This week’s episode features Kim Beechner with Embark Marketing based out of San Antonio, TX. Embark Marketing is a full service marketing agency for the restaurant and bar industry. As Kim says, if you can eat it or drink it they’re a good fit. An entrepreneur at heart, born into a family of entrepreneurs, Kim learned to be self-reliant at a young age.
Kim has mastered the art of lean efficiency within her business and you’ll find a good number of takeaways in this week’s episode. You’ll absolutely love her story and will definitely have something you can take away to apply to your own story. Enjoy!
Hear it all on this episode of “An Agency Story” Podcast.
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[00:00:00] Intro: 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 roller coaster 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.
[00:00:32] Enjoy the next agency story.
[00:00:38] Russel: Hello everyone. I’m your host Russel. Welcome to another episode of An Agency Story. Today’s guest on the show is Kim Beechner with Embark Marketing. Kim started her agency before she had even graduated college, and when it comes to thinking on your feet and leveraging all the resources around you, few do it better than Kim.
[00:00:56] She’s an entrepreneur at heart and never looks back.
[00:00:58] Enjoy the story.[00:01:00]
[00:01:04] Welcome to the show everyone. Today I have Kim Beechner with Embark Marketing. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Kim.
[00:01:11] Kim: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:13] Russel: Well, let’s get right to it. If you don’t mind just starting us off here and sharing a little bit about your agency, what you do, and who you do it for.
[00:01:21] Kim: I am the founder of a marketing agency called Embark Marketing. We are a one stop shop for the food and beverage industry specializing in helping restaurants, bars, coffee shops. If you can eat it and drink it, they’re the people we’re helping. What we position ourselves as for them is a place where they can come for everything they need as far as marketing goes from social media to public relations, graphic design, helping with their POS systems, online ordering, third party delivery. Pretty much everything a restaurant and uses and needs for [00:02:00] marketing.
[00:02:01] Russel: So one of my favorite parts about your story and almost very similar to mine, is that you didn’t have much of a career before you started Embark because you started it while you were in college.
[00:02:10] But even take us back a little bit further before that, what’s the origin story of Kim before you started your agency?
[00:02:17] Kim: My origin story, I sound like a hero. That’s awesome.
[00:02:21] Russel: Oh, you are.
[00:02:22] Kim: So origin story. I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I came from, parents who were very, very hard workers.
[00:02:31] So I learned at a young age how to work really hard. My dad was an entrepreneur himself owning a tile company. So I learned, you know, I was studying tile at seven, seven years old, learning how to set tile. My mom was an accountant and bookkeeper. I also worked with her in the summers. So I kind of grew up always knowing that like, you gotta hustle, you gotta work hard.
[00:02:53] So that was nice. Really supportive parents. They were divorced. I lived primarily with my mom [00:03:00] and unfortunately when I was 17 she passed away. That kind of put me on this different trajectory in life, which is kind of where I think the origin story begins is that I found myself in this place where I was in high school and I needed to support myself. So I started working two, three jobs, went to night school to graduate high school, and there wasn’t anyone in my family who had really completed college. That was one of my big goals, and I just kind of hustled multiple jobs to pay for myself to go to college.
[00:03:37] When I was in college that’s where I studied business and marketing and kind of found my niche of knowing that that’s what I wanna do. But I didn’t narrow down yet where I wanted to focus the marketing until later.
[00:03:52] Russel: You’re a true pioneer on so many levels. You know, just, again, another point of the hardship, but yet turning that into something so positive.
[00:03:59] [00:04:00] Can’t wait to hear more about all of this. You started your business when you were in college. How did you get started? What were you doing in those early days?
[00:04:07] Kim: I did a marketing internship with a law firm, and I’m forever thankful for him. Ivan Ramirez, thank you. He taught me a lot and I did the internship and as I was helping him with marketing for the law firm, he was like, “You’re pretty good at this, you should maybe consider doing, like opening a business or something.”
[00:04:26] And he understood my situation that I was working a lot of jobs. I needed to make money to pay my bills. And he said, Why don’t we do a trade? I will help you incorporate an LLC. This is what’s best for you, and in exchange you give me a couple of months free of marketing and then moving forward you can get more clients.
