First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anna Sullivan: We are good, thankfully. April was a rough month financially as it was for everyone – lots of things changing, but luckily we are good at adapting.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The Creative Exchange.
Anna Sullivan: I grew up in a small town, knowing that was my end all be all. I went to college to pursue a career in fashion and ended up stumbling into marketing. I was working at a small boutique, and as any small company does – employees wear many hats, mine ended up taking over graphic design and social media. It was there I really fell in love with social. As it was still a new marketing channel at the time, I saw a huge opportunity where I was (Greensboro, NC) to own the space – work with other local companies and market myself as the go-to social media person. That led to a lot of freelance work, a couple of house jobs, and working for two agencies prior to launching my own. I started my agency, The Creative Exchange 5 years ago (August 2015), and have been able to move from NC to NYC, grow the business to a small team, and a decent client roster all organically. The hustle and hard work were instilled in me early on, and it was apparent since young age entrepreneurship would be in my future. At The Creative Exchange, we focus on social media and content creation for CPG brands.
How does The Creative Exchange innovate?
Anna Sullivan: Social media is constantly changing and never sleeps – so we have to be the same – not only with keeping up with the algorithm, cranking out innovative ideas for our clients, and staying on top of the latest tools and features we have to be on our toes at all times. I think the biggest thing for us is making sure to consistently update our processes of how we do things, making sure it matches the times, continues to evolve our internal ecosystem, and speak to our clients’ ever evolving needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Anna Sullivan: Yes, in April, we got our hit. We lost some clients while other clients cut their budgets in half. It was tough. But with that said, we also gained new clients this year – a lot of companies reevaluated where they were, and some looked to spend more on social, and others finally realized their current agency wasn’t making the cut. This year not only with COVID but also with the BLM movement, it was a huge wake-up call for brands and social teams. I assume all social agencies and teams had to change how they did things, and luckily we are quick on our feet. One direct response to COVID is that we ended up launching a new sister site: NoRevisions.co.
We saw trends in what clients were asking for, and with budgets dwindling for a lot of brands, we wanted to be still able to support those brands (and grow with them). No Revisions is our sister agency for one-off social media and content services that are super affordable – made for small businesses, startups, and any brand struggling through COVID.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Anna Sullivan: 100% – We had to cut some salaries, give part-timers less hours, and essentially figure out how to save more money, become even more efficient with the fast-changing times. We learned a lot, but honestly, I am so happy we were pressured to learn and evolve – it’s made us stronger and more sustainable for the future. It was a wake-up call.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and The Creative Exchange in the future?
Anna Sullivan: Getting off the laptop and biking or walking. With quarantine, I found myself spending ALL my time in front of a screen, and it got very stressful. I can’t rely on workout classes with friends anymore, so I resorted to making sure I got myself outside every day for a few hours, away from technology.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Anna Sullivan: We are somewhat of a hybrid – we do visual content, and the day-to-day management, which a lot of other agencies don’t do both – and the ones that do are large agencies that work on much larger clients than we take on. I mores consider other content studios our competitors like Weekend Creative and Ficca Luciano.
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