BABE #72: AUTUMN BERRANG,
President + Co-Founder @ Adjective & Co.
Autumn is one of those Babes for whom we feel no introduction will ever suffice. She's a Jax native who is leaving her mark on this town, one kickass business at a time. A co-founder of four different companies as well as a partner + investor in a couple of others, she also somehow manages being a wife and mom of two (future Babes) as well as a Pure Barre connoisseur with a healthy vegan diet and somewhat of a social life. Autumn, you're a freaking Hustlin' Babe if we ever saw one. Thanks for [somehow] finding the time to chat with us!
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Current city: Neptune Beach, FL
Alma mater: University of North Florida
Degree: BA in Communications, Advertising
Hustle: President + Co-Founder @ Adjective & Co. // Co-Founder @ Watts Juicery // Co-Founder @ Really Good Beer Stop // Co-Founder @ Whalebone // Partner @ Kid Lid
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many (both local and elsewhere,) so I'll pick one of each! First up: Danielle Bergh. She is my right arm and nothing, NOTHING at Adjective or our other companies would get done without her. She’s also my best friend and we have worked together on and off for the last 10+ years and never fought. It's a miracle - I think we may actually be two halves of the same human. If she gets hit by a bus, just make sure I do too. Next up is Alyona Alekhina, a retired professional snowboarder who was injured a few years ago and ended up paralyzed from the waist down. She has taken her injury with such grace and kept the best attitude. She inspires me daily to stay positive and take life as it comes.
How do you spend your free time?
Is that a thing? Jk - with my amazing kiddo gal gang (Maxwell + Matilda) for the most part. I also love finding new vegan food spots, taking Pure Barre and traveling with my sweet hub, Eddie.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Instagram, Apple News, Happy Cow, Hotels Tonight (for NYC rooms - the best), Whalebone, Amazon (man I love shopping local, but Prime is just too good to be true), and Venmo (seriously what did we do without it?)
What would you eat for your very last meal?
The mushroom bourguignon from @littlepinerestaurant. Nothing better in this world.
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
GT’s Kombucha, @GreenChef meals, and my new obsession: European Style Cultured Vegan Butter from Miyoko's Kitchen (also @CommunityLoaves bread, but not in the fridge.)
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Lately I’ve really admired what @gregalterman is up to. This m/f people thing he’s working on looks awesome and he is also behind Juice Served Here (I tell you, anyone who can run a cold-pressed juicing business is superhuman). I’d love to pick his brain over a latte. Also my Nana, she was a badass babe who I miss dearly. I'd love for her to meet my girls - she would just adore them. And maybe Oprah. Who doesn’t love her?
What game/reality show would you win?
Isn’t there an advertising game show where you have to pitch a client in 24-hours? I’d put me and the Adjective team up against anyone in the country.
I’m a 90s punk rocker at heart: NOFX, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Inspection 12. But also love some me some Beyonce, go figure.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a little obsessed with Blackjack. And I win (most of the time). I once had a pit boss buy me elbow pads because my elbows were rugburnt from 12 hours straight at the table.
Tell us about your hustle:
The parent company that my partner (Taylor Harkey) and I own is called Verb Ventures. Under Verb live all the companies we have ownership in. Our main day-to-day job is running Adjective & Co., a branding and advertising agency here in Jacksonville. We also have ownership in Watts Juicery, Really Good Beer Stop, Whalebone and Kid Lid, all of which we handle branding and marketing for on an ongoing basis.
What does your typical workday look like?
I wake up around 7am and snuggle with my daughter Maxwell for about 20 minutes (which is the highlight of my day.) I then get the girls dressed and ready for school (while my husband handles breakfast and lunch-making... he's definitely the morning person between the two of us.) I try to squeeze in a Pure Barre class at 9:15 or 11, and then I'm in Adjective land for most of the day. (Our office overlooks the ocean in Jax Beach, so not a bad land to be in!) I usually do lunch at Watts or Native Sun, and then I'm home around 6:30 (or sometimes later,) thanks to my AMAZING mother who picks the girls up from school. I make dinner (thanks to Green Chef,) play and read with the girls, put them to bed around 8:30, then Apple News it up to catch up on current events (and become immediately stressed and upset that I did!) After that, I might catch a show or documentary on Netflix with my hub if I don’t fall asleep early... lately I’ve been known to go to bed at 9:30. Ha!
What draws you to Advertising? What has your experience in the industry been like? Have you always worked in the agency setting?