[00:04:45] And so I said, Okay, let’s do it. And so thus the marketing company came to fruition. And then it was like, Okay, now what? Now I gotta find clients . So I worked [00:05:00] in the restaurant industry as a bartender and server and manager. And so I started using my connections there. I worked in a higher end restaurant and I just kind of chatted people up.
[00:05:09] And what kind of business do you own? Do you need marketing help? I just graduated. I, I own a company. I know a lot about social media and at that time, it was kind of the cusp of Facebook and nobody really understood how to leverage that platform for their business, and so, I was hustling Facebook, or trying to.
[00:05:30] Russel: Mark Zuckerberg thanks you. There are so many parts of your story where you’ve innovated in, in a savvy and efficient manner, including when you first needed to scale beyond yourself and kind of hit your own capacity.
[00:05:42] How did you get that first addition to your team and your business?
[00:05:46] Kim: So When I first started the company, obviously, Had no money cuz it was a startup. So I was still working in the bar business at night, bartending, and during the day trying to hustle marketing. So I was taking the money that I [00:06:00] earned at night and investing it personally into the business to buy equipment, things of that nature, computers, desks.
[00:06:06] But at one point I had started to get, you know, four or five, six clients and I realized I need help. So I started a marketing internship for college students where I would recruit college students and tell them, You’re gonna come work with me for this semester and I’m gonna give you hands on experience and we’re gonna make a portfolio for you that you can show samples of real actual work.
[00:06:31] And having had an internship while it was a great experience That marketing internship didn’t specialize in marketing. So I wanted to provide these students an opportunity that if you’re interested in marketing, there’s so many aspects of marketing. So let’s learn a little bit about each one so you can discover your passion.
[00:06:51] So my first intern was this wonderful young lady and she just blew me away. Her name was Pauline, and I [00:07:00] hired her. So after her internship ended, you know, she already had kind of gotten trained, learned the position, and I was like, “You wanna come on board full time?” And she did. And that was kind of my intro to my first real hire.
[00:07:13] And she was with me a little over a year or so, plus the internships, almost two. And yeah, she was, my first little friend in the office.
[00:07:24] Russel: Started your own recruiting pipeline right outta the gate. Yeah. That’s really cool. So, another thing that you very quickly got to, which a lot of agencies don’t is establishing your niche.
[00:07:35] Was that an easy decision? How did you come about that and how’s that worked out for you?
[00:07:40] Kim: So when I first started the agency in undergrad, I just knew I was gonna do marketing, right? But I didn’t know who I was gonna offer that service to. So when you’re starting out, you know, you’re, you’re hungry, you’re famine.
[00:07:54] So you’ll take anything and you’ll work for anyone because you just wanna have proof that you can do it. [00:08:00] And so, So I worked for a lot of different industries and I realized how hard and time consuming it was when I wasn’t an industry expert in those different areas of of business. So, for instance, I had a CrossFit gym and a chiropractor and the lawyer, and I was like, I, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a chiropractor.
[00:08:23] I don’t know anything about these different industries. So about two years in. While we were making money, we weren’t scaling and I couldn’t figure out why. And I was so tired from researching and trying to figure things out for all these different industries. Cuz while the, the theory of marketing is the same, the tactics are different based on the industry.
[00:08:47] So I have this amazing professor from undergrad, Dr. Bequest, and I called him and I was like, Is it possible for you to do my business as a capstone for one of your classes and get some more [00:09:00] minds on it? Look at the business plan, help me develop it. What is, what am I doing wrong? We need other eyes.
[00:09:09] And he said yes, which is amazing. So for a full semester, I had a group of Master’s students working on Embark Marketing. And they did this full evaluation of the company and they were like, You know, you have all these clients, you’re doing great work, but you seem to be very passionate about the food and beverage industry.
[00:09:28] And a majority of my clients were already in that niche. And I realized they were right because that’s what I had been doing to survive bartending and working in restaurants throughout high school and college to pay bills, in which case I kind of already understood their industry and their operational elements.
[00:09:49] So it made it lot easier to transition to just being a food and beverage marketing agency. And when we narrowed the niche, sales increased, and I became an industry expert. [00:10:00] And thank you to that class, cuz they opened my eyes to a whole nother way it could be. And they were absolutely right.
[00:10:08] Russel: How did you even think of that idea to go to a professor and, and see if they can make your business that capstone?
