your co-creators, and help you solve these Jobs for them. Even if you don’t have the time or budget for research studies you can squeeze the juice out of your resources by phoning a friend, going online to crowdsource feedback, setting up in-store intercepts, or creating another team mission to creatively gather relevant insights. Over time your team will gain more confidence that you have the best areas of focus. As you move from idea generation into concept development, use your Jobs as your key insights to ensure your solutions always stay rooted in the Job they are solving for. The Job can serve as the constant anchor for your concepts which will ensure you have the right areas of focus from start to market success.

Traditionally, searching for new sources of growth has largely been reserved for innovation and new ventures groups, while existing core business teams execute tried and true playbooks. As the level of market uncertainty increases, this is no longer the case as most traditional business models are under attack like never before.

We’re seeing a big shift where core business teams are being asked to solve uncertain growth challenges; they’re being tasked with exploring new business models and adapting their existing ones.

Through our holistic research, we are taking note of business model trends and impacts across categories. We’ve been reporting especially on ones impacting food and beverage companies, and over the next few months, will be clicking down on ones drastically disrupting/impacting these BigCos. Starting with… Launching with E-Commerce and in Mission-Driven Models

E-Commerce as a Launching Pad. Small brands are entering the marketplace via e-commerce platforms that connect them directly to consumers. In the Natural & Organic products space, more than 50% of new brands enter the market via e-commerce.* These new entrants reach out to consumers with the intent to convert them to customers via different strategies – a single product offering, waiting list buildups, Instagram campaigns, and more. One common thread among strategies is a commitment to quality – in the product offering and in the shopping experience. Knowing that consumers have seemingly endless choices, savvy startups commit to delivering the kind of seamless, engaging, straightforward shopping experience consumers currently expect.

Startups that launch successfully via e-commerce (Bonobos and Harry’s are examples) are often acquired by BigCos or supported by BigCo incubator programs such as Kraft Heinz’ Springboard and Chobani which provide knowledge, resources, and – sometimes – funding. Moving forward, we expect to see BigCos introducing their own, new product launches and concepts via e-commerce and utilizing a “build, test, and learn” approach that will enable agile iterations and strategic growth with e-commerce as a first step. Once a launch has gained traction online, a brand can expand into additional channels, including bricks & mortar. We touched on applications where brands can test and learn from consumers in an April blog post.

Mission-Driven Business Models. To tee up this impact, we share a quote from the maker of nutritional bars who turn their proceeds into meals for children in need,

“The way people think about consumption has fundamentally changed. People want it to reflect their values in every way – as one whole.” – Todd Grinnell, This Saves Lives

Consumers today have access to new products to meet their dynamic needs 24/7, and their social media feeds offer them new choices daily. For many, the story behind the brand guides their decision to purchase. And, every handbag from Better Life Bags is hand cut and sewn by an under-resourced woman from the Detroit area. The skills she acquires and income she earns empower her and her family. The brand’s website allows consumers to have a hand in the design and customize the materials and accessories, delivering “custom with a cause” and bringing better lives to the women who create them.

Footwear standout Allbirds is dedicated to making the most sustainable footwear possible using premium natural materials, including wool. A certified B Corp, Allbirds treats the environment as one of its stockholders. It manifests this commitment with its use of innovative, natural textiles, recyclable and multifunctional packaging (shoe box, shopping tote, and mailer in one), and extends the life of each pair of shoes through its SOLES4SOULS® program which gives gently used Allbirds to new wearers in need. Co-CEO Joey Zwillinger is so passionate about being a brand with a mission that he hosts a monthly Sirius XM radio show, Purpose Built, where he chats with an entrepreneur about the story behind the success of his/her mission-driven business. Recent episodes have featured inspiring stories from the founders of biotech startup Bluebird Bio and DTC retailer BEAUTYCOUNTER.

How might we together explore and action on these new business model impacts with your existing categories, brands, and new brand concepts? Tools that are helpful when exploring new business models include Trends & Analogs that foster analogous and creative thinking and can take inspiration from outside category, and rooting ideation in consumer needs and pain points.

And, for more on emerging Business Model Trends, download our 2019 report from Natural Products Expo West.

*Source: New Hope Network survey conducted by Informa, LLC; 2019

You can’t spend more than 30 seconds on social media or news these days without reading about a BigCo that is taking action in the sustainability space, and for a good reason. Consumers increasingly expect a brand’s values to align with their own, and sustainability tops the list of many. Younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers expect brands to demonstrate a commitment to ecological balance in everything they do, and to take a stand on doing better for the world.

We’ve watched this consumer tension grow as we have trend scouted in this space since the beginning of The Garage Group and more now than ever, brands across categories are putting stakes in the ground with a long-term commitment to protecting and respecting natural resources.

Andrew Winston, a sustainability mega-trends expert, speaker, and author makes it clear that the era of corporates being able to write off sustainability as “only for hippies” is over. He showed significant evidence on the shifting tide, especially with big capital firms backing sustainability.

Here are a few reasons why BigCos are taking action more now than ever in the sustainability space:

“Brands are starting to realize that the amount they save by not having sustainable practices is outweighed by the detrimental cost of all the negative press. In fashion it’s always about money. That’s why we’ve seen brands start to take it seriously. ”
— Fashion Journalist and Curator, Lou Stoppard

Inspiring executions in support of a sustainability ecosystem include:

Greta Thunberg is a 16yr old Swedish climate activist who is mobilizing her generation through school striking for the climate crisis. A key question that brought her to action is: “If burning fossil fuels was so bad that it threatens our very existence, how could we just continue like before?”

Marie Kondo is the well-known queen of decluttering. While not overtly connecting her message to sustainability, it’s a key part of the mindset shift behind “reduce.” Buying less and buying only the things necessary is imperative in this culture of 24/7 access to anything that we could possibly want via e-commerce.

Dumpster diving is a practical way to see what’s truly left after you’ve taken steps to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Maria Gutierrez of Bendix shares about their path to Zero Waste and iteratively optimizing the process along the way by checking the dumpsters to see what was left.

Product lifecycle analysis across the holistic journey is critical because some choices look great at a singular point in the life cycle, but net higher emissions or waste in the end. Sal Pallingra of ProAmpac shares a graphic similar to this one demonstrating the lifecycle analysis of a grocery bag and the break-even points for cotton canvas bag.

Behavioral Science to change habits. The city of Columbus employed a behavioral insights firm to bridge the intention/action gap. They found that consumers who test drove an electric vehicle were significantly more likely to purchase, so they’ve had several test-drive events.

Fashion looking inward. Innovations in apparel are happening on the front end with examples such as Adidas’ use of Parley Ocean Plastic® polyester yarn in its adidas x Parley sportswear; and on the back end where Tommy Hilfiger has just released a line of jeans made from 100% recycled cotton denim. The jeans are made from cotton scraps from cutting room floors that have been recycled using a mechanical process that requires less water and chemicals, hence generating less carbon dioxide. The thread used is sourced from recycled plastic bottles; and labels are made from recycled paper.

Refillable solutions. CPG giant Procter & Gamble has announced Olay Regenerist Whip refill: a moisturizer with a recyclable paper refill pod that can be placed inside the container; and organic food maker Annie’s connects the sustainability dots for consumers by turning milk jugs into the packaging for cereal that people enjoy with milk in the morning.

And, what do consumers cite as their biggest unmet need? Understanding what’s recyclable and what’s not recyclable in their specific area. Because this changes by city, county, and region, it can be very confusing to consumers. National and international news stories add to the confusion and consumers assume that because items like straws are being rejected by China, that must be the case locally, too.

