We Do Cool Stuff x Wild Idea Co.

Career and experiential learning 
Entrepreneurship Hub
Faculty of Arts
Photo of Ryan and Sarah Gencarelli in front of a brick wall.
The Entrepreneurship Hub thrilled to introduce We Do Cool Stuff, a brand-new campaign that celebrates the innovators and trailblazers who are making our campus an epicentre of creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

Sarah and Ryan Gencarelli, alumni of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ottawa, run Wild Idea Co., a brand consulting and marketing firm that helps SME founders take their businesses to the next level. They apply insights and best practices from their experience with major national brands, grounded in a practical understanding of what it takes to start and grow a small business in Canada. 

Many people are doing cool things on campus. What entrepreneurial endeavour are you currently working on?

After leaving our corporate jobs in Toronto, we launched Wild Idea Co. with the vision of using our skills and experience to help other purpose-driven entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.

Sarah is a third-generation creative, her mother and grandfather both graphic designers in the Mad Men era. Ryan is a third-generation entrepreneur, his parents, grandparents and relatives running successful small businesses in Eastern Ontario.

As our careers were taking off, we found ourselves at a point where we needed to decide if we wanted to stay on that path. We lived in a busy area of Toronto, were expecting our first child, working long hours and questioning whether we wanted to continue giving most of our time and energy to the big corporate agenda.

We asked ourselves, How can we use our skills and experience to do something more meaningful? Because creating a more balanced and rewarding lifestyle was proving to be so important to us, we thought,What’s more meaningful than helping others do the same?

After launching as a general resource hub for new entrepreneurs, we’re excited to focus on what we really do best — helping Canadian SMEs take their business to the next level through strategic branding. This year, we’ll be re-launching our business with a greater focus on brand consulting, brand identity design and marketing services.

Since we opened six years ago, we’ve provided hundreds of entrepreneurs with consulting and creative support. We’re excited to see where the next chapter takes us.

How does interdisciplinary collaboration and/or innovation play a role in your entrepreneurial endeavour?

Collaboration is central to every part of our business.

Collaborating with the founder is crucial. They hold the original visions and values of the brand at heart. Involving the founder in the brand strategy ensures the brand remains true to its roots and captures the essence of why they started. Often, their personal story is deeply connected to the brand. When we can weave that into the brand experience, it brings authenticity, creating a more genuine connection with customers. 

We haven’t met a founder who isn’t deeply passionate about their brand. Their involvement also brings a level of commitment and dedication that can inspire and drive a team. This passion is infectious and contributes to the brand’s success. 

What impact do you hope to make through your entrepreneurial endeavour?

After advising hundreds of entrepreneurs through small business centres located in Ottawa, Windsor, and Leeds and Grenville, we see a glaring need for brand and marketing guidance. Whether it’s a new business or a business that’s been running for a few years, often it seems the barrier to growth is actually moving too fast.

One of the biggest mistakes we see entrepreneurs make is running into marketing at full speed without stopping to understand why. Our goal is to help SMEs make their marketing work smarter, not harder, by giving them a strong foundation to make confident decisions from.

Brand strategy and business strategy are two sides of the same coin. When you truly understand your brand purpose, competitive advantages and ideal client, your marketing can be so much more effective. You can be more confident where you choose to spend your limited time, energy and money to drive growth.

We hope to give founders and their teams more clarity in their brands, so they can be more confident in their business and marketing decisions — and get growing faster.  

What advice would you give to those who are eager to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps and make an impact through their own initiatives?

It’s hard to give just one piece of advice, because every day as an entrepreneur is different. You grow and change right alongside your business, and there’s never a day where you’re only wearing one hat.

For these reasons, we’re giving five pieces of advice that come up with our clients. Some of them will help you today, others will help you tomorrow.

  1. Define your purpose
    • Clearly articulate your mission and vision. Understand why your business exists, beyond just making a profit.
  2. Understand your audience
    • Know your target audience inside out. Understand their needs, challenges and desires. Tailor your products or services to address their specific pain points.
  3. Focus on branding
    • Invest in building a strong brand. Your brand is not just a logo — it’s the essence of your business. Clearly communicate your values and make your brand relatable to your audience.
  4. Start with “Why?”
    • Before diving into the “how” of your business, understand the “why.” Define your core values and the purpose behind your offerings. This clarity will guide your decisions.
  5. Be adaptable
    • Embrace change and be adaptable. The business landscape evolves rapidly and being flexible allows you to navigate challenges effectively.

Your nominations

The We Do Cool Stuff series is all about showcasing the inspiring work, projects, and innovations that students, researchers, alumni, faculty and staff are passionately pursuing. We want to share their stories, their journeys, and their visions with our University community and the world. Do you know someone who fits the bill? Send your nomination to: [email protected]