By: Lisa Slagle, founder
It’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? In that time, my creative company, Wheelie Creative, has grown, and I’ve hit a whole new level of exhaustion I never thought possible, but I’m a big fan of hard work, and there’s lots of good to celebrate, too.
We have a second branch now! Our Denver office has been up and running for a little over two months now, with four new employees running full steam. It’s in the Battery 621 building, which is amazing, so please stop by and meet the crew if you’re in the area.
I’ve been doing laps between Whitefish and Denver to the point where I now have favorite gas stations scattered down I-25 through Wyoming. My truck is still chugging, pushing 240K and smelling of unhealthy amounts of spilled coffee and half-eaten burritos. I’ve had a lot of time to think during the 16 hour commute.
Just like the outdoor cohorts that we work with, I’ve been having a hard relationship with the word “marketing.” And the word “advertising.” And even the word “agency” for that matter, which I wrestle with at least weekly. These words sound gross, like a used car salesperson trying to get you to buy rusty parts that have been spray painted matte black.
That’s the opposite of what we’re about at Wheelie.
We attract like-minded people running like-minded companies who also shudder at the thought of making people buy shit they don’t need. I’m finding that there is a really big difference between us and what I’ve dubbed “old-school agencies.” Old school agencies just don’t get what you and I are doing.
I’m not going to talk to you about how millenials (like myself and most of my employees) are the now. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows how millenials prefer experience over stuff. Everybody knows millenials are selective of what they do purchase and want meaning behind their choices. This is nothing new. But something I’ve grown to understand deeply is that millenials don’t trust agencies. They often come to Wheelie lamenting how they tried to work with an agency and “got burned” and just want someone who understands what they are trying to do, which is tell stories and create genuine connections and find meaning in their work, not just sell stuff. This familiar conversation has become a thing for us.
I smile at this because the dirtbag, goggle-tanned, After Lame era of snowboarders and skiers from a decade ago are now running things in our industry. The same kids I’d shotgun PBR with on top of the peak in Crested Butte are now pulling six-figure salaries with job titles like “director” and “founder” of some really awesome things. The same sunburnt kids I’d high five in the hallways of backcountry.com are now global marketing managers at our favorite brands. They’re now in charge of hiring agencies. I love this crew because they give a shit.
This crew of reluctantly grown-up thirty-somethings (who are starting to get married or have kids that they have to keep alive) is running the show. They’re nimble. They’re smart. They actually care about the companies they represent and the customers who give them the honor of purchasing their goods. They want a creative partnership to help them with their cause, not use a bunch of d-baggy marketing terminology about synergy and zero-tasking. They want to work with real human beings who actually use their gear. They want a combination of grit and streetsmarts backed by research and experience, and that’s who we want to work with, too.
Wheelie was born from snowboarding. It started with friendships, misadventures, and freezing nights in the back of a Tacoma. It grew with lasting relationships, better gear, and coffee shop wifi. And it grew up with results, thousands of projects in the books, and a solid group of creatives and project managers at the helm. I can proudly say that there has been absolutely zero synergy involved in our brand.
And so, here at Wheelie, while we’ve grown up and outward and returned to my homeland of Colorado, we’re still made of powder days, half-eaten burritos, and long road trips. You are, too. We see that wild look in your eyes and are grateful that our industry is in good hands, even if they are scarred and calloused and all dry and cracked from climbing chalk.
We won’t burn you. We’ve lit enough stuff on fire together in the past.
Burritos on us, and cheers to Colorado,