Ken Hunt, CEO of The Branding Foundry in Kirkland, Washington, is one part Robin Hood and one part savvy banker. After a long career in marketing for giant corporations like Sara Lee, Hunt, 42, is now switching gears to bring marketing riches to cash-strapped entrepreneurs.
The Branding Foundry is a unique "business accelerator" that builds comprehensive marketing plans for small businesses and contributes the capital to put them into action. Hunt and his team focus on providing direct marketing through initiatives like infomercials and direct-mail campaigns, which cost from $1.5 million to $3 million. In return for The Branding Foundry's support, small businesses give up a percentage of the resulting sales and, in some cases, stock in their companies.
"A lot of small companies reach a ceiling and need something to push them [through]," says Hunt. "It's really challenging for small-business marketers to spend the dollars needed to reach consumers."