So, What’s With All This Big Tent Brand Stuff?

Jan 30

It's The Magic Of The Circus!

“I don’t see a big tent… do YOU see a big tent, Ollie?”

“No, Stanley, but I do see Tori standing there under a
striped umbrella, looking a bit like a wannabe tightrope walker expecting a thunderstorm…”

“Don’t look now… butted in a Marx Brother from outside the
frame, “But she’s trying to shoot an elephant in my pajamas!”

Thus endeth today’s absurd exercise in I-didn’t-know-how-to-start-this-post. No, there’s not a point to it, so you can stop looking.

But there IS a point
to this Big Tent stuff.

The last few posts here have offered an early glimpse of  the Circus Serene metaphor/brand, and where I thought the brand was going.  Many detours and a year later,  some of those ideas have become reality, a few were ‘red-lighted’, and others are still in rehearsal.  But one thing *not* included in those posts, or the early metaphor?

It's A Flourish!

The Big Tent.
It's Another Flourish!

It’s not included in the metaphor, because actually a separate concept – one I came up after the metaphor.  While building things here at the Circus, I went on a search for business advice, tips and tools that had a non-traditional, creative feel to them, approaches that wouldn’t force me so far into logic-systems-and-spreadsheet-ville that the feeling of the Circus would be lost.

It was danged hard to find those tools!

But somehow, I stumbled onto a few of those tools, joined an e-course or three, and quickly I realized I was part of an underserved demographic hungry for not only creative business tools, but for creative peers and mentors and generalized support.  The relief some of us in those courses  felt at having others to talk to, others who “got” us and our goals?  It was overwhelming, and we didn’t want to let it go.

Most interesting to me was that the *only* thing many of us had in common was our desire for a creative business community where we could be ourselves, and the tools that would support us.

Creatives Have
Special Business Needs.

We’re often smart, savvy people; we can connect the dots to envision truly ground breaking products, services and markets.

But like all entrepreneurs, we need support.  We need outside eyes to help evaluate our ideas. We need help with financing, with the nuts and bolts of doing business.  We need plans and project management, websites, copy, marketing and emotional support. All small business people need that, but we need those things from people who understand our different approach, the unique quirks of our markets, and our creative needs and (sometimes wacky) processes.

That’s where many of the traditional business communities fall short.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a HUGE amount of value in those traditional circles, but talk to them about a business plan in circus lights, and they’ll just nod, smile, and quickly turn away to avoid the awkwardness of telling you how hopeless they think you are.

I recognized that those of us who approach business “differently”  needed a supportive space.

Back To
A Creative Quirk Of A MetaphorThe Metaphors!

Since my business metaphor (as well as this website’s theme) is  a circus? When I picture it, right now? That supportive, creative space looks pretty much like a sorta muddy empty lot, where people, machines and elephants are working to transform it into a  large circus or carnival ground.

It’s much bigger than Circus Serene.

There is a midway being built, where games are played and things are sold… in more practical terms, that’ll be a directory of products and services of interest to creative business types.  (A sideshow cabinet of curiosities and oddities, perhaps?

There are lots of picnic tables and shade trees, and a large-ish pavilion that houses the menagerie and museum of oddities — a place where people can gather to discuss their quirky plans and visions, while staring at (and being inspired by) the oddities and freakshows.

And of course, there’s
the Big Tent itself.

It’s a Big Tent, because brings it all together: the tribe, the community, the movement being powered by business-minded creatives that I call Quirkipreneurs.

Quirkiprenuers is a “Big Tent” in the political sense of the word, too – we’re a widely varied bunch with widely varied businesses, views, beliefs and approaches.   We’re artists, writers, and musicians, and we’re the people who support them, either as fans or service providers.  We’re coaches, and consultants, designers and developers, finance specialists and copywriters. Our ranks include mentors and apprentices, community leaders and tribe members, spotlight-seekers and those who prefer to  stay in the shadows and work behind the scenes.

Some of us play in the big leagues, with big goals of six figures or higher, others have more minimalist goals of supplementing their income by a few hundred dollars.

The one thing that we agree on? We want and need creative, visionary support for our endeavors – a safe place to work out our ideas and get feedback, innovative approaches to marketing.

Many of us also want and need a means of developing and reaching out to the people in the movement itself, as a developing and potentially powerful market — for many of our businesses, quirkipreneurs are some of our most ideal customers.

