Kaitlyn is the owner and creative director of South Street & Co. She started the company as a side-hustle after helping her prior company, a local dermatology practice, double in size in the two and a half years she was there. Now, 6 years later, she and her team specialize in helping small to medium sized service-based businesses grow their reach online.
Kaitlyn has been featured in podcasts, publications and her agency has won multiple awards for their marketing efforts.
Learn more about Kaitlyn @ https://southstreetmarketing.com/
Learn more about Socialistics at www.socialistics.com
Jason Yormark: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Socialistcs, social media agency stories. Excited about our guest today. We’re going to talk all things agency as usual. Today we have Kaitlyn Stoody from south street and company. They are an agency that helps service-based small and medium sized businesses. We’re going to talk about her journey as an agency owner. Kaitlyn, welcome to the show.
Kaitlyn Study: Hi, Thanks for having me.
Jason Yormark: Absolutely. So let’s just jump right in. I want to know your agency story. So let’s start from day one college, first job, any of that good stuff that, I want to know your path. I always find that super interesting. So tell me a little bit about your path to being an agency owner.
Kaitlyn Study: Sure. So I went to the university of central Florida with a degree in marketing. And originally, I wanted to study physical therapy. So I totally did a 180 from that to marketing. And the reason that I did that was I was working at bath and body works and they had given us each day that I worked, they gave us a goal to sell a certain amount of products or to focus on a certain amount of things. And every day I ended up exceeding that, I really love talking to customers and finding out their needs. And then I remember I was working at the Florida mall, which has a lot of people on vacation from out of country there. And one day we had these three perfumes leftover from a promotion and they were very floral, very strong, and they weren’t the customer’s favorite perfumes to go towards. So that particular day they said that these three remaining perfumes were going to go on sale, buy one, get two for free. So that day they were like, if anyone sells these perfumes, then you get the gold star of the day. So of course I was like, all right, I’m going to sell these perfumes. So halfway into my shift, a lady came in, she didn’t speak any English, but she had her daughter-in-law there to help translate for her. And she said, I just want something to make me feel beautiful. And so I took her over to this particular line that we had showed her a couple of the items. She really loved them. And I said, you know what? I think there’s something else that you might love too. So I went over to the display, pulled up the perfume, pulled out the little piece of paper, spritzed it on it, waved it around and handed it to her. And she loved it and bought one and got two for free. So from that story, I was like, you know what? I don’t know if I want to do physical therapy. I think I want to do marketing and be creative and help people and talk to people. And so I changed my major and when I graduated, I looked for a job everywhere, except for Orlando ended up finding one here. And I actually found my first job on Craigslist. So a local dermatology group was advertising for some marketing help on Craigslist. I went in it was the easiest interview ever and negotiated my salary. I ended up starting two weeks later. And so I was the first person that they had hired to be in charge of their marketing. And in the first six months I helped them rebrand their whole company, redoing their logo, slogan, website and implementing social media marketing, email marketing, blogging, and SEO for the first time. And then the other half of my job was going out and meeting doctors who did refer or who could refer. So think of it as like pediatricians, internal doctors, anyone who could refer to a dermatologist and creating those relationships. So over the course of the two and a half years that I was there with the company, I helped them double in size. So when I started with them, they had 10 offices. And when I left two and a half years later, they had 17 locations in central Florida and then three out of state. And I just after maybe a year and a half or so, I just felt like I reached a plateau because the management just wanted me to go out and meet with more people, get out of the office, drive around. So if you can imagine there were 17 locations. So I was driving around to each of those locations every week. So I wasn’t in the office as much focusing on digital marketing. And that’s really what I liked. So growing up, my parents had always been advocates of being an entrepreneur and they were like, well, why don’t you start your own thing? And I was like, I don’t know if I really want to do that. And so a family friend ended up saying that she was having some issues with a company that she hired. She didn’t really know what she was getting from them. And so that’s where my first client came from, was a family friend. And I helped her redo her website, implemented her, helped her with her social media and then helped her with SEO. And I charged a whopping $250 for all of that back in the day. And so I started working with her and then I was still working full time and she introduced me to someone else. And then I got introduced to daytime networking, which is like BNI groups or leads groups. And I never known about those before, but I also went cold calling, which was horrible to try to just get my foot in a couple businesses so that people would hire me. And so fast forward to March 2015, I put in my notice and I was really nervous because the doctor in charge was great, but I was thinking, all right, he’s either going to fire me now or he’s going to at least let me work my two weeks. And then, you know, I can get that last two weeks’ paycheck. And a third option happened that I hadn’t even considered. And he asked if they could be my first big client and he ended up retaining me for a year after, through my new company.
