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EMERGING ENTREPRENEURS: Evolving with the ebb and flow of the marketing industry

Lindsay Harrison-Eirich started Sheboygan marketing firm when she wasn’t obtaining the growth she wanted in her corporate job

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December 27, 2023

SHEBOYGAN – After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a degree in marketing, Sheboygan native Lindsay Harrison-Eirich said she struggled to find opportunities to connect with her corporate America company.

“I struggled at finding opportunities to get involved in the company as a young individual and realistically what that looked like,” she said.

That disconnect, Harrison-Eirich said, led to her taking a leap into entrepreneurship and opening Engaged Marketing – which will celebrate its 11th year this March.

“When I couldn’t grow as quickly as I wanted, I quit corporate America and started my own business,” she said. 

Getting things off the ground
Through the guidance of mentor Tryg Jacobson, Harrison-Eirich said she was given an opportunity to participate in a business incubator program at Lakeland University called Jake’s Cafe.

“He gave me an opportunity to move in (to the incubator) for three months rent-free with the expectation that after that, I was basically set to fly,” she said. “It was one of those sink-or-swim situations where you have 90 days to figure things out.”

In those first three months, Harrison-Eirich said she focused on doing the things “corporate America didn’t allow me to do.”

“That is where the story began,” she said. “I found every opportunity I could to get involved in our local chamber of commerce, networking opportunities, volunteer opportunities – just beginning to make a name for myself and my company. At that time, our main specialty was social media marketing – which was a fairly new concept in 2013.”

Harrison-Eirich said much of her focus during that time was figuring out how she could help her clients navigate this new type of marketing.

New to the world of small business ownership, Harrison-Eirich said the hardest part of the process was coming up with a plan – “trying to figure out where you are and where you’re looking to go.”

“When I started my business, there weren’t resources available as they are now, such as small business classes through the UW-Extension or anything of that nature,” she said. “I’m not a numbers person, so for me, accounting was a struggle.”

Some of the learning curve, Harrison-Eirich said, involved the ebb and flow of marketing in relation to budgeting.

“Typically, when you see the economy go down, people are a little more hesitant to spend big dollars on marketing, but when the economy is thriving, they’re more willing to invest in those dollars,” she said. “And then throw in a pandemic in there – that’s the word that nobody wants to talk about anymore. So, I think overall, it’s been about having enough experience to weather some of the storms that come your way.”

Over the past decade-plus, Harrison-Eirich said the business grew steadily.

“About three years into business, I was able to make my first employee hire,” she said. “And from there, I was able to hire more people, and with the hiring of more people, I was able to expand the services Engaged offered. We’ve been able to make some strategic hires over the years and have consistently grown year after year.”

Part of the journey over the past 10 years, Harrison-Eirich said has been finding a home-life balance.

The soon-to-be mother of three under the age of four – “I’m currently expecting my third child” – said it is a balancing act.

Lindsay Harrison-Eirich started Engaged Marketing in 2013 through a business incubator program called Jake’s Cafe. Submitted Photo

“Part of that for me, is I’ve created a strong support system around me,” she said. “It’s also realistically creating priorities… and then making sure you’re communicating with other members of your team as to your expectations of them so they’re on the same page.”

Harrison-Eirich said for her that means prioritizing work and community board commitments during the day and setting aside most evenings and weekends for her family.

One of the things Harrison-Eirich said is often a misnomer of business ownership is “the expectation that as a business owner, you will do less work than if you worked for someone else.”

“That’s where I think the harsh reality comes in for a lot of people,” she said. “Because when you’re starting, you are the garbage man, you’re the bookkeeper, you’re the meeting scheduler, you’re the only one that’s responding to emails. The reality is, you have to be a jack of many more traits (as an) entrepreneur.”

Growing up with a dad who was a business owner and a mom who was a stay-at-home mom for much of her childhood, Harrison-Eirich said she got a good portrayal of what a healthy work-life balance looked like.

“I grew up with parents who were involved,” she said. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom for some of my upbringing and then worked in the school district. So, when I was home, she was fortunate enough to also be home. My dad ran a company for decades in town. I like to say I’m a healthy balance of the two of them.”

Mimicking that same balance in her own life as a business owner, Harrison-Eirich said she’d learned organization is key.

“I have a lot of balls in the air at all times, and I have my routine,” she said. “Some people might think I’m destined for burnout, and I stumble a little bit or things happen in life – but ultimately, I like to say that by keeping organized and keeping true to yourself, hopefully, I’m doing all the right things, and (my children) turn out to be good people.”

Company culture
One of the things Harrison-Eirich said Engaged Marketing prides itself on is its strong company culture. 

“The sheer enjoyment of watching people want to come to their job and creating a family-like culture is important to me,” she said. “That’s always been my main focus to keep in check – that people come into work truly loving what they do.”

Though a small company, Harrison-Eirich said she also does her best to try and match large corporate benefit offerings.

“We offer a lot of flexibility, we offer you paid time off,” she said.

Though she’s a woman business owner herself employing a staff consisting of mostly women, Harrison-Eirich said she doesn’t necessarily look at gender in the same way as other business owners might.

“I try to think that everybody deserves the opportunity to be as successful as they want to be,” she said. “I think if you have 10 different candidates, and you’re choosing the best because they’re simply the best, that’s typically the route I’ve always taken. If women are brought to the table because they’re deserving to be there, I think that’s fantastic. I try not to pull too much merit when it comes to gender because I feel like we should be all in this together – may the best person win.”

With that being said, being involved with organizations that are strongly supportive of women and a mother of two daughters, Harrison-Eirich said she hopes she is “paving the path for them.”

Evolving through growth
Harrison-Eirich said something she’s recognized over the last couple of years, is that instead of trying to be everything to everybody, it’s okay to be more selective.

“We try to work with people who appreciate us and our talents as much as we appreciate them,” she said. “There have been times where sometimes we say, ‘okay, we may not be the right fit for you, and that’s okay.’”

As the mother of two young daughters, Lindsay Harrison-Eirich said she hopes she is helping pave the path of success for their futures. Submitted Photo

Getting to that realization, Harrison-Eirich said, was tough for her – describing herself as a natural pleaser.

“I think that concluding you’re maybe not the right fit for them – maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team, maybe it’s your services or maybe it’s simply because the way you position their company isn’t what they envisioned, and that’s okay – was a big step for Engaged,” she said.

Local recognition
Harrison-Eirich was recently named the 2023 ATHENA Award Winner and 2023 ATHENA Young Professional Award Winner by the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s incredible that people think I’m worthy of that,” she said. “I look at some of the past winners and they’ve certainly made an impact on the world. I’m hoping and praying I can keep up to their standards.”

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