On this week’s episode of An Agency Story podcast, we have Miranda Calatrello, founder of Calatrello Creatives – a social media agency based out of Louisville, Kentucky that specializes in organic social media marketing. Miranda graduated from the University of Alabama and dove head first into marketing. She found her niche in hospitality marketing and hospitality management and would find herself working for Groupon.
Later in her career, Miranda felt the unfortunate impact of Covid in the hospitality industry when the resort she worked at would close down and leave her to pursue her side hustle – social media. She took the two months of pure free time to create a business she had always dreamed about. Through the support of good friends, family, and awesome referrals, Miranda was starting to realize success within the business and enjoy her overall quality of life more when she would decide to pursue the business full time.
When the time came to create a team of incredible individuals, Miranda had and continues to have a goal in mind. As a military spouse, she is no stranger to the blessings and obstacles that come with that responsibility. Miranda discusses the challenges she’s been faced with over time from moving to new cities, starting new jobs, and having to explain the gaps in her resume. It was because she faced these challenges herself that she provided a place within her agency for others who have faced these same challenges. Miranda has created a virtual space for others to find consistency, support, and stability within their career.
It seems that Miranda, her agency, and her clients are filled with wonderful and genuine people and this is something that can be felt throughout this episode. They provide hands-on support that everyone wishes they had by walking their talk, side by side with their clients and each other on each of their personal journeys.
This episode is filled with great energy, authenticity, and inspiration.
Enjoy the story.
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Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
Welcome to another episode of An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host, Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Miranda Calatrello, founder of Calatrello Creatives, a social media agency based out of Louisville, Kentucky. Miranda started her agency as a military spouse so she could have the flexibility to provide for a family while still being subject to many moves. She extended her success not only by achieving exceptional social media results, but also providing career opportunities for other military spouses. From her positive, go getter attitude to the causes she cares for, you instantly become a fan of this one. Enjoy the story. Welcome to the show today I have Miranda Calatrello with Calatrello Creatives. Welcome to the show, Miranda.
If you don’t mind, start us off with a quick overview. What does Calatrello Creatives do and who do you do it for?
We are a boutique marketing agency. Our focus is around that organic social media premise. Now, we do offer everything outside of that for the digital scope: digital ads, and a variety of marketing showcases for small business owners. Our goal was to fill the gap in between a large, retainer style agency and someone you find outta college who needs to help you with your Facebook page, right? We’re the in between for small business owners, to build them up and help them grow on social media to reach their goals inevitably within the marketplace. That’s who we are and what we fill. Industry wise, it ranges in clients all over and I’m sure we’ll get into that. Small business owners and their social media support is our focus.
Definitely want to dive deeper into all things your story, but before we go too far down that road, for the folks at home, this is our second attempt to record podcast session because a pretty big life event happened and got in the way last time. You mind sharing for the folks at home what you’ve been up to since just before Thanksgiving?
Yes. Funny enough, when we had first met up and had a conversation about doing this, we joked about me who, I was eight months pregnant and I’m like we can definitely do this podcast, on this date I’m not due until another two weeks. It’ll be fine. Sure enough, that exact day is when I went into labor. I messaged Russel and I’m like I’m actually at the hospital right now, I’m about to have my baby, as we had joked about and if you say it out loud, it’s gonna happen. Yes, had our beautiful baby boy on the 22nd of November and have been living the mom life for the past two and a half weeks. It’s been a new season and I’m excited to see how it changes with my business and how I manage that, manage our clients. Very exciting year ahead to be able to navigate.
Congratulations and thank you so much for taking the time in a very, probably hectic moment to send an email. You certainly didn’t have to do that, and I’m guessing you didn’t name the child Russel, but I’m glad to hear that mom, baby, and family are all doing really well. Back to your story, given that you didn’t have too long of a career before you started your business, what were your plans as you were coming out of college? What did you wanna be when you grew up?
