Company: SNR Creative
Owners: Shavonnah Schreiber
Year Started: 2012
Employees: 1 – 10
This week’s guest on the show is Shavonnah Schreiber with SNR Creative, a full service marketing company with a lean towards foundational industries such as architecture, engineering, and construction based out of Houston, TX.
While it took a few years for Shavonnah to commit to running her agency full time, she hit the ground running by maximizing her relationships and extensive network she built over her career.
Within a year, Shavonnah had to navigate being a capable army of one to a leader of an almost double digit team.
She hasn’t looked back since.
Listening to this episode you’ll appreciate the confidence, optimism, and the network leveraging abilities to build a successful agency.
Enjoy the story.
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[00:00:00] 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, free freedom, and the emotional roller coaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story Podcast. An Agency Story Podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, a successful agency owner with an eight figure exit, turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
[00:00:36] Russel: Hello, welcome to another episode of an agency story podcast. I’m your host Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Shavonnah Schreiber with SNR creative, a full service marketing company with a lean towards foundational industries, such as architecture, engineering, and construction based out of Houston, Texas.
[00:00:52] While it took a few years for Shavonnah to commit to running her agency full-time, she hit the ground running by maximizing her relationships and extensive [00:01:00] networks she built over the course of her career.
[00:01:02] Within a year, Shavonnah had to navigate being a capable army of one to a leader of an almost double digit team. She hasn’t looked back since.
[00:01:10] Listening to this episode, you’ll appreciate the confidence, optimism and the network leveraging abilities to build a successful agency.
[00:01:17] Enjoy the story.
[00:01:21] Russel: Welcome to the show today everyone. I have Shavonnah Schreiber with SNR Creative. Welcome to the show, Shavonnah.
[00:01:28] Shavonnah: Thank you so much Russel. I’m super excited to be here.
[00:01:30] Russel: Start us off with a quick overview. What does SNR Creative do and who do you do it for?
[00:01:36] Shavonnah: SNR Creative is a full service marketing agency. We do all of the things that are related to marketing.
[00:01:43] Creating copy, creating graphics, helping people manage events and activations, the full gamut of marketing activities. We also do some work for consumer brains as well.
[00:01:53] We really like to do work for anyone who has a story that they need to tell and connect with whatever audience it’s that they’re trying to tell that story [00:02:00] to and help ’em do it in the most creative way possible.
[00:02:03] Russel: Did you always know you were gonna be an entrepreneur? Who did you want to be when you were growing up?
[00:02:08] Shavonnah: I wanted to be a judge. I was growing up, I was maybe five. I said I was gonna be a judge. So no not always. It’s interesting how things work out.
[00:02:17] I’m old Russel, marketing wasn’t even a thing when I was growing up . I’ve always been a good communicator, always been a good writer. After a foray and some other things, I worked my way this way, but didn’t know I was gonna be an entrepreneur and definitely not one who started a marketing agency.
[00:02:33] Russel: Coming out of high school, going into college and graduating college, what was the plan at that time? Was that still the judge or had you moved on?
[00:02:39] Shavonnah: I went to an engineering prep high school in Houston.
[00:02:41] Coming outta high school, I thought I was gonna be an engineer. Started down that path at college. Quickly changed my major and decided that even though I was good at, math and science as high. It’s not what I wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine sitting at a computer all day and here we sit, but nevertheless.
[00:02:56] I changed my major to Public Administration cause I was like, okay I’m gonna go to [00:03:00] law school. Then I was like I don’t know that I wanna do that either. I was at OU at the time, University of Oklahoma. Every student at OU back then took a comms course. It was public speaking as a part of general education requirements. I took that class and it was great. I had another free elective and so I took something else from that discipline. I was like, you know what, maybe I’m gonna do something like journalism. Maybe I’ll just write.
[00:03:24] I ended up changing to Communication Journalism. Started looking for a more prestigious program. University of Arizona had a really good one. I transferred and went there.
[00:03:31] That started down the path of comms which eventually worked over to marketing. Communications is a big part of what we do.
[00:03:38] Russel: How did that evolve into actually starting your agency business?
[00:03:43] Shavonnah: Started off in journalism comm. I was a radio show co-host in Arizona after graduation. It was a little too entertainment-like for me. I moved back to Houston, got a job working in the energy industry. I worked there, decided I’m gonna go to graduate school.