Quirkipreneurs, we’re also some of the most ideal customers for existing big businesses – they just haven’t had a way to reach us (and many of them don’t even know we exist).  There are plenty of products out there well suited to our needs, they just need to be tweaked, tutorialized and explained to us in ways we  understand; we need a bit of targeted help to grok their applications to our work.

So big business, too, can have a place at the picnic tables (but no worries, they’ll have to adapt to *our* culture, not vice versa!)

Quirkipreneurs is truly a Big Tent, spotlighting multiple narrow-niches. (I’ll explain more about that idea in another post, since I’ve already rambled on too long here.)

Be. Here. Now.

Where Does This
Leave Circus Serene?

The Circus *won’t* be going away, thought some of the businessy stuff will find it’s home on the soon-to-be launched Quirkipreneurs site.

Among other things, the Quirkipreneurs site will be showcase for member’s products, tools, ideas and offerings, a sort of umbrella.

One of the things stopping the Circus from growing is that growth means appealing to an ever wider audience – and that goes against the grain of the branding, here. Don’t get me wrong – it may eventually find a wide audience, but I don’t want to dilute the feeling here in an attempt to try and appeal to that audience.

So the Circus will continue to be my personal site & brand, and the place where I share a broader range of ideas, showcase my own tricks, tips, mental processes, artwork, etc.  My hope is that by putting the businessy stuff up elsewhere, this can be a more creative and less professional space for me.

So, That’s What’s Up With
This Big Tent Brand Stuff.

Quirkipreneurs is a Big Tent brand, that encompasses an entire community, it’s products and the vendors that serve it.  It has evolved from Circus Serene, and grown into something bigger.

Circus Serene is a personal brand for …. well… any of the oddities that I may decide to produce, and any of the wacky that I decide to share.

Clear as mud? I thought so!

That’s why Circus Serene is a personal brand. Because I need it to be a place that it’s ok for me to be as clear as mud, and issue random absurdities in 1500 words (or more, if I need ‘em). I need it to be ok to sell things,  but more importantly, to *not* sell things.  And that “clear as mud/absurdity” bit?  That’s great for a personal brand, but it’s *not* ok for a brand that I’m asking others to actively identify themselves with.

Today’s Comment Encouragement:

Is your brand personal, or part of something bigger? Do you have a brand? Are you still kind of foggy on what a brand is? Would you rather say screw it, and go get a cup of coffee from Starbucks? Me too! Place your order below for some caffeinated conversation!


  1. As an author, I quite definitely have a personal brand. It can feel kind of restrictive, but I’m not sure it can ever be more than that unless I drop the “author” handle. Sometimes I feel like I have had “Christian author” branded to my butt by a hot iron and I’m stuck with it, whether I like it or not. Red hot poker, anyone?

  2. You know, I never really gave much thought to if my brands were personal vs Big Tent-ish.

    Now that I think about it, some are personal and others are wanting to be grouped together into something bigger, maybe, sorta kinda, gotta think about it some more!

  3. Tori Deaux /

    @Scraps Good things always seem to happen when you wander off to think about things… keep us updated, will ya?

    @Christy – Ouch! You raise a good point in that authors have special branding challenges, which accounts for so many using pseudonyms. And when you work for a publishing house, you’re operating under their brand, too – which limits you further in most cases, I’d think. At the same time, a lot of authors do build brands bigger than themselves.

    A challenge, re that “Christian Author” brand… you know how tattoo artists often rework an old, no-longer-appropriate tattoo into something new? Would it be possible to reshape that “Christian Author” brand, so you were more comfortable with it?

  4. Tori Deaux /

    A question for any branding gurus that wander by… are there official names for the things I’m calling personal and big tent brands? And are there names for the other types of brands? Non-personal, but not quite so big-tent, either– maybe small-umbrella? 😉

  5. I have always made my businesses a reflection of me, even when I didn’t mean to. So I guess they would all be more personal brands.

    When I had know idea what branding was, I had worked to make my businesses someplace I would like and would feel comfortable shopping or hanging out.

    At the same time no one them were working together as a whole. It left me feeling disconnected and lost. I’m working on fixing that. I thing the metaphor idea is the way I’m going to be able to do that.

  6. Tori Deaux /

    @Delisa I’m with you on needing things to feel connected and work together as a whole – and I think metaphors help with that. I still have plans to “circus-ize” things like house keeping.. picking up after the pooch, for instance, I sometimes call “Cleaning the elephant pen” in my head. (silly, but true)

    My brain just works best when everything falls under some sort of unifying umbrella, so branding that way makes even more sense to me.