2015: New Directions and Exploration

This has been a whirlwind of a year.

Never have I been more on point with a set of New Year’s resolutions.

I have decided that at the end of every year I will do some writing to recap the year and to decide if I followed through on my resolutions… as well as outline what I want to do in the following year. This last year has been a trip and it’s going to be fun recounting the journey. Note: Sections of this article will be composed primarily of photos with captions and lists.

Travel (#exploremore)

2015 was certainly a year full of new experiences. With “big kid money” and a travel companion that loved seeing new things as much as I did, a family that likes to take a new vacation each year and a new job allowing me to travel, I spent time in Houston, Vegas, Gulf Shores, Indianapolis, Dallas, Branson and more. Dallas and Branson I am familiar with, the other four I had never been to before.

Houston, March

Houston is a pretty city. I had been told that it was very industrial but for the most part, city center was very appealing.
We spent a night at The Red Door. I’m known to like spending time with groups of people but this was an absolute blast.
We went down to Houston to visit a mutual friend and stay at her boyfriend’s apartment and spent most of our time at “The Rodeo.”

Branson, March

In 2015, I introduced my family to the group selfie.

Natural Falls State Park (OK), April

By chance, a sponsored post appeared in my newsfeed that listed out places to go in Oklahoma. Natural Falls features the state’s largest natural waterfall at 77 ft. This is not that waterfall.
Oh look! A group selfie. Me, April and April’s brother’s fiancé.
I couldn’t properly capture the entire 77 ft. waterfall from their observation deck, but here is a glimpse.

Cross Timbers State Park (KS), April

The weekend after April and I took her brother and his fiancé out to Natural Falls, my dad asked if we could backpack for a weekend at Cross Timbers… so naturally I obliged.
At the trail head.
Taking a rest when the sun decided to come out.

Vegas, May

Vegas was an absolute blast. Here’s the strip at night.
Their ability to replicate so many iconic spots is uncanny.
I tried getting a shot of the interior of the Luxor, but the lighting was too low. It definitely gave the tomb vibe, which was cool.
Fremont Street was incredible. The lights, the people, the music. So much to take in!
Had to snap a few inside Caesar’s Palace. “Did ummm… Did Caesar live here?”
Drai’s Beach Club was ridiculous. We felt like big wig VIP’s up on the roof with this view. We called around and a front desk person gave us the cell phone number of someone who could “get us in.” It was movie script-worthy. They dinged you with drinks — a simple margarita was $12.

Gulf Shores, July

Gorgeous sunrise on the beach.
I could wake up every morning to views like this and be content.
Sunset from the Pier.
As a big seafood person, this was on point.
I’d recommend The Wharf for shopping and dining.
2015, the group selfie lives on.
We saw plenty of wildlife — which I geeked out over.
Buried my GoPro in the sand and grabbed a few shots of the waves.
These buggers were EVERYWHERE. After I got stung, I gathered the courage to get closer. Yes, they were this large.

Dallas, October

While I have been to Dallas several times, I’ve only been to AT&T Stadium once before: K-State was slaughtered by the Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl.
This visit, we had a different purpose: T-Swizzle.
The girl knows how to put on a great show. During her stop in Dallas, Ellie Goulding gifted us with her presence for a duet of “Love Me Like You Do.”

Indianapolis, November

For my first “real” business trip, we headed out to Indianapolis to present our Content Audit to NCAA DII at the NCAA HQ.
The lobby in their remodeled building is awesome.
As an added bonus, we got to tour the Hall of Honor and the rest of the museum attached to their offices.
Obligatory work shot, seconds before the presentation.

Career (Be more.)

2015 was a crazy year career-wise. In January I was employed by Saxum Strategic Communications, by June I was back in KC on a temp job with Trozzolo Communications Group and I ended the year happily as a Barkley partner.

Initially when I would tell people that this was my fourth job out of college, after graduating in May of last year, I cringed. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and I’m not oblivious to the fact that this would be a red flag to most people. However, now, as I know I have found “home,” I use it as a piece of advice: follow your gut. For new grads, or those about to graduate, you may not start in your dream job. Have a vision and have faith, but don’t be too picky.

