Or, how a Wisconsin girl got started with this whole marketing thing…
“About” pages are tough, aren’t they? To read, I mean. Typically, the person or company is so preoccupied with stuffing as many jargon-y words as they can into three neat paragraphs that they’re not actually telling you about them. If you’re ready for an “About” page that is going to knock your proverbial socks off, TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher — until third grade, when I wrote a story about a laughing hyena that had lost its laugh and the lengths it took to get that laugh back. I stood up in front of my class and started to nervously read my story — not taking my eyes off my paper because I didn’t want to see the reaction of my classmates. I was SURE they were hating it.
Finally, I snuck a peek at the faces of those at the front of the room, and to my surprise, saw that they were when a funny thing happened — my class was laughing! Not at me (although with my fashion sense back then, I’m not counting anything out), but my story. It was a classic light-bulb moment early on in my life — that story had the power to captivate and connect. In my head, I changed what I wanted to be when I grew up from “teacher” to “writer.”
I wrote and wrote and wrote during elementary, middle, and high school — and when I left my small town for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I figured I’d be doing four more years of the same. I was a writer, and nothing was gonna get in my way. During my sophomore year, I found myself too late to the party to get into a much-needed English classes. Needing to fill my schedule, I decided to take Comm Arts 350 — Intro to Film.
The first few weeks, I saw classics that I had never heard of before — Citizen Kane, Battleship Potemkin, It Happened One Night, The Best Years of Our Lives, Vertigo, Do the Right Thing — and found another way to tell stories. In film, good writing is only one piece of the story, paired with other elements (mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound) to make audiences watch, think, and feel in different ways. I started to realize that whatever the future had in store for me, I wanted to tell stories using this combination of creative and technical elements.
I graduated from college, and moved back home to Door County, Wisconsin — probably the worst place for a college graduate with a film degree. My home is tiny — and my plan was to come home, find a tourism job, and save a money to move somewhere else eventually — where I could use my degree. I found a job as a Marketing Associate at American Folklore Theatre (AFT), an outdoor theater company that I had frequented as a kid. It allowed me to write, come up with creative ideas, and learn tons of new stuff (if you haven’t HTML coded a monthly e-newsletter, have you really lived?). I fell in love with marketing, and at AFT, it was especially cool because so many people had emotional responses to the theater and the Wisconsin-focused, folksy humor it deployed in its stories.
My marketing career was rooted in non-profits for the first half of my career. After AFT, I went to a historical foundation, followed by an art gallery. At the same time, I started writing for Door County’s independent newspaper, the Peninsula Pulse, and its sister publication, Door County Living magazine. Four years after starting my marketing career, I worked on my first freelance project — coordinating an environmental speaker series for a local waste management company. Our first event was in the dead of winter, and somehow, through PR and word of mouth, 40 people showed up at the venue for the first speaking event. I loved seeing my work pay off, especially when it meant I was bringing people closer to information and conversations that would help them learn something new.
I’ve worked in various marketing and communications capacities for nearly 15 years — and I’ve done a bunch of work I’m so proud of. It wasn’t until a recent role — as the Director of PR & Communications for Renaissance Learning, a Wisconsin-based educational technology company — that I started to figure out that a) after talking for years about wanting to go out on my own and build my own business, I was finally ready, and b) I wanted to build that company with stories firmly at the forefront. Not only did I want to help companies and organizations manage their marketing strategies, I wanted to make sure that those strategies were coming from a place rooted firmly in the story of who they are, who they’ve been, and who they want to be.
I also love being inside a business — seeing how they run, finding out the things they hold dear and believe they do better than anyone else, understanding their goals. It’s a large reason why I don’t have a particular niche. Sure, that might help me be more organized or streamlined, but as a lifelong learner, it’s so satisfying to me to dive into a B2B powder coat painting company or a K-12 professional development company or a small business specializing in pre- and postnatal wellness and seeing how I can use my knowledge and skills to make a impact. It never gets old, and sometimes, I can’t believe that I get to do it for a living.