Brook & Sarah Sit Down Q&A
In celebration of International Women’s Day being tomorrow we sat down with our co-founders Brook Jay and Sarah Eck to learn more about what it’s like to own and operate a Women Owned Business.
Q: How does being a Women Owned Business affect All Terrain’s day-to-day?
Sarah: We know the stats, we recognize there are pay inequities between men and women and that women are still highly under-represented in the highest echelons of business and government; but frankly, we don’t know if we’ve ever directly experienced prejudice or inequality. We don’t have this frame of mind that we have ever been put down “by the man”. In fact, we were 10 years into the business before we filed to be a Women Owned Enterprise. The only reason we did was due to a particular client opportunity at the time.
Brook: Like Sarah said, we didn’t start All Terrain to prove that women “can do this too” we started it because we had confidence in ourselves and a strong vision. We’ve always opted to highlight our work as our identity and not play the W.O.B card.
Q: So it’s never come up?
Brook: In the first couple years of the company we were known as event producers even though we were trying to shake that reputation. We were always getting hired to do grand opening events for places like the Goodman Theatre, The Sofitel Hotel etc. Mayor Daley was always there to cut the ribbon and he began to recognize us.
Sarah: It was really funny; he’d see us there with our headsets on and ask us “you girls doing this event too?” We know he wasn’t being sexist, he just kept seeing us at every grand opening. We even heard he would ask his staff if “those girls” were doing events that appeared on his calendar. That’s really the only time I believe it’s come up.
Q: So if you didn’t want to be Event Producers in the beginning what did you want All Terrain to be doing?
Sarah: We realized quickly that the events we were doing were designed with the client in mind not the consumer and we saw that there was a need for a real shift in the approach brands took with their consumer marketing. This was before anyone really thought of experiential as a true marketing platform and well before the idea involving the consumer in a dynamic, authentic marketing conversation.
Brook: I know for me and I think for Sarah as well we realized we were always executing other people’s ideas and the events we worked on were grounding us in other people’s strategies. We remember thinking we need to be at the table sooner because we have great ideas and can help affect the consumer engagement process.
Q: Would you say you’ve noticed clear advantages to being Women in the Experiential Marketing industry?
Sarah: The one place it does help is baking in strategy. We know women drive around 80% of buying decisions so we have an eye for what will resonate based on our personal experience as women. It helps us understand the primary motivations of buyers and we’re always asking ourselves “would we respond to this?” It’s that intuition that is deeper and richer than data and insights can provide alone.
Q: That being said, what are your personal favorite projects?
Sarah: “I like our work launching The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas the most, because each activation was hyper-tailored to the location, theme and audience. It wasn’t a standard mobile tour or “event in a box” type of activation. We tried to get into the psychology of the attendee and we focused on delivering a customized and meaningful experience. It was great to work with a client who was willing to take some creative risks that other brands might not. How many brands would let you bring in a biker into their Sundance House to serve bake and serve cookies in a granny style apron? Not many, but they embraced the idea because it was funky and unpredictable and highly aligned with their edgy and unexpected ad creative.
Brook: I have two favorites; the first is Heat Music Festival. Heat was 3-day music festival here in Chicago that we produced and really captured our personality. We created a festival series that broke new ground. We were doing mashups between classic rock, electronic, and funk music with digital and live art and film. We even presented a live acted show of Rocky Horror Picture Show while projecting the movie on 3 stacked shipping containers.
Captain Morgan Tattoo with Dennis Rodman is my second favorite. We really got a chance to affect markets through influence. It was a smart program and integrated across many tiers. The objective was to not only get the brand sold into key accounts, but get nightlife managers excited about this new project. It was all about integrating in the local culture. It was influencer marketing model before social media, using live person to person word-of-mouth. We took the characteristics of the brand and brought it to life via Dennis Rodman. It also was the first time he was back in Chicago after he left the Bulls. It was a mystery venue and so people call a RSVP line which only had Dennis’ voice with a reveal for the location. It truly was a lot of work but a labor of love.
Q: We hear a lot about the need for teamwork. You two seem to embody teamwork, what has it taken to not only succeed as a team, but build a quality team around you?
Sarah: Finding the right mix of diversity and skills and getting everyone to respect those differences and recognize the strength in the collective. We lead with our core values and because we own our own business, the agency can be an extension of us personally; but at the same time, we recognize that the vibe we have here is a blend of everyone’s personality.
Brook: We’ve done everything everyone does here on the day-to-day level. It takes humility to recognize that others are better at certain things than you might be and let them go be good at it. We treat everyone with respect and good humor and recognize that people spend a lot of time at work and therefore it’s very important that everyone who works here feels at home. We never want people to feel like they’re punching a clock. It’s important people like what they do and enjoy coming to work. That happiness extends into it being important people are happy in their careers. That’s probably a very female trait to care about those things. The last thing I think that it takes is being a smaller environment; people can see how what they do contribute. People that do well here have that awareness to recognize that what they do affects the larger outcome.
Q: Finally, with how far All Terrain has come, would you say All Terrain is where you envisioned it sixteen years ago?
Brook: Yes, I think we’ve grown at the exact pace we needed to in order to grow where we want to be in the next 10 years. I’ve known since I was kid I wanted to make an impact and I knew I wanted to go large and be good at it, even if I didn’t know what exactly we would be doing. I knew we would be game changers and have that high impact.
Sarah: I didn’t know what to expect. We just started and kept going and growing. We had no way to predict where we would be exactly in sixteen years because we didn’t know what the landscape would look like. We knew we wanted to be creative, innovative, successful, and like Brook said, “game changing”. I think we’ve done all that and will continue to do those things for many years to come. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and a part of that is feeling like we serve as role models as female entrepreneurs.