In the beginning
I grew up in small business. You might say it's in my blood. It is my passion. Both of my parents and both sets of grandparents were self employed. My maternal grandparents owned a motel - I started "working" there before I even started school, picking dirty towels up off the floor and emptying wastebaskets while my mother and grandmother made the beds and did the "big stuff". My Dad's folks were farmers - always lots of chores that even little kids could do - gathering eggs, picking vegetables from the garden, feeding the horses. I was never asked - it was expected that everyone pitch in to get the work done. I never felt abused or neglected. Most of the time I didn't even know it was "work". My Dad owned a commercial cleaning company, and my Mom had a gift shop. I spent my youth working in those two businesses. I didn't think I was learning anything - there was work to be done and we were a family business, so I did it. But I was learning the whole time - learning about what it takes to be self employed - the sacrifices, the rewards, the commitment required to keep the doors open, the toll it can take.
My Career Journey
Fast forward... my first job out of college was at a large corporation in the Twin Cities. Administrative / Marketing support to a group of engineers. Nice people, but I hated it. Hated every minute of it. I was just one tiny cog in a very big wheel that had been turning for a very long time. No room in the system for innovation, creativity was stifled, little opportunity for advancement... it was the same thing day in and day out. The way they had always done it. I didn't learn anything. It was a just a job.
How I got to Kansas is another story - one that I will skip. I moved here knowing one person. I didn't know the town, or anything about it. First interview was at a large corporation - a VERY large corporation. I didn't get the job and I was devastated. How could I have known what a blessing it would turn out to be!
I wound up taking a temp job at a small, family owned machine shop, filling in for the receptionist who was on maternity leave. A few weeks and I would be on my way to a different assignment. I stayed there for five years. My skills were appreciated - they welcomed innovation, celebrated creativity, and I quickly advanced to become the highest ranking female in the history of the company. I made a difference. I loved it. And I learned... oh, did I learn! That job opened the door to even more great opportunities - working with a group of machine shop owners - entrepreneurs and visionaries - who also encouraged my professional growth, offered me increasing responsibility, trusted me, and mentored me. Most of my time was spent in marketing and communications for this group, but I was also exposed to sales, accounting and finance, HR, inventory management, new product development, and all other aspects of running a business. I traveled, I worked hard, I learned a lot.
The opportunity came along to buy an advertising business and it was something that I just couldn't pass up. My husband and I had been looking for a way that we could be self employed and work together - this business required both of our skill sets. I would run the sales and marketing, he would run the operations. It was a great business! I called up all of the lessons I had learned over the years working in my own family businesses and realized that all of my experiences had been leading to my own self-employment. The best thing about having my own company was the opportunity that it gave me to work with all different types of small businesses - retail, service, manufacturing, salons, restaurants, and more. And through each new client I learned - about their businesses and the industries they worked in, about entrepreneurship, about what made them tick, and about what kept them up at night. Their passion became my passion. As I helped them grow their businesses through advertising, they helped me grow as well.
The one thing that always stood out to me in working with all of these small businesses was a serious need for professional marketing and advertising services that focused their unique concerns and needs. Most of them were not marketers - they were great merchandisers, technicians, manufacturers, stylists, chefs, etc. They were too small for traditional ad agencies, so their marketing was scattered all over the place. There was no consistency, there was no plan, and they were vulnerable to being taken advantage of because they lacked the knowledge needed to make good advertising decisions. It frustrated them - they knew their businesses could grow beyond where they were if only there was someone to help them. It became my passion to build a company that would fill that need.
The Next Level Story
Next Level Advertising was born on April 1, 2016 and is built on the belief that small businesses deserve the same level of quality services and professionalism as big companies with big budgets. Next Level is the culmination of everything I have learned over the past 25+ years - not just about marketing and advertising, but about the wonderful, courageous, determined people who are small business owners.
I can help YOUR business get to the next level... with a brand refresh, a creative media campaign, promotional products that get you remembered, apparel that showcases your company’s style, a trade show booth that stops people in their tracks, a website that converts visitors to customers, email marketing programs that educate, social media that engages, sales strategies that open doors, or just someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through. I'm here to help.
Why? Because your small business is a big deal.
If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family. Visit our website (www.nextlevelad.com) or check out our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/NextLevelAd) for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business. We now have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers. Stay tuned for the launch of Next Level Masters - a members only group where we will go in-depth on the marketing and advertising topics that you need most in your business.
Are you ready to go to the Next Level? We'll take you there!
Laura Olson-Oxley is an entrepreneur, coach, speaker, marketing and business consultant, and sales professional. She has over 25 years experience working with small businesses in a variety of industries, focusing on strategic business growth through effective marketing and advertising. Also a strategist, numbers nut, project manager, and life-long learner, Laura looks at the big picture to analyze and recommend the most effective tools to take businesses to the Next Level.