[00:10:15] Kim: That’s because that’s required at the university I went to For undergrad, you had to do a capstone in business where primarily they were like non-profit organizations that didn’t have, you know, the funds to have a marketing plan developed or, or things of that nature. And so I actually, for my capstone, worked on a non-profit organization, built their business plan, their marketing plan, their marketing materials, their assets, their website, everything.
[00:10:42] In which case I knew that that was a capability that the school had. I didn’t know how to get in it. But I, you know, I just reached out. You, you don’t know unless you ask. So…
[00:10:52] Russel: Isn’t that the truth. Well, there’ll be a flood of incoming calls to business departments after we release this episode. But [00:11:00] speaking of education, you’ve got a business going, you know, things are starting to move a little bit, and you decide to go back to school.
[00:11:05] What was the motivation there and, and do you feel like that move was ultimately helpful to you in your business.
[00:11:11] Kim: Absolutely. Maybe not on the financial part, but in the education part, you know, people go back to school to get degrees because they’re like, Oh, I’m gonna get a higher paying job because I have a higher level education.
[00:11:22] But when you’re the business owner, it doesn’t really affect you that way. But I had my son in 2011, and I guess we were about, what, five years in into the business, and I was starting to just feel a little stagnant again. Kind of like the two year mark where it’s like, okay, now what? What am I doing?
[00:11:43] What’s the next step? And I realized I had lots of business knowledge, lots of marketing knowledge, but with the way technology was moving with social media, I needed to understand content creation a little bit better. How to invoke emotion and feeling [00:12:00] through videography, through photography to create a human connection in a digital world.
[00:12:05] And I needed to understand public relations a little bit more because I noticed how Well, when you incorporate an integrated communications approach to marketing you see more success when all these little puzzle pieces are working together. And before, I had been focusing a lot on the social and some of the email marketing and other things, but I hadn’t really dominated the PR world yet.
[00:12:28] And so going back to school, I decided to get my Master’s in Communications because mass communications is a lot of what marketing is, but they don’t teach you that in business and marketing school. And so while, you know, later on people were like, you could just could have just Googled that, I guess. I felt like I needed the foundation and the structure of school to really understand theory and then take that theory and apply it to the business and the services that we were offering the clients to kind of [00:13:00] enhance the scope of our work.
[00:13:04] Russel: So something, not an insignificant event, you just happened to mention in there that you became a mother on top of all this and starting a business and getting it off the ground. How did you approach that, being a parent for, for the first time and then, and getting a business off the ground? What was that like?
[00:13:22] Kim: A lot, a lack, a lot of lack of sleep because you know, having a baby is hard. They need a lot of attention. The benefit is that being an entrepreneur and a business owner and working in the digital space did allow me to do a lot of my work remotely, work at, from home, be with the kiddo. My staff was super supportive and awesome.
[00:13:43] And then I would go to school at night cuz mostly Master’s classes are at night, which is great. So I was able to be here during the day, take the classes at night and stay up and study all night. It was only two years. It was faster than the first time, that took four. So, you know, I figured [00:14:00] two years is nothing I could do this.
[00:14:03] Russel: I mean, just kudos to you. I had a child during college and graduating, going to college and working and doing all that, but I still wasn’t starting a business. So again, my hat’s off to you 10 times over for navigating all of that.
[00:14:16] So one would think given the industry, and along comes the pandemic and serving the restaurant industry, which we know is hit so hard by all things pandemic, you would wipe out your business. But, but that wasn’t the case. So tell us what was going on then.
[00:14:32] Kim: Yes, the pandemic was obviously very, very difficult for the restaurant food and beverage industry in general and all industries. I was scared when it happened because obviously when, at least in the state of Texas, when the restaurants and bars were shut down, you know, they’re not making any money, so why would they pay me?
[00:14:53] They don’t need marketing cuz no one can go. But I think where we excelled, was that we [00:15:00] pivoted very, very quickly in trying to help navigate our clients through a journey of alternate revenue. So we implemented, if they didn’t already have it, online ordering when Texas opened up to having curbside and to selling. TABC opened up having alcohol to go, which honestly saved us.
[00:15:24] Which is kind of sad. I mean, maybe people, you know, people were drinking more in the pandemic. It was a pandemic.
