Happy Decade INK!

  • January 13, 2014
  • Starr Million Baker

Ten years ago today, Kari and I started on this adventure called INK. Fueled by the beat of Hey Ya (shake it like a polaroid picture, indeed), some liquid courage here and there, and phone calls so frequent they were like an actual lifeline between us, we quit our big agency jobs on Monday morning, January 12, 2004, to start our entrepreneurial careers and haven’t looked back. Ten things that stand out for me, in no particular order:

  • Hiring our first employee. What cracks me up about hiring Blair – besides the hoops we made her jump through – is that hers was the best cover letter I’ve ever read, then and now. She did an amazing job of relating her work experience (which wasn’t much, she was a new grad) to PR which underscored her creativity and her writing ability – two characteristics that are core to her, and to INK overall. She took a chance on us, and continues to call INK home, 10 years in on March 8. INK would not be the same without her.
  • Our first pitch. Long story short, we lost. But I’m still proud of that pitch. We researched, we understood, we knew what we were talking about and what would work for the client. We presented ourselves creatively and professionally. In the end, they said it was close, but chose to work with a  one-man shop (haha, we were already too big!). Likely it was about the fit – that’s what it usually comes down to, and it makes sense. But even though a loss, that first pitch paved the way for a lot of successes and gave us a lot of confidence in our ability to wow.
  • Our first “office.” Kari’s L-shaped couch where we each silently declared a spot of our own (Blair indian-style, barefoot) and never wavered from it. Kari’s front steps (I did many a call out there). Kari’s second bedroom where I staffed my first client-hanging-up-on-reporter call (thanks Mike ;-)). And Kari’s back patio where many a libation was consumed in the name of client relations and team building. 😉
  • Our “real” offices. Wood Hollow – you were just right for what we needed when we started. Small, affordable, able to be painted green and given a bit (not much) of character. Lowell Lane – we love you for your colorful kitchen tile, your space, your pool and your beer fridge.
  • Austin. We’ve always been here, but for the first five years of our existence we didn’t really focus on Austin. My how times have changes. CSID, Volusion, Mutual Mobile, Ferris, and Under Armour’s MapMyFitness – any agency would be envious to name you as clients, and we are so proud to do so. We’re also humbled to support efforts to bring water to those in Burundi via our pro-bono work with Run For the Water and the Gazelle Foundation.
  • CES, CES, CES. In 2004, it seemed “the world was ending” (Eric Schneider, you will remember this). In 2005, we got snowed in at Paris and woke up to the Jen and Brad break-up on CNN. In 2006, we worked Pepcom, won the national championship (go Horns!), and drank some White Star (thanks again Mike Foley!). Blurs the next two years, then we had babies! Hayes, born Dec. 10, 2009, Scarlett, born Dec. 28, 2009, and Jacob, born Jan. 18, 2010 – no CES for Kari, me and Blair that year, but the INK bus rolled on.
  • Bluetooth. Our first client is still our client today. It’s one of the things I am the most proud of because it speaks to our ability to be always creative, come up with new, fresh ideas, and be absolutely vigilant about client service. While we have given Bluetooth some great programs – analyst relations, social media, Breakthrough Awards, the Bandits – and some great coverage (constantly), it has given us knowledge, experience, and a run like no other. It – by way of Mike Foley – also gave me a valuable lesson: always do what you say you’re going to do, and give the client the chance to tell you what he thinks.
  • Kudos. We did a messaging exercise for a clean energy client in 2008. When we went to present it to the CEO, we’d been warned he was a bear and didn’t really believe in what we were doing. When we finished the presentation he said, “This was way more than what I expected. Great work. We can do something with this.” That right there is how we strive to make all of our clients feel and it was one of my favorite moments of my career.
  • INKers. There have only been 17 over the course of 10 years (not counting our awesome interns, and including those on staff today). We are curious, smart, scrappy, determined. We are strong writers, and excellent problem solvers. We have opinions, and we’re not yes men. We analyze, we don’t do it how it’s always been done, and we strive to “be there before.” We are good at our jobs, and we love them and each other.
  • Every day. Every single day I remember that we created this. Every single day I feel lucky to be here. And every single day I push to be better.

2014 is our 10th year in business, and the beginning of our second decade. We’re going to rock it. Cheers!


2 responses to “Happy Decade INK!”

  1. Starr- Thanks for sharing your startup experience. Wishing you and the INK team a very prosperous next 10.

  2. Debbie Bryant Rodriguez says:

    Starr, this is a great post and a great story. Congratulations to all of you !

Other good stuff in here