Meet Butchershop, a creative brand consultancy dedicated to helping companies evolve, grow and launch their businesses. Trevor Hubbard, Butchershop’s CEO and Executive Creative Director founded his consultancy in 2009 in the heart of San Francisco. They’re a team of 30, who helps leaders turn big ideas into brands people love through storytelling, organizational and experience design.
For the last 12 years, Butchershop’s ethos is helping people through design and creativity. And that’s especially true now during COVID-19. In early March their brand strategist asked them, “What if we contributed money to struggling restaurants to pay for meals for overworked healthcare professionals?” In just two days, they created Feed the Line on Wix, where 100% of proceeds go to local restaurants and 100% of their food goes to doctors and nurses. In less than two weeks, feedtheline.org raised over $30,000 to fund 24 restaurants, delivering 3,000 meals to eight hospitals in the Bay Area. And they’re just getting started.
We caught up with Hubbard to find out how they bring their values of brand, clarity and beating failure into their everyday work to help businesses succeed in their community.
Q: What’s the story behind Butchershop?
A: I started the company in 2008 with $250 and an Internet connection during the great recession which influenced the way we are today:
We built an entrepreneurial culture.
We redefined agency with a strong point of view.
We created a diverse business model.
Today, Butchershop is a highly sought after partner with 30 employees, a vast partner network, and some of the most prolific client partners. We believe that brand is everything, clarity is culture, and beating failure drives us as a company. Everything we do is led by discovery and strategy to creatively solve business and brand problems.
Our core service offering is the value and impact of a strong brand. Our proximity and skill set is helpful for B2B and B2C brands, early stage and late stage startups, venture firms and teams in Fortune 500 companies.
As a part of our business model, we created a smart Venture Studio called Imaginedby™ where we use data, design thinking, brand expertise, business acumen, and our partner network to create our own innovations, services and products.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to do creative work?
A: When I was a kid I was always creating businesses. I think I really enjoyed creating something that people would value. When I was 8 years old, I started a car washing business in my neighborhood called “Speedy Detail.” I think I washed 50 cars that summer inside and out, but I loved creating the name, logo, flyer, and thinking about what I could offer to customers. I also didn’t care that anyone thought that an 8 year old couldn’t do that great of a job. Some cars I would spend all day cleaning just to do a great job. I probably made $2 an hour realistically, but I didn’t care.
Throughout my journey, being an entrepreneur and creating things was always at the forefront. In high school, I was always at the gym or the art studio. My senior year I won the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Award for my work which led me to film school in Boulder, Colorado. I thought I was going to be making movies and writing screenplays. While I was doing that I went to grad school for advertising in San Francisco and started helping friends make videos and build their brands.
In 2005, I got tapped to help build an urban big air ski and snowboard competition and built that brand for four years while starting my first agency at the age of 24. In 2008, when the economy was going through a recession, I knew it was time to create an agency that would later become Butchershop. And I knew that all of my problem solving, experiences, and skill sets could help other people. And that has been the ethos of Butchershop for the last 12 years—helping people through design and creativity.
Q: What motivated you to start your own agency?
A: Looking back I don’t think there was anything else I could’ve done. I was virtually unemployable. I never wanted to work for anyone else and I never put together a resume. I had no experience in the traditional sense of working at agencies. I always created my own things and found great people to join me. Before starting Butchershop, I was also facing a dilemma of what to do next as most of the country was in 2008. It was a little naive to start a creative agency at the time, but I think that was the key ingredient in the motivation. I spent the first six years of Butchershop saying yes to almost everything. I treated every single project like it was the biggest, most important thing I’d ever do. And then as the opportunities came with learning and growth, the wisdom showed up as focus, strength and clarity. So the last six years we’ve been working on saying no to things and focusing on how we beat failure, build trust and create more value as a creative agency.
Q: Speaking of beating failure, what’s a success story you’re proud of?
A: Right now, we are 100% working remotely because of the COVID-19 shelter in place mandate. A lot of agencies are facing uncertainty right now and that is mostly because there is a lack of clarity. We were all set to shoot a very large commercial for one of our big clients (a publicly-traded company). We had to halt production because it involved about 30 people in multiple locations over multiple days. Instead of cancelling or postponing, we quickly worked to create an alternate idea that could be shot and produced 100% remote with user-generated content. It didn’t take much convincing to get it greenlit by the client because the idea was really good. So we’re launching that to the world on April 15, 2020. I’m proud of my company for looking at obstacles and challenges as opportunities right now.
Q: Tell us about Feed the Line.
A: A few days after we closed our office for #workremote on March 12, 2020, the crew at Butchershop created feedtheline.org, which is a way to feed hospital workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 by funding local restaurants through contributions from the community. The idea was pitched on Friday, by brand strategist Lauren Miller, whose fiancé is working on the frontlines at UCSF and getting a good meal was an issue. All of Butchershop jumped in to help. The website was built over a weekend using Wix and Paypal and launched that following Monday. At this time, feedtheline.org has raised over $70,000 helping 70 restaurants serve 5,000 meals to 17 hospitals.
"Feed the Line has become a mascot we all needed in our company. Something that could make us all feel good and give purpose to this time where we are all working remotely. It keeps us together even when we are apart."
