From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

10/20/2021

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

By Clinton Bowman

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

Image by Thad Allen

Back in 2015, when my nose was to the grindstone studying for the GMAT and applying to business schools, I found myself seeking content that was going to help me be a more well-rounded applicant. That meant ditching (most) of my binge TV and reading the Economist, tuning into Marketplace, and watching Shark Tank. What can I say? I loved that show.  

Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, had a laser-focused philosophy on investing back then. For him, it was all about creating shareholder value, which depended solely on cash flow projections and the presence of a hard-working, business-savvy leader. His algorithm didn’t allow a whole lot of room for creatives. It simply came down to the thing that mattered most to him—money—which makes sense since he’s fairly obsessed with adding as many zeros as he can to his net worth.  

I don’t devour Shark Tank like I did in my pre-MBA days, but recently I stumbled across some clips of Mr. Wonderful that I couldn’t click past. Imagine my shock when I saw him doing interview after interview after interview not about just shareholder value and cash flows, but also about the importance of hiring people who can tell the business story.  

At 2A, we congratulate Mr. Wonderful on his breakthrough, and we wholeheartedly agree that a business needs to be able to tell the right story to the right people in order to get traction with customers. Because, while businesses need positive cash flows and savvy leaders, they also need a heart and a history—that’s what the right story provides.  

It’s a shark-eat-shark world out there. If you find your products or services aren’t reeling in the cash the way you planned, maybe you need to cast a stronger storyline to catch some attention.   

Thank you, Renato

10/13/2021

Thank you, Renato

By Abby Breckenridge

Thank you, Renato

Renato is leaving 2A. This is a big deal for us and comes with so many emotions.  

There is no doubt we’ll miss him. Renato started 2A on his own back in 2010, then Daniel and I joined him a few years later. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit, the sauce that emboldened him to start 2A, that we’ll miss the most. He brings the guts it takes to break out on his own, paired with the vision to see how something can be made from nothing. That, his sunny sense of humor, and his deep commitment to caring for the people around him will leave the biggest legacy.  

I’ll always remember the first time Daniel, Renato, and I got together. It was a breezy summer dinner around a fiery grill in my backyard, after Renato and I had finished the MBA program at Foster and Daniel had moved to Seattle with his girlfriend (my childhood friend). It was a lot of fun, included a lot of wine, and set the stage for the fruitful relationship we now share.  

Since then, the three of us have led 2A through countless wins and humbling challenges—a journey that looks more like a doodle than a straight line. From a team of four to almost 40. From one amazing client to over 40. From a shared room in a to-be-torn-down house, to 6,000 square feet on Capitol Hill. And from the youthful idea that all the steps are laid out in front of us to a more seasoned view that plans are just that.   

What we do know is that 2A, the team, Daniel, and I are all stronger because of Renato. We also know this change is a great move for all of us. Daniel and I will get to flex our skills in new directions as Renato’s departure, even with all the planning, will surely leave gaps. There’s an ocean of new possibilities for Renato as he unleashes his entrepreneurial spirit toward new ventures. And while our partnership in 2A is over, breezy backyard dinners around a fire will surely continue.  

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

10/07/2021

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

By Mai Sennaar

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

At 2A Nora Bright has found a place where her prodigious people skills and acuity for creative approaches to business problems work in tandem. Her knack for the arts, culture, and imaginative business strategies lead to the surprising and innovative approaches to marketing that her clients can’t get enough of. 

Nora first explored her creativity as a multi-instrumentalist musician. Before killing it on the drums as part of the opening act for some major artists (Ty Segall!) on campus at Scripps College, Nora was already uncovering her knack for leadership. She worked in the non-profit sector at several prominent arts and culture organizations in Los Angeles including the Colburn School, a music conservatory where she studied clarinet with world-class instructors. She impressed the leadership of Colburn, eventually following the director to New Roads School, where she had her first formal position as a Development Assistant. 

But Nora truly discovered the extent of her talent for people management when she served as a 23-year-old co-owner of her family’s recruiting business. Instead of taking a backseat to more seasoned team members or sticking close to the script of how things had always been, Nora immediately took on the challenges of leadership, managing the day-to-day operations of the company with an eye on growth. She sought one-on-ones with colleagues and clients with a sincere interest in gaining a more nuanced understanding of their challenges. She understood that her greatest strength as a leader would lie in her ability to empathize with and understand the perspectives of her collaborators. It was the beginning of Nora honing what she refers to as “servant-leadership”, an approach that allows her to see her role as one of service, even when it comes to employees. 

