it all started with some skittles…
I suppose I was wired to be an entrepreneur from an early age. I started my first business in Middle School, selling Skittles out of my sixth grade school locker. The following year, I was the only certified Red Cross babysitter on the block with professional business cards. Fast forward several decades to when—shortly after my move from California to Oregon, and after more than a decade of agency, corporate, and nonprofit leadership roles—I launched Big Small Brands on my birthday in February 2010. The path that got me where I am today has had a few incredible pit stops, no doubt.
The first few chapters of my career story taught me some important lessons I still carry with me today. Among them…
Embrace opportunities, whether you’re ready for them or not. My first post-college job was temping in the PR department for J. Crew Group in NYC—a dream job for any recent grad, which I landed somewhat by accident while hunting for another job that would (sigh…) put my History degree to good use. When my boss got fired a few weeks into the gig, I wasn’t sure what to do next. But, I liked what I’d been learning so far, and my rent bill was due soon. So, I got to work. There wasn’t anyone there to guide me, so I started by picking up her phone when it rang, and pretending to know what to do when people asked for it. I walked around the office a lot, listened to hallway conversations, and observed how other teams were getting things done. Eventually, I figured (most of) it out, and made a ton of mistakes along the way. I was soon coordinating media relations, product placement, and catalog promotions, and by the time they re-hired the department manager, I had created a full-time position for myself that I loved. Over the next year, though, I started to realize that the part of my job that fired me up the most were the marketing collaborations and philanthropic partnerships we were beginning to set up for our new network of retail stores. So, it was time for a change.
Trust your gut. As tough as it was to consider leaving the security of a promising new career path, it just didn’t feel like “me.” So, when I learned about an opportunity to combine my passion for running with a cause close to my heart, I jumped at the chance to tackle a new challenge. In my next role as Campaign Director for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s brand new Team In Training Program, I was charged with helping grow a local grassroots racing team into a national signature campaign. Here, I learned firsthand the power of cause marketing, corporate and individual philanthropy, and networking for good. I learned how to pitch sponsors, recruit corporate teams, and run a rapidly growing nonprofit program. I was was lucky to have incredible bosses and mentors to guide my growth, and a personal connection to the cause, which inspired my work each day. I also got my first glimpse of what it means to be part of an innovative nonprofit leadership team—an experience that inspired me to join my first Board and to make a commitment that I would keep social good at the core of what I do, whenever I could.
Take leaps. In 1997, I was invited to join a team of early internet marketers at Citysearch, now a division of IAC/Interactive Corps, to help small business customers make the most of their first internet marketing presence. I was a bit terrified about the idea; I’d never used the internet before, and it would be a pay cut from the nonprofit job I loved. But I had never seen so much passion for an idea as I did with the team who interviewed me, or a work culture that felt like “home” from the moment I walked in the door. so I took a leap and gave it a shot. Over the next few years, my roles included managing regional promotions, leading customer retention, and building revenue-generating partnerships with sister properties such as Ticketmaster, Match.com, and Evite. After the (first) internet crash, I moved to Edmunds.com as Director of Product Marketing, managing lead generation, dealer advertising, and media partner products for automotive brand clients and partners. These roles taught me a lot about small business marketing, the importance of delivering innovative online experiences for customers, and what is possible when teams are aligned around a brand’s growth path. I loved every single moment!
- Keep learning. While I loved the pace and passion of the early-stage dotcom sector, I was ready to expand my marketing muscles and explore new approaches and industries. Through a volunteer Board leadership role for Step Up Women’s Network, I got connected with Buzztone, an emerging marketing services firm, and transitioned into the agency world in 2001. As VP Sales, I lead engagements with entertainment and consumer brand clients, and helped diversify the firm’s client portfolio. From here, I joined Siegel+Gale, a global strategic branding firm as VP Business Development, and then served as EVP Marketing & Business Development for Kelton Global , a brand research consultancy, which opened my eyes to the true power of qualitative research, a key focus of the work I do today. These roles gave me the chance to dive deep into many phases of the brand development, marketing, and sales cycle, and get exposure to the ins-and-outs of nearly every business category under the sun. And, I racked up a ton of frequent flier miles along the way….
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Big Small Brands IS BORN.
Shortly after my daughters were born, I knew it was time for a big change. We moved our family from California to Portland, Oregon, in 2009. (Go Ducks!). Seeking a new challenge—and a lot less time in airport terminals—I took the leap and launched Big Small Brands on my birthday in 2010 with a simple vision: help great clients and emerging brands accelerate their growth.
Today, I love tackling the diverse challenges our clients face, and bringing the perspectives and insights I got from years servicing larger corporate and agency brands to emerging businesses and organizations. From the get-go, I also made a commitment to support nonprofit and community-minded brands, too. Over the years, this has included a mix of pro-bono and preferred rate client engagements, hands-on volunteering, and allocating a portion of client revenues to support early-stage nonprofit brands. I also incorporate cause marketing elements into a lot of the work I do with corporate clients, and love helping match nonprofits with brands seeking to grow their community engagement and support social good. Some of the community roles I’m most proud of in recent years are below:
- Volunteer, Moms Demand Action For Gunsense in America (2015-present)
- Founding Member, The Women’s Foundation of Oregon (2015-present)
- Inaugural Member, The Portland Ten, celebrating local social change-makers (2014 – Present)
- Executive Director, Schoolhouse Supplies (2012 – 2014)
- Inaugural Champion, United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign (2012 – 2013)
- Founding Member, The Mission List, a community using social media for social good (2012)
- Portland Business Journal, Orchid Award Winner (2012)
- Oregon Delegate and National Mentor for Parenting Magazine‘s Mom Congress on Education and Learning (2011 – 2012). In this role, I helped create parent engagement programs for Playworks and Reach Out and Read.
- Family Engagement Volunteer, Healthy Child, Healthy World (2008 – 2011)
If you’re interested in connecting, I’d love to share more and hear your story, too. Drop me a line to get in touch!
Thanks for listening!