This company was included in our Entrepreneur360™ Performance Index coverage.
In 2011, South Dakota's John T. Meyer was working at an inbound marketing company he’d founded with his brother. While the firm created white papers and e-books, Meyer noticed a growing demand for infographics. He also noticed that great, buzzy infographics were hard to master, requiring a delicate blend of visuals and copy. He thought, “What if we just did infographics, but did [them] really, really well?”
That bet eventually became Lemonly, an infographics firm Meyer started in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with co-founder Amy Colgan. This niche agency now boasts 19 employees, including web developers and graphic designers, and a client list that includes Marriott, Lego, Netflix and Major League Baseball. The bootstrapped company will soon move into a 3,500 open-plan space -- one twice the size of its current office. “We just doubled down on visual storytelling.”
Lemonly has taken pains to manage its growth, knowing the feast or famine nature of the services industry. “One month you’re slammed, one month you’re twiddling your thumbs.” This slow and steady expansion has landed the agency a spot on the Entrepreneur360™ Performance Index, a collection of the best entrepreneurial companies in America.
Helping this small business act like a larger one has been its willingness to embrace a small collection of digital tools that streamline processes and help manage everything from contracts, to collaboration to initial client communication. Tools like Slack and Dropbox help scale with the company while connecting remote staffers and clients across the country. “We try to be pretty ruthless” about adding new tools, asking “does this replace something we already do? Does this make life easier?”
Lemonly also leans on good old fashioned midwestern manners. When clients sign with Lemonly, they receive a small packet of lemon bars created. Once a project is completed, designers send along a handwritten thank you note.
“People choose their vendors for various reasons,” says Meyer. “As long as we can, I’d like to do the things that don’t scale. Big companies always try to appear small and small companies try to appear big. We just embrace it. We are this small, hardworking midwest company. That’s our competitive advantage.”
Correction: This article was edited to reflect that not lemon bars given to clients have been created by a local maker.