If your small business was a pair of shoes, would it be more like hiking boots, loafers or pumps? If your business was a vehicle, would it be an old-fashioned wagon, speed boat or an adorable scooter? The questions may seem far-fetched, but answer a dozen of them using PrestoBox’s Brand Genie tool and you’ll end up with a brand personality, business logo, business card and even website to call your own.

Bend-native Elicia Putnam founded PrestoBox as the world’s first automated branding agency. She was looking for a way to streamline the lengthy and costly branding process she guided the clients of her advertising agency through, and make it more accessible for small businesses. BendTECH interviewed Putnam to learn more about PrestoBox, its budding partnership with Staples and how it plans to bring branding to the entrepreneurial masses.

Startup: PrestoBox
Started: Spring 2012
Founders: Elicia Putnam, Sara Conte, Michael Verdine and Clay Givens
Headquarters: Bend and Portland

How do you describe PrestoBox? It’s the world’s first automated branding agency. We’re geared toward small business owners who value design, but can’t afford an agency or even a freelancer to help them create a brand.

Elicia Putnam, Founder and CEO of PrestoBox.
Elicia Putnam, Founder and CEO of PrestoBox.

How does it work? It’s similar to an agency process in that we provide a guiding hand to help you. That’s the soon-to-be patented Brand Genie, which we developed based on my 12 years of branding experience. It poses a range of questions for small business owners. For example, we ask what texture is your business, what water scene describes your business and what celebrity best fits your business. Based on your answers, the Brand Genie recommends one of 17 brand personalities from Town Square to Place of Zen. Based on your brand personality, the tool offers you a selection of logos (there’s more than 50,000 available) colors and a website.

One of PrestoBox's 77 brand personalities.
One of PrestoBox’s 17 brand personalities.

How did you come up with the questions? Everyone knows the tangible stuff like your customer demographics, market size, etc. But I wanted a way to find out the intangibles, such as a company’s aesthetic preferences. The Brand Genie questions uncover the heart and personality of a business.

Im
I’m definitely a bean bag. 

Who are your customers so far? We’ve had tens of thousands of people use the free Brand Genie. Our customers are predominantly women, most of whom work in some sort of professional service. For example, we see a lot of executive coaches and marketing consultants.

The finished product.
The finished product.

And you already partnered with Staples? Yes. Last year we connected with Staples to run a three-week pilot project at their Renton and Portland stores. Their top executive team had been brainstorming on how to sell more printed products and knew an automated branding tool would help them. So they reached out to us. During the pilot project, we walked customers through our automated branding process. The two stores doubled their printed product sales while we  were there.

So does your revenue come from partnerships or individuals? Both, though this is really a partnership play. We did generate about $80,000 over 18 months directly from customers, however for efficiency we’re aiming to develop strategic partnerships that can help quickly spread the word about PrestoBox.

Are you fundraising? Up until now we’ve been mostly bootstrapped, thanks to a $140,000 investment from our co-founding group and a $100,000 outside angel investment. We’re just about to open a small convertible note, and we’ll likely look for a larger Series A round in the next year.

What’s next for PrestoBox? Last year was really about proving the concept. I think this year will be our breakout year. We’re finalizing our new logo builder and we should have more than 100,000 options available over the next three months. We’re prepping a dashboard that will let you compare options, swap fonts and save your brand. And we’re studying analytics and focusing on the user experience.

 

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley