Interview: BrandHuman Founder Jasmine Takanikos + CEO Eve Lewis

Exploring a principle-based methodology with the two women who put it into practice

It starts with a collision of words: brand, human. In the age of digital living, people often refer to themselves, their online identity or a certain aesthetic they emulate, as a brand. This is not what BrandHuman is about. Founded by Jasmine Takanikos and guided by the leadership of Eve Lewis, this strategic consultancy supports leaders, designers, entrepreneurs and executives—both fledgling and flourishing—on a quest to find their story. They don’t whip up a market-friendly identity, but use meditative, exploratory methodologies to asses value and set it to life. On a tactile level, this ranges from high-level creative discussions and group experiences to bias training, website design and even custom typography.

“My first talk in front of a large group was in Hawaii; it was a full-day seminar,” Takanikos tells us. “I was teaching these concepts—these principles—but I didn’t have a name yet. It struck me that we all have deeply human issues and that we are human before we are founder or CEO. The idea of brand-building is not separate from ourselves, but everything to this point was separated. Self-responsibility and brand did not touch. I wanted to put them in a conversation together.”

Much of their work—for international clients, across industries—addresses authenticity and ways to channel it into storytelling. “Right now, the real work is recognizing the truth in your stories,” Takanikos says. “Authenticity isn’t given to you. It’s a practice that you build daily. Every word that you say to your family, your friends, your clients, this is where authenticity emerges. There’s so much marketing speak around authenticity and storytelling but everyone has a story. Great stories come from people who make it [storytelling] a practice.”

These underlying values transform into BrandHuman’s three core offerings. “The first is leadership training,” Takanikos says. “That happens with entrepreneurs or intrepreneurs in one of several different ways: the teachings, accountability sessions or one-on-one coaching. They tend to flow into one another.” Insight sessions form BrandHuman’s second offering. These are deep-dives into personal positioning, with a physical brief that covers everything down to social media presence.

“Then we do customized experiential events,” Takanikos says of their third offering. Pre-COVID, this took place in real life. For instance, BrandHuman hosted themed dinner parties for the NoMad Hotel, where conversations about its brand took place, garnering insights for the hospitality group. BrandHuman taps meditation and sound-bath teachers, musicians and more. “We find ways to heighten senses,” Lewis says, “as we encourage people to move from reactive to responsive.” When in-person experiences resume (and closely adhering to the legal developments in this class), BrandHuman will also offer experiences with psychedelic medicines, for founders questing for creativity.

All of their material is custom-designed for each client. “We look to BrandHuman as an access point or guide to connect back to awareness,” Lewis says, in advance of an online event they’re planning around attunement. “It’s about how you must keep checking back in with yourself about your own experience, your narrative—and how you create your expression from this,” she adds. For these virtual events, BrandHuman builds within the Experience Welcome platform, which includes everything down to main stages and green rooms.

Takanikos was a professor at Parsons for 10 years; Lewis is also a poet. Language is very important to both of them. “Sometimes you use the words because there are no better words,” Takanikos jokes, when asked about their mission statement. “We decided on ‘principles’ because they’re grounding. They are something to focus on with lessons underneath. Bringing principles together creates a method of approach. This is not guru-based; it’s how you end up using what we teach for yourself in your own life. BrandHuman is a vibe. It’s a feeling. Of course, it is all the lessons and it is the fact that we are strategists and we understand the market and frameworks, but a vibe is a huge piece of it.”

“With leadership, there’s no separation between who you are and how you develop self and how you lead,” Lewis says. “Though an awareness of that may have been there before, it’s heightened to a level now where we can no longer ignore that reality. We bring our whole self in with us wherever we go.”

This leadership culture isn’t the only shift in recent years. We’re also at a period of time with growth in industries that would have been unimaginable years earlier. “We are in such a professional matrix that we’ve never been in before,” Takanikos says. “I am committed to brand clarity within it.” A lot of BrandHuman’s work starts with ascertaining the exact need of a client amidst all the noise.

“If you say you’re authentic, you’re full of shit,” Takanikos says. “You have to live it.” This, at the end of the day, is what BrandHuman aims to encourage through their principles. “Telling the truth is the biggest strategy you can have. It’s the most sure thing you have,” Lewis concludes. “And that’s what you should present.”

Images courtesy of BrandHuman