Mallory Van Waarde, Co-Founder, Magnifyre
Mallory Van Waarde is the co-founder of Magnifyre, a boutique digital marketing agency helping organizations committed to social good thrive in the digital space.
Name: Mallory Van Waarde
Years in business: 3
Business location: St. Louis, MO | San Diego, CA
Number of employees: 7
Chief product: Digital marketing
First of all, how is business these days?
As a digital marketing agency, I measure the health of my business on the nature of the projects we’re working on. We recently started focusing on cause-oriented, non-for-profit and for-benefit organizations. The shift in focus has been considered for some time, and I’m excited about the impact of the projects and organizations we’re starting to work with.
What led you to start your own business?
It was a happy accident. I was dissatisfied with my office job and wanted to experiment with location independence–a fancy way of saying I wanted to work and travel the world. A friend, Franco, and I started building websites and online advertising campaigns for a few businesses while I was working remotely from Europe and South America. We continued to grow through referrals and soon found ourselves with more work than two part-timers could handle. So we built a team and gave ourselves a name, Magnifyre.
Perhaps a more appropriate question now is, “What led you to continue your business?” At some point, we all desire that the end result of our work is more than just financial gain. We want to use our skills and resources to make the world a little bit better. While Magnifyre started out as a lifestyle choice, it has become a platform for us to amplify the message of causes and organizations that we care about, several of which I discovered traveling abroad. The Internet has made this world small. And as our world gets smaller, our ability to make an impact using digital tools grows larger.
What sources did you use for startup capital?
Our back pockets!
What do you think is your biggest business strength?
Our team. We’re data-driven without sacrificing creativity, and we’re experts without missing the big picture. The world of digital marketing is more interconnected than ever. You can’t just work in one channel; you need to consider how online ads, website user experience, analytics, search engine optimization, and content work together. We’re good at developing multichannel marketing strategies, founded in research and tied to business objectives.
What do you enjoy most about owning your own business?
I love that I don’t have to separate the things I’m passionate about from my work, and if money wasn’t a factor, I would still be doing the same thing. I work with people who inspire me on projects that positively impact the world. What more could you want?
What’s your least favorite part of running a business?
What do you think are important entrepreneurial skills to have?
Integrity, self-discipline, humility. I heard once that a business is the shadow of its leaders. What values do you want your business to represent? Develop those in yourself first.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in business and how did you overcome them?
The challenges we’ve faced aren’t substantially different than other businesses. We’ve dealt with dishonest people, unresponsive clients, financial challenges, self-doubt, embarrassing mistakes, and the list goes on. The key is to not get overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your self-worth is not tied to what you do. All problems have solutions, and when you choose integrity and seek wisdom, you can be confident in your choices.
What do you wish you’d known before you started out?
The value of a good lawyer and an accountant.
What is the smartest move you have made with your business so far?
I can’t think of a stand-alone choice that significantly impacted the course of our business. It’s the innumerable small choices that led us to where we are.
How do you find new customers? What do you do to make sure they become return customers?
The majority of our clients come through referrals and recommendations made by previous clients. Our team is small and nimble, and we see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ marketing team. Before taking on a new client, we consider both our capacity and our ability to meet the needs of that client. If we don’t feel like we can win or give 100 percent, we say no. It’s simple.
What’s your management style with employees?
Our team members have great working relationships. I don’t think of my interaction with team members as “management” as much as I do “teamwork.”
What are some other companies or entrepreneurs you admire, and why?
I admire Kelsey Meyer from Influence & Co. Kelsey and I graduated from the same entrepreneurship program at the University of Missouri. Her focus on teamwork in a season of rapid growth (and its associated challenges) has inspired me to focus on developing team members. I also admire Eric Facas from Media Cause. In my opinion, Eric’s team is the best in the business at helping non-profits develop effective digital strategies. I frequently review their case studies when looking for inspiration.
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light I have.”
In business, I think we focus so much on outward success that we can forget the “why” behind what we do. I don’t want to build the biggest or most successful agency, but I do want to be true to my values and be a good steward of my gifts.
What new initiatives are you working on?
One project I am particularly excited about is an anti-trafficking organization based in Mongolia. We are exploring new ways to use digital data to inform research initiatives and build a web and content strategy to change public perception on a sensitive issue.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to start a business similar to yours?
Start with who you are and what you know. Businesses are born at the intersection of passion and ability.