[00:03:56] While I was at that company, a person that I worked [00:04:00] with, her sister was a recruiter. They had this opportunity at another agency . She goes, my sister is trying to fill this job, are you interested? Quite frankly, I wasn’t looking for a job at the time, but I was like sure, I’ll interview. I did, then I had another interview and they offered me a job. I’m still going to graduate school. I’m working for the agency, and I got promoted while there. I take this role, business development, start doing that. I look for a different job, move to a technology company still doing business development. That company got bought and I was part of the team that went over to the new company.
[00:04:31] They said, both the sales team and the marketing team would like you on their team, which do you wanna go to? I was like maybe I’ll go to marketing. I was so liaison in between sales and marketing anyway in this business development role.
[00:04:41] I did ’cause I hadn’t worked directly on a marketing team for a company before. I go and work on this team. Ended up, several promotions later leading the team and I’m doing the same thing I was doing then for myself.
[00:04:52] Finally I had a good friend, this friend is a publicist, and she had a client that I met, had coffee with and later tried to pay me. It’s a windy story ’cause a lot of [00:05:00] people now start off by saying they wanna be an entrepreneur.
[00:05:02] I knew I would be in leadership at an organization, maybe CMO or CEO or something like that. Didn’t have this sort of burning desire to do it for myself. The lady tried to pay me. I’m like, oh , no, no need.
[00:05:11] My friend calls me after this, she’s like you should think about, charging number one, and starting your own thing. I was like, maybe. Some years later, I’m looking for a job. It is a CMO position. The recruiter who was working with me on this opportunity said I didn’t get the opportunity.
[00:05:25] She said of all the people that they’d worked with, exclusively with folks in marketing and communication and that type of field, no one had ever prepared as well or put together as nice of a packet for an opportunity as I did. She asked have you ever considered working for yourself? I was like, you’re like the third person to ask me that. Around that time I, was thinking about it a little more. I was like, I’ll start this company. I had someone else that I knew was working on a project, they needed some help.
[00:05:50] I was like, you know what, I’ll do it. I’m gonna start this company now, but I still had a full-time job. The first five years of SNR Creative were me taking small [00:06:00] projects, here and there.
[00:06:01] Making a little bit of money, but not focused on, okay, I’m gonna turn this into a thing. Along the way, after 10 years working for the technology company, and leading the global team , my boss asked me one day, what do you think is gonna be your next move?
[00:06:14] I know you’re not going to stay here forever. I say, maybe I’ll do my own thing. Obviously I already had a company established, but for the first time, when I said it thought, maybe I will. Not even a year later I was working full-time at SNR Creative starting August of 2012.
[00:06:29] Russel: Were you anxious about making that leap, or did it seem like the right time?
[00:06:33] Shavonnah: It seemed like the right time. I wasn’t nervous because I would bet on myself.
[00:06:37] I know myself. I’m not lazy. I’ve never not worked, I’ve never not been able to earn a living. I’ve never had that happen since I started working at, like, 15. I, thought what’s the worst that could happen? When I decided I was gonna become full-time, I had just started partnering on another smaller project with someone else who owns the agency.
[00:06:53] They actually said, you seem to get along with the guy better so you could just take this client. I came with two or so clients, but I felt like [00:07:00] It’s gonna be fine.
[00:07:00] Worst case scenario, if I would’ve never gotten any more work or any more clients, I just would’ve found a job. I think sometimes people, especially those that maybe have forever and ever wanted to be entrepreneurs, put a certain amount of pressure on themselves that this has to work.
[00:07:14] If it doesn’t, then it feels like this big failure. I’m not like that in general. I heard somebody say recently, instead of having this goal to do a thing, I have an objective. My objective is I’m gonna be excellent in whatever I do.
[00:07:23] That’s my objective. This is the thing I’m doing. My objective is not gonna change.
[00:07:28] Russel: It sounds like you started a few small projects here, had a little bit of a jumping off point. For the first year or early days there, how were you getting most of your clients?
[00:07:37] Shavonnah: Coming from being a communicator. You go to an event, you start talking to someone, they say they work at this company, or they own this company. You start asking ’em questions, you go to their website, you start asking, oh, what do you do?
[00:07:47] You have a marketing team? I just started to talk to people and basically start to do business development. That was how I got clients and a ton of referrals. I downloaded all of my LinkedIn contacts when I was full-time. Because I’m also a marketer, so I guess it helped that the [00:08:00] business that I went into was one that I knew about. I did an email campaign out to everybody to let them know that this is what I was doing.
