A POWERFUL OVERLAP

 
 

New to Columbus by way of Hong Kong, Eugenia met Mike more than seventeen years ago,  in the midst of the .com era.

Despite the difference in their professional talents, and in between discussions about art house cinema, the brilliance of the Talking Heads, and the trials and tribulations of each of their respective families, they discussed the need to build connectivity between business strategy and brand marketing.

After years of following divergent paths, building their global expertise and raising their children with their spouses, they are setting out to realize the vision that they first discussed all those years ago.

 

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MICHAEL BILLS
Partner

EUGENIA ERLIJ
Partner

Michael is a recognized expert in consumer-led brand positioning and innovation. With twenty-five years of experience leading retail branding and product development agencies Retail Planning Associates and Fitch, and having served as Chief Marketing Officer for Select Comfort Corporation, Michael develops strategic and creative solutions that resonate with target consumers and are competitively differentiating for brands.

Over the course of his career, Michael has partnered with one hundred twenty Fortune 500 retail, and manufacturer brands including Calvin Klein, Donna Karen, Levi Strauss, BCBG, Diesel, Wrangler, Adidas, Nike, Target, Federated Department Stores, Breville, Disney, Universal Studios, Playboy Enterprises, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Sony, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Virgin Atlantic, to name just a few. His work has taken him around the world with engagements in seventeen countries. The International Retail Council and DDI Magazine named Michael one of the 40 Most Influential People in Retail and he is a keynote speaker at leading industry events wherein his perspectives have been featured on CNN, CNBC, Sky Radio and in Time Magazine and Business Week.

Michael joined the faculty of The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business in 2008 where he developed MBA and executive education - level courses in innovation and brand marketing. Fisher MBA students awarded Michael the James L. Ginter Award for excellence in teaching in both 2010, and again in 2011. Michael also served as the Founder and Executive Director of The Ohio State University Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship where he was responsible for the development and management of the comprehensive strategy for curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular innovation and entrepreneurship - based programming across the undergraduate, graduate and executive education programs.  In addition, Michael was responsible for the development of corporate partnerships and outreach as well as design of trans-disciplinary curriculum within the interdisciplinary undergraduate minor and MBA programs.

Michael serves on the boards of Best Buddies Ohio and CINCO - The community Investment Network of Ohio.

Michael resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Megan, his daughters Madeline and Claire, and a dog named Henry.

Eugenia has a track record of effectively spurring corporate growth through strategic planning based on transparent fact-based analysis. She is passionate about identifying new marketing opportunities for emerging and mature industries, creating corporate-wide efficiencies, defining team missions and acquiring top-tier talent to transform vision into reality.

Eugenia has had management roles in the global Food & Beverage, Specialty Chemicals, Retail, and Consulting industries. She has operated in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Her skills at working across cultures and geographies are enabled by fluency in Spanish and a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.

In her diverse roles, Eugenia has introduced new technologies and approaches to drive growth.  During her tenure at Ashland Water Technologies, she created a stand-alone global business unit focused on the Food & Beverage market.  In her role, she led the development of three new product-lines encompassing 7 patents and the analysis that led to the acquisition of a leading Brazilian supplier to the Food & Beverage industry.

At fashion retailer L Brands, she created a centralized marketing operations team focused on capturing efficiency and growth opportunities. She was responsible for improving customer data quality and security and identifying best practices across business units and marketing services vendors.  

At McKinsey and Company, she aided banks in Mexico, Israel, and Singapore facing deregulation and privatization to create new organizational structures enabling them to compete and grow. She recruited key McKinsey leaders from Germany to India, and relocated them to Hong Kong to train and manage local talent, shifting from expat to a stronger local consultant base.

Eugenia earned an MBA in Marketing from Columbia University’s Business School and received her B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago. In addition, she has studied Chinese Economics at the graduate level with courses taught in Mandarin at The Johns Hopkins University in Nanjing China.

Eugenia resides in Columbus, Ohio and serves on the Board of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

 

OUR EXPERTISE

 
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AT THE INTERSECTION OF INNOVATION & GROWTH

 
 

Our work comes primarily from referrals, and we work with brands and businesses which are at the intersection of innovation and growth.

We have unique insight to the challenges faced by middle market companies and have deep expertise in retail, apparel, consumer packaged goods, and food & beverage.

We also collaborate with growing companies on behalf of private equity firms at the initial point of investment and with new brands following a carve out or as part of a roll up.

 
 

OUR TOOLS

 
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VISION ASSESSMENT

An electronic diagnostic tool for efficiently and comprehensively initiating each engagement. Includes input from key stakeholders and a checklist of desired data, while also identifying gaps in research.

DASHBOARD & DIAGNOSTIC

Top line documentation of each scenario including all relevant qualitative and quantitative data illustrated through imagery, graphs and charts that brings each scenario to life for all stakeholders. Provides consistent articulation of each scenario and aids in decision making while forcing consideration of strategic trade offs.  

SCENARIO PORTRAIT

An image based portrait of each scenario illustrating the differences in target consumers and lifestyles, product design and assortment, distribution and brand essence. Aids decision making by underscoring

 

SPARKING GROWTH IN OTHERS

 
 
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OUR GIVING

VENN joined of the Pledge1% corporate philanthropy movement because our community is a key stakeholder in our business.

We’ve joined companies like Yelp, Yahoo and hundreds of other leading brands to donate 1% of our equity, product and employee time to help others grow and prosper.