[00:15:28] Russel: Yes, they were . Yes, they were.
[00:15:31] Kim: In which case it was great cuz it was like, okay, I can sell you a gallon of margaritas to go with some tacos and you don’t, we don’t have to see you. You can go through the drive through, you can park and we can bring it out to you safely.
[00:15:44] And it was beautiful because the clients that chose to stay on and pivot with me and experiment, found a whole new level of revenue stream that they perhaps didn’t know that they could even access before. [00:16:00] And since then have been able to continue that revenue stream, which only helped their business in the long run.
[00:16:05] Unfortunately, we did have a couple of restaurants that closed, which was very, very sad. But that’s just the nature of how the pandemic hit. I feel terrible for so many businesses that didn’t make it. Didn’t find success. We are very fortunate that we did find success. In fact, our company grew astronomically the year after the pandemic because we had so many restaurants coming to us asking, How can I get online ordering?
[00:16:33] Can you build me a website? Now I need social media cause that’s the only way I can communicate my fluctuating hours and my fluctuating offerings. And so for us, it was a great opportunity for growth. So we had to take that negative and turn it into something positive, and I’m really glad that we got to do that.
[00:16:53] And it made for some really interesting, excellent case studies that won us a lot of great awards. [00:17:00] And all my staff was able to stay employed. Nobody had to be let go, so I feel like it was a win, win, win, win, win.
[00:17:07] Russel: Yeah, I mean, right. How many restaurants might not have made it had they not had your help, even though there’s unfortunately some that, that didn’t make it.
[00:17:14] It is hard to, honestly, in similar situations with a lot of other folks I’m talking to as well. All you’re left to do is make the most of what is not a great situation by any means. I really do just love so many parts of your story, but perhaps my most favorite is how you’ve been able to integrate entrepreneurship within your role as a parent.
[00:17:32] So gotta tell us what’s what you’ve been doing on that front.
[00:17:37] Kim: So I’ve been, as I mentioned earlier, I come from entrepreneurial family. Really learned that value of hard work. And as I’m becoming a parent or became a parent and started to grow with my son, I realized how lazy kids are today.
[00:17:58] And [00:18:00] I want him to be as capable as possible and know that you have to hustle and work hard to get what you want. So when he was five, we started a business together called Rent Giant Games, where we literally rent giant games.
[00:18:15] Russel: Get out and get a, a job. You gotta start paying your own way around this house!
[00:18:19] Kim: Basically so we started the business. Obviously I funded the startup of it, which wasn’t super expensive to start. And I kind of told him, you know, in the beginning he’s five, right? So there’s not a whole lot of comprehension. I mean, there is some, but you know, he would go with me on the deliveries and I’d make him walk up with me and greet the customer.
[00:18:42] And, Hi, we’re here with Rent Giant Games. I’m Kim. This is Cas. We’re here to drop off the games. Okay? Shake the lady’s hand. Okay. And then when we come back, you know, help me set up the games, help me take them down. When we leave, say thank you. Thank you for your business.
[00:18:57] Russel: And what was the business actually, What was the, and what was [00:19:00] kind of the, the idea behind it or how’d it get started?
[00:19:03] Kim: So, Rent Giant Games came from one of our bar clients had a bunch of giant games, Giant Jenga, Connect Four, corn hole, beer pong. And they were getting a lot of inquiries about renting the games, but the owner wasn’t, obviously he needed them at the venue to entertain his guest. So I saw an opportunity there for us to purchase the games and to rent them out because obviously people were looking for them, but there was no company offering that service.
[00:19:35] And I thought it would be a unique way to, again, side hustle some extra money, teach Cas about responsibility and running a business and basic financial knowledge. So he does get paid for every single game delivery he does. And then when he has his money, we talk about, Okay, you made this much.
[00:19:56] This is how much you get to keep in your little piggy bank. The rest [00:20:00] goes into your savings account. What are we gonna do with this money? If you need a car when you turn 16, if you are gonna go to college, if you wanna start up a business, you’re gonna have startup money. This money is there for you to do something positive with. But now you at least have some knowledge of how to work, how to be respectful, how to budget, and know that you’re not gonna just spend all of it.
[00:20:24] You gotta save some of it. If you wanna get a soda, that’s fine. You wanna buy an ice cream, that’s fine. But the rest goes in the bank. ,
[00:20:33] Russel: man, he’s gonna be set up for success. I can, I can see that right away.
