The New York-based agency, composed of 12 people, focuses on the consumer goods space (think food and beverage, beer and spirits, personal care, and health and natural supplements) with a mission to help clients envision the world through a forward-looking lens.
“We realized that a lot of our clients, as they were trying to unlock growth, too often were looking at a static understanding of the marketplace. Nobody was systematically weaving in the understanding of where the market is likely to go and to identify paradigm shifts,” Eric said.
To help clients solve forward, Black Bamboo focuses on three core areas: insight and foresight, brand building, and innovation. We talked a bit about how Eric approaches the concept of foresight.
“Foresight is something we activate in all of our projects, identifying the macro forces in any given category and posing tough questions to our clients about the future of these categories,” he said. The result? “We help them anticipate and innovate to get ahead of the curve and unlock growth before the market even knows it exists.”
“For example, in the consumer space, when we conduct foresight, we don’t just talk to experts in the food and beverage category, we’ll also talk to people in nutrition, urban planning, or from an anthropological standpoint, to understand what is likely to change about the category as a result of changing societal or economic dynamics,” he said.
Eric’s team is mission critical, a key part of solving forward. This includes how and where the team works.
“We’re a small team and we’ve always had a family culture. We’re together because we enjoy being together. But we’re also a culture of intense dedication. Even in a pre-COVID world, we don’t expect everyone to be at the office every day,” he said.
We help [clients] anticipate and innovate to get ahead of the curve and unlock growth before the market even knows it exists
Black Bamboo embraces a culture of “extreme flexibility”, Eric explained. “COVID has further reinforced the belief we’ve always had, that we can work efficiently wherever we are.” Like so many other businesses, the team has wholly embraced Zoom for collaboration, productivity, and levity.
The agency seeks out a few key traits in its team. One is curiosity. Like “the willingness to think out of the box,” Eric said. “Not only just for analysis sake, but we want people who are thinking differently, that’s how we can help challenge thinking. We try to project how paradigms are likely to change and that requires an ability to think about a problem in a bit of an unorthodox way.”
Another trait is a highly entrepreneurial mindset, which is also baked into Black Bamboo’s DNA, especially considering its team of 12 people. “Junior people have an opportunity to learn faster than at a large organization because they’re given more responsibility up front but also with guidance,” Eric said.
We’re a small team and we’ve always had a family culture. We’re together because we enjoy being together. But we’re also a culture of intense dedication. Even in a pre-COVID world, we don’t expect everyone to be at the office every day
A unique thing about Black Bamboo is the way it approaches the traditional concept of professional development for its employees. Eric explains how the agency lives its mission as a growth agency at an individual level.
“We have a growth fund, which is a dedicated amount of money that every employee can spend toward a project or initiative they think will help them grow personally, whether that is professionally or as an individual,” he said. This might be learning a language, perfecting a skill, or investing in membership at a co-working space, especially as we think ahead to the workplace of the future.
Looking ahead to its own future and the solving forward of Black Bamboo, Eric sees the agency’s unique features as a strength and opportunity in whatever the new “normal” of a post-pandemic world is.
“With a company of our size, you ask, do you want and need to grow to keep delivering on our position? Or do you stay more of a boutique company? The world we live in confirms more of this hypothesis. I believe this phenomena will accelerate as a result of the COVID crisis. Smaller, more agile boutique agencies may have a better time weathering it,” Eric said.