5 YEARS IN THE MAKING
23 MAY 2016
Lightning strikes can happen at the least likely moments - what does it take for a lightning strike? Charged particles collide and create a spark - and boom.
Inspired by a long weekend at Summit at Sea, I couldn’t sit still anymore. Being surrounded by social entrepreneurs who were out to change the world is contagious and within a couple of weeks of the event I knew I had to make it happen. Tim and I had always dreamed of doing our own thing and running an agency together. Over the years we had worked for competitors at times, sometimes even pitching on the same business for different agencies.
This month, we are celebrating our five year anniversary as an agency. We are blessed, humbled, and honored by making this mile marker in our journey. Five years ago we began with a simple idea - brands have a powerful voice and can be used as changemakers to make the world a better place. We didn’t want to create a cause marketing agency but rather an agency with a cause. To liberate brands everywhere by creating authentic experiences that inspire and disrupt. Thus, with no clients, no capital, and a two-year non-compete we set off on our journey to build an agency that would call on brands to stand for something.
I didn’t want to move to Milwaukee and Tim had no interest in uprooting his family and coming to Portland so we made the logical decision for an uncapitalized scrappy start up agency--two virtual offices in coffee shops 2,000 miles apart.
The road hasn’t been easy but it has been rewarding. When you have ultimate trust in your business partner, you can rest easier at night knowing he or she has your back. As identical twins, we collectively make up one whole person… Just enough left and right brain to create some synergy. Certainly we have our battles and tifts - all founders do. But five minutes later we can have a laugh about it.
The last five years have been marked with both trials and triumphs. As I look back, I can still remember holding the first $10,000 check that we received for one of our first projects. Another crowning moment that I will never forget was the day that we were awarded our first Ex Award for the Arby’s Foundation Hungry for Happiness Campaign. As we walked towards the bright lights of the stage, surprised and bewildered that our little shop would be recognized among the experiential and event agency titans of the industry, we were thrilled and petrified with each step. That night, we took home our first national award for a cause-integrated campaign and, for maybe the first time, felt traction taking root.
But there are also those times that are dotted with anxiety & despair. After five years, it’s easier to be more honest about the hustle, the struggles, and pursuit of the dream. One such moment that I recall early on was sitting in my car on a sweaty May afternoon in a Costco parking lot after reviewing our accounts receivable report and realizing that in order to keep the lights on we desperately needed to collect outstanding invoices from some of our clients. I can remember frantically calling anyone I knew to ask for a $12,000 loan - that’s it, just twelve grand to get us by until we could get the much-anticipated collection of cash from clients. Those were the character-building days - the thrill of the pitch, the excitement of the hunt, and sometimes, the despair of defeat.
Fast forward five years and with just under 20 employees, two brand new offices, and a portfolio of work we’re proud of for bold brands including Intel, Amazon, Cisco, Sam Adams, Arby’s and GE Healthcare, we couldn’t be more thankful.
We’re thankful to our community, those who have rooted for us all along, those faithful few who were willing to roll the dice on our little dark horse agency and believe in us. We’re also thankful to our clients who have supported us every step of the way, who were willing to take risks, and entrust us with helping to steward their brand. Finally, we’re thankful to our team who, many of which, believed in our mission and purpose more than making money and who have helped to shape our culture, ambitions, and ethos.
Here’s to another five years as we look toward the future and dream about what Manifesto can become.