[00:20:37] Kim: I hope so. And now he’s He’s working for Embark Marketing. He goes to our photo shoots and video shoots and helps direct.
[00:20:45] He, he’s like got a little eye for it. He’s helping edit videos. He’s contributing to conversations about branding. It’s, it’s really, it’s really cute.
[00:20:54] Russel: I feel like he needs that Instagram account of like, boss, boss, child [00:21:00] entrepreneur. Yeah. Baby boss. Something along those lines. Instant hundred thousand followers, I feel like .
[00:21:05] So what is your vision for the business? The future? Where’s this all going for you?
[00:21:11] Kim: The vision for the future. I think I want to continue to, grow our community within the business and our employees. Cause that’s really important and I want to continue to support and serve our restaurant community and industry.
[00:21:30] They are still struggling today, post pandemic with labor issues, with food cost rising, recession. I mean, it’s just, it’s hard out there for them, so I wanna continue to support that industry as well. And the hope is we continue to grow and scale and very long term. Very long term. Hopefully at the end of it all, I have a really beautiful agency that somebody would, would like [00:22:00] to call their own and I can pass my little baby along.
[00:22:02] But until then, the goal is to scale.
[00:22:06] Russel: Your son might be buying you out, is what it sounds like.
[00:22:09] Kim: Maybe I’ve asked. He’s like, I don’t know. And I’m like, Okay, well we’ll see when you get there. I mean, yeah, choose your own path. I’m okay with that too.
[00:22:18] Russel: That’s fair, very fair. So as someone that’s practically a lifelong entrepreneur from a family of entrepreneurs, I’m excited to ask you this question.
[00:22:26] Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
[00:22:30] Kim: I think entrepreneurs are made. I think your life experience, the hustle, the inspiration of others is what makes you an entrepreneur. I think, while I didn’t realize, and I’m gonna circle back on this again. Growing up and having my parents have me help them in their work, innately, I think, instilled this drive to want to work hard to understand the value [00:23:00] of providing a good service.
[00:23:02] And that must have sparked the strength and the risk taking ability to open a business. Cuz it’s very risky to open a business and scary and hard. And in which case, like if you’re not a hard worker and you’re not down to hustle and work 17 hour days, because that’s what it takes, then you’re not an entrepreneur.
[00:23:29] So if you, if you can do the hustle and the long work, then you’re made into an entrepreneur.
[00:23:36] Russel: Well, if people wanna know more about your story or Embark Marketing, tell ’em where they can go.
[00:23:42] Kim: You can learn more about Embark Marketing at www.embarkmarketing.com. We’re on all the socials, of course, at Embark Marketing, and if you’re trying to find me personally, you can look me up on LinkedIn.
[00:23:58] Kim Beechner, I’m [00:24:00] there.
[00:24:01] Russel: All right, folks. You know where to go. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Kim. It’s been an absolute pleasure to hear your story and in so many different parts of it and can’t thank you enough for joining us today.
[00:24:13] Kim: Thank you for asking me. I feel incredibly honored. I appreciate it.
[00:24:18] Outro: 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 email@example.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to $5 million and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
[00:24:54] Kim: We do a lot of different marketing service, our core service is social media, and [00:25:00] you know, we’re writing captions for a ton of different restaurants. Things just slip through the cracks sometimes. It very rarely happens, but it does occasionally. And we had one of our staff members who was writing for a Mexican restaurant and was talking about corn in the cup.
[00:25:19] And every caption is proofed by two people to ensure that mistakes don’t happen. And we have Grammarly and all these other tools. But somehow, It got missed by one set of eyes and it got missed by my set of eyes. And two minutes after a post ran for our client, instead of saying corn in a cup, it said porn in a cup.
[00:25:40] And fortunately we caught it in enough time to get it changed before the post had any engagement. But how embarrassing. I was like, thank goodness we found that. Discovered it soon, because I can’t imagine having to deal with a client calling me like, Why does my social media say porn in a cup? What are we selling? I’m sorry.
[00:25:59] Russel: Yes. [00:26:00] So, I mean, who knows? That could have caught on viral and could have made all kinds of people end up at that restaurant. But glad you caught it though, with why take that chance?