Through a commitment to gaining greater awareness of the needs of her customers and team, Nora managed to quickly build a positive rapport with the company’s clients. She supercharged the work culture, successfully diffused internal conflicts, and brought new creative strategies to the company’s marketing challenges. Her hard work paid off, ultimately propelling the company into a new era, with a 47% increase in revenue. As a testament to her people skills, many of the new clients under her tenure at the recruiting firm were former employers, including the Colburn School, where she successfully placed several key roles, including a Deputy Director. 

Following a transformative experience with her family business, Nora was inspired by the depth of her impact on people. She was excited by her ability to help others realize their strengths and was prepared to take her leadership and marketing skills to new dimensions. She decided on an MBA at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. 

It may have been the oysters that first attracted Nora to 2A’s on-campus recruitment happy hour, but the more she learned about the company’s reputation for combining creativity with marketing expertise, the more she wanted to know. Once she had an opportunity to personally meet with several members of the 2A team, things really clicked for Nora. She found the culture extraordinarily creative, welcoming, dynamic, and nourishing.  

When she’s not brainstorming fresh marketing strategies for her clients at 2A, Nora’s grooving to Yo La Tengo, Riot Grrrl, and honing her own electric guitar skills. 

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

09/29/2021

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

By Joe Belcher

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

Image by Rachel Adams

I look forward to coffee shops a little more as we head into fall, my favorite of the four seasons. Something about pants, a warm sweater or light jacket, and a walk to Ampersand on Alki Beach for a half-caf Americano with one cream and one sugar. And on the weekends, I treat myself to the homemade biscuit, egg, and bacon breakfast sandwich. Battling the dad bod, I limit myself to one per week. 

As we continue to face the challenges with COVID-19, we continue to support and enjoy our local coffee shops. Masks, takeout, outdoor seating. In fall, we get to enjoy the walk. Not too hot. Not too cold. A little exercise. A little coffee. Two wonderful things to keep you moving. 

My local favorite is Ampersand on Alki Beach in West Seattle. I like the Kona beans, the chef’s homemade biscuits, and any of the food he makes. 

2A employees are in the Seattle area but also reach other parts of the country. Let’s look at some of our favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond. Give them a try! 

203 Degrees Fahrenheit (Kirkland, WA) – Cozy place to study, outdoor seating by a fire and fun specialty drinks like a Latte with Rachel’s Lavender. – Tammy Monson 

Alexandras Macarons and café in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) – Alexandra herself is super nice. The croissants are fresh-baked every morning – and if you catch ‘em right out of the oven you will never look back. Plus, on Thursdays they have amazing pizza. So basically, good coffee and bread-based things, all I really need in life. – Guy Schoonmaker  

I want to second Alexandras and say that their focaccia is the best! – Sarah Silva 

Caffé Fiore in Sunset Hill (Seattle, WA) Granted it was the closest coffee shop I could walk to, but it is a cute little corner coffee shop at the top of the steps to Golden Gardens Park. It had delicious drip coffee and a variety of tasty treats. They have nice big Adirondack chairs out front that you can sit in and enjoy a pick me up. – Rachel Adams 

The Coffee Scene (Fayetteville, NC) Indoor and outdoor seating, great coffee drinks, great snacks, and a bonus for hot Fayetteville – gelato! – Forsyth Alexander 

Cultivate Coffee & Tap House (Ypsilanti, MI) An amazing place to work quietly on your own projects or meet up with friends from morning ‘til night. My go-to coffee drink there was a black walnut latte, which I had not seen before and have not seen since. – Kimberly Mass 

Fresh Flours in Phinney Ridge (Seattle, WA) Nourish with my fave granola, treat with a citrus-forward macaron, indulge in a green tea muffin, and caffeinate in all the ways. Ted and I are boring and just get Americanos. But I see people getting very fussy with their oat-golden-milks and… smells great. – Annie Wegrich 

Kaladi Brothers in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) the vibes are amazing, the baristas are cooler than you will ever be, and the playlist is great. Very queer + trans friendly. Based in Alaska. – Annie Unruh 

Luck Bros Coffee in Grandview Heights (Columbus, OH) Here’s a C-bus local. Small-batch roasted coffees run by a serious coffee enthusiast. – Kelly Schermer 

Espresso Vivace in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) My fav! It’s just a coffee sidewalk bar focused entirely on making the best cup of espresso. – Daniel Schmeichler  

image of an octopus with headphones

08/22/2021

Octopuses and podcasts—yep. That’s what this blog is about.