Graduated from the University of Alabama, roll tide. Wanted to dive into marketing. I found my niche in hospitality marketing, hospitality management. Left, started working at Groupon in Chicago, and then I transitioned to a resort, working on their accounts, doing marketing. Now when Covid hit, the hospitality industry took the biggest dip of pretty much anybody. They closed the resort down and of course, marketing was not in need right now, with no guests coming in the door. I was furloughed for that time period and had always had this side business of helping family members, friends of family with their social media support. I was easily identifiable as someone who could do that for my circle and network. When I ended up having that two months of pure free time in between. I was like, let’s dive in, let me create this business that I’d always thought about. Make the website, make the logo and truly put it out there in the market. From the first point of me, sharing it on Facebook, sharing with friends and family, the scale of it, has been astronomical in that sense. Referrals on referrals, and it’s built itself up. By the time I was going to go back to work, the resort was back opened up, I was at this point making more and enjoying the career, and the lifestyle that I’ve built through the business, decided to stay in that full-time versus go back to that previous endeavor. That crazy beginning to end journey, or beginning to beginning.
A very unfortunate event, like the pandemic kickstarted your business in a lot of ways. Do you think you would’ve eventually ended up in the same spot had an event like that not occurred? How do you look at that situation?
I don’t think it would have. I think it was really God’s timing that it worked out the way that it did. I sat down in my office and I was like, I’m still gonna work nine to five. I’m still gonna have my daily routine, even though I’m not going into the office. I have to be productive. I’m a productive kind of person, likes to be busy, likes to work, and it allowed the free time and space for me to be able to build the website and to learn how to create an LLC and do all the things. Also, from the business perspective in our clients, it was a time of need for so many small business owners who were either legacy businesses who’d been around forever. Who didn’t have a social presence or didn’t need to in a brick and mortar setting, or they were businesses that were starting out in all of this too, and they needed that support. It was the in between of those two markets. We were able to fill that gap and do that successfully for them in that time period and continually.
I’m glad you were there to save some small businesses, was very hard time for many businesses and people personally as well. Once you were able to actually make that transition, and you said you started making more money from that than your day job. Was it no looking back from the second you started it or did you ever have some reservations about, is this gonna work out? Maybe I made the wrong choice.
Definitely, I guess that first year it feels like such a risk and it feels like everything can be make it or break it. I definitely had moments and weeks of, is this right? Is this smart? Should I be doing this? I did hold over, I went back to work slightly for the corporate job while I was holding onto my business, my clients, for a good month period and realized very quickly you can’t have two full-time jobs. I was like, I need to make a decision, and it came down to what was gonna be best for my family too. My husband’s military. We moved frequently and we were about to come up with another move to another city. I was like, I do need to build a lifestyle that is accessible to us moving consistently and frequently. Having to get a new job in a new city, having all these gaps in my resume doesn’t add up to a career and it’s gonna be harder. That also gave me the motivation to, if this works, it will work for our family, for my lifestyle and for what I want my life to look like. Obviously from the business perspective too. A lot of things added up more so on the pro side than the cons side. All very new and all very risk taking for sure, but not without reward.
Speaking of risk, reward, it sounds like you’ve had a number of really successful client stories where you’ve been able to have an impact on their business. I was really inspired by what I think was one of your first clients and how they’ve grown their business. What has that been like for you? Tell us a little bit about that.
That’s probably the best part of working with small business owners and working individually with people in general. I’ve had the opposite side of working on the corporate world and working on corporate accounts. It’s different when you can call and talk to the person who curated and had this vision for their pastry shop or for their real estate business and you’re with them for that entire process. I’ll call out Jordan Hosey with Housed By Hosey in Birmingham. She was one of our very first follow up clients, and she was a singular agent. She was selling on the market by herself. We were there to help her create her social profile and be the real estate agent in the marketplace. From that point, she created her team. She’s now opened up her own brokerage, which is the only solo brokerage in Birmingham. Not exclusive to the big four Keller Williams, eXp, things like that. She’s done that. She’s continuing to grow her businesses, now she has two other businesses, a short-term rental business, and a B&B that’s opening up in the New Year. She’s not only been an amazing person to help be a part of her presence on the social sphere, in digital as well, but also seeing her as a female entrepreneur and being able to connect with her on that level of, she’s got her vision, she’s got her goals and she’s making it happen. We’re there for the ride of it personally and professionally. We’re really excited to see what else she takes on in the near future. That long-term three year relationship has flourished. That’s not just one client, but that’s been the case for so many, where they’ve opened up their second storefront or they’ve moved to a new market. We’ve been able to be a part of those ebbs and flows, the good and the bad with all of them.