Really, it’s branding that gets me excited much more than advertising. When we can come up with a strategy, name, logo, look/feel, website, etc for a client that is so perfect for them and really kicks off or grows their business, that’s what makes me happy. The advertising part is secondary. I started in the industry relatively “late” in my life/career. I was in the restaurant business working as a restaurant GM and bartender for years, which is hard to leave because the money is so good. When I was 26 or so, I moved to NYC and decided to actually use my advertising degree (that I finally went back to UNF for and finished late as well). I was given a chance at FCB (then DraftFCB) by one of my mentors, Lindsay Nicholas (who is now an Adj client!) and never looked back. I took a pay cut from $75K/yr to $35K/yr, which SUCKED, but I was determined to make it in the agency world, and I did. I worked my butt off in NYC—was at the office until 11PM a majority of nights, volunteered for every new business pitch and to take on any new account that needed help. I made a name for myself quickly and moved up quickly as well.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit/did you ever see yourself owning multiple businesses?
To be totally honest, no. I thought my husband would be the one out of the two of to start a business (which he did as well), but when I met my business partner, Taylor, it became clear that the two of us working together was something special. Our talents complemented each other so well that it would have been a shame to waste, so we took the leap (about 4 weeks after I gave birth!), quit our jobs on the same exact day, and went for it.
What do you think inspired you to make that leap?
My family. I wanted more flexibility and to work closer to home at the beach versus downtown. I didn’t mind working 16 hours a day and always giving it my all, but I also wanted to be able to drop everything and take my girls to the doc if they were sick, or attend events at their school. Unfortunately many jobs don’t allow for that, which was a big reason for me to make this move. I was also inspired by my husband and Taylor. They both saw something in me and were so sure that we could do this. I trust both of them with everything, so if they saw it, I knew it was there. Finally, I was inspired by Jacksonville. Man, we needed a branding agency that was forward-thinking and kickass. Jacksonville was about 5 years behind when it came to agencies, and we feel like Adjective really filled that need here.
After spending 5 years in the NYC ad world, what brought you back home to Jacksonville?
Grandma! Eddie and I loved NYC, but kids without grandparents to help is tough. My mom said that if we moved home, she would watch the new baby while we worked... and that was that. Decision made. I also think Neptune Beach is an amazing community to raise kids and offers things that NYC doesn’t (namely the beach and not having to shrinkwrap your kids in their strollers because of snow.)
What was your mission in starting Adjective & Co four years ago? Did things play out as you expected?
Our mission was (and is) to create amazing work with an amazing team for clients that don’t suck, and it has 100% played out that way. We are very careful in choosing clients and very quick to get rid of clients if we need to. Life is way too short to work with people who don’t value what you do and trust you as the expert. Our clients continue to AMAZE me with their willingness to let us push the envelope and do great work. It’s the best feeling in the world to have truly collaborative clients and teammates.
What’s it like working at the same company as your husband?!
If you had asked me ten years ago if Eddie and I could work together, I would have told you it likely isn’t the best idea. We both have strong opinions and like things done our way, but I have been OVERLY happy with the way it’s panned out. We have set up the companies in such a way that I manage Adjective and he manages Whalebone and we don’t step on each other's toes. We support each other, help one another with tough decisions, and lend a hand on things that are well suited for the other. It’s like a yin and yang. Eddie is WAY better at me on so many things (sales, events, relationship building) and I value those qualities and what he does. And I’m way better at him on some things as well (organization, timelines, budgets, processes) and he values me for that, too. We really make an awesome team and I’m so thankful that I get to collaborate with someone so brilliant who makes things happen that I never thought possible. I’ll take the occasional office spat (mommy and daddy are fighting, ahhhh) to get all the amazing benefits we have for our companies by working on the same team. It’s awesome.
Similarly, what was it like founding a company with a male counterpart? Do you think you learned anything from him that you might not have learned from a female counterpart?
I've honestly never thought about my partner being male. That sounds weird, but it’s true. He respects and values me and I respect and value him. I think I've learned a tremendous amount from him as a creative and a partner, but I don’t think it was because he was male vs. female. But yes, he and I are almost polar opposites, which is perfect in a partner. My weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa. He can drive me nuts (and I certainly drive him nuts), but at the end of the day, we both know it’s because we want the best for our clients and our team, and most importantly, each other.
What is your work environment/culture like?
