Years of experience working for ad agencies and a weekend MBA program inspired Anne Marie Kerr Holder, 33, of South Charlotte to begin Spark Strategic Ideas in 2008. Today, Anne Marie has a full staff, wide range of clients, and a brand new office in SouthPark. In the past three years, the ad agency has seen revenue increase between 150 and 360 percent.
Q. How did Spark Strategic Ideas begin?
A. I got my start working for several ad agencies in Charlotte. While I enjoyed my experiences and felt like I had a strong grasp on marketing and communications, I wanted to further understand the broader business prospective and really hone my strategic planning skills. That led me to the executive weekend MBA program through UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. Halfway through that program, I was inspired to develop a new advertising agency business model and Spark was born.
Q. What all does Spark Strategic Ideas do?
Spark is a strategic branding firm that offers an integrated approach to marketing solutions. We offer a wide variety of services including strategic planning, logo/identity work, advertising and design, media planning/buying, website design/development, public relations, social media, research, SEO/SEM, etc. We put together a customized team of strategic planners, designers, web developers, media planners/buyers, social media experts and PR professionals for each client based on their needs.
We do our best work by partnering with clients who are looking for a long-term relationship so we can immerse ourselves in their business and understand their strengths, weaknesses, perceptions, competition and goals. This knowledge allows us to create truly powerful communications plans and creative solutions.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for ads?
A. Creating beautiful ads is easy. Creating effective ads is the challenge. The key to finding inspiration for ads that work is get close enough to your audience to understand their perspectives. The best ads come from insights learned from listening.
Q. What types of clients do you represent?
A. We represent a wide range of clients from consultants to restaurants to retail and service. The collective experience of our team includes expertise in travel and tourism, restaurants, building products and financial services among others but we enjoy working with a diverse group of industries.
Q. Who are your current clients?
A. A few of our clients include Moe's Southwest Grill, MirrorMate Frames, Front Door Fabrics, Performance Matters Consulting, Upstream, Stomp Chomp & Roll Restaurant and Entertainment group, Smallcakes & Freshberry, and KnowledgeWell.
Q. What has been your favorite campaign?
A. My favorite recent campaign was a business development program we created for a consultant in a niche industry. Part of that program was a unique direct mail piece that involved mailing a non-descript box to an extremely targeted list of CEOs. Inside was a book of matches and stack of cash (OK, so it was actually real one dollar bill on the top of a thick bill-sized notepad with a money wrapper) and a label that read "How to Burn Money." The label talked through the steps to literally burn money or, prospective clients could read the enclosed brochure that talked about the consulting services our client offered.
Q. What drew you to advertising?
A. I was drawn to advertising because it is incredibly gratifying to know that you can truly have a big impact on a client's business. I love the challenge of making a difference. Our successes are our clients' successes.
Q. Has any of that changed since you started your own company or became a mom?
A. My passion for building my clients' businesses hasn't changed but now my focus is first on my growing little girl and second on my growing business.
Q. What is your favorite slogan?
A. It's an old one, but I love the 1960's Avis slogan, "We Try Harder." it was smart, catchy and helped transform the company.
Q. How are you able to juggle running a business on top of keeping up with a 18 month old?
A. My life is constantly crazy but I am able to juggle a lot because I have a wonderful husband, Joey, and an amazing team at work. I believe in working hard and playing hard. My daughter is my heart it brings great joy to me to walk in the door every day and see her face light up. Hearing her say "mama" is the best sound in the world. I work a lot but in the two hours between when I get home from work and when we put Samantha to bed, my focus is on family time. From the playground to our nightly dance parties, that time is the best and most exhausting two hours of my day and I love every minute of it. No matter how hectic things get, I just remind myself that God is in control and that I am incredibly blessed in every way.
Q. Any tips for other moms?
A. I think I've almost come to grips with the fact that there's no such thing as a true balance between being the perfect mom, wife, friend, co-worker and business owner. I have to remind myself often that it is okay not to be perfect at everything. I think moms feel a lot of pressure to be all things to all people and it is important to realize what your priorities are and to make the most of every moment you have with your kids. You can find Spark Strategic Ideas online or call 704-995-1787.