We talked to Carol Reeve of Girl on the Roof about its LOUDMOUTH program and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Carol Reeve: We are doing well, all things considered. My husband started a new job that is closer to home, which is nice. My daughter is a senior in high school, and her school is currently 100% online. She has definitely experienced disappointment and loss, but she’s coping.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Girl on the Roof.
Carol Reeve: I started my career in research and development at the Andrew Jergens Company, a subsidiary of Kao Brands. Within a short time, I was overseeing claims substantiation for the company and was named the Technical Brand Manager for the launch of the Bioré skincare brand. In this role, I discovered my love for marketing. I pivoted and took a marketing role with Liberty Mutual, then opened and managed a national advertising agency’s satellite office. When the market turned for the worse in 2001, I was let go and released from my non-compete, so I started my own agency, Reeve Communications, which I ran for about 5 years in the Cincinnati area. When my husband and I were ready for a change, I accepted a position at Scripps Networks Interactive and managed brand integration strategies for short-form productions on HGTV and other networks. In 2009, a former entrepreneurial client from my Reeve Communications days tracked me down and asked me to help him and his tech company with marketing services. That call was my impetus for starting Girl on the Roof. Since that time, Girl on the Roof has helped amplify the message, reach, and impact of ~200 purpose-driven organizations, from the United States Department of Education down to sole proprietorships and everything in between.
How does Girl on the Roof innovate?
Carol Reeve: At Girl on the Roof, we are all about “marketing that matters.” Because we are a lean, niche agency, we have the fortunate position of being choosy about our clients. We prefer to work with entities who are making an impact in the arts, education, conservation, social justice, and economic development (particularly for women and people of color). We believe that even the smallest startup can and should be intentional about social responsibility. This led to the development of our LOUDMOUTH program. In short, if a business meets a certain spending threshold with Girl on the Roof in a calendar year, we take 10% of that spend and give it in pro bono services to a nonprofit organization in the community; and we do it in the name of our business client, so they get the credit. Our hope is that the LOUDMOUTH program will continue to broker partnerships between businesses and nonprofits.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Carol Reeve: Girl on the Roof was a predominantly virtual organization prior to COVID-19. Our team members work mostly out of their home offices. We do miss each other, though, so we stay in touch through various Slack channels and occasional Zoom happy hours. We check in on each other to ensure we are all physically and mentally healthy. I am also intentional about ensuring that project timelines don’t require team members to work on evenings, weekends, or over holidays.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Carol Reeve: We previously had a lease in a trendy building in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. When our lease was up for renewal in December of 2019, something in my gut told me not to renew. I’m so grateful for that because when COVID hit, we were already 100% remote. Prior to COVID, there was a stigma about working from home. I think the pandemic changed that. I think many businesses now see that employees can be just as productive (or more so) when working from home if they have the right setup.
In the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown, when our spouses and kids were also working from home, Girl on the Roof team members quickly learned how insufficient our respective WiFi setups were. After hearing, “Mom, I just got kicked off my Calculus Zoom call again!” I experimented with different technologies and eventually hired a consultant to install multiple access points around my home. I then reimbursed other “Roofers” for upgrades to their networks.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Girl on the Roof in the future?
Carol Reeve: I’m a workaholic, which has been exacerbated through COVID-19. It’s not uncommon for me to go from my bed to my office and back again, with only a quick stop or two in the kitchen. I’ve tried to be more intentional about walking three mornings a week, which definitely helps with stress and perspective. I also make a point every few days to check in on a friend with whom I haven’t spoken in a while. Truly, though, my husband and daughter are the keys to my sanity. He ensures I eat, and she insists I watch something light with her on Netflix to decompress from my day.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Carol Reeve: I guess I’d say that we compete most directly with local boutique agencies. That said, we prefer to work with startups and purpose-driven organizations, which tend to have smaller marketing budgets. Since there’s not a lot of agencies seeking small, low-budget projects, we tend to fly under the radar. The vast majority of our business comes to us through referrals, through business accelerators for which I coach and mentor, or through our website (good ol’ SEO). We do very little in terms of self-promotion, which is ironic for a marketing firm. (But you know what they say about the Roofer’s shingles.) Because we hold a GSA certification, we also compete with much larger agencies seeking corporate contracts. We stay in the game by providing efficient processes (much more so than traditional agencies), honest and strategic input, and unmatched customer service. The great thing about having cause-oriented clients is that it’s really easy to care deeply about what they do; that’s a big motivator for our team. We have a great track record of results, and we’re a friendly team to work with, so we have a collection of impressive testimonial quotes.
Your final thoughts?
Carol Reeve: People always ask about the name Girl on the Roof. I am a firm believer that an organization’s success (whether for-profit or nonprofit) is dependent upon the quality of their message. At Girl on the Roof, we aim to craft messages worth shouting from rooftops. Is your message worth shouting?
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