What a great testament to the power of providing value and where that can really extend to. Another fascinating approach to your business and very near and dear to my heart, being a former military member myself, in terms of who you approach as far as hiring your team, I find that pretty inspiring. Can you tell us about that?
Being a military spouse myself, there’s the good and the bad that comes with that. The good, traveling a lot and moving to new places. The negative that I kinda already touched on a little bit is, having a career is difficult. It’s difficult to maintain that and to have some frequency of, moving to a new city and immediately start a new job, the gaps in your resume and what that looks like. My goal and continual goal for our company is to hire military spouses, spouses of first responders, people who fit into that category, who need a workspace that is virtual. They need flexible hours. They need to be able to have a consistent job in that sense that fits, whether it’s moving or their needs of their lifestyle. I’m really proud that our team is made up of military spouses, we have a first responder firefighter spouse on our team as well. That continues to be the marketplace of people that we look for hiring specifically. To fill that gap and be that company that, I think there’s very little out there who think about this very niche market, in that sense. They’re always hard workers and we have that built-in kind of community and ability to understand, oh, my husband’s deploying, I need to move up my house in two weeks, and I’m like, that’s totally fine. That’s great. We’ll shift some things around. Being a part of their process and their personal lives, being able to relate to them in that sense too has been really amazing for us.
With that being your focus, do you have the luxury of finding folks that have experience specifically in marketing and the roles, or are you more focused on training and giving those folks those skills? What does that look like?
I think it goes both ways. We found a lot of team members who already have the marketing experience. They just didn’t have a place to utilize. In the space that we have, completely virtual company who focuses on small business, graphics, copywriting, social strategy. Then there’s another half of our team who are dedicated. They had former lives. One of our team members, she was a teacher and so she’s organized, she’s very task oriented. I saw those categories of her life, her husband’s a firefighter so she manages weird schedules and having to keep her personal life organized too, to make things work for both of them. We’ve trained her up into the role that she’s in now, and that continues to be rewarding as well. At the end of the day, there are very specific elements to people on our team and specific job elements that you do need formal training for, but they’re working with clients and being there for them, managing their accounts and keeping the train rolling on, tasks that can all be trained. That’s a big process for us too, is to equip people to be ready to be on our team and making it work for everybody.
Switching gears a little bit, one of the things you mentioned, going down the path of having a niche, but maybe not necessarily committing to that. Is there a long-term plan as far as the niche is concerned, or do you just enjoy working with a broader spectrum of clients?
I’d say yes, niching down makes the most sense for us, and we’ve naturally done that. Our main two verticals of industries are spa and wellness which I’d say are 80% of our clients. 20% is hospitality, which, again, is my former background, so it makes sense. We have resorts, we have some travel and leisure. Real estate agencies, bucketed under hospitality as well. Those two categories are what we wanna continue to focus on. It’s what our team is most equipped and skilled at. It’s the networks, the newsletters and new sources that are within our purview. We do wanna focus on that. We’ve dabbled in some different ones, technology, cybersecurity and some very outside of scope marketplaces, which is fun. It is challenging and I think having a couple of those trickling into our business keeps us on our toes, keeps us creatively minded but definitely those two industries of hospitality management, spa and wellness. Those are the two that we see a long-term future being a support system for and seeking out from a small business perspective.
Those being your client base, and I know you said your background is in hospitality management. Was that a natural evolution given your background or was that more happenstance to even making that be your focus?
It was. The job that I had before I completely dove into Calatrello Creatives was at Callaway Resort and Gardens in Georgia, right outside of Atlanta. Like I said, I balanced both jobs for a while and had an amazing boss and mentor. At the end of the day when I said I was gonna be leaving, they ended up wanting to sign with me and be my third client. Was able to, leave them but not truly leave, just transition my role with them as a consultant and not an employee. They’ve been a client ever since and they continue to be an amazing team to continue to work with not only with me but everyone else. It’s been a very cool transitional from very start to where we’re at now, the hospitality, so that we have that on our book. That client base, it’s trickled in a couple others that are very similar to that scope.
That’s been a very fascinating thing in the conversations I’ve had, that’s not entirely uncommon, someone leaving their company and then that company being one of their first clients or some type of relationship. Maybe that’s some inspiration for folks out there that might be considering something the same. That one of the greatest opportunities if you’re talented, is your current place of employment when you’re thinking about making that transition. Let’s get back to this major recent life event that’s occurred for you, perhaps because it’s so fresh. How have the first few weeks been in trying to manage this notion of being an entrepreneur and a new parent?