[00:08:05] I started to get referrals. Between going out talking to people and, doing soft business development and referrals. That’s how I was able to grow the business. The first year, the next year we grew like 42% and then the next year it was 117%. We’ve continued to grow and a lot of that comes from referrals. A lot of that comes from meeting people. I’ve been doing this for a long time, involved in all kinds of things, and people know what you do, so when they need marketing support, they reach out.
[00:08:34] It doesn’t always make a good fit. I think that goes a long way, leaning into my network, not just as an agency owner or an entrepreneur.
[00:08:41] Russel: At some point in the business, you clearly had to move past just yourself. When was that moment and how was that like for you?
[00:08:47] Shavonnah: That happened quickly. What happened is I had an office inside of someone else’s office, I was subleasing from someone else.
[00:08:53] I did that from August until I hired my first person in January. That person did a [00:09:00] lot of copy. I was the heavy copywriter at the time, but she did copy and helped organize things. Quickly after her, someone referred a person who had just moved to Houston and was looking for an opportunity .
[00:09:09] She was a writer, copywriter, she knew how to do a bunch of other things too. I hired her. Then there were three of us. That was in March or April. That summer, we started an internship program. I hired four interns.
[00:09:19] We had a team of seven including myself before a full year. I knew that if I didn’t hire someone else, that I’d reach my cap as far as how much work I could do.
[00:09:30] I definitely believe in internships. I had an internship too when I was in college. I believe in that model. And mentorship, I’ve had great mentors and have had several mentees formally and informally.
[00:09:41] Part of the internship process is obviously work experience, as well as mentorship. It helped fulfill that part that was important to me too, as well as, additional bodies to do the work. This is in 2018 and social media was becoming more of a thing that businesses were starting to lean into. Now it’s like pretty much every business for the most part, has [00:10:00] some sort of social presence. It made a lot of sense because these interns are all college students, so they knew a lot more about the platforms than I did and were more savvy and nimble.
[00:10:08] It helped fill out a gap too as far as skillset.
[00:10:11] Russel: Was that surreal, within a year after having made the leap that you did, to start looking around the room and you’ve got seven or more people working around you?
[00:10:19] Shavonnah: It wasn’t because when you’re in it, you’re just going and going. you’re working. It was fun. We were crowded into our small office and so we moved office spaces. Now that I’m talking through it, it feels a little bit surreal because, we went from me having an office in someone’s office to, moving into my own office to one person, two people to now six people. Then we can’t fit in the space anymore, so now let’s move office spaces. Even since then, we’ve expanded twice. Now we have a fourth of the floor that we’re on.
[00:10:43] I put my head down, dealing with all of the things. Even though I am a pretty reflective person, I journal and things like that, but as it relates to this business and as it was growing, I never had that moment where I was like, wow, I’m doing it.
[00:10:55] Surreal wouldn’t be the phrase or the word that I would use to describe it. Sobering is what I [00:11:00] would say. When you do have a team and you feel this responsibility, I don’t shy away from it.
[00:11:04] It doesn’t make me nervous. I just feel it. People are planning their lives based on how well I’m running this business. If I’m messing it up, then potentially it’s messing up somebody’s life.
[00:11:13] Somebody just said in our team meeting today they’re gonna buy their first house. We’re all like, oh, this is so awesome. They’re closing this month. It’s great. You think about that. People are making life decisions based on what you’re doing or not doing, and that’s a big deal.
[00:11:23] That part is when you realize. You gotta put your head on straight and make this work because it’s not just you. I’m like, oh, what’s the worst that can happen? I can still get a job.
[00:11:32] It doesn’t quite work that way when you have a team.
[00:11:35] Russel: I know one of the keys to your success you’ve mentioned is you, but given there’s only one Shavonnah in the world, to other folks out there, what else would you say has been a key to your success?
[00:11:45] Shavonnah: It’s utilizing the things that are in front of me. It’s having a network. Every place that I’ve worked, these people still work there, or they work other places now even better.
[00:11:53] It’s building those relationships from the beginning. For my first internship or even my first job [00:12:00] in the mall at Kids Foot Locker, I didn’t know I was gonna own a business. If I wouldn’t have spent the time along the way getting to know people.
