Experiential marketing is an industry that has always skewed female. It’s not unusual to find entire event departments that are staffed and run by women. Yet despite this unique gender bias across many brand organizations and agency teams, woman-owned agencies are still few and far between.
Indeed, while many of the 100 agencies on Event Marketer’s annual It List are run by women, only five are certified woman-owned businesses.
One of those is Volition, where one-time stay-at-home-mom Treva Cooke translated her formidable PTA fundraising skills into a career in experiential that eventually led her to a spot on the It List. Her first project: a Final Four activation for CBS that eventually segued into a Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Tour. As a freelancer, Cooke found herself becoming more and more frustrated that she was locked into the “doing process,” but not part of the planning process. She was also seeing cost inefficiencies she felt she could fix, so she pitched a client to take over their sponsorship program, won the business, and
started the agency.
“I wanted to be able to control everything and I wanted to be able to look my client in the face when I sat down with them with a budget and say, ‘This is what you can really expect for your money,’” Cooke says. “It was so liberating, because I knew I didn’t have to have some sales guy go in there and pitch something and say, ‘OK, now you produce it.’ I wanted to get into this industry because I saw a gap between what clients are promised and what is delivered, and I wanted to change that.”
Today, Volition counts the American Heart Association, Google, Palantir Technologies, Salesforce and Uber as clients.
Nine-time marathoner and one-time Iron Man competitor Tara Wilson started her career as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, but a passion for owning her own business and a love of planning events led her into experiential. She knew that social events wouldn’t scale in the way she wanted, so she shifted her focus to experiential marketing.
“I had built this great events company and we had this phenomenal skill set and reputation, but [focusing on experiential] allowed me to grow in scale and leverage my interest in metrics and marketing efforts, and the ability to work with major international brands,” she says.
Tara Wilson Agency stepped out for the first time in 2015 with one employee and no clients. Today, the agency is a two-time Inc. 5,000 company, Nike, Samsung and ESPN are clients, and Wilson’s alma mater, Auburn University, named her Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.
Donna Graves always knew she wanted to be in marketing but she got bit by the experiential bug while working in Washington, D.C., on a charity tennis tournament. The project led her into a marketing role with Club Med where, at the age of …read more