Danielle Makes an Impact
Love. Marriage. Babies. Business. These things consume Danielle Campbell-Smith’s world. As Managing Director of Advertising Impact Limited, a four-year-old marketing promotions company based in St. James, she is almost a superwoman – simultaneously running her business, while tending to her kids at the office.
“I think as a mother you get this extra strength to work harder,” says the 32-year-old mother of two, keeping an ear out for her baby daughter, who’s sleeping in the next room. “When I had my first baby, I had to bring him to the office. I couldn’t stay home. It wasn’t the fault of anybody here. It was the nature of the beast. When you run your own business, there are just certain things you are required to do and you have to be there. In a way it was a sacrifice. It wasn’t one that I liked or didn’t like per se. It was a necessity. At first I was hard on myself, but this is a rite of passage for my kids and I. Once I have my own business this is how it is, and at least they’re with me. The funny thing is while I’m being hard on myself there are friends of mine who wish they could have carried their children to work instead of leaving them with a babysitter. So I guess it’s a blessing in disguise.”
Campbell-Smith’s life is very much rooted in her family, as is Advertising Impact. The idea to start the business started years ago when Campbell-Smith and her husband Darryl were surfing the Internet, and saw a shoe shining machine that doubled as an advertising billboard. Figuring it was a great idea for companies, they conducted a survey to gauge the product’s potential in the local market. With their findings showing a positive outlook, they brought in their first machine, which you can see at places like TGIF’s. From there, Advertising Impact came to life.
“We don’t focus on the ordinary type of marketing like television, radio or press,” she says. “People come to us when they’re looking for unusual types of promotion. We always try something new and we are out there searching for things that can be applied to the wider Caribbean. Every week a client calls asking us what’s new. One of our biggest items is our inflatable games, which is pretty popular for family days and sports days. We’ve got games like an inflatable rock climbing game, a boxing ring, and a 50-feet-long obstacle course, and they’re all very affordable.”
Other products include the Charger Boy – a power charging station for mobile phones, interphones, laptops, video cameras and digital cameras, Skyview(r) – a ten-foot, helium-filled, space eye-ball that hovers in the air, and mobile billboards. With a product and services line-up that seems particularly relevant for the consumer goods industry, Advertising Impact’s client listing includes some of the big names of corporate Trinidad with clients like Bmobile, Digicel, Courts, Holiday Snacks, Coca Cola, and Nestlé. They’ve also done promotions for the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, and even smaller clients.
“We’re constantly searching for something new,” Campbell-Smith shares. “Clients expect something different every time. It is a test of creativity, and innovation has to run through the pores of the company. Clients keep you on your toes, but there’s also the pressure to keep up in terms of ideas. You definitely have to keep your brain fresh and your ears and eyes to the ground. We’re always researching. There isn’t a day that we don’t do research. We decipher what could work here, and how applicable it is for different types of clients. The sifting process is quite huge.
“Making money will not give you discipline… Focusing on putting out a damn good product gives you discipline”
“Every day is unpredictable. It is not a cut and dry, black and white company because we do so many things anything can happen. As such what goes into managing it is innovation, with regards to dealing with different types of clients; it takes enduring hard work and discipline more than anything. Focus is so important; I keep saying that. Making money will not give you discipline. Focusing on the money will not give you discipline. Focusing on putting out a damn good product gives you discipline. If you put out a good product the money will come.”
With the constant pressure to be innovative and exceed client expectations, while balancing daily operations, generating new business and managing staff, her role as Managing Director is demanding, and very time consuming. Things were a bit easier in the earlier days though. When she first started Advertising Impact, Campbell-Smith didn’t have children as yet, and was still at her job as a legal officer with Eteck, which she had joined soon after being called to the bar in 2004 – her first, real work experience save for previous “summer” jobs.
“I was also introduced to marketing through Darryl,” she says, taking me back to when they first met in 2003. “He did his degree in marketing years before me and he made it sound very exciting. So I did my Masters in Marketing. I always loved art, and for me, marketing was the closest thing to art where business was concerned. Somewhere along the line even before marriage, as a couple – our minds were on entrepreneurship. We were both searching for something else outside of what we were doing. Putting our heads together Advertising Impact was one of the first things we came up with as a team.”
The company started operations in March 2005, with Darryl at the helm, while Campbell-Smith worked with Eteck. She left Eteck seven months later.
“When we first started we were at the office constantly until ungodly hours in the morning,” she explains. “We know about losing sleep over the business. And there were times when friends would call us to go out, and we said no we have work to do. We literally lived here in an annex joined to the main house. This compound was my grandmother’s home, and when she passed away, our aunt let us use it. Those two years were the real startup years, and we built the company over that time. It was a hell of a sacrifice but it was worth it. In those first two years, we didn’t have any children, but when our son Yeshowah was born, we said we had to pull back. We moved the apartment to somewhere where we had space. We had to focus and prioritise. So that was the drill.”
The Smiths seem to be a living testament to true partnership in managing family and business. Her husband (who’s also the Chairman of Advertising Impact and is the Managing Director of his own company – Trinnovation Limited) is key to how she balances her roles as mother, wife, and businesswoman, providing much needed support.
“He has supported me and the decisions that I made with regards to the babies,” she says, showering praise on Darryl. “He was very supportive and still is very supportive. And he sort of picked up the pieces on the floor when I’m preoccupied. So if I have to stop sending an important email to breastfeed the baby, he would take over some of my tasks. If he has to get up during the night to help out, he does that too. He’s a very supportive guy, and a very supportive husband.
“I remember when I first told friends I was thinking of joining Darryl in the business friends asked, ‘you could handle seeing him 24/7, don’t you need your space, what will you talk about?’. But it has worked out, and this is five years since. We make sure we take our time out. And what has also helped is we’ve learned to separate our business relationship from our matrimonial relationship. It’s hard to do, but it’s very important. I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes taking it home has threatened us, but sometimes you have to compartmentalise it, and pull it in because that’s how they (small businesses) used to do it before and even now. How do the husbands and wives running parlours and huts and stalls selling fish and veggies and fruits deal with it? They’re doing the same thing in their own way. Every couple has to find its own way. It will work out with God, support from family and friends – particularly family – and from a mutual understanding of what is required.
“It hasn’t always been smooth sailing; it has not. But like everything else, as long as there are underlying goals, it works out eventually. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. And that is part of what helps to keep the peace between the both of us. Both us of have the discipline, because we have goals. By 2020 we know what we want to achieve so we’re not wasting time. We have our own vision 2020. I’m serious. We had a retreat where we went to Asa Wright Nature Centre and we outlined our goals as individuals, as a couple and as a family. We drew it out and typed it. We try to check it weekly, and see if we achieved it where we reach. You have to have a plan.”
Obviously the Campbell-Smiths have been doing some serious planning for their business and family. So what’s in store for this almost superwoman?
“Even this will not be it,” she says. “Advertising Impact will not be it. If you realise all successful entrepreneurs are always moving onto something. They make a success of what they do, then they move to something else – Richard Branson, Oprah etc. So really the innovation has to be part of your blood. Stepping out of the ordinary becomes part of you, part of your modus operandi. I know I can sustain Advertising Impact, so already I’m thinking of what’s next. It’ll be something related to advertising. We’re not worried about anything; the world makes you worry, but if you trust in God and yourself, you can make your own way.”
To find out more about Advertising Impact Limited, visit www.advertisingimpact.net.
Photography of Danielle Campbell-Smith by Mark Lyndersay.