Stephanie is the organizational mastermind behind Front Step Marketing (and the dreamer that created this website!). Equally responsible and enterprising, Stephanie loves teaching herself new things and taking on new projects. Read more to learn how she balances raising kids with her career goals, found her business niche, and the importance of owning professional missteps.
photo credit: Simply Viewed Creative
What is Front Step Marketing?
We are a small marketing company providing services to the home building and remodeling industry. Most of our clients don’t need a full-time marketing director, but they do need marketing assistance. Such as strategy, website updates, blog writing, print media planning, graphic design, and so much more. We are small, but mighty team of three!
What was your first job growing up, and what did you learn from it?
My first job growing up was a lifeguard and swimming lessons teacher. I have always been a very responsible and on-time person, so in addition, the job taught me patience, communication, and creativity. I learned when teaching children to swim that there was no right way, it was figuring out what worked best and modifying it for specific students.
Tell us about your career path before starting your own company, and how it got you to where you are today:
Growing up, my parents and family members called me the social director. I’d say it was a precursor to my current career path.
I enjoy doing things my own way. Self-teaching and taking on new challenges are just a sequence of fun games to me.
In college, I studied marketing and communications. At that same time, I obtained my real estate license and worked for a couple of smaller home industry businesses.
Out of college, I bounced between a few corporate jobs. I never enjoyed the set structure and defined 9-5 mentality (or dressing up daily). Eventually, I landed at Newland Communities as a Marketing Manager. Newland is a large master-planned community developer. I really liked that job – so I stayed for 3 years. In that time I met my husband, best friend, current business partner, and learned a lot about the home building industry.
Next, I worked for a small luxury remodeling company, until the economy changed, or more accurately, crashed in 2008.
Tell us the story of why and how you started your business:
I always knew I wanted to do something on my own, which just meant not having a “boss” to answer to. I also always wanted a family, and craved the flexibility to be there for my children when they needed me.
So, in the peak of the housing downturn I decided to start my own company. (Good time to start a company right?!) I saw that small home builders and remodelers had a need for marketing assistance, but they didn’t necessarily want to hire someone full-time.
Front Step Marketing opened its doors for business in 2009. And I landed my first home remodeling client from a postcard mailing within a couple of weeks. I’m happy to report my first client is still with me to this day!
When I say doors, I mean home office doors. I love working from home – and honestly never want to have an office to go into. I get so much done, and am able to throw a load of laundry in when it’s needed.
While I was starting Front Step Marketing, I was also a real estate agent with Edina Realty. In the beginning (before a family and kids) I enjoyed being busy and having both of these career paths. It was also nice, and necessary, to have the income from both.
In 2013 I left Edina Realty to focus my full attention on Front Step Marketing.
What is a typical day like for you?
We consistently wake up at 6:00 am each day at our house. If one of the boys sleeps in until 6:30 it’s a lucky day! I drop the boys off at daycare around 8:30, and then listen to a podcast on my 15 minute drive back to my home office. Some days I’m in the office all day working on client projects, planning with my team, or strategizing for Front Step Marketing. Other days I’m out and about at client meetings.
My work day is over at 3:00 each afternoon when I pick up the boys from daycare at 3:30. We play and eat until my husband gets home to join us. Once the boys are in bed, my husband and I pick up the house, work (he’s a business owner too) or watch TV together. Who are we kidding? Most nights when the boys go to bed, so do we; little kids are exhausting!
Tell us about a hard time in your life, career or personal. What did you learn from it or how did it make you stronger?
I have two – a personal one and career one to share.
My personal hard time: My parents divorced when I was in middle school. It was a very rough patch in my life, but without a doubt made me a stronger person. It gave me the confidence to realize that I can make it through any difficult time in life. I just need to pray and lean on God. It also taught me that everyone is fighting some kind of battle, some you may know about and some you may not, so it’s important to always be kind. Life isn’t easy or perfect as we all try to portray, and that’s ok.
My business hard time: Back in 2013, I made the decision to merge Front Step Marketing with another industry creative company. Although it didn’t feel right to me, I went against my gut feeling and did it anyways. Why, I’m not sure?! I think maybe it was the glamour of working together to gain more clients, or the prestige of being a part of a larger group? Well, after three months of working with this other group, I was not happy.
Our long-term goals and how we worked with clients was not syncing. So I made the decision to leave the group and return to Front Step Marketing. It was humbling and embarrassing. However, it was also transformative; I learned to follow my intuition, never sell myself short, and own it when I messed up.
The best part of that challenging experience was that I didn’t lose a single client. (I had signed a legal document that if I left the merged group all my previous clients were still mine). I called my clients, explained what happened, and was overwhelmed by how supportive they all were.
What advice or tips would you give to a new business owner?
I’d say make sure your business serves a specific audience, your niche. Find a focus, and consider if you need to narrow it down even more. I’ve learned if you are talking to everyone, you are talking to no-one. It’s ok if you adjust your niche along the way as needed, but don’t try to be everything to everyone.
Also, just go for it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know if it works. I’m the dreamer type… always thinking about what I can do next. I own 15+ domain names “just in case” I decide to use them some day!
What do you believe is your single strongest skill that’s helped you succeed?
If I don’t know how to do something, I just figure it out. I’m 95% self-taught.
Tell us about your life outside of your business? What do you like to do?
Right now, I’m busy being a mom and wife. My boys are 1 and 3 years old. Oh and don’t forget the furry one – a mini Goldendoodle named Barkley. I enjoy being outside in the summer and snuggling up on the couch in the winter with a good book. As a family, we like to bike, boat, and go on kid-friendly adventures these days. We also love going up north to my husband’s family lake house. It’s a very nice getaway for us.
How do you balance your career and family/personal life?
Some days I think I’m doing well, and others I feel like I’m losing. I was able to keep both boys home for the first year of their lives with me, with the help of a part-time nanny and my mom. Those days were sweet and meaningful, but also a little stressful. Now that they both go to daycare we have a healthy amount of separation. I work during the day, and then they have my full attention when I pick them up. My husband also tends to work long hours, so it’s nice I have flexibility. Again, that was always my goal.
Quick fun facts…
What’s your favorite charity? I don’t have a favorite – there are too many out there doing good things! Right now I’d say any charity that supports children or moms.
What age do you want to retire at? 45…and then just work for pure fun!
One travel location on your bucket list? Bora Bora
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introvert
What is your favorite blog, podcast, or book? Right now it’s the podcast, “How I Built This”
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