[00:12:07] I’m working at a company, working for someone else, but still working with a certain level of excellence. If I hadn’t done that, once I got into this seat as a business owner, I don’t think I would’ve gotten those referrals . Why would they have referred business to me?
[00:12:19] They did because they knew my track record when I worked for whatever organization. It’s not a hard leap to say, okay, if you performed at this level for someone else, you’re probably performing at that level or above for yourself. Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, even if you haven’t started yet, it’s just a concept now, relationships do matter and are you forming those, are you strengthening those?
[00:12:40] Are you being a good resource to people? In general, are you being that resource? Then when it is time for that to come back around you have some equity built. Relationship equity, that’s the key. It’s not so much me. It’s relationship equity I was able to draw on when I did have the business.
[00:12:55] Also, the notion that it’s gonna happen, all of a sudden, all this success is just gonna [00:13:00] come, I would divorce that. I wouldn’t even put that in front of your mind. I think it’s good that both you and I were focused on the work and building up the business that we didn’t take a lot of time to smell the roses. I think smelling the roses too soon could actually be a distraction and get in the way of you achieving the success and building the business.
[00:13:16] It’s a lot of work. It’s not easy. My dad would say, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. Do a good job, treat people well, have that relationship equity you can draw on. But it’s not easy cuz it’s work.
[00:13:26] It’s meeting the payroll. It’s maybe you not getting paid so everyone else can. It’s things that I don’t know that people always keep in the front of their mind whenever they’re on their journey. I would say, having a mindset of, I’m going to make this work. I’m gonna be excellent.
[00:13:38] That’s what I’m gonna do. I think that also helps. I would advise people to do that versus getting discouraged if they don’t see a certain level of success so soon. That is what it feels like to me is if people don’t see the phones ringing off the hook and all the projects pouring in right away, then they can get discouraged.
[00:13:55] I would encourage them that you gotta keep going. Eventually you build the momentum and [00:14:00] you feel it shift, but it doesn’t happen quickly in my experience at least.
[00:14:04] Russel: I think that’s great advice. Keep on keeping on. A great reminder too cuz I think a lot of folks, start out agencies and a lot of times, from talking with other business owners, you end up defaulting to whatever your natural abilities are.
[00:14:14] If you’re a developer or if you’re a designer, you want to do more design work to feel good about, some of those struggle periods. It sounds like it was a great benefit your default was business development and relationships, but nonetheless, whether that’s your natural instinct or inclination, just how important that is, and especially in the early days and really throughout the entirety of the business.
[00:14:32] Certainly appreciate that reminder.
[00:14:35] Now you’ve built a successful agency here. What are you most proud of when you look at your agency today?
[00:14:40] Shavonnah: What I’m most proud of now, I would say is the work that the team has done.
[00:14:44] The work product, the output. We start every team meeting with team praise. It could be someone helped somebody out on a, something for work or anything. People go around the room and give shots out. Also, I was out of town last week for work, and they worked on a project presented it to the client.
[00:14:59] I [00:15:00] wasn’t on the call and I saw it when I got back. It’s fantastic. It looks so good. I’m most proud of that. I’m most proud of being able to be the type of leader that people feel they wanna bring their A game for. I feel proud when they see their work and they feel proud.
[00:15:15] It makes me proud that they didn’t know if they could do it. It was the first time they did this or this was a stretch for a skillset or the client was difficult. We’ve all had those and despite the hurdle, they produced this amazing output.
[00:15:29] Interestingly, we talked about this today too in our meeting. Several of our team members over the years have gone on to start businesses, including one that works here now. She and another person who used to work here, who moved, they started a business together and I’m proud that they are encouraged.
[00:15:45] Someone just mentioned to me that they were going to start this new business, a different person with their brother. I’m proud that they feel empowered that they can do it. I tell ’em all time, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to go work in that business full-time today, or as soon as you start it.
[00:15:57] I had SNR Creative for five years before I worked in it [00:16:00] full-time. It’s the birthing of the idea and the confidence in yourself that, you know what, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna try and I’m gonna see what happens. I’m proud that they take those chances and those risks, and they bet on themselves.
[00:16:10] I’m proud to see them betting on themselves.
[00:16:12] Russel: What’s your goal with the business? What are you focused on long-term?
[00:16:15] Shavonnah: I was on a call a couple weeks ago with a group from AMA, American Marketing Association.