By Annie Wegrich

image of an octopus with headphones

Image by Annie Unruh

The words “I see two” really shook up our plans last year when the doctor told us that our future baby was actually going to be babies. Twins. We were already the elated parents of an almost one-year-old. Fast forward nine months, and we plunged into the waters of three tiny kiddos and only two arms. So, we came up with a simple solution: become an octopus. With 8 arms, we could hold three little ones, cook dinner, and maybe brush our hair. “Octopus” is now a household verb (“I’m going for a run, can you Octopus?”).

All of our worlds changed significantly in the last year, and we’ve all had to shake up the way we do things. We’re balancing working from home with disrupted childcare, dog walks, and a new reliance on takeout. Thank goodness for the podcast, right? An on-the-go, always-on way to hear news, learn something new, and keep up with the cool kids. With no time, and no hands, short episodes of my favorite podcasts shook up my way of engaging with what’s important to me.

From 0 hands to 8 arms – with 2 earbuds

Which takes me to: Podcasts are the octopuses of marketing, and your employees and customers are listening. As a marketer, podcasts enable you to extend your reach and wrap your tentacles around your over-taxed audience. Swim with me while I share an eight-armed answer to why you should add a podcast series to your marketing ocean (and dive deeper if your toe is in the podcast water.)

  1. Podcasts make marketing personal and allow you to share your story or pump your products in a way that feels one-on-one to your listener.
  2. You enable your audience to engage on their terms, and likely, on their phones, while commuting, doing chores around the house, or working out. You are not inconveniencing them or interfering with their schedules—a major plus for those with busy lives.
  3. Podcasts are a great medium for establishing thought leadership and highlighting your expertise in the market via a series of entertaining, deep-dive stories.
  4. Each episode has a purpose, whether you’re interviewing a different industry expert, highlighting a company value or success story, or guiding your customers through new features, each episode in a podcast series can serve to educate and inspire your listeners.
  5. Subscribers automatically get new episodes as you publish for easy, continued engagement.
  6. Podcasts are as versatile as a mollusk and appropriate for stories targeted at prospective or current customers, industry experts, or even broadcast internally to your employees.
  7. Audio is an accessible option for the vision impaired or anyone with screen fatigue.
  8. 80% of listeners finish podcast episodes and when they’re done, these listeners can follow you on social and re-share your content.

2A knows octopuses

2A can help you create your marketing octopuses. Podcasts are swimmingly delightful stories, and we’re storytellers who know how to make a splash. Whether you want to teach customers something new, speak with authority to product power-users, share technical insights, or tell company stories, we’re here to help.

Ready to dive in? Connect with us!

Image of a row of records. A hand pulls out one record from the pile that reads

08/10/2021

DJ Forsyth Fresh drops the Writing Bling

By Kelly Schermer

Image of a row of records. A hand pulls out one record from the pile that reads

Image by Brandon Conboy

You know who gets one big name? Rockstars get one big name. We’re talking show-stopping, stage-rocking, mind-blowing rockstars that know how to shake up their genre and make audiences think and feel in new ways. These are the stars that possess so much raw talent and energy they only need the one name to stake a claim in the hearts and minds of everyone they meet. Think Beyonce, Lizzo, Eminem. Forsyth.

For those of you who haven’t met Forsyth Alexander yet, you’re in for a treat! Forsyth approaches storytelling for business with a fun, can-do attitude that gives her platinum-artist status at 2A. She’s a whirlwind of smooth jazz, bubbly pop, and marimba beats wrapped up as a storyteller extraordinaire. Thinking that sounds eclectic and interesting? That’s not even half of it!

DJ of technical writing

From a young age, Forsyth knew she wanted to be a music DJ and a writer—in that order. She got her degree in radio/television and motion pictures at University of North Carolina while working as a DJ at night and taking as many creative writing classes as she could. After graduation, Forsyth landed a job at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (now called the Horton Museum), where she became the go-to person for IT, editing, and design questions.

These experiences helped her realize her love for learning about new technologies, and her gift for editing other people’s writing to help them sound like the best version of themselves. Armed with this newfound awareness, Forsyth went on to build a vibrant career as a one-of-a-kind tech savant and writer, working for organizations across industries—from an engineering group to a home furnishing catalog company to a tech startup.

Today, Forsyth offers 2A clients her expertise in explaining different technologies as well as skillful guidance on positioning emerging capabilities. Like a rockstar DJ, who knows how to appeal to the audience in the club, Forsyth uses playful words and smart metaphors to draw in her reader and make new ideas stick like fresh melodies.

