Brainstorm better with Wonder

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By Kirsten Adshead/motherbility

Jessica Nordskog and Carrie Anton brainstormed their way into brainstorming full-time.

They met as American Girl co-workers and bonded in part over a shared goal, “to have a little more control over our creative destiny,” Anton said.

That’s how Wonder: An Idea Studio began.

“We started brainstorming together on ideas, ‘What could we do?'” Anton said. “So we would come up with book ideas and business ideas and, you know, side gigs, and all these different things. And then we would have lists, like, long lists of stuff to do. Whereas some people can’t come up with one business idea, and we had, like, tons of them.”

“That was kind of when we were, like, ‘Well, maybe we’re idea people,'” she said.

Nordskog gave birth to her son Liam and left American Girl in 2011. Anton followed in 2013.

“We were, like, ‘How do we avoid her going back to work?'” Anton said. “So then all of those business ideas that we kind of had started when we were at American Girl, we were, like, ‘Well, we could do this. We don’t have to think about it as leaving our jobs because we already did that.'”

Through Wonder, the women help businesses of all sizes (from solo-entrepreneurships to large corporations), generate ideas and brainstorm.

Jessica Nordskog, left, and Carrie Anton run Wonder: An Idea Studio, a brainstorming business that includes one-on-one sessions and monthly workshops.

Wonder’s services include one-on-one idea generation, brainstorming on businesses’ behalf and leading groupthink sessions.

Nordskog and Anton also are writing a book aimed about how to brainstorm when you’re a solo entrepreneur, and are offering a series of small-group workshops. March’s, for example, was titled, “Turn Your Side Gig Into Your Main Hustle.” April’s was “Rock Your Goals Craft Night.”

Both women have developed active freelancing careers around branding, design (for Nordskog), and writing (for Anton).

Wonder grew from their American Girl experiences, freelancing gigs, and their shared interest in exploring fun, effective options for brainstorming.

“One of the brainstorming techniques is what I call the ‘toddler technique’,” Anton said. “It’s just to keep asking ‘why’? Like, ‘Why is that a good idea? Why is that needed? Why does that happen? Why are things made the way they are right now? … And you just keep asking ‘why?’ over and over again. Eventually you’re going to get to get something that’s like, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ Or, ‘Oh! Maybe there isn’t a why.’ Maybe nobody asked why, so now there’s this opportunity out there.”

Wonder has experienced the same kind of growing pains virtually all small businesses face.

The business started by focusing on brainstorming, naming and branding.

“But what ended up happening is that design work takes a lot longer than, for the most part, writing,” Nordskog said. “So it was very off-balance. So I would be, like, ‘Oh, my God, I have so much to do!’ And Carrie would (have little to do), ‘Well, I’ll send some emails.'”

They decided to keep doing their individual freelance projects, she said, “But (we thought), ‘What can we do to make Wonder ours, together?’ So that’s when we decided, ‘Let’s just focus on brainstorming. It’s a huge strength of both of ours, especially when we’re working together.”

They relaunched Wonder in February, and one week later learned that their book was approved for publishing.

The workshops stemmed from a desire to grow Wonder’s following and an initial plan to hold a conference (which may still happen next year).

“So that’s when we kind of backed up and thought, ‘OK, let’s start doing two workshops a month,’ which we’re now realizing that maybe one workshop a month is better,” Nordskog laughed. “We’re learning a lot along the way.”

Challenges include maximizing social-media effectiveness and promotions.

For example, Nordskog said, ideally they would have been able to start promoting April’s workshop in early March, but they were concerned about that depressing participation in March’s.

They’re relying heavily on word-of-mouth advertising at the moment, and spending a lot of time networking.

Their efforts are gaining traction: Wonder recently was featured in In Business magazine and on the I Love Madison podcast. 

“We’re so swamped right now, between workshops, the book and also we’ve been getting quite a few requests for the coffee-and-ideas (one-on-one sessions),” Anton said. “The coffee-and-ideas sessions, I will say that those are things that come out of the workshops that we’ve been doing, is that people go to that are, like, ‘Oh, I do need more help with this.'”

A lot of their focus is on helping people shift perspective, Anton said.

“That is a lot of the reason we do kind of weird, fun activities. Like our April workshop, (we painted) rocks,” she said. “People wouldn’t necessarily think about painting rocks, but it’s a craft that actually has a purpose in terms of we’re using it for goal planning and that sort of thing. … Get out of your space, see different things, look at the world in a different way, and I feel like you start to see different opportunities pop up.”

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