This week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nicole Velik, Founder of The Ideas Bodega, to compare notes on innovation.
Nicole’s passion for creativity and innovation is infectious, and I’m sure we could have talked for days.
I thought it best to interview Nicole about her inspiring business The Ideas Bodega in an Innovate or Die exclusive.
What is the The Ideas Bodega all about?
The Ideas Bodega is an International Creativity and Innovation company. We help our clients stay ahead of their competition, come up with game changing ideas, drive innovation and create cultures where creativity and innovation flourish.
It all starts with ideas, so we do a lot of Idea Generation Training. We teach teams the tools and techniques to help them have successful brainstorms that generate fresh, creative ideas for their business challenges.
We also design and facilitate brainstorms to help our clients come up with ideas for NPD, strategy sessions or new business pitches.
Why did you start The Ideas Bodega?
It was a very natural progression for me. I was working as a Brand Strategist at Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, a New York ad agency. I was facilitating brainstorms daily and using many idea generation tools that I had learnt and developed. My brainstorms were always successful and I became the go-to facilitator in the agency. As I couldn’t facilitate every brainstorm and work on my own clients I developed a training program for the agency, which was the genesis of my current course, Idea Generation Masterclass.
I am also extremely passionate about ideas and I absolutely love bringing creativity out in others. I get such a buzz out of it. I have always believed that we are all inherently creative but as my hero Sir Ken Robinson says, “Many of us have been educated out of our creativity”
Where did the name “The Ideas Bodega” come from?
I had just come back from four inspiring years in New York and I wanted to capture the energy and creativity of New York City in my brand. A bodega is a New York deli or corner store. I love the way the word sounds and when I was looking for a business name, The Ideas Bodega literally fell out of my mouth and the second I said it, I knew it was right.
Who does your business cater for and what is special about them?
To be honest I work with everyone and anyone interested in creativity, innovation and staying ahead of their competitors. I have worked with a lot of advertising agencies and marketing departments because they are under pressure daily to come up with new and better ideas for their clients. These days CEO’s regard ideas and innovation very highly and so I have been contacted to work with many companies in different sectors.
What are the differences between working with agencies and clients?
I don’t really find much of a difference. They are all keen to learn new tools to help them innovate.
How is The Ideas Bodega different to your competitors?
I think the main difference is that I only work with Innovation and Creativity. Some of my competitors are training companies who also teach subjects like presentation skills. My clients really relate to me because my background is not in training but in advertising. Because of this real world experience I can bring my courses to life with personal examples and stories that they can relate too. I also understand the nuances and daily pressures they face from personal experience.
You spent a few years working in New York before returning to Australia. Have you found that different cultures impact the approach to creativity in innovation?
I definitely think that New Yorkers have a hunger for innovation and change. Everyone there is very entrepreneurial and open to new ideas so things can happen very quickly. Having said that, working on big global clients can be a little slow in which ever country you are in.
I have also worked with companies in Asia. They are growing fast and very eager to learn about creativity and innovation. They are so aware of their competition and want to implement the training right away.
Since starting the Ideas Bodega what has been your most exciting job?
Training the United Nations at UN Headquarters in New York was definitely a career highlight for me. It was really rewarding to know that I was training them in skills that would help them tackle such complex and important global challenges. We also generated some inspiring ideas for World Humanitarian Day.
How are you marketing The Ideas Bodega?
I do get most of my work through word of mouth but I promote the business by speaking at conferences on topics to do with creativity and innovation and through my website and social media. (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, www.theideasbodega.com.au)
Doing what I love 100% of the time and choosing to work with some great companies has been fantastic. I am proud of the brand I have created and I love hearing that I am making a positive impact to my clients and their businesses. I am truly in my element when I am at work and I still can’t believe I get paid to do what I love. I also like the flexibility to work and travel overseas.
What has been the hardest part?
The hardest part has been learning how to run a successful business – You wake up in the morning and you are the CEO, the Trainer, the Account Manager and the Office Junior. It can be hard to know which hat to wear. I was also used to having a team and when I started I was on my own and really missed having people to bounce ideas off.
On top of The Ideas Bodega, you are also a singer/songwriter. How does the skills from each compliment each other?
I spend all day teaching others how to think creatively and so it’s important for me to have my own creative outlet. I have applied my Idea Generation tools to my music to overcome writers block. My friends say that I should find a way to bring my music into my workshops, but I’m not so sure!
What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
“Just start!” I have a wonderful business coach and mentor and when I came back from New York, the thought of starting my own business seemed a little daunting. She told me to just start and deal with whatever comes up on the way and that’s exactly what’s happened.
What’s next for The Ideas Bodega?
I am excited about doing more executive coaching with senior management to work on their creative leadership skills. It’s great to train the employees in creativity and idea generation but the environment, company culture and leadership also need to be conducive to creativity.
We will be doing more work in Asia as companies there are growing so fast and eager to learn about creativity and innovation.
Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start their own business?
I think that people need to find their element. It’s that thing that when you are doing it, you lose track of time. Some people might call this your life purpose. If you build your business around your element and passions, you will succeed.
In the last few years, friends of mine have started some very unusual and unique businesses. They are all 100% in their element every day and as a consequence they are very successful.