Spoken word poet

All great artists attribute stars that came before them, for Forsyth there’s no one main influence. “My music playlist looks like I blew up a record store, and it landed on my Spotify account,” she likes to say. But given her time as a DJ and her ability to transition seamlessly between industries, organizations, and writing voices, it’s no surprise that she thrives in variety. From Rolling Stones to Talking Heads to REM, Forsyth’s got great tunes to share, but my favorite Forsyth original is the song she sings about her home.

If you haven’t heard it yet, just ask her where she lives. In her smooth southern accent, she’ll tell you, “I live with eight cats, three dogs, two chickens, two ducks, and a bunny in a big old stone house on an acre of land.” There’s no pear tree in this version, but the rhythm sticks with you all the same.

Forsyth. The woman. The storyteller. The legend. Let her shine for you!

Image of a street with the words

07/15/2021

Conversations about race are long overdue

By Melanie Hodgman, Michaela Ayers

Image of a street with the words

Image credit to the members of the Vivid Matter Collective

When our lives were disrupted by COVID-19, out went the well-worn grooves of daily routines and life as we knew it. That disruption, combined with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, and George Floyd were a catalyst for expanding how 2A incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the fabric of the organization. Recognizing we needed outside expertise, we turned to Michaela Ayers, founder of the social impact organization Nourish.

From my first phone call with Michaela, I knew Nourish’s approach of incorporating human-centered design, action learning, and anti-racism principles into her DEI solutions was a good fit for 2A. Her background as a facilitator and artist brings a depth and beauty to her bespoke workshops. Her trainings met us where we were–individually and as a company—and brought us along what can be an uncomfortable journey of learning and practicing anti-racism and inclusion.

We have taken the resources, tools, and language from our first Nourish workshop series to center DEI more consistently across the company. It’s in our recruiting strategies, hiring process, onboarding, internal mentorship opportunities, and spaces to talk about racism and exclusion with colleagues. As one employee commented in their workshop feedback, “The biggest thing I have learned in all these trainings is that working against racism and building a company that is inclusive will be something I do forever. It’s not one initiative, it’s part of every initiative.”

So, what’s next for 2A and for Nourish? At 2A we are collectively working towards meeting the DEI goals we set last summer and looking forward to our next engagement with Nourish in the fall with a focus on power & privilege, and inclusive allyship during two all-team workshops.

I reached out to Michaela to find out what’s on the horizon for Nourish, and they are busy!

They have just successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign that will allow them to take their service offerings to the next level while continuing to serve corporations and communities through facilitation and consulting. 

They are working towards the development of an online learning platform that would support both individuals and organizations who want to deepen their understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Nourish is committed to making these courses artful, accessible, and doable so more people can be a part of building equitable and inclusive communities. 

Outside of the e-learning platform, Nourish is also laying the groundwork to become the first DEI employee-owned cooperative. An employee-owned cooperative is a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the core of its purpose. This democratic business model would allow Nourish to expand its consulting services, take on larger projects, and most importantly build wealth through cooperation.  

While the future remains uncertain, we can’t deny that this is a potent moment where we get to redefine what normal looks like. We’re looking forward to the evolution of Nourish and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Not knowing where to start the work of anti-racism isn’t an excuse not to begin. Thankfully, organizations like Nourish are there to guide us on our journey.

Image of a notebook. The left hand page says

06/22/2021

What parenting has taught me about program management best practices

By Tammy Monson

Image of a notebook. The left hand page says

Image by Thad Allen

Parenting my daughters is one of my greatest joys. I fully embrace being a mom and savor each stage my kids enter with new enthusiasm and wonder (including pregnancy, newborn sleepless nights, and most recently the transition to adulthood!).

Over the last 9 years, I have primarily worked out of my home office as a program manager and enjoy modeling the balance of a career and parenting for my kids. Starting a new role as a program manager at 2A helped me realize how much parenting has taught me about program management.

Flexibility is the name of the game in parenting. Plans can be made, but rarely end up just the way we envision. The camping trip that gets sidelined by a surprise fever the morning of departure, the hurt feelings that cause us to pause and process, or the homework assigned that isn’t uploading correctly and misses the turn-in deadline. These unexpected changes translate well to project management life—another round of revisions, changes in the scope of work, an idea that seemed to flow great at first that no longer hits the mark—it is all about being able to adjust, pivot, and recalibrate when necessary.

