Madison Magnet Board member and aspiring social media nerd, Jess Parker, catches up with Kelly Ehlers, Founder and CEO of Madison-based social media marketing agency, Ideas That Evoke. I first met Kelly at an Entrepreneurship lunch series hosted by the UW-Madison School of Business.
I was immediately drawn to the story of her start-up as well as her down-to-earth and extremely generous spirit. Kelly’s story is an inspiring example of a young entrepreneur using skills built during employment experiences to launch a successful business in one’s field of expertise. Here are the highlights of our chat!
Kelly, how would you describe Ideas that Evoke and what you do?
At Ideas That Evoke – we are an agency that solves business challenges through social media. We are today – and have been since day one – intentionally niche in our services. This niche has served us very well. We have a great deal of case studies behind us including experiences with Fortune 50 brands and entrepreneurial businesses.
Tell me a bit about how you made the transition from the corporate world into business ownership:
I always knew I wanted to own my own agency from my first position post college. One thing I’m glad I didn’t do was jump in to that dream too soon. I paid my dues – I learned from a variety of different people and took all of those learnings with me. I’ve applied the good ones and ditched the not-so-good traits of leaders I’ve previously worked with.
Did you have any fears or anxieties about making this transition?
Of course, it was incredibly scary! I was 5 months pregnant when I started Evoke. My husband and I decided to give me one year to see if I could ‘make it.’ Oh – and have our first child in that time, too. One could call it crazy, but…here I am. I bet on myself, but it was the best bet I could have ever made. Was it incredibly difficulty? Yes. Were there times I thought I should just quit? No. I knew I could do it.
What was your biggest struggle in the first year as CEO of Evoke?
Juggling being a soon to be mom and a new business owner. It’s likely hard to go in to business with someone who is five months pregnant…but turns out, I’m pretty persuasive.
Is there anything that you know now that you would love to share with your 25- year-old self?
Oh – so much. Be patient. Pay your dues. Trust your instincts.
What advice to you have for balancing work with family life and parenting?
It’s incredibly hard. Don’t ever think that success, or building a company, or raising a family is easy work. Those who tell you it is – are lying (or, let’s face it, have millions of dollars to hire loads of help). I started Evoke when I was 5 months pregnant – I made a choice to go “all in” at that time – I knew there would be sacrifices. My advice would be – strive for balance…cherish the little moments – the little successes and, celebrate the successes.
What's next for Evoke? Where do you see the company in 10 years?
I see us expanding globally – and also in the US in working in niche markets, specifically multi-cultural. I feel the company will be poised for incredible growth – we are early adopters of social innovation and I plan to put that early adoption and learning to work for our current – and yet-to-be-clients!
What do you love about living and working in Madison?
Madison is amazing. I love the small town / city feel. It’s a beautiful city that is really innovating in the tech space. I’m excited to see how Madison’s business and tech scene continues to grow.
Are there any available positions at Evoke that you would like YPs in Madison to know about? If so, what are you looking for in a candidate?
Yes! We’re always hiring! Honestly the core of what we do is great writing – and a great aesthetic. We’re looking for entry-level talent – and those who have been in PR/Marketing/Social for a few years! Always open to hiring those who fit our culture.
Can you tell us anything that most people don't know about you?
Oh my! Well, because of the markets we’re in – beauty/luxury/cosmetics brands – people often find it surprising that I grew up on a farm in Iowa. Not sure how interesting that is – but I could recite the 4H pledge if need be… ha ha.
Keep an eye out for big things to come from Ideas that Evoke. Evoke is not just activenin their business, but also in the community. Kelly and her team have been spotted volunteering at Ronald McDonald House and also helped to make June 30th the official Social Media Day in Madison. Don’t forget to visit their social media accounts for clever and informative content that will brighten your day and just might ‘up’ your social media game!