It was one that I was most excited for, but also fearful of. Being the planner that I am, wanting to be prepared I had reached out to other female business owners that I knew who were entrepreneurs who had gone through a similar journey of, how are you a solo entrepreneur and how do you manage your business while being on maternity leave? What does maternity leave look like when you’re not in a corporate world where you can’t just clock in, clock out and be gone for, whatever the week windows are? I had some amazing conversations with people that I knew, from people who connected me to other agency owners. I was able to pick and choose, hear everyone’s story, frame mine up and get it prepared for what that could look like for me. Went through a whole like, okay, here’s my maternity plan and it’s a 10 page document, prepped my team, really spent the last six months preparing my team for me not to be available all the time. Hiring more people on our team to be a support system. My longest term team member has really been a partner in our entire growth of our business the last three and a half years. She stepped into the interim role as COO and she’s really taken that in stride. I have not been called to as much for anything drastic or a life altering in the business which is amazing. It seems like the systems in place are working and the team that we’ve built, it’s very unique in that sense of community. That probably goes back to everyone’s background and us mutually understanding, where you’re at in your space and your spot. Knowing that I’m on leave technically, and taking the extra hours and extra tasks with stride, being that support system to not just me, but to our clients as well and making sure they feel loved in this, with me being away. It’s been a blessing and I’m excited to share that part of my story, cause when I started to Google solo entrepreneurs and maternity leave, there was not a lot out there of who’s shared how to do it, what does that look like, what’s the best way to go about it, that whole process. Something I’m definitely passionate about and hopefully will continue to share and be a support system to others who may be in the same space eventually. That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to in the new year as well.
I love that approach. Being proactive in terms of going out and talking to others. That’s often the best way to find information. We always talk about this notion of the business owner island, but makes sense that someone that’s focused on creating a community that’s had to deal a lot within similar situations, that you would approach it in that same way and lean on the community. Is there any advice that you got that didn’t turn out as you expected, or that might be considered common sense or typical?
One woman who is in Charleston and has her own digital ads agency, we have built an amazing mutual partnership. She’s a little bit more higher tier retainer than our agency is, takes on larger, more corporate accounts. They’ve fed clients to us that fit our niche, and we’ve fed ones that are too above our scope as well. You don’t know who you can connect with until you really reach out to a network. Don’t be afraid to do that. She told me, you don’t have to tell your clients that you’re going on maternity. You don’t have to, that’s your personal information. You can share it with who you want to but you don’t have to make it completely public to everybody. That might cause red alarms and fires for people. That was one thing that I took to heart. I looked at my client base and I broke them up, which ones do I want to share this with? Which ones I don’t need to, unless they approach or they ask me about that. It was something I didn’t think about or, oh, I just need to tell everybody and prepare them and make sure that they’re gonna be okay. She said, you do not have to do that, it made her life a little bit harder. Whether you were still delivering the scope and the deliverables, sometimes it sets a weird tone for, certain people and oh, the whole thing’s gonna crumble and burn if you’re not in there, the calls are not gonna go well. That’s not the case. She approached it like phasing off of accounts, having me not be as relevant on a certain account so they don’t see my face at every call. I did that over the past six months, being on calls every other week, being on calls once a month, being on calls once a quarter, and not being the face that they associate with the business as much anymore, having our other team members be leaned on. I’m communicated with a couple of clients still, right now during this period, but the majority of them have been going as they have been. The wheels should be running without me. That’s how we’ve set it up.
Having had this opportunity to have a sabbatical, maternity leave, removed from the business for a time period, how has it changed your outlook on how you’re gonna approach the business going forward?
it’s been a nice test for how I want the next 5, 10 years to go in the business. I would like to be more of the silent partner, be more of the strategist on the back end, not being in the day to day, not making the flyers, not making the social post, not being on the client calls, but driving the ship, how it’s supposed to from a management perspective. Growing our client base, growing our team, that social strategist sphere versus the day-to-day grind of everything. Being a new mom, I wanna be active in our child’s life. My ideal perfect world would be to work fully three days a week and the other two days have dedicated to mom time, being that mom and being active in his life. I do see that as a possibility, with how I’ve built the business, and hopefully that’s how I’ll scale back into the business. Having that balance of both and making that work, then eventually, as you had done related to your story as well, building up the business and then being that higher level, higher tier managerial leader, being in that place for as long as you wanna be. We’ll see where the inevitability looks like. Maybe I’ll start a podcast about something .Go that route eventually. It’s definitely the plan for the future of what I would envision would work best for me, my family, and for the company.
You can take over An Agency Story someday and you can be the new host. Most owners have some keys to success. They might say that’s helped them a lot on their journey. What has that been for you?
Keys to success. I would say leaning on a network. I’m so thankful for the people that I know, family, friends and my ability to reach out to fill the gap of the needs that I have. When it came to how do I write my first contract? Finding a friend of a friend who’s a lawyer, who knows somebody who can help me with that process. When it came to taxes, how do I figure out corporate taxes? S corp versus LLC pros and cons. How do I file? Finding someone who is a perfect fit, they work with only creative agencies doing their taxes. It’s built up that factor. In the new year, I hope to have a monthly networking zoom call with other creative agencies, now that I have a really great network of not only social media agencies like us, but digital ad agencies, some that do Google ads and all different types of scope. Coming together once a month, we’re a creative coffee meetup. There’s so many similarities no matter what business you have in the digital space and what you may walk through. Dealing with clients in general, how do you deal with an upset client in any world or any industry? How do you write a contract? How do you increase your pricing? How do you navigate some of these nuances of being only a small business yourself? Finding our network and not being afraid to ask for help has been my biggest takeaway and key to my success. I’m not afraid to reach out. I’m not afraid to ask questions. I’m not afraid to jump on a call with some random owner and say, hey, how did you deal with this? How did you approach your maternity leave? This woman in Charleston, who I had never met before, we were on the phone for three hours talking about it, and she was so excited to share her story and have somebody who can relate. Not being afraid to reach out no matter what. You don’t know who you might connect with. There’s so many situations where it’s led to an amazing relationship professionally or personally, found sources of referrals and clients. All just by having conversations or coffee with someone to talk about business. That’d be my biggest takeaway for sure.
Last big question for you. Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
I think they’re made, I think they’re made through trial and error, and through the grind. Through the ebbs and flows of the good and the bad. You’re forged in that fire of the entrepreneur journey. It’s not an easy one. I think that’s what is a misconception, right? A lot of people will reach out to me, people from college, family, friends, and they’re like, oh, it must be so fun or easy to own your own business. You have all this time off, you can work when you want to and all this stuff. I’m like, it is not for the faint of heart. You work 24/7, you’re always the go-to person, but there’s so many blessings to it as well. Definitely a make it or break it role to be in. It’s a fortunate one, too, to be able to create your own path and build a life for yourself that you envision. You are the person who’s making that impact and building that road for yourself. I think they’re definitely made.
What a great note to end on. Love the answer to that. If people wanna know more about Calatrello Creatives, where can they go?
You can go to www.calatrellocreatives.com, that’s our website. You can also find us on social media, of course. Those are our main platforms and we’d love to reach out to you, even if it’s just to network with us or if you’re interested from a client perspective. We are here to hear your story and be a part of your network. Don’t be afraid to ask.
There you go join Miranda’s community. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very precious time schedule right now, Miranda, it is an absolute pleasure to hear your story. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Perfect. Thank you, as well.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
We had one client who had a business with her husband. They were going through a divorce, so they were splitting up their business and assets. She was getting her business. We had worked with both of them mutually together for a while, so when the split happened, we were kinda privy to her whole life. That’s very personal, but our client relationships are very close so that was interesting to navigate through. Anyways, she had her business and we wrapped that up into hers. We made the delineation between the two owners. Months later we did get another lead for a very similar business scope within the same marketplace, had that discovery call and sure enough, it was her husband who was creating a lookalike business to her business. Who we had formally connected with. That’s when we started to instill our no competitor policy, so we will not take on a client within the same industry, in your same marketplace to avoid said situations, cause that can be messy. Thankfully, we navigated that very easily at the forefront. Assumingly, if we were to have taken both on, how much drama that would have been.
That would’ve been interesting.
Yeah. We’re glad to be wanted and needed by so many, but you have your own boundaries in business for sure.
What a fascinating way to get to a no competition policy.