Organization is the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly. In today’s world where we are fighting busyness and overcommitted lifestyles, maintaining personal health, the health of your children, and simplicity at home require lots of organization. In project management, identifying all the steps and actions from start to finish is the first step in getting organized. Creating a timeline, gathering resources, communicating set-backs, and following up on feed-back all keep the project organized. That translates to a satisfied client and repeat business.

Communication is the key to successful relationships. Although teenagers may not always seem like they enjoy communicating with you, it truly is the anchor in the ebb and flow of their day-to-day lives. Similarly in project management, ample communication helps all collaborators on a project. Consistent communication keeps the project on time, the team on the same page, and clients feeling heard.

Parenting is not always easy, but it brings so much joy. The same is true for a well-managed project—there is nothing more rewarding than a great team and happy clients at the end of a successful project.

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

06/09/2021

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

By Katy Nally

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

Image by Guangyi Li

What do Hawaii, Gears of War, and PowerPoint all have in common? They’ve shaped Brandon Conboy into the designer he is today.

Though he’s a Seattle native, Brandon grew up with close ties to both Hawaii and Guam. As a kid, he flew to Oahu several times each year to visit his grandparents. It’s where he learned to keep a mellow head— as his dad calls it—and the value of being calm and collected. That cool, island attitude would come in handy as Brandon carved out his fast-paced, multi-faceted design career.

At Washington State University, Brandon earned his first bachelor’s degree, this one in fine arts, allowing him to continue dabbling in all things design—from photography to illustration. When he graduated, Brandon landed a dream gig doing quality control for the Xbox game Gears of War. As a game tester, he honed his eye for graphical issues like incorrect textures in backgrounds. While the job satisfied his love of video games, it didn’t push his design skills as much as he had hoped.

Brandon made the courageous move to return to WSU for a second bachelor’s degree—this time in digital technology and culture. He even asked the dean to overload his schedule so he could graduate faster. After graduation, Brandon landed at Silver Fox and got his first glimpse into the world of corporate presentations.

When his colleague—who went on to design Satya Nadella’s presentations—showed him the possibilities of PowerPoint, “it was like watching someone play piano,” he said. In no time, his own PowerPoint skills went from zero to 60, as he provided round-the-clock design support at Microsoft conferences. Brandon loved the life of an event-bound designer, traveling once a month to work on-site and cashing in on perks like front-row seats to see Macklemore.

By the time he reached 2A, Brandon was a PowerPoint pro with a sharp eye for design and the ability to stay cool while juggling multiple projects. When asked what are his favorite kinds of assets to work on, Brandon reflects, “I enjoy projects that allow me to create custom graphics, such as key art and cover images; decks and blog posts give me a chance to create something interesting.”

These days, you can find Brandon lending his creative eye to projects ranging from everything to social cards and eBooks as well as PowerPoint and blog posts. Looking for a design experience that brings calm to the chaotic, look no further than Brandon Conboy!

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

05/26/2021

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

By Nora Bright

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

Image by Thad Allen

I started my job at 2A the same week Top Chef: Portland premiered. Though I love to cook, I somehow missed the popular cooking competition until quarantine, and have binged through more seasons than I’d like to admit. While we’re all at home just trying to get by, there’s something inspiring about watching the show’s chefs strive to achieve their dreams.

While watching the premier I was struck by the parallels between creating a winning dish that will delight the Top Chef judges and crafting a content marketing piece that will make potential customers hungry for more. Here are three lessons from Top Chef that can be applied to B2B content creation:

1. Don’t forget the challenge

It’s heartbreaking when a contestant makes an incredible dish but ends up on the chopping block because they lost sight of the challenge. Like, thanks for the truffle mashed potatoes but how does that relate to Edo-period Japan…?

In content creation, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you’re generating leads or educating customers, your content must help you achieve your business goals.

2. Highlight what makes you special

A common pitfall for Top Chef contestants is to cook food that seems worthy of a win, instead of the food that brings out their passion and unique stories. Adrienne on Top Chef: Colorado struggled when she tried to mimic other contestants, and finally got the attention of the judges when she got back to her roots.

When crafting content, stand out from the competition with assets that convey your company’s unique expertise and brand.

3. Be realistic

Foie gras terrine. Chicken Ballantine. Handmade ravioli. These are all dishes that got Top Chef contestants eliminated who weren’t realistic about time constraints.

Creating content can be time- and resource-intensive. Instead of good intentions leading to something sub-par because you lack the in-house resources, how about bringing in 2A?

Does this mean my many hours watching chefs vie to become culinary champions was not all for naught? It’s hard to say, but I sure did learn a thing or two about making great work, whether that means salt-crusted snapper or an ebook on the merits of cloud-native applications.