Sticky Digital is a startup digital marketing agency that helps its clients build brand loyalty through innovative emails and personalized messages. When their business started to grow, one of the founders and current chief revenue officer, Nicole Glock, contacted the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s business engagement team for help with hiring and training new employees. They were recently named a finalist for the Best Retention Marketing Agency in North America award. We spoke to Nicole about her experience starting a business as a woman and a mother.
My fellow Sticky Digital co-founders and I worked together at a Shopify agency, where we got to see firsthand the amount of marketing dollars that brands used to obtain new customers. One day, we all got together to discuss life, our careers and the changes happening at our company. We all agreed that there needed to be a business that helps companies keep their current customers and shift the focus from acquisition to retention. And one of us said, “Well, why don’t we be the ones to start it?” After that, the coffee date turned into a brainstorming meeting, and from there, we started to do the work. It was hard at first; we had to go beyond our skills as marketers to learn how to operate a business.
We received our first few clients by reaching out to our network. Luckily, because of COVID-19, many companies switched their strategies from acquiring new leads to focusing on customer retention, which is about building customer longevity. Since so few companies specialized in this at the time, it made for less competition and more opportunities to become the leader in the space.
Our workload was manageable initially, but once brands started seeing our results, they began to refer us to other businesses. We got to a point where we could not meet demand with just the three of us and needed to hire another employee.
Sustainable business growth
The idea of growth was exciting, but we knew we wanted to do it sustainably. Hiring someone new was also difficult because there were so many variables to consider. We needed someone with enough knowledge and experience to hit the ground running but was also willing to learn on the job. Additionally, our inability to offer competitive wages was the biggest barrier.
After conducting research on where to find help, and through word of mouth, we were referred to the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s business engagement team. It was shocking to learn about the resources they could provide. None of us had any idea this type of help existed. Not only did they provide the funding to hire an employee, but they also connected us with job seekers who had the right skills we were looking for. We hired our first employee through the Workforce Partnership. We have seen tremendous success from her in taking on the day-to-day work with our clients and she has grown in her position at the company.
Another critical variable to staff’s growth is staying current in the ever-changing technology industry. As an ethos to our company, we believe in hiring with intent to provide them with the training they need, which can be very expensive. Luckily, the Workforce Partnership also had funding to provide our staff training. Having the ability to pause billable work and focus on training has been instrumental for us as a new, small business to remain thought leaders.
The intersection of being women, mothers and business owners
Our experience working for other marketing agencies has greatly influenced how we operate and treat our employees. It is part of our core values to upskill our team and promote within our organization. This was especially important coming from big tech where we saw people who could afford the expensive networking events land the high-paying positions.
There is also a lack of women-owned businesses in our industry which often creates a work environment where women fear revealing their pregnancies or desire to grow their families.
We quickly learned first-hand the fear of social perception in the space, as two of us were pregnant at the time of launching. I remember in the beginning I felt that I had to hide my pregnancy from my clients. But now, it is a positive part of our culture; we celebrate that we have children and are working mothers who can succeed at both endeavors.
As a company founded by women, we knew we had a chance to position ourselves as a model for other leaders and our staff. We are a close-knit team where we all celebrate everything together, and we build that camaraderie while working hard to earn the trust of our clients and the industry. Thanks to the Workforce Partnership, we can continue to grow our team and provide excellent service to our clients.