The Story of Bean + Co
Once upon a time, there were four Beans…
Bean and Company is an online agency covering the latest projects in photography, design and tech. Founded on the desire to make your ideas soar and collaborate with clients such as yourself, we are here to think with you, to create with you, to celebrate with you.
In a nutshell, Bean and Company is a passion project among four friends, all of whom craved a creative outlet throughout their college years. During the six months after we launched Bean + Co, together the four of us worked with six clubs and organizations on and beyond the Tufts campus.
I am here to write about the story of how Bean and Co grew from an idea to a living, breathing project that we are so proud to be a part of.
The Preface: Who Are the Beans?
On a sunny afternoon in late August 2014, before I was about to start my sophomore year in college, I met up with several other friends at Diesel Cafe at the infamous Davis Square in Medford, MA. The nine of us all became a part of “bean girls”, named after Boston’s nickname “Bean Town”. Little did we know that the name “bean” would stick with us as well as with many of our side projects. For example, “Bean Done” was a travel blog started by Annie and Jade. “Bean and Company” came after with a slightly bigger team: Annie, Kristie, Lynette, and Jade.
Shortly afterwards the establishment of “Bean Girls”, I began working as a Marketing and Communication Intern at Tufts Dining out of the love for food and creative media. A few months later, Annie and Kristie found job postings online as photographers at Tufts Dining separately and interviewed without knowing that I was working there at the time. A few more months passed, and my manager at Tufts Dining was looking for a graphic designer. We referred Jade and she successfully got the job. The four of us started working for the same manager, Lyza, in a small room on the second floor at the Tufts Dining office.
During the twelve months or so of working together, we created many initiatives for Tufts Dining’s marketing effort on and offline. Three of us had to leave Tufts for our study abroad programs our Junior Spring in January 2016, and we had to quit our jobs temporarily. The four beans spent six months in four countries across three different continents.
Yet during this long period of separation, the idea of “Bean + Co” was born.
What is Bean + Co?
I spent my months abroad from the US in London, studying Graphic and Interaction Design at Central Saint Martins. I had the luxury of tackling challenging design briefs 24/7, and I enjoyed it so much that I began to worry that I would lose this energy that kept me alive after I headed back to Boston. I tasted what it felt like to be fully immersed in a creative environment, where everybody around was motivated and excited about new ideas. I did not want that feeling to go away.
My design tutor at the time told me to keep a notebook by my nightstand because the greatest ideas always come by before one is about to fall asleep, and it worked for me. The idea of creating my own little studio with a few other friends came to my mind as I was lying on my bed, and I could not fall asleep for a good while because I was so excited about it. I managed to let the idea simmer for a few more days before I reached out to Annie, who was having a complicated affair with espresso, hand-made pasta as well as her film camera at Bologna at the time.
To my surprise, Annie was excited about my idea, too.
I dumped my ideas about “Bean and Company” on a google document. In my mind, the studio will be small — as small as four people, to be precise. It will offer design and photography services because these are the things we know how to do well. It will be named “Bean and Co” because the beans will work alongside with whoever wants to be our company. We will be open, friendly, and independent. We are unique because we will be running the studio as partners and as friends. I even put at the bottom of the document that even if not a single client reaches out to us, it would be fine. The most important point of the project is to work alongside my creative and passionate friends and to see what amazing things we can come up with. I was convinced that even the process of building our own little brand would be extremely rewarding.
With this vague vision, I reached out to Kristie and Jade, who were in Japan and Boston respectively. They quickly came on board by April or May — and “Bean + Co” was born.
Well, kind of.
In reality, it took us another six months to launch our website and Facebook page. It turned out that we had the best time branding ourselves as we were allowed to create an identity that truly reflects who we are.
Launching Bean + Co
We spent an entire summer and the fall semester preparing for our launch — that included establishing a brand, designing and coding our website, putting together a Facebook page and putting together some business plans. During this process, we spent most of our time working remotely. It turned out that working remotely was even more efficient than working from the same location. We managed to do a team meeting at least once a week on Skype, and to schedule smaller meetings as needed. When the four of us were on campus, we usually had higher priorities such as academic work, searching for jobs and internships and well as club activities and part-time jobs.
Looking back, we were able to make a few decisions right that would eventually lead us where we are today:
1. We created a brand that is true to who we are.
The process of creating a brand was almost natural to us. As millennials who consume brand and digital media on a daily basis (or should I say hourly), creating a brand for ourselves was a pure enjoyment. Together we created a playful tone of the brand, we tweaked the copies again and again and debated over colors and types. As close friends and former co-workers, we knew each other well and aligned our expectations. Most importantly, we enjoyed doing the work and working with each other.
2. We picked our battle carefully and committed to it.
Every creative agency has an Instagram account, yet we chose not to. We knew from the beginning that we needed a strong social media presence to get the word out. As an initiative started out by four college students, Bean + Co would gain the most attention from our friend groups at Tufts, and hopefully the influence would then bleed out to local communities. Almost all our friends are on Facebook, and college students check Facebook regularly. It would be a lot harder to get the same level of exposure on Instagram. Realistically, we were four full-time college students and we only had the time to maintain one platform. So we committed to creating a Facebook page and maintaining it well.
In the end, most of our clients reached out to us on Facebook through our page or directly to our members, which proved our decision correct.
3. We coded our website ourselves and treated it as an important piece of work.
The decision to code our website was related to another decision we made: we would not put up a “portfolio” section on our website. Even though each of us had an impressive collection of works and we had collaborated on working with Tufts Dining, we did not have anything representative of Bean and Co. We did not want to restrict our client’s’ expectations based on what we’ve done in the past; we want to entice them to think about what we will be able to create in the future. However, showcasing our capabilities through work is important, and that’s why we decided to treat our website as an important piece of design work.
Putting up an agency website is a lot of work, in case you don’t know already. The four of us discussed the information architecture over and over again; we went on a photo shoot and did extensive Photoshop work; we scratched many versions of the wireframe and illustrations; we coded the entire thing (thanks to Jade) and spent so much time to make sure the site is fully responsive.
We kept in mind that the website is the first and probably most important piece of work our clients will get to see, so it better make us proud. It did, and I can’t be happier with how it turned out.
The Prologue: What Now?
“What will happen after you guys graduate?” This is the question we got asked very frequently from our friends. Three out of the four members have just graduated from college. This means we are once again scattered in different cities and even different countries. We also lost the majority of our client base, which are student clubs at Tufts. The truth is, we don’t know what will come out of Bean and Co; we face the same ambiguity now as we did when we started out. Perhaps one day we will bump into a brief that makes us so excited that we will decide to work together again — to be honest, I could see it happening anytime.
More than anything else, this amazing ride with Bean and Co has made me realize that we would never know the extent of what is possible until we put our heart into it. We could have dismissed the thought of starting our own studio at so many points along the journey, yet we decided to stick to it and had the best time working together as a group.
Cheers to many more creative endeavors and wild adventures with my Beans!
Stay in touch with Bean + Co! Follow us on Facebook or shoot us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.