Diversity & Inclusion

Developing A Brand Point of View

In business, timing is everything.

Marcel Benson Headshot

“I learned how to develop a brand point of view.”   – Marcel Benson, founder of the Benson Watch Company

Marcel Benson knows a thing or two about that.

Unhappy at work, Marcel decided to quit his high-flying consulting job on the spot, which resulted in the immediate breakdown of the relationship with his live-in girlfriend and the eventual loss of his home.

But he gained something priceless in the process: the knowledge that he was somehow on the right path. His intuition told him so. 

Marcel’s abandonment of a promising consulting career  was fueled by an unshakable belief that “time should be spent doing what you love.”

And Marcel has loved watches ever since he was a child.

From the age of seven, he collected over 100 watches and counts a silver Kenneth Cole timepiece among his most treasured childhood possessions.

While working at the consulting firm, Marcel had a watch company on the side, but he was unable to explore its full potential.

Now that his consulting days were in his rearview mirror, he could dedicate all his time and resources to getting the Benson Watch Company off the ground.

Marcel’s exit from corporate America – and his entry into full-time entrepreneurship – was timed to perfection.

Only a matter of weeks after he left his job, Marcel’s friend invited him to apply to a program for entrepreneurs.

After being accepted, he networked with people who made warm introductions that ultimately landed coveted retail partnerships with two big box brands, Macy’s and MGM Resorts International.

Developing a brand identity

Upon entering the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center's Mentorship Circle program, Marcel set his sights on securing a similar retail partnership deal with Nordstrom and building upon the momentum and credibility of his company.

To align his small startup with such a big brand, the program reinforced that Marcel’s business had to check a number of boxes that added financial or strategic value to both companies, such as shared brand values and messaging, company vision and goals, product or service quality and target demographic.

The program also highlighted that one of the nuts and bolts at the core of the Benson Watch Company framework needed to be tightened up somewhat.

“I learned how to develop a brand point of view,” says Marcel. "Going into the program, our brand didn’t quite have a full identity and the program definitely helped us iron that out pretty well.”

He shares a more philosophical take away from the program, which now serves as the bedrock of his company.

“I learned that, as an entrepreneur, your first mission should be to serve people.

“Oftentimes, people get into business purely for money or self-interest. But the most successful people act in the best interests of others.

“So, if you keep service at the forefront of your core values, you’ll be destined for success,” says Marcel.

Pursuing a passion

Marcel doesn’t confine the Benson Watch Company to selling watches and bracelets.

He also sees his company as carrying a motivational mantle.

“We’re more than a watch company,” says Marcel.

“We’re a company that inspires the masses to spend time doing what they love. I believe that true fulfillment comes from pursuing your passion.”

When Marcel accepted an invitation mid-program to speak at an international watch and jewelry conference in Munich, the passion for his business was put to the test.

“I returned to the States and had to pitch to a VC panel as part of the program, but I was tired, jet-lagged and I didn’t have everything together.

“Being vulnerable and answering questions about my company on the spot didn’t feel comfortable, but it definitely helped me grow as an entrepreneur and as a person. The experience taught me to dig deeper, always be prepared and not rest on my laurels,” he says.

Preparing for success

Marcel is no stranger to taking part in business accelerators, incubators, and such.

In 2018, the Benson Watch Company was selected for inclusion in The Workshop at Macy’s, a supplier development program that provides mentorship to minority-owned businesses.

“Out of thousands of applications, Macy’s chose ten businesses nationwide to go through an intensive mastermind to essentially learn how to partner with big box brands. In fact, Macy’s was the first major retail partnership we got for our company.

Macy’s was the first major retail partnership we got for our company.

“The Workshop at Macy’s and the Mentorship Circle were both instrumental in a lot of the success we’re enjoying right now.

“The Mentorship Circle was incredible because it challenged entrepreneurs to look under the hood of their business, see what needs work and drill down on the things that make a company successful,” says Marcel.

For him, the program’s high point was the community of entrepreneurs that was formed and the dearth of experience and expertise that each of his fellow founders brought to the table:

“The biggest positive was the community that was curated. We all had unique experience to provide some sort of value to each other.

“I met a few people on the program who I’m still in contact with. We’re helping each other on things that are taking place in our businesses.

“Although it was an organic experience, it almost seemed like there was a program prerequisite that founders support one another because everyone came forward to help whenever they could.

“It was also refreshing to know that you can completely be yourself in such a structured environment.”

Describing the program as “necessary,” Marcel has some pithy advice for other founders and entrepreneurs thinking about joining a mentorship program.

“I liken the mentoring relationship to therapy – its effectiveness depends on how much you’re willing to share.

“So, be open and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Share your story and your challenges. Let go of any pride that may be attached to your ‘baby’ and be honest about what you need.

“Because in all likelihood, you’ll have a leadership team and a group of entrepreneurs who will be there to support you whenever and wherever you need it the most,” he says.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Kieron Johnson

Kieron Johnson is a content/communications consultant to emerging and established brands.

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