While the concept of putting the words “foster” and “made” together is still relatively new to us, the journey to becoming Foster Made has been 11 years in the making.
As I started to gather my thoughts about this journey, I decided to break the story up into two posts. This is Part 1, the backstory, which starts over a decade ago when our company's identity was first formed. A lot has changed since then. Besides the given nature of change over the course of time, it’s just part of the deal being in the business of technology. So, we’ve adapted. We’ve shifted and expanded our development services. Our team has grown. Our name has changed.
In the beginning, we were Visual Chefs. Visual Chefs was a name that we landed on without much brand exploration. I had always enjoyed cooking, spending much of my early career in the foodservice industry as a sous chef and restaurant manager. I sort of fell into the idea of the Visual Chefs name on the premise of us creating websites, something that I naively viewed at the time as mostly being visual representations of organizations on the internet.
It wasn’t long after the company was founded that we found our niche developing in a then fledgling CMS, ExpressionEngine. Our success in the ExpressionEngine development market led us to launch a focused development service. We called it eecoder. For a significant period of time, the majority of our business was EE development and consulting. It got to the point where our clients, peers, family, and friends knew us primarily, or even exclusively, as eecoder. However, our business operations, billing, and even email addresses remained as Visual Chefs.
The child outgrew the parent, and as you might guess, having two names became a bit confusing. It progressed into a sort of identity crisis.
The real problem surfaced once we started to expand our services and technology proficiencies. In addition to ExpressionEngine, we were developing CMS websites with Craft and Statamic, building apps with Laravel and Symfony PHP frameworks, and offering UX design and consulting. We were more than EE developers, and eecoder just didn’t make as much sense, but Visual Chefs didn’t really feel right either.
Out of necessity, for our clients and us, we began the process of addressing our confused branding.
The idea was difficult for me to wrap my mind around at first. I wrestled with the implications of a new brand. eecoder was successful. I loved the eecoder bull. I knew the brand. And while I never loved Visual Chefs, it was familiar.
Despite my hesitations, we moved forward and began the rebranding process. The initial research produced a lot of great results. We learned more about our clients’ experience working with us, how we viewed ourselves, and our strengths and weaknesses. When we got to the naming portion, many were considered, but nothing felt right. Since there was already confusion surrounding our name, I knew if we picked a new one, we were committed. I didn’t want to go back and change our name again a couple years later.
We wound up hitting the pause button on the rebrand and settled back into being both Visual Chefs and eecoder. All wasn’t lost in our first attempt. Our failed rebrand yielded a surprisingly helpful result: a better understanding of who we are. Or in other words, our identity.
Moving forward, we were able to focus our energy on how we communicated that message, which is something that stands the test of time and titles.
One of our biggest challenges in rebranding had to do with the success of eecoder. The eecoder service had propelled us from a company of one to a company of 15. While much of our work had shifted to other technologies and platforms, I still saw tremendous value in maintaining branded services. To that end, I decided to double-down on eecoder and reboot the service.
I’d been watching the work of Focus Lab for some time and knew I wanted them to take the lead on our next project. I’ve known Erik and his team for a number of years, and I knew that they understood our shop, our perspective on projects, and the value we can bring to clients.
We engaged the Focus Lab team for a project discovery process. They dove deep into our business and psyche as a company. Taking the time to understand not only our request, but the deeper meaning behind it. In the end, the team at Focus Lab led us back to the place where we had been before. Rebooting eecoder would likely perpetuate our brand confusion and not satisfy our desire for a brand that reflected our identity.
With a thoughtful discovery process completed and a better sense of where we needed to go in-hand, we hired Focus Lab to continue the momentum and lead us through our second attempt at rebranding.
It is easy to understate the importance of the decision to hire Focus Lab. At the end of the day I believe you want to hire people that listen, understand what you need, and ultimately guide you where you need to go instead of just delivering the thing you asked for. We strive to know our clients and to find and deliver the best solutions for them as a rule rather than settling for the easy win at the expense of longterm success. And that is what Focus Lab did for us.
So what did that really look like? Where did the name Foster Made come from? Continue reading our story in Part 2 of this post where I cut to the good stuff: how we landed on Foster Made and what it means.