How Launching a Wellness Brand Gave Me the Perspective to Be a Better Leader

In an industry not always known for giving space to live life inspired outside of the office, I am fortunate enough to work at a company that values ideas, whether they happen at the agency or on your own time. Yet I can remember persistent anxiety before going to Steve Connelly to tell him I was about to embark upon something crazy and that it wouldn't take my eye off the prize at work.

I mean, why would a mom of two who works full time as a CCO want to launch a product and brand under the moonlight? Many creatives can relate to the premise that we have relentless itches only satisfied by giving ourselves completely to the idea. 

That's exactly what happened when I decided to launch Goodee and created a product that would help parents teach healthy eating to kids at a young age through the intersection of color, strong design and plant-based foods. I often joke that I earned an equivalent of an MBA when I created the physical product, picked a name, designed the logo and packaging, photographed all of the food, prototyped the product with a manufacturer, figured out the legal and insurance mumbo-jumbo and ultimately sold the product into 11 Whole Foods stores in the North Atlantic region. 

I did this on my own with the help of a few mentors who inspired me to push through all of the challenges ... and there were many of them. I learned the pitfalls of every side of the business and gained a true appreciation of what my clients go through on a daily basis when trying to launch something new and support it with the appropriate materials and efforts.

I learned the value of perspective. 

Perspective of all of the roles needed to launch a brand

Looking back at that experience and the many successes, challenges and failures, I realize that I was only able to gain perspective by giving it a shot. And by giving it a shot, I learned how to be a client, a salesperson, a photographer, a better designer and a better decision maker. This absolutely made me a stronger leader. After being in the business for 27 years, for the first time I was able to gain firsthand experience of every aspect of the process. To be a great leader, empathy is imperative. By going through this experience on my own, I truly understand the joy and the pain of it all. 

Perspective to get to the best ideas out of others

Managing creative departments is a lot like being a parent. The ideas are your children, your employees are your children, and you have to challenge and nurture at the same time in order to be a motivator. One can't exist without the other. To get the best ideas out of your staff, you have to push them while being there for them. 

Perspective to draw outside influences

We often stress the importance of spending time living outside of our agency walls in order to draw upon experiences that will make our work stronger and more relevant. I am only one example of the many here who have chased a personal passion or idea in order to bring better ideas and better leadership back for our clients.

Today, I have become more patient, empathetic and encouraging to those I supervise, just as my boss was to me when I expressed the desire to chase this passion outside the walls of Connelly Partners. I challenge others to do the same and see where fueling their desire to think unconventionally will lead them.

Alyssa Toro
Alyssa Toro is chief creative officer of Connelly Partners and founder of nutrition brand Goodee.