Becoming The Brandling / by Anne Miltenburg

After listening to my plans attentively for half an hour, my business coach asked: “So what makes you happy?”. I was confused. I had just run him through the model for my future company. What’s happiness got to do with it? And why would my coach ask me about feelings? 


Not so long ago, I often described myself as a bit of peanut butter spread out over too many sandwiches. I combined a position as freelance creative director at an international branding agency, with a teaching job, my own clients, a position on a board, and wrote for several magazines. I did not want to miss out on anything, because anything could turn out to be the path to happiness. I had to eat non stop in order to keep my body from giving in to gravity.

One evening last October, I realised this peanut butter thing has to go. I had held myself to a promise of making time for a dinner with friends that day, but I was still late due to a overrun client meeting. When I finally arrived, my friends were already on to the main course. There was laughter, and conversation. They were having a great time, and once again, I had missed most of it. Gravity could no longer be resisted. I laid down on my back next to the dining room table, with my winter jacket still on.  I stared at the feet of my friends above. Needless to say, this raised concern.

It was clear I needed to stop spreading myself thin, so I got a coach to help me make some much needed choices. One would assume that after ending up on the floor, a low point in many ways, I would understand personal happiness would be a major criteria for those choices. But still, the question posed by my coach caught me off guard. And it got me thinking. 

Answering the happiness question turned out to be a relatively simple exercise. I tapped into dreams and talents that I’ve had since childhood.  Finding the overlap between those dreams, my professional expertise, and what the world needs, came very natural. Everything was already there, the pieces just needed to come together. 

I needed to become The Brandling.

A new generation of change makers is emerging all over the world. In business, health, education, culture and the environmental sector. People who want to challenge the status quo and create positive social impact. Change makers need to make noise, and get support –whether that support comes in financial investment, societal change, sales or likes. There are many ways to strengthen these ambitious individuals, organisations and movements. One of those methods is branding. 

Branding is often misinterpreted  and misused as a cosmetic cover up. Its power is distributed unevenly across geographic and economic lines. It’s time to take back its power and use it to accelerate change. That is where The Brandling comes in.


The Brandling combines my natural engagement (empowering others to create social impact) with my expertise (branding / design / writing) and my love for travel and intercultural contact (working on location).

My new mission not only guides me forward, but helps me to make better choices when opportunities present themselves. Will it help me become better at empowering my clients? If the answer is no, it’s just another case of spreading the peanut butter too thin, and I will need to let it pass.  

Already, my focus is paying off and serendipity is flowing. I have a number of amazing projects lined up, which will take me to Tunisia, Zambia and Ireland this fall. If all goes well, I will launch The Brandling officially this December. And one thing I know for sure: my peanut butter days are over.