Our culture is very important to both Taylor and me. We wanted to create a culture of trust, which is something we had not found in other agency environments. We have relaxed office hours, unlimited vacation, and people are allowed to work from wherever they want. We expect our team to kick ass and get their work done to the highest level of quality. If they do, they’ll be with us for a long time and we’ll treat them like family.
What's your approach to hiring? What do you look for in an employee? What do you NOT look for?
We want people who are always pushing themselves to be better, learn more, and do amazing work. We also want people who WANT to be at Adjective, who love what we do, and who get it. People who will figure things out whether it's “their job” or not. We don’t look for complainers, clock punchers, or people who can’t take a joke. We are a little inappropriate at times (in the most fun way possible) and people who can’t laugh at themselves (and at us) won’t make it through day one.
What other brands or agencies are you most inspired by?
I love Terri & Sandy (they are my old Creative Directors in NYC and are a small shop doing UNREAL work), also really like Dunn & Co. out of Tampa. We see their great work every year at district ADDY awards and are always impressed. Also love Lytr.com - Drew is an animation god.
How the hell do you balance work, being a wife + mom of two, and having somewhat of a social life?
I have three sisters, but my oldest sister was grown up and moved out by the time I was 6 or 7, so I was always the oldest at home. My mom was a single mom, and I was kind of the de facto second parent in the house. I helped with the younger ones, got a job when I was 14, and have always been extremely driven. I think it was just in my nature to work hard and reach goals. I’ve always been self-motivated, which I think is what gets me through all the craziness!
Who are your local businesses and/or business owners that you draw inspiration from here in Jacksonville?
Some of my fave local spots (other than my own): Manifest Distilling, Sweet Theory, Southern Roots, Drift Boutique, Pure Barre Jax Beach, Native Sun, Community Loaves, Hotel Palms, Bold Bean, Sailor’s Siren, Royal Palm, Sun Ray Cinema, Sushiko, Taco Lu, and Nacho Taco!
What inspired you to get on board with Watts and Really Good Beer Stop here in Jacksonville?
Taylor and I love Jax and want to make it better. One of the ways to do that is to open things Jax doesn’t have and greatly needs. There wasn’t a cold-pressed juice bar in Jax when we opened Watts, and there wasn’t a craft beer growler store at the beach when we opened Really Good Beer Stop. Now we have both. We figure if there are things we want in this community, I’m sure there are a lot of other folks who want them as well.
How do you see our city evolving + growing?
Jax has a bit of a branding problem, and the way to fix that is to change perceptions. The way we are doing that is by opening and championing things that elevate the brand of the city as a whole. The above list of my fave spots all do that as well. People, places and landscape make up the brand of a city. We have the landscape big time, and lots of great people, so now we are helping add the places.
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
For some reason, people think that owning your own businesses means you have to work less. HOLY SHIT IS THAT WRONG. I’ve never worked harder or more in my life; it’s scary and challenging and not for the faint of heart. I’m very careful about suggesting that people start their own businesses. Knowing what I know now, I see why such a massive percentage of new businesses fail. It’s more work than anyone could ever explain.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure when you grow your team from 3 to 12 people. That’s a lot of people’s mortgage payments and food on the table that count on you being on your A-game at all times. I love every person on my team and see them as family - but making business decisions about “family” can be super tough and is one of my struggles for sure.
What motivates you every day?
My kids, husband and my mom. What I do is all for them!
What are your future goals for the brand? For yourself?
I’d like Adjective to be known as the go-to branding and big idea shop in the nation. We want to stay small(ish) and do amazing work with clients we love. As for myself, I’d to collaborate in some way with a company like Good Food Institute - I’m fascinated by the shift that needs to happen in the world from an animal-based lifestyle to plant-based one, and would love to be involved in that shift in a bigger way.
Career/life advice for other babes?
The things we have as Americans and as people living in the developed world is more than most people could ever conceive of. Appreciate your home, your food, your water and don’t complain about what you don’t have. In terms of career advice, if you come to me with a problem, bring a suggested solution. Even if it’s not what I think we should do, I want to know you thought through it before asking me for help. I am always willing to help, but I want to know people made an effort first.
In partnership with:
Located right here in Jax Beach, FL, Watts Juicery specializes in cold-pressed juices with the maximum amount of nutrients they can possibly squeeze into each bottle. It’s organic, delicious and 100% electricious. (We know from experience.)
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*This is a sponsored partnership. That means when you shop using our links and codes, a portion of your purchase goes right back to us, so we can then roll out some awesome new things for you. Of course, we only promote brands and products we genuinely stand behind and know you babes will enjoy.