Cohere Launches Equitable Partnerships in Food + Sustainability + Real Estate
We’ve always operated as if our clients are our partners, approaching every project as if the success of the business was on the line, pouring our hearts and souls into how we perform. Now, Cohere has evolved to incorporate the experience and insight of recent team member Erik Oberholtzer. Having grown and built the Tender Greens restaurant family, scaling to 34 locations across the country, finding ideal partners like Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group, and exiting with a liquidity event, Erik brings invaluable insight to our agency operations, to say the least.
When we rebranded to Cohere in 2007, we identified that our superpower was to unite people around shared missions, and that ultimately we create long-term value when we do our jobs well. Our passion for impact and leaving a legacy in neighborhoods with spaces that help them own an authentic identity became our focus. We declared who we wanted to work with and were unapologetic about choosing our ideal projects.
“As an alternative to traditional engagements, the equitable partnership model lends itself to the flexibility required by capital-constrained start-ups.”
Why did we start an equitable partnership program?
We knew we wanted to create a business model that was different. Now, in 2020, during the tumultuous environment and business scenario caused by COVID-19, we are seeing more validation for our desire to address the need to create long-term value and relationships.
This has manifested itself in the form of Equitable Partnership agreements with new clients and partners. As an alternative to traditional engagements, the equitable partnership model lends itself to the flexibility required by capital-constrained start-ups.
The problem with the traditional agency model is that (typically) once a project is done, it’s done. The agency team has poured hundreds of hours into creating something new, and bringing it to the public, yet they just hand it over to the client in a fashion that leaves it easily outdated and lacking the ownership of the client’s own internal team. It is also capital-intensive up front!
“Thinking ten years ahead for a brand: how can we be actively involved and driving it?”
In our new ideal relationship, we’re looking at ten year plans. We’re asking ourselves, “ten years ahead for a brand: how can we be actively involved and driving it?” We are allowing ourselves to engage with the curiosity and drive of entrepreneurship as we consider the best way to ensure long-term success.We’re not the only groups thinking this way, but it’s something that has allowed us to differentiate ourselves from our peers as we enter into conversations with prospective partners.
Does your business fit the model?
When it comes down to it, we’re looking to partner with like-minded brands that fit the criteria we’ve found to be most successful for collaboration with Cohere. Typically that entails:
- Startups in food and beverage space (new restaurant concepts) that can lean on our #CohereFoodLab experimenting collaborations and sponsorships
- Food + sustainability projects that can use our branding, marketing and growth advisory services
- Startups in the Consumer Packaged Goods category (CPG)
- Real estate developers embarking on a new development project
- Established businesses seeking an expansion strategy
- Established restaurant concepts looking to differentiate or pivot their offerings
These engagements typically allow us to engage with a very low monthly service fee from Cohere. If the business can support a small monthly payment, we can then roll that payment into the overall value of our offerings. Whether it’s branding, web design, strategy or marketing support, we can associate a fee/equity value for the scope that allows us to engage in a meaningful manner over a longer period of time.
Recent Equitable Partnerships added to our Family of Brands.
More than fee for service, with brands like Simply Good Jars in Philadelphia, Mint Israeli Kitchen in NYC, Choice Market in Denver, or Heirloma de Caña in Colombia, we have taken an equity position to demonstrate our long-term commitment to value creation in these brands and their founders.
Simply Good Jars, which just launched a brand new grab-and-go offering at Di Bruno Bros. across Philadelphia, has welcomed us into their family – and vice versa. We are now fully committed to providing strategic branding support, advisory, and web design and development to help push their brand to the next stage. Along the way, we’ll have skin in the game and live with the product every day in our Philadelphia office. This kind of close relationship could not have come from a simple service-provider model. While we can and will execute on tangible deliverables in the near-term, it’s the long-term that inspires us to create value and push each other to be better brands. How this manifests with Simply Good Jars will be interesting to see, as the product is a very tangible and consumer-facing piece.
Real estate partnerships are also in the mix, alongside the start-ups and food and beverage concepts. This long view also guides our approach in the co-development of building equity in evolving neighborhoods like Spring Arts District in Philadelphia and the Bromo Arts District of Baltimore by providing us a direct interest and direct line of conversation with developers, founders, entrepreneurs, and consumer product brands that could benefit these emerging neighborhoods.
Our family of brands becomes an integral part of Cohere’s value offering moving forward and lends that value to each and every project we touch. Whether it’s direct equity, or advisory support, or even networking connections, it is our goal to make those deeper familial connections in all projects to truly “connect the dots.”
“We need to connect as true partners in order to thrive.”
Especially in these uncertain times, businesses need branding, web design, and digital advertising campaigns. But, sometimes they also need personal advisory and support – sometimes they just need to know that someone out there is thinking about their businesses as much as they are. We want to be that team.
In the end, the more we can remove the friction of the service/provider model from a relationship, the more we see the ways to open a new world of collaboration. Too often, agencies, businesses, or individuals are scared to be vulnerable or advance themselves because it means that someone might “poke holes” in their concept or idea. But, vulnerability is what makes collaboration work; vulnerability is what makes a family a family. Can we be fully vulnerable if we’re just engaged for a one-off job?
We need to connect as true partners in order to thrive.