Home OFFICIAL PARTNER COLUMNISTS TheGivingMachine: Girls are Weird, Gingerbread Bears & Kitchen Tables

TheGivingMachine: Girls are Weird, Gingerbread Bears & Kitchen Tables

Did that get your attention? No this is not a point of view but Girls are Weird is the name of the font we used in our first logo. Over 10 years ago, TheGivingMachine started from an idea about creating a company whose purpose was to give money away. Jonathan Bayly, Craig McKenzie, Mark Clark and I would meet for a beer and pizza on Thursday nights in my house and over the course of several weeks, we took an idea and started to build the first version of a real business.

Coming up with a name took some time as people who have been through start-ups of any kind will know. You want a name that works but also one that is available for web domains and of course these days available on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on. A chance comment by either Mark or Jonathan (it is still somewhat contested) said that it was like a giving machine and there it was, we got our name. I’m ashamed to say that early contenders were easy-peasy or even lemon-squeezy – I cringe now!

So we had our name and then we needed a logo. Craig did a fantastic design on our first logo and chose a font called ‘Girls are Weird’. It was Tim Burton-esque and even then conveyed the sense that we wanted to have some fun. The licence fee to use this font was to send the creator a toy robot, which we duly did! Even now I look at our old logo with fondness because it was uplifting and playful but the ever-evolving digital landscape and the need for a simpler logo and icons meant that we’d have to change it years later.

Once we got started, we’d meet at Craig’s creative design business office in Sawbridgeworth. I knew he and his team always put more into the project than any financial payment could possibly have met so I needed to find other ways to show appreciation. Just around the corner from their offices is a bakery and so I would pop in there for a stack of gingerbread bears and take them in for the whole team. If I ever mistakenly asked for gingerbread ‘men’, I was always sternly reminded that they were bears. Given that we worked for many years that way, hundreds of these gingerbread bears must have powered TheGivingMachine and have become an essential ingredient for any meeting there now.

As we grew, we needed more people to help support our growing community. Word of mouth helped us build an amazing team of local people working between school drop-off and pick-up. Working from home via laptop is really great and flexible but it doesn’t build the best of team cultures. You need time to be together and fortunately, Jonathan and his wife Pauline were able to let us use their kitchen table while they were out at work. It was so generous of them to let us use their house for about a year or so. Their kitchen provided a lovely working environment with its open plan layout. On those really sunny days, the skylight let the bright sun in which was really warm on those of us that are follicly challenged and made it hard to see our laptop screen. The solution was to get an outdoor umbrella to work under in their kitchen. It felt like we constantly needed to get the cocktail shaker out!

The final benefit of this arrangement was that we got to work with Hector – their grumpy looking cat. In truth, he was a big softy and seemed happy to have us around for extra attention. He was an adopted member of TheGivingMachine Team for that year. We found that this way of working – a blend of working from home and then being together has seen us through for the following years and works best for all of us. We may not always be the most efficient when we are together but we are a much better team for it.

We’ve had to move on from the ‘Girls are Weird’ logo font and so we now have VAG rounded which is not really a headline grabber but is much better for digital reproduction. We do still, however, enjoy gingerbread bears (and other sweets and chocolates) and kitchen tables are still a key part of our journey!