It has taken me four jobs and (technically) three states to land somewhere that keeps me fired up day after day. Am I a job hopper? No. Do I know what I want? Yes. Did I think that Saxum would be somewhere that I would be at for a few years? Absolutely. Did it work out that way? No. But I continued to grind. I knew I had a network, and more opportunity, back in KC so I followed my gut back home. My first ad family accepted me with open arms and provided me with an opportunity. I worked hard and dedicated myself to them but after Barkley called, I knew where I needed to be.

With Saxum, I was working on a billion dollar local nonprofit, a boutique energy company and the agency itself.

With Trozzolo I took it a step higher, working on universities, large law firms, the Kansas Department of Transportation and KC Aviation.

In four months with Barkley, I:

  • Monitored targeted conversation topics, identified real-time engagement opportunities and replied to users of a promoted trend. The activation resulted in 11.5M impressions, 278k engagements and roughly 5k new followers for an unverified, unaffiliated Twitter account supporting one of the most popular macrobreweries in the world.
  • Helped launch an Instagram account and a Pinterest profile for the turkey brands within America’s largest privately held corporation.
  • Assisted in an influencer activation for one of the most timeless brands in the outdoor industry that has led to 325k impressions, 17k engagements and 50+ pieces of original content.
  • Held point during comparative set analysis on a content audit for a collection of 300 colleges and that provide thousands of student-athletes with both a high level of athletic competition and an invigorating environment in the classroom.
  • Accounts that I’ve been responsible for? Cargill Turkey, Coleman and TAKE5 (The Hershey Company). Accounts I’ve touched? Sunny D, Foodsaver, NCAA II, Russell Athletic — these are huge names. And the level of responsibility I have been given is amazing.
Spent the night out with my Content Producer and a photographer to get some Coleman content.
The Barkley office is super cool.
Rooftop area where we have concerts and whatnot. Quite splendid.
Photoshoots can be yummy.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Side note: I’ve written for the blog a few times already. You can read here, here and here.

Life (Learn more.)

Learn more. A wonderfully ambiguous resolution that continues to be achieved day after day. 2015 was crazy in more ways than one. I’ve learned that it’s okay to move back in with the parents while in transition. This isn’t failure… this isn’t a bust. Perspective is important. I’ve also learned that sometimes relationships are just damn hard.

The lovely travel companion that I mentioned in the first part of this article is my best friend. She was also a girlfriend of two and a half years. I’ve never felt so strongly about someone. I fell hard and I fell fast and as we helped each other through some of the largest transitions in our young lives, we changed. We grew apart and sadly as one of the biggest pieces of 2015, we ultimately broke up. It involved a lot of long, mature conversations but we decided it’s best. It’s still fresh, so I’ll fight through the emotions while I throw some photos out but I do love this girl. Just sorry we couldn’t make it work. Though one thing I have seen proven time and time again… things happen for a reason. And I’m still proudly standing up next to her brother during his wedding in May!

This goober.
NYE photo booth at IDL Ballroom to kick off 2015.
VIP package for Valentine’s Day — got to meet the band!
Gambling fiends.
We do love our Cats.

Live more.

There’s a handful of things that qualify here, but I’ll start with a list of concerts I attended. 2015 was a very musical year:

  • Brad Paisley, NRG Stadium
  • Lady Antebellum, NRG Stadium
  • Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell and Tyler Farr, BOK Center
  • SoMo, Cain’s Ballroom
  • Yellowcard, Cain’s Ballroom
  • Taylor Swift, Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes, AT&T Stadium

The Year of the Royals

The magic was alive and well in Kansas City during the 2015 Major League Baseball postseason. Fans young and old sported Royal blue and touted our hometown’s quest to #TakeTheCrown. With the right mixture of personality and talent, the Kansas City Royals defeated all odds and returned to the Fall Classic for a second consecutive season to come away #crowned. AND IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME.

I watched the last game of the Series in Aggieville and Kite’s Bar and Grill played the post-game interviews with Fetty Wap’s 1738 music video surrounding it. Nice touch.
#Crowned group selfie.

Here is a little bit of photo vomit from the parade. These memories will surely last a lifetime. Thank you, Kansas City Royals, for making us all believe again.

Campstake is LIVE!

As our website says,

Seth was a business partner with Brandon Painter at another venture in Manhattan, Kansas. On April 28th, 2014, they sat down together for lunch. The two began to talk about fun ideas they conceived, but never did anything with. This is when Seth told Brandon about his camping problems and how there should be a way to avoid the issues he encountered. They finished their lunches and headed back to the office. Several days later, Brandon came to Seth and told him he had been thinking more about the camping idea and wanted to collaborate on it. Seth and Brandon shook hands and became partners. Over the course of the next six months, Brandon and Seth hammered out a long-term vision, a short-term feature set, and came up with the name “Campstake.”

Several, several hours were put into Campstake’s many iterations and the platform itself evolved over 2015. The idea, a Yelp! for the outdoors (and more specifically, campsites), burned through two developers and eventually fell squarely on Seth and I’s shoulders so we pushed a product that we could build and maintain ourselves. We brought on Colby, a friend from past projects, and he put together a killer look and provides designs for our apparel.

First look at the platform.
Gorgeous, “second version” wireframes.
Homepage at launch, with more of an eCommerce vibe.

For a little over a year now, we have cultivated a community of campers. Other platforms are providing gorgeous photography in insane locations (Camp Trend), suggesting activities based on knowledge gleaned from local gear shops (RootsRated) or providing an AirBnB experience on private lands (Hipcamp) but that’s not us. That’s not what we ever set out to be.

We seek to help folks find the best campsites for them and their family or friends. We want to place the difficult-to-find information in our community’s hands. We help our Campstake family share campsite reviews, plan trips and publish their adventures. We stoke conversations. We cultivate conservation and empower those who simply love the outdoors. In fact, the goal with the new Campstake is to provide even more power and strength to those in our community.

The original vision for Campstake was a beautifully simple, easy to navigate, online platform for rating and reviewing campsites, trails, fishing holes and other outdoor activities with a rich B2B offering that allowed users to plan and publish their adventures while interacting with others. Essentially we wanted to build a Yelp/Facebook/Foursquare for the outdoors.

This served to be a bit ambitious, but the new Campstake still allows outdoorsmen and women to find the answers and the products they seek. It’s threefold: the General Store is an eCommerce solution for those looking to sell photography, apparel or trinkets to the outdoor community (Campstake, as a company, will have their own storefront as well where we have 266 SKU’s ready for launch); the Field Guide is the evolution of the Journal where we curate stories, guides, tips and product reviews from the #CampChatFam; lastly, we provide a dynamic companion to #CampChat — the first, largest and furthest-reaching Twitter chat solely revolving around camping.

New branding was announced a few weeks prior to launch.

On November 21, 2015 we launched! (My launch post on Facebook didn’t tag anyone, so I looped supporters in on Day 1.)

However, along the way I was able to mark off several things on the bucket list:

  • Pitch to investors — this one didn’t pan out, but that’s alright. See above: everything happens for a reason.
  • Present to 1 Million Cups.
  • Do a TV interview on a business venture of my own.
  • Win an award with a business venture of my own.
We won an Innovation Award during Tulsa’s Global Entrepreurship Week

So. What does 2016 have in store?

As I’ve laid out… 2015 was stupid awesome (for the most part). I’d say that I nailed my resolutions for last year. So, what can 2016 do to raise the stakes? Here are my resolutions for 2016:

  • Earn my first promotion. Pretty straight forward.
  • Realign my priorities to put health first. There were several times this year where fitness and nutrition seemed to slip to the bottom of the list.
  • Read more BOOKS. I read an incredible amount in 2015… but I need to get back on that book train.
  • Spend more time outdoors. Campstake has sent my wanderlust into a frenzy. I went on a few trips in 2015, but want to take it up a notch in 2016.
  • Learn more about myself. Now that I am more on my own, I want to spend some time reflecting internally. I haven’t had a long stint where it’s been me and only me… so I’m going to take advantage of the time I’ve been presented with to solidify what it means to be Brandon Painter.
  • Continue to broaden my horizons by traveling and experiencing new things.

Happy New Year to all!