Description: Full-service marketing and advertising agency
Founders: Donnovan Andrews, 31, and Stephen Smyk, 35
Location: New York City
2004 sales: $5.2 million
The ad men: With a background in advertising, Andrews and Smyk were eager to start out on their own. Never underestimating the power of a phone call, Andrews called American Express Publishing to pitch their services in 2002--focusing on their online marketing services. After being shuffled around a bit, he finally hit the right contact and got a meeting. "Out of that came a strong relationship," says Andrews.
Cost connection: Keeping overhead down on their startup was paramount. "Within the advertising industry, you never know--you can go from zero to hero overnight, and any agency can do the reverse," says Andrews. "So we started out from home and built slowly and were really conservative until we got to the point where we had excess capital." With their success, Andrews and Smyk were able to move into an office space four months after they started and now have offices in Binghamton, New York, and New York City.
Home style: Allocating time to take care of personal business and deal with professional responsibilities was key for these entrepreneurs. "If you're [homebased], you have to program yourself so that once that alarm goes off in the morning, you'll allocate yourself a certain amount of time to maintain your personal responsibilities, and then switch over completely to your professional role," says Andrews. "The challenge is that you're dabbling back and forth between your personal and professional life."
Human capital: Andrews had started a few nonprofit companies in the past, and both he and Smyk make charitable giving a priority. "If we build this company from Day One so [contributing to nonprofits] is part of our culture, and [view] everything we do as an organization in terms of giving back, as we grow, the members of our company will grow with that." A particular pet cause is The TORCH (Together Our Resources Can Help) Program, an organization that helps underprivileged New York City-area high school students find internships.