[00:16:21] The Houston chapter has a small, round table for agency leaders. I’m a part of it. It’s meant just for us to connect also share ideas, share challenges and work as a team and group to solve for that.
[00:16:32] I’m on this call and there are agencies that are much larger than SNR Creative and some that are smaller. People are going around. Talking about their challenges. Everybody has the same challenge it seemed to me, which is trying to find the balance the stress of people, the managing teams and clients and all of that.
[00:16:46] I was on the call and I was thinking to myself,
[00:16:48] I could continue to grow the agency and that means that those problems of balance and all of that will continue to be cause that’s just, that’s what it is. Or, you could do business differently. I think the culture that we have here that I’ve been able to build, I [00:17:00] think it’ll be the same and, if it’s that big. So that’s number one. As for me, I have been able to step out of the day-to-day, client activity as much for some time now.
[00:17:09] I like being able focus around the business. It’s still being formed, as far as what’s gonna happen because it’s more about what I want to do next.
[00:17:17] I don’t necessarily wanna grow much larger or I can do something different. I think I am in sort of a transition. Business is 10 years old now. What do I want to do individually next? That I think is gonna dictate then what happens at the agency and what that looks like.
[00:17:30] I know that’s not a real clear answer but that’s where I am right now. It’s still being formed.
[00:17:35] Russel: That’s all we can do. Take one next step at a time. Last main question for you.
[00:17:40] Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
[00:17:43] Shavonnah: That’s a really good question. I can get into my stoic philosophy around that. I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. Never was something I thought about at all.
[00:17:49] But here we sit. I really do believe in the human ability to accomplish pretty much anything that you really get focused [00:18:00] around. If you focus on it, you can do it. If you are a person who can utilize your resources, know that you don’t have all the answers and you can tap into people that do have answers and collectively move whatever you’re doing forward. I think you can open a business.
[00:18:13] There’s some things like, I’m a natural communicator. That helps, but obviously there are plenty of people who own really successful businesses that aren’t that great a communicator. That’s not like you have to have it.
[00:18:22] Like astronauts, entrepreneurs are made.
[00:18:25] Russel: No born astronauts. If people wanna know more about SNR Creative, where can they go?
[00:18:30] Shavonnah: It’s SNR Creative on all of the things, all of the channels and the platforms. Website is SNR-Creative.com
[00:18:39] All the socials are at SNR Creative. They can come see us. We’re in Houston. I’m off North Coast Oak. They can come pop by the office. People like our office too. It’s a fun place with good interviews.
[00:18:47] The team just recently refreshed and added a video page. We’ve been doing a lot of video work here lately, They wanted to showcase some of that.
[00:18:54] Check out the website and connect on any of the social platforms.
[00:18:57] Russel: There you go folks. If you’re in Houston, stop by, [00:19:00] say hi. Thank you so much, Shavonnah, for being on the show today. It was an absolute pleasure.
[00:19:05] Shavonnah: Thank you so much, Russel.
[00:19:06] 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.
[00:19:29] 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.
[00:19:44] We were working on something for a client and we printed something for an event that they were having and it was a fast turn. Often, these things are, and there was a typo.
[00:19:57] The funny thing is it was a word that most people probably dunno how to spell anyway. But [00:20:00] one of the people who are at the event, one of the leaders there, they are a former educator and they, of course they saw it right away and, oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Then it became this joke like, okay, so here we are in this room of very educated people, just not people who are educators except for this one person. This print piece, it’s the only thing that’s printed for people to take away, and there’s this typo. It became whoever finds the typo could win a prize. Nobody said anything. Now whether they were being gracious and they saw it and they didn’t say anything. I don’t know.
[00:20:25] It was comical because, I don’t think anybody knows, no one ever said anything, it ended up being fine. Then, I came back to work.
[00:20:31] It’s funnier because I often will tease the team. I’ll be like, something will be printed. I’ll go, oh. Did we print these already? There’s a typo and there won’t be. But this time there actually was a typo. In this business, you never wanna make any mistakes, but definitely on something that’s printed at somebody’s deal.
[00:20:46] It worked out. It was fine .
[00:20:47] Russel: What a way to turn that positive. That’s like such a good way to create a contest as your editing process. You don’t have to hire people, just create a contest. That’s why we got outta the print world. That’s right. We did a few print projects in the early days and we got out [00:21:00] quick, fast, in a hurry, and it’s no, we can’t handle that, that finite aspect to print work. No way.