Russell Breton sounds like an evangelist as he talks about how his Sacramento-based company, Vision Launchers, helps clients define concepts, develop brands and tell their stories.
"Every company, every business has its own personality, its own DNA, its own culture, but most businesses don't listen to it. They go, 'Here's the product. Let's try to push it to the masses' when in fact every single product has a story line."
The 26-year-old Breton trained at a seminary and made a living with motivational speaking. He knows the value of a good story.
He and partner David Martinelli subscribe to the belief that consumers make purchasing decisions based on how a product makes them feel. They have worked with roughly 200 companies and nonprofit organizations in the past three years. That's included Sacramento's Party Concierge, Roseville's Button Buck and LandRollers down in Manhattan Beach.
Time magazine called LandRollers one of the most amazing inventions of 2005, and celebrities Cesar Milan and Maria Bello can't get enough of them. LandRoller's outsized wheels, which sit outside the skates, are slightly angled inward to provide greater stability.
In October, LandRoller debuted a new website, branding and story line created by Vision Launchers, company CEO Kevin McNamara said, and consumers are staying at the site longer than before to post photos, videos and comments. Sales are up, he said, adding: "We're selling out of a couple of skates already."
Ready for nonprofit duty
If you brave the storm Sunday to watch the California International Marathon, you'll be rewarded with the sight of 20 wounded warriors making their way to the state Capitol from Folsom.
They're running for a reason, raising awareness for Battle for Veterans, a nonprofit Mark Soto founded three years ago in honor of sons Benjamin and Josh. They fought overseas, Soto said, and came home intact.
At high school football invitational games and at other events, Soto shows students the needs of military veterans by bringing amputees and other veterans to tell their stories. Successive generations, after all, will have a big say in how veterans are treated.
Soto, who's 50, retired from coaching at Granite Bay and Del Oro high schools and devoted himself to Battle for Veterans. This year, he expects to raise $240,000, double what he got last year.
"The first two years was me learning," he said. " When I got better, the organization got better. I got better as a business person, and it helped in so many ways in bringing on volunteers, in organizing volunteers, in negotiating with the teams that were coming in and playing."
One key to his success, he said, was a new website, battleforveterans.org, created by Vision Launchers.
A tween on the move
Over the years, I've heard from a dozen or so tween boys desperate to land jobs as Bee carriers.
Contractors now do that work, but as I interviewed Vision Launchers' Russell Breton, it struck me how far a little ingenuity and assertiveness can take a kid. Breton's childhood included a stint in foster care. When his mom regained custody, she worked as many as four jobs to get ahead in Upper Lake. So did he.
"When I was 11 years old, I started my own business selling rocks," he said, "I had all these beautiful rocks obsidian and things like that and I'd go out with my Radio Flyer wagon and I'd sell rocks.
"Then I started selling baseball cards. I turned my room into a sport card palace. I was making two grand a month with that business. I also started a lawn-mowing company, and I had four locations by 13. I would go over on my Big Wheel and collect my money.
" I was in school reading Sport Card Weekly trying to figure out when the next big thing was coming to town."
In high school, Breton focused on academics and worked for others. By then, his mom had scrimped and saved to buy a restaurant. It's a "greasy spoon," Breton said, Judy's Junction at 375 E. Highway 20.