We have had overwhelming support from the community and our hope is that more hospitals raise their hand for meals, more financial contributions keep coming in, and more restaurants have the opportunity to secure revenue. The feeling that we could create something that everyone in our company could support and be proud of right now helped give more purpose to each day. It also keeps all of us focused on how to be helpful toward one another. It tested our ability to go from an insight to idea to execution to launch completely remote. I think Feed the Line has become a mascot we all needed in our company. Something that could make us all feel good and give purpose to this time where we are all working remotely. It keeps us together even when we are apart.
Q: What’s a failure you experienced and how did you grow from it?
A: I have failed a lot. I have an interesting relationship to failure because of it. And so does Butchershop. Over the last three years, we have worked hard to develop a methodology and mindset when it comes to failure. This is probably because I have failed. A lot. I also look back on failure and in almost every case it can be attributed to a lack of clarity. There is a way to get so far in front of failure that you start to shrink the chances of failure or at least avoid some of the things that would make you, your team or company fail.
We started The Clarity Project as a way to use clarity as the best effort to beat failure. The Clarity Project is equal parts mindset, method, technology, and process. We use things like the pre-mortem process on all projects, ideas, and initiatives at Butchershop and with client partners. This process asks each person the same question, “What would make us fail?” The answers that get put on a wall provide visibility, strategy, responsibility, and real next steps...a strategy. It makes failure fun and strategic. It makes failing popular. And it makes clarity vital.
So for me, I think the times that I have failed is when I missed getting clarity and visibility into the reasons that failure could or inevitably would occur.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: Inspiration to me comes from people and stories. I love learning what others are thinking. I get inspired when I see people create amazing ideas that help people or that demonstrate listening and insights. I have a thing that I say all the time, “It doesn’t have to be great, it must be well done.” There are components to “well done” that are qualities of smart thinking, strategy, simplicity, sharpness, and relatability.
For design I really love my peers. I always calibrate to other agencies and peers that do great work. I talk to them about their businesses and their work. I get inspired by our professional community not only in their work, but also in how they build cultures. I like to be an open book and not look at other agencies, ones that we pitch against, as competition or the enemy, but rather a community of insight, support, and friendship. I don’t see other agencies as competition. There is plenty of work to go around and I believe that this mindset has actually brought more value to Butchershop in more ways than one. Inspiration comes from a mindset. If you have the right mindset you are constantly inspired.
"I like to be an open book and not look at other agencies, ones that we pitch against, as competition or the enemy, but rather a community of insight, support, and friendship."
Q: What does your daily routine look like?
A: Pre COVID-19 my routine was to go to bed before 10 PM. I get up early, do my thing, pick the color Vans I’m going to wear, check-in with the kids and Amanda and then drive to the city. I use the 45 minute commute time for calls on the east coast or Europe. I’m usually in the office by 8 AM to answer emails and look at my schedule for the day. If it’s Monday I have a 25-minute business development meeting, 25-minute directors briefing meeting, and a 25-minute company-all-hands meeting back to back. And then days are usually a mix of video calls and meetings with teams, client partners, partners, and other business endeavors.
Wednesdays are no meetings company-wide, so it’s a nice heads down time. I have open office hours at 2 PM for anyone to come talk to me about anything they want. Usually office life winds down around 5 PM and then I usually close the day with things that require my attention until about 6:30 PM.
No two days are ever the same. There is always something interesting to do, a problem to solve, or an opportunity to pursue. It’s the best. I head home for dinner between 5:30 PM and 7 PM most days. I don’t schedule very much work-related stuff after 4 PM because I put the kids to bed which is one of my favorite things to do. We get to play games we make up or I ask them each 3 questions that they get to make up their own answers. It’s fun to look at the world from their perspective.
Q: If you hadn’t started your own agency, what would you have done?
A: That’s easy. I would have been a backcountry ski guide or ran an off-the-grid backcountry ski lodge. You never know, I may still do that one day.
Q: What podcasts should every creator listen to?
A: I like the podcast “Talking To Ourselves” by Omid Farhang if you want some beefy entrepreneurial agency story swapping. I also think Adam Grant’s “WorkLife” is a must if you want to be the best creative you can be and learn how good company culture plays into high outputs of creativity. Those two are the most impactful right now for me. I share them a lot with people in our company. I also think the stories of founders from “How I Built This with Guy Raz” are pretty good if you want to be inspired by people’s journeys in making something valuable.
Clarity is the main ingredient to collaboration and growth. It is also something that makes all creative endeavors better.
Q: What goals are you focused on for your agency?
A: One thing we are doing is a 2020 Brand Benchmark Study with the goal of learning more about the relationship of brand and business in the minds of professionals, investors, and founders. We are committed to raising our agency profile through continued outstanding work for our clients. That is the core. Next, we are focused on building a sustainable business and proving out our hypothesis on new models. We are working on our own venture projects to create additional revenue streams and opportunities, for example WorldsGreatestInternship.com, The Clarity Project and the PreMortem App.
I introduced profit sharing to all employees this year to create financial growth opportunities for our employees. Another area of focus is expansion into Europe where we see opportunities for pipeline and talent.
Q: What’s your #1 advice for better collaboration and growth?
A: Nobody owes you shit.
But seriously, my answer is clarity. Stand for it. Practice it. Live it. Clarity is the main ingredient to collaboration and growth. It is also something that makes all creative endeavors better. Clarity is a great culture. Clarity is what clients really need. And clarity is what every agency should stand for. Building trust and creating value in all you do is what will keep clarity top of mind. It’s the only way.