This Is Us

This Is Us

The day is finally here. Months of late nights, early mornings, and jam-packed weekends (basically every free moment around our day jobs) have brought us to the place we always knew we’d get to. We can finally tie our names to the business we are building.

Introducing Brio Co-founders:
Emma Smith & Grant Henry

It’s time to tell our story.

Rewind to August of 2018. Both of us were in an unhappy place, feeling trapped in our jobs and looking for the light. Working with a nonprofit should be gratifying and inspirational, shouldn’t it? Yet we found ourselves in positions of responsibility that filled our days with churn and drudgery. We were being compelled to pursue career paths that led far from the arena of strategies, big ideas, and opportunities to connect people with communities that make marketer’s lives meaningful. It’s a common story, but we aren’t interested in living out a common ending. We love plot twists.  

The first time we talked about forming a business together was around Emma’s idea for creating a handwriting machine for direct mail. She ran to Grant’s office because he was one of the few people who would genuinely geek-out over a concept like this. Of course, Grant obliged and we spent the rest of that week musing. Then Grant did some research.

Believe it or not, multiple automated handwriting machines exist out there.

To the outsider, this may seem insignificant, but it was our spark. Once we got a taste of what it could be like to build something ourselves, to brainstorm, dream, ask big questions, and imagine the possibilities, we couldn’t look back. That silly handwriting machine was the beginning of something big.

We aren’t interested in living out a common ending.
We love plot twists.

The handwriting machine may have been precursor to Brio, but it wasn’t the first time we worked together. In 2014, we were both hired by the Minnesota Orchestra. During our time there, we collaborated a lot. Emma’s mission to build audience development programs with integrated marketing required digital flair in order to build connections with younger audiences. And there was Grant, ready to brainstorm and support by mobilizing  technologies and systems in ground-breaking ways.

We bonded over a shared enthusiasm for tackling big challenges, asking deep questions that sometimes kicked a project back to square one, and a ridiculously positive approach to every project we did together. Working together energized us and produced the best results.

Once we took notice of these similarities, it was obvious: we were meant to go into business together.

Our most important shared trait isn’t about us at all. We’re both driven to serve others and make a difference in the world. When we started entertaining the idea of creating something together, we had the unspoken agreement that the business wasn’t going to be for our own purposes or vanity. Choosing to work with nonprofits was the easiest decision we have made for our business so far. We’re supporting those who are changing the world for the better and that’s all we need to drive us forward. And our focus on using technology to build and strengthen human connections – what we call “Relationship Marketing” – is a natural outgrowth of that shared passion.

When we landed our first client in the winter of 2018, we found ourselves in another galaxy of complexity. Juggling our day jobs, client work, and Brio startup logistics all while Emma planned her wedding and Grant dealt with the decline and death of his father could have been enough to make us lose our sanity and stop before we even began. Instead, it had the opposite effect. The work we were doing was so rewarding that it only made us want to push harder to make Brio our reality.

And here we find ourselves.

Together, we have brought each other to this crucial moment … when we jump.

All we know is the future is very bright
and we’re stepping right into it.

It’s real. Brio is our full-time reality now and we’re ready to give it everything we have. With the support of each other, one critically important design partner, our family and friends, and our relentless desire to do something big to contribute to this world we inhabit, we know this is the right thing for us.

A lot may change in the next couple months. We don’t know quite what to expect.

All we know is the future is very bright and we’re stepping right into it.


Next #briowrites: Starting Over

Our reasons for starting Brio Marketing are critically important to everything we do. You heard a bit of it here, but get a deeper dive into what we’re about and what we hope to accomplish in our next post!