At The Garage Group, we joke about the personal cost of doing trend research and how we’re compelled to buy the cool stuff we find. TGG staff have purchased mattresses, shoes, and countless food/bev items from discovery in trend research. A favorite find across our team is the use of Stasher bags for storing and preparing food and that allow us to abandon the use of disposable plastic bags altogether. Several TGGers have adopted these silicone bags for not only food but in organizing toiletries and office supplies, and for containing the inevitable clutter (despite our best Kondo-ing efforts).

And, recently, the recent Midwest Sustainability Summit was pricey for our Senior Director of Lean Research, Renee Murphy: after sitting in an electric vehicle, she and her husband decided to purchase one. As mentioned earlier, presenters at the Summit noted that the biggest barrier to EV purchase is driving it, and that was the case for Renee! (Anyone in the market for a previously owned gas vehicle)?

How might your company embrace sustainability as a behavior while also meeting consumer needs and expectations? At The Garage Group, we help BigCos innovate and grow like startups using a curated and continually evolving toolbox of resources. And, for more examples – particularly in Food & Bev – of sustainable behavior, download our 2019 report from Natural Products Expo West.

Grace recently joined our team as an Associate Strategist, Lean Growth. She’s a proactive leader, constantly seeking to turn learnings into actionable steps. She leads engagements with a keen attention to detail, while also seeing the broader, more strategic picture to ensure the business objective is met. Her BigCo experience with brands like Blue Moon and Huggies gives her deep empathy for BigCo leaders facing market disruption. Through running Sprints and helping to develop marketing strategies at MillerCoors and Kimberly-Clark, Grace gained deep empathy for the sell-in stories needed to pursue ideas with leadership after the engagement. Check out her experience pushing past her fear of the unknown and transforming it into meaningful action.

At one of our recent Courageous Minds Only Chats, one particular quote from Chris Boeckerman, leader of P&G’s Growth Works, really resonated with me. 

She said, “Do what scares you. That’s where you’ll grow the most.”

It set me on a path of reflection… For most of my life I’ve made decisions based on how well I could predict the future, which usually meant that I made choices that faced the least amount of risk. 

However, eventually I channeled this fear to drive meaningful action. Late last year, I decided to leave the comfort and familiarity of my everyday routine to take time off to rest and recharge – two things I knew I needed in order to be the best version of myself both in my job and in my personal life. At the time, I had zero idea of what was next and as you can imagine, this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But with the constant support of friends, co-workers, and leaders, I gained the courage to make the leap. 

During my time off, I volunteered, I read a ton of books (I recommend Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis!), got part-time work to help keep me accountable to a schedule, and spent quality time with friends and family. There were definitely days where I yearned to go back to my “normal routine” but I began noticing positive changes in myself. I grew closer to friends and family by being vulnerable. I started treating myself with kindness and compassion when I wasn’t going according to plan. And that “what if” voice in my head started to diminish and instead, I made decisions with confidence and rarely looked back.

By leaving my world of routine and familiarity and face my fear of the unknown, I was able to build the courage to be welcoming of uncertainty – something that’s inevitable and what I now believe is necessary to lead to growth. Instead of focusing so much of my attention to what could go wrong, I spend my time thinking about the possibilities that it could lead to. It also helped lead me to where I am today, at The Garage Group, utilizing the skills I’ve learned from this experience, as well as my BigCo experience, to help clients navigate uncharted territory with confidence. 

Below are a few tips that have helped me face my fears and I hope they’ll help others continue on a journey of personal and professional growth. 

  1. Create a support system – Whether it’s a friend, family member, peer, or boss, have someone in your corner. Use them as a sounding board for your thoughts and ask for feedback. 
  2. Use logic and intuition – Do your research but make sure to take your intuition into account when making decisions. Our intuition is built off of our past experiences and learnings, so that voice inside your head may already be telling you the right path.
  3. Have conviction – At the end of the day, you have to believe in your choices. By truly having conviction, it will help turn the emotion of fear into confidence.