Tatiana J Whytelord is the founder and president of Intelligent Brand Extension, a NYC based unique firm representing startups, entrepreneurs, SME's and global players both with respect to their legal and their business/marketing needs.
Over the last few years, she has actively taken the stage to promote entrepreneurship amongst women in the US, using her past experience as Chairperson and executive board member of numerous startups.
She currently leads the Innovation Power Forum within the NYC Chapter of the National Association for Professional Women (NAPW) and is an active member of various other associations such as the NYC chapter of the Ellevate Network, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Savor the Success. She is also regularly invited to speak and moderate panels on the subject of brand building, innovation and IP strategy, leadership and influence in the US and abroad.
Tatiana has worked in more than 3 continents and in nearly 10 countries. She has represented some of the largest most powerful global companies and brands in their endeavor to lead by innovation and through the recognition of intellectual property value, eg. Diageo's SMIRNOFF brand, LVMH group's holding in Jose Cuervo, Allied Domecq's global portfolio of over 25,000 trademarks and intellectual property rights among which are MALIBU, MAKERS MARK, KAHLUA, PERRIER-JOUET, MUMM, the Gucci Group's holdings, BMW group holdings, to name a few.
In this interview, Tatiana shares her inspiring journey while running her company, Intelligent Brand Extension. She also shares what makes IBE unique, her mission from the outset and how she provides high level advice to clients in tech and innovation.
Her top advice for entrepreneurs starting a business in New York:
Clarify your thoughts around what it is you want to do. Go ahead and do it because there is never a perfect time nor a perfect place. You must create the time and place and let it work to your advantage.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Tatiana and how you got the idea for IBE?
I am a passionate advocate for intellectual property and innovation, with over 30 years of global experience as an IP attorney. My other passion is start ups and entrepreneurship because nothing would ever happen if there weren't those who are prepared to take a risk and plod along regardless of challenges they face every day.
Last but certainly not least, I am an avid advocate of the advancement of women in business and innovation. The not so known fact of interest about me is my unconditional love for surfing. I can draw numerous parallels between surviving in the water as a surfer and the art of survival as an entrepreneur - including the excitement and joy that comes with having actually survived!
IBE is the result of years of living and observing the dysfunctional communication between marketing/business and legal professionals when it comes to creating a strong brand or solid worthwhile IP. Having experienced it first hand, when I left my last big corporate position and realised no one was addressing this problem, I decided time had come to think outside the box and change the dynamic.
When did you know that you had a business on your hands and not just a ‘good idea’? (The ‘Aha!’ moment)
When I started IBE, it was very clear to me that I would not go back to the corporate world because I had accomplished what I set out to do in that environment. Time had come to try something new and most importantly to take my destiny into my own hands.
So in a way IBE was never an idea, it was always going to be a business and this is how I treated it from the outset. Because there was a real need for this in the marketplace, quickly after setting up we had our first clients and the rest is history! Obviously, there was trial and error and many adjustments along the road but never was there a moment where I thought perhaps I had best do something else.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
When I founded IBE, we were the only ones building a bridge between legal and marketing and teaching the benefits of that form of effective communication to small/medium enterprises, emerging brands and start ups.
Ten years later, we are still the only ones with this precise business model and formats. We always look at the big picture BOTH from a legal and from a marketing and business perspective, and at the same time. We believe this is the best way to create maximum value and monetize the IP in the best possible manner. There is not a fragmented approach but a holistic, big picture, strategic approach from the outset.
Our competitive advantage is that we have managed to build a client friendly business model, which is entirely based on stakeholders and “skin in the game” as it is commonly referred to in the start up world. The IBE mission has always been and will always be to provide top level services at a reasonable price and to simplify things for our clients.
I have spent many years dealing with large law firms and agencies where I would only see senior partners when time came to renew our professional agreement or discuss compensation. I wanted to create a dynamic which would avoid all of that, where clients feel respected and where they can have access to the decision makers any time, any day.
This is at the heart of what we do and how we work at IBE. It allows us to provide very high level advice not only at a competitive price but most importantly in a flexible way in tune with each client’s resources and needs.
Most businesses evolve over time. Is there a way that you slowly evolved the mission of IBE to serve your customers better?
We have been an ever evolving enterprise, always looking for ways to innovate and better serve our clients. Each step of the way, we have looked at our errors, we have listened to our clients’ feedback and we have tried to improve upon what we already have.
We believe it is important to have a critical eye on how we conduct our business and not to become complacent. When I started IBE, our mission was to create the best strategies for our clients but in time we realized that our clients are eager to have us also implement those strategies, so now we can accomplish both. This creates a comfort level for our clients since they can simply rely on our capabilities to complete the tasks.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the biggest thing you did you get there?
The biggest milestone in my view was to move our entire operations and headquarters to NYC and then to increase our revenues by several hundred percents in less than 24 months. That was a wonderful feeling and I am really thankful to everyone who supported us in this journey.
Without doubt, we succeeded in doing so because a) we had a clear strategy, and b) we pursued it relentlessly and with utmost determination. I would say that for any entrepreneur or new business owner to succeed, determination and perseverance are two fundamental ingredients.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape IBE?
I came from a family of entrepreneurs and risk takers, and was taught at a very early age that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and have the confidence to forge ahead. This is what has shaped my journey throughout my career and obviously with IBE because I do believe wholeheartedly that having the confidence to do what is right for the business, and not wavering the course have certainly shaped much of what IBE is today.
That said, there are naturally certain entrepreneurs I am fond of such as Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran (I must admit to being a Shark Tank addict!), Guy Kawasaki, Kelly Hoey and many more.
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as a business owner? Do you have any advice for how future entrepreneurs can overcome it?
Like every other entrepreneur, I am challenged by a) the number of ideas I have every single day, b) the very rapid growth we are facing now, and c) cash flow!
Funnily enough, I honestly believe that you face these issues even when your company is worth billions of dollars with a massive structure. Perhaps as an entrepreneur, you face them more frequently or at least more times. In my case, fortunately I have a CEO who is a level headed person with an innate ability to see which of my ideas will never see the light of day and the honesty to tell me so, he also has a keen operational eye which means we are always one step ahead of the curve.
This has proven to be the most invaluable point in facing the growth challenge. So my advice to any entrepreneur is and has always been to a) surround themselves with people who compliment their personalities and skill sets, b) anticipate what is coming, c) have a plan A and a plan B but be prepared to suddenly veer to a drastically different plan C. Like I said, the art of survival!
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?
To me, being an entrepreneur is a trait of personality, one which I am very happy with and therefore accept at face value. This means I work odd hours and as a business owner, must be alert at all times.
However, it also means I can afford to design my own life with my friends and family. It means using my time more meaningfully to enjoy my family and friends, mentor young women, run a power forum and do things I truly like to do with people I truly appreciate and respect.
Where do you see IBE in the next 5 years? Any new products in development?
I see us increasingly becoming the “go-to” firm for excellent quality advice in all areas of brand development and new business ventures, catering to entrepreneurs, emerging brands and those making a difference whether through socially conscious enterprises or through wearable tech or AI.
And in that spirit, we are looking at combining all facets of brand development to create the most comprehensive one-stop outfit for entrepreneurs. For example, our holding company (IBE Venture’s) joint venture with one of Europe’s leading photography and pre-press production companies to create a NY outpost, has significantly enhanced our in-house design and creative capabilities, and we are implementing numerous new ways to enhance our offerings to local clients, and to foreign entrepreneurs and companies wanting to establish their businesses in the US.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in New York? Where should they start?
New York City is the most energized buzzing city in the world. I have lived in more than 10 cities around 3 continents and have never felt this amount of positive energy.
So, to anyone wanting to start a business in NYC I would say: Great decision! We have all heard about NY now being referred to as Silicon Alley and how many tech hubs, accelerators and VC and angel groups are born here on a daily basis. Not to mention every other area where NY benefits from its position, infrastructure and talent available.
Obviously I would say go to ibrandx.com and look at who we are and what we do! We have helped many people set up in NY including ourselves, so we are familiar with the challenges, issues, and the dos and don'ts. We are also very happy to steer you in the right direction even if we are not able to help directly.
So don’t hesitate to drop us a note. One advice I have always had for everyone coming to me is: a) clarify your thoughts around what it is you want to do and b) go ahead and do it because there is never a perfect time nor a perfect place. You must create the time and place and let it work to your advantage.
To get a closer look at Tatiana's work and daily hustle, connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin!