SmartBrief is talking directly with small and medium-sized businesses to discover their journeys, challenges and lessons. Today’s post is a Q-and-A with Chelsea Berler, founder and CEO of Solamar, a boutique marketing agency with “over 20 design, marketing, copywriting, tech and administrative professionals from all over the United States ready to work on your projects.” Berler is also the author of “The Curious One.”
Are you a small-business owner and would like to share your story? E-mail me jdasilva [at] smartbrief.com.
There are a lot of marketing agencies out there. What is it that you were hoping to do differently in 2006 when you founded Solamar?
I never had the vision of what Solamar is today back in 2006. When I first started the business, all that I was hoping to do is pay my bills and survive by using my skills and expertise to mentor entrepreneurs in marketing and sales. I was excited to help people without the political nonsense that happens in big marketing firms.
“On their own terms” — that’s a big phrase for you, regarding your clients. Why do you seek out clients who do things differently? Who are these clients and why do they resonate with you?
Because everyone is bored of the same old offer, the same old company. We want to work with people that have crazy amazing ideas — and they don’t fit the fold or the box that most firms create for their clients. We want to always be on our toes by being able to wake up every day and do different things — and then show the world those interesting ways of thinking. Being creative, unique is the only way anyone will stand out. Authenticity is important in this day and age.
Tell me about the growth you’ve experienced in the past eight years. Is Solamar where you were hoping it would be? What obstacles, if any, are you facing to future growth?
As I mentioned, I had no idea the business Solamar is today would have actually been a reality. But it spread like wildfire and before long, word of mouth made Solamar blow up in all the right ways. By the time I was 25, it was a half-million-dollar company. So at this point, I don’t plan too far ahead. I think that’s detrimental in anyone’s business. I totally agree that we all need to have plans, but I think we need to focus on what is happening now, take care of our clients, and really make an impact in lives. The world changes so fast — and we want to enjoy where the business is today. To be totally honest, I want to work on a better company, not necessarily a bigger one.
What is the culture you’ve created at Solamar, and how do you think that affects your clients?
We’re family. And our clients feel like family. It’s really the best of both worlds. We work together to create something great in the world. We’re all very proud of it. And I know the clients we work with are proud to work with us because of that.
Where is Solamar in 2016 on its 10th anniversary? In 2026?
I hope we’re still changing lives.
What does 2014 Chelsea wish 2006 Chelsea knew? What advice can you give to entrepreneurs who are seeking to start and grow their business?
You will survive.
It’s freakin’ hard and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Put in the work and things will happen. Keep going.
What advice, if any, can you give to women entrepreneurs specifically? Do you feel your entrepreneurial path would have been different if you were a man?
Oh yeah. Men and women run things differently. I run my business with a big combo of head and heart. I’ve been told that is “wrong” and that I need to be “tougher” and be better at making smart “business decisions.” But sometimes you have to listen to your heart too. I’m not willing to fit the mold to please anyone, man or woman.
Also, as a woman business owner/entrepreneur — women get treated differently. There’s less respect for a woman in business … unfortunately. I’m working to change that in a very big way.
Your book, “The Curious One: From food Stamps to CEO,” documents the struggles you’ve faced, such as family deaths when you were young. How do you feel your hardships as a child led you to entrepreneurship, and to start your marketing agency specifically?
I didn’t let my past define my future.
So many people allow this to happen and it’s so wrong on so many levels. You are the only person in this entire world that can change the outcome of anything. You are your choices. Choose well. 🙂
Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about starting and leading a small business?
It’s a roller coaster of so many emotions and adventures. Know that the good outweighs the bad eventually. And don’t give up when it gets too hard. That’s the exact point when it gets good.