The Ladies of Lansing's Creative Agencies
It’s no secret the Capital region is a hub for creative types, as evidenced by the sheer abundance and successes of the creative agencies scattered across the city. We here at Capital Gains are not necessarily ones for drawing exceptions or pegging folks to categories ... but we've noticed women-owned and operated agencies are in high demand, and the reason is clear: they embrace the drive to create deeply strong client relationships while cultivating the next generation of communications and marketing professionals.
Of course, we weren’t able to interview all of the women behind the creativity in town, but we’re happy to provide a representative slice of the pie by talking to the brains behind the successes at Donovan & Smith, Motion Media & Marketing, Redhead Design Studio and Rizzi Designs.
Opportunities in growth
The journeys of Amy, Jen, Lisa, Rochelle, and Tiffany are diverse, to be sure, but do share a common thread: adaptability leading to evolution.
Tiffany Dowling, Chief Conversation Starter at Motion Marketing & Media
, explains: “I've found all of my positions - from reporting to corporate communications, to statewide brand building, to owning a business - challenging, exciting and definitely for me. I never actually intended to start a business, but I believe that there were many signs pointing me in that direction. Finally I just said that I should really take a look at it as a possibility. I did the research and wrote the business plan.”
Rochelle Rizzi, President and CEO of Rizzi Designs
, shares a similar story of professional evolution; her B.S is in pre-med, supplemented with psychology and biology concentrations, but her passion lead to her pursing additional education in applied arts and graphic design, and eventually in obtaining her MBA, all of which played an integral role in developing Rizzi Designs.
Lisa Smith, President of Donovan & Smith
, has also worn many hats. She began her career in media, moved to sales and eventually transitioned into marketing, each experience building upon and leading to another.
Diversity in Growth
Amy Moore and Jen Estill, owners and creative directors at Redhead Design Studios
describe the value of the variety of services they provide: “As the studio has grown, we've found that our clients need us for much more than graphic design. We provide services that range from crafting marketing plans to building 200-page curriculums; crafting guerilla marketing campaigns to building large, custom-logic websites. It's a pretty wide variety. But the thing that I think really sets our service apart is that we think strategically for, and with our clients.”
Having a positive attitude toward change is another ingredient in the recipe for success across creative agencies. Challenges are met not with disdain, but as opportunities.
“My business has its challenges,” says Rizzi, “such as keeping up with all the new technology; but we love that it’s a new world every morning! No day is like the previous day and tomorrow will present us with something else to learn. The Rizzi Team is motivated by mastering new trends and truly collaborating with our clients to help their businesses grow.”
Lansing for Creatives
Lansing works in different ways for each of these businesses, but they agree that the area is a community that supports and cultivates entrepreneurs, innovators and social connectivity.
Moore says of Lansing, “It's just the right size - not so big that you get lost, not so small that it can't support high-end creative work. There are a lot of smart, engaged, interesting people here.”
Unsurprisingly, there is a concentration of agencies seated in Old Town. Smith, whose offices are on North Washington, says, “I really enjoy being in Old Town. The music and art scene is alive and well here. We publish an on-line magazine for ArtServe about art and culture across the state and as we have interviewed people, I find that Old Town is very well known for it’s creative juice.” She jokes, “Maybe it’s in the river.”
Possibly. Both Redhead and Rizzi call Old Town home, along with a handful of other prominent creative agencies. You’d think with the sheer number of businesses providing creative services, the competition would be harsh or negative. Not so, say these business owners.
“I think it's wonderful because when the competition is good in any area then it raises the work of everyone. It's wonderful for clients,” says Dowling.
Rizzi agrees: “Everyone is a potential strategic partner and it all comes down to relationships. There’s enough business out there for all of us, and it’s great that there are a variety of different agencies and personalities in our community.”
Knowing your strengths adds to the recipe for success, and these businesses put serious value in building not only client relationships, but employee, community and personal relationships as well.
“Our strength lies in our combination of strategy, creative execution and relationship;” explains Moore. “We put equal focus on all three. No project is satisfying without a happy client! That said, we're not afraid to tell a client when they are off track, or to fight for a solution that we believe in. That combination wins us a lot of long-term relationships. Folks come in for project work but stick around for more when they realize our input is broad and deep, and that our team is invested in the work we do.”
Expansive internship programs are common between the agencies, and the women take delight in cultivating the next generation of Capital area creatives.
While there is a deep respect for the women who blazed the trail for the successes experienced by modern women, the majority of these business owners embody the philosophy that their successes are achieved through being the best at something, irrespective of sex.
“Women have always been equal competitors, it's just more the social norm for us to combine family life with professional life, so you see more of us now,” says Moore.
It’s been suggested that perhaps one of the reasons our society has seen a boom in female entrepreneurs is the result of becoming fed up with the restrictive glass ceiling. We’re becoming more aware of the people who are blazing their own paths and take particular notice of those who have not always been adequately represented historically. Regardless of reason, Lansing is lucky to have these professionals in the community to add value to the Capital region’s economy, culture and creative job-sector appeal.
Veronica Gracia-Wing is a regular contributor to Capital Gains
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
M3 - Tiffany Dowling
Rizzi Designs – Rochelle Rizzi
Donovan & Smith – Lisa Smith
Redhead Design Studios – Amy Moore & Jennifer Estill
Photos © Dave Trumpie