Former American Girl creative types go beyond the sticky note routine to help businesses brainstorm brainstorming.
Just wondering: Carrie Anton and Jessica Nordskog are friends who have launched a new brainstorming business.
Photograph by Ruthie Hauge Photography
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Wonder: An Idea Studio isn’t a studio at all. It might be a conversation, a meeting place, a conference, or a pop-up gathering aimed at getting professionals and businesses of any size unmoored from the status quo.
It’s a business concept driven by the fact that brainstorming can happen any time and anywhere, according to long-time friends and former American Girl colleagues Carrie Anton and Jessica Nordskog.
There are just better ways to do it.
After leaving their creative roles at American Girl years ago for different reasons, Anton and Nordskog freelanced for several years — Nordskog as a graphic designer, and Anton as a writer — but they vowed to one day start a business together.
The more they brainstormed, the more they discovered that they were idea people at heart who had participated in just about every type of brainstorming session out there — good and bad, in-office or off-site.
“We thought, what if we could go into business and change the scenery without changing the scenery?” Anton explains. And that is the premise behind Wonder: An Idea Studio.
“We’re neutral friends you can brainstorm with,” says Anton.
With Wonder, Anton and Nordskog promise to take clients beyond trust falls and “two truths and a lie” icebreakers to lead constructive sessions of various lengths and styles.
The business plan has been scaled down. Wonder first launched in 2013 with a larger agenda that Anton admits was attempting to be everything to everyone. The business was quickly put on hiatus as childrearing took precedence. Since then, the freelancing friends have had plenty of opportunity to mold, rethink, and brainstorm their business, which officially re-launched on Feb. 1.
They will help a company brainstorm but they won’t do branding. They will help inspire a company or entrepreneur in naming exercises or work through a creative process or work-life challenge, but they won’t develop a marketing campaign.
And that’s what differentiates Wonder from an advertising agency, Anton explains. “We help professionals and companies develop their ideas before ad agencies are brought in.”
Without a brick-and-mortar office, the company’s startup costs have been minimal — about $1,000 — because they were able to save on costs with Nordskog’s graphics and Anton’s writing.
Meanwhile, the Wonder website breaks the duo’s brainstorming sessions into several packages, from Wonder Workshops — described as two-hour day or evening meet ups at area bars, restaurants, or coffee shops, often with other business experts in attendance — to full-blown corporate meetings. They will conduct short, on-site creative breaks during the workday “to get people out of their heads and using different parts of their brains,” Anton explains, or if preferred, they’ll even brainstorm a situation entirely themselves.
“We’re not the experts,” Anton insists. “We know that, but the idea isn’t for us to be the experts. The idea is for us to ask the questions that get the experts thinking. We want clients to draw upon the ideas and knowledge that they already have, but in a very different way. That’s when the true breakthroughs come.”
Anton and Nordskog are already planning a Wonder Nation conference in 2019, a one- or two-day event that combines business and fun but is designed to expand the creative juices sometimes trapped inside business brains. “We’ve been doing this for a long time together,” Anton acknowledges about their growth from friends to creative partners. “We have a ton in common, but we’re also very yin-yang in terms of how we approach things, process things, and deal with criticism.”
They also made a pact early on.
“We don’t always have the same level of enthusiasm for ideas, so we have to be able to tell the other person things with no fear of hurting feelings. It’s always worked for us,” she adds.
They’ve approached their ongoing business planning through brainstorming, as well. “We find that working outside of the home is great for changing the scenery, so we frequent coffee shops. Lately we’ve been building a lot of wonder at Madison Chocolate Co. on Monroe Street!”
Wonder: An Idea Studio
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