July 3, 2022

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Kim Grennan, Founder & CEO of Axle Eight Boutique Digital Marketing Agency

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I originally started in investment banking and M&A. While getting my MBA at Loyola, I worked for an investment bank out of Chicago at night. I was offered a position to work for Verizon’s Innovation Incubator on their Global Strategy team in Boston after graduating. I was responsible for helping chart the organization-wide strategic road maps for non-core B2B markets such as healthcare, IoT, Digital Media, education, and transportation. Eventually, my husband and I wanted to make our way back to our home state of Arizona after being in Boston for a few years. I found an opportunity working for a start-up consulting firm, Tallwave, and we moved back to AZ in May of 2015. After a year there, I started full-time freelancing from my home office with a goal to achieve financial freedom at a young age. Most of my clients ultimately needed marketing, and I started seeing really great traction and success.

Describe the process of launching the business.

As I was gaining success and leads through word of mouth for my freelancing business, I began learning how to reach out and sell myself. Then, it clicked that I could really scale this out as a full-blown agency on my own terms. The catalyst to how I got to where I am today as the Founder & CEO of Axle Eight was being laid off years ago and not having a backup plan in place. This experience really accentuated my desire to earn money on my own terms, instead of relying on a salary from a business where I didn’t have control over my own destiny. When I started Axle Eight, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work with companies that aren’t afraid to be bold and shake up the status quo within their industries, because that’s exactly what I am doing with Axle Eight. Throughout my career, at other agencies, there were all these strict guidelines around the type of annual contracts we were in with clients, and absolutely no room for flexibility, and lack of real relationship building and I saw how that negatively impacted the entire account. Now, we’re a bunch of young millennial women working with many industries that are typically not so fun or sexy. We come in with a fresh new perspective on how to do things completely differently than what their old-school industries are used to so they can stand out and gain new traction in the market.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

At the end of the day marketing is all about connecting to human beings. I know my ability to connect with others has gotten me leads but has also allowed me to find and hire a team of people who are so much more talented than I will ever be. And it’s my belief that keeping those relationships going and close to my heart is so important any success i will have in the present AND future. I am lucky to have a team of people to also have that relationship-first mentality with each one of our clients.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

For the first 4 years, we were growing super fast. Then…COVID hit. At the beginning of 2020, we had recorded significant growth but as business began to slow down, the impact could also be seen across our clients all around the globe. However, staying true to our commitment to putting client’s needs before anything else, we gave each client a fair chance to negotiate new relationship terms just so that we could get by the pandemic together. It had an absolute impact on our bottom line, but we were fortunate enough to get through the hardest times while maintaining most of our clients and getting them great marketing results.

Our exec team at Axle Eight is rallied around our 30/30 goal. As a leader, I want to be really in-tune with the desires of our employees and what brings them a sense of self-worth so I can do what I can to enable it. The agency life is a HARD life. But I will stand behind the fact that it is an environment where you will learn more than you could ever imagine in a very short time. I really put an emphasis on creating an open and fun culture so people want to stay and want to add value to our growth journey. We’re like a little family, and I truly believe that this sets us apart from a lot of agency environments across the country right now.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When it comes to internal lessons – I have learned that everyone wants a positive work environment and a fun one! I try to be transparent with my team about what’s going on but I don’t want them worrying about things that they can’t personally control. So I choose what I feel is a “need to know” to share, then overshare on the random more team-bonding things. We also love to celebrate the wins together! WE focus a lot on team cohesion. We always try and start each day off on a positive note for our internal team meetings where they are mostly for all of us connecting on a fun, relaxed, friend level. This makes for a positive environment for our culture where we get to laugh a whole lot and that transcends into positive vibes with our clients as well. It comes full circle!

From an entrepreneur perspective – I have learned
1. Be okay with wearing multiple hats
2. Surround yourself with smarties.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
4. Take care of yourself
5. Connect with like-minded people

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Hubspot, Hootesuite, Canva, ClickUp, Copper, WordPress, Stripo, Agency Analytics, Ahrefs, Design Pickle, Adobe, Newswire, PR Web, Zapier, Postaga, SocialPilot

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Each morning I spend time reading news and listening to podcasts related to current financial markets and recent marketing trends.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Authenticity sells. The more you can bring out the human element in everything you do, the more you’ll attract.

Where can we go to learn more?

Our website: https://www.axleeight.com