Jason Yormark: Very cool.
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah. So I basically just hit the ground running and fast forward to six years later, we have an amazing team and we specialize in helping small to medium sized businesses grow their reach locally online.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. So how many folks do you have now in the company?
Kaitlyn Study: We have eight.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. Okay. And I’m curious, tell me a little bit about, you know, what have been some of, you know, when you were starting the agency, what was your goal like, you know, in terms of, and this is obviously something that could have evolved over time, you know, when you kind of went into it, was it just, Hey, I just want to do my own thing and pay the bills. And then from what is it grown to? Like, what is your aspiration like, where do you want to, where do you want to take this thing to? I’m always very fascinated by agency owners in terms of what their goals are in terms of an end game. What does that look like for you? Or do you even know what that is?
Kaitlyn Study: In the beginning, I really found that businesses, small businesses didn’t really have an idea about marketing because that wasn’t their expertise. So I wanted to be that go-to person. So that was the goal in the beginning and still is now. And then I think, I mean, over the course of the years, the goal has changed, but right now where we are, I’d like to start building out different departments in the company. So having a content department and ads department, and account department and continuing to build those out. And, you know, one of the things that I had to learn really quickly was that not every client is a good client for me. And so I found what my niche was and that was service based companies that we helped and kind of just letting people know, being transparent with them, if, whether we can or can’t help them.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. I’m kind of fascinated by the business that you’ve grown. The first agency that I tried to run was very similar to yours and the challenges that I faced. And I don’t know if you come across this because I wasn’t able to solve for it was, I was and still very, super passionate about helping small business owners with marketing because there’s so much misinformation and so much garbage out there. But the biggest challenge was like, they needed a lot, but their budget was just didn’t align. It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. So I’m curious. Do you face those challenges in terms of the clients that you try to serve? How have you kind of been able to optimize or create an offering that can work for that segment? In terms of the like dollars and cents and their expectations and the volume of work that they may need?
Kaitlyn Study: Well, I guess first of all, it’s setting up that initial meeting because what they think they may need maybe actually step two or step three in the process. So like, as an example, if they want local SEO, but their website is just kind of all over the place and doesn’t have a flow or a call to action, that needs to be step one. So a lot of times we kind of sit down and kind of coach them and say, Hey, actually, you don’t need this first. You need this first. And so I also think it’s about setting realistic expectations because while you do have to spend money to make money, it also takes time. And a lot of people in this instant world with the Amazon two-day shipping and direct messages that goes to people’s notifications. And now you have, you know, your watches on your wrist with all of your notifications too, a lot of people, just aren’t patient. And don’t understand that you can’t get on the first page of Google in, you know, a week or a month. It takes time, especially if you’re a new website build. So we try to be completely transparent upfront, but we definitely have challenges with people who’ve never done SEO in the past, or people have a new website and Google hasn’t even called the website yet. So it takes time to get it there.
Jason Yormark: Do you do a month to month contracts? Do you tie them into longer-term contracts? I’m kind of curious. We’ve done both. So I’m kind of curious about how you do it in your world.
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah. So we asked for an initial six month agreement, and then after that, it goes month to month, especially for SEO. I’m completely transparent with them that if you’re not willing to give us six months, it’s not worth you investing because it’s just not going to, it’s not going to be worth your money.
Jason Yormark: Nope. I love that. When I first started, we started with month to month and was able to disrupt with it. But to your point, I think we’ve learned over time. Is that kind of once you mature as an agency and you’ve got a few clients under your belt. If a client isn’t willing to commit to at least six months, and they’re probably not a good fit. That’s actually, that’s great for them to say no, because it’s just probably saved each other a lot of time. So I love that. More about your team, made up of employees, contractors, full-time, part-time kind of a mix of all that.
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah, right now it’s we’re using contractors and then full-time employees.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. And what are some of the things for those that are listening that are aspiring agency owners, or maybe in the beginning stages, when you look back to what you’ve done what’s the one or two things that stand out more than anything that maybe you would’ve done differently. You know, you have your time machine and go back and you’re like, I can’t believe we did this. I mean, you know, a lot of times you go through those sorts of things and it’s a great learning and it helps you grow as a business, but is there anything that stands out like that was a huge challenge or something that you might’ve done differently if you had another shot?
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah. There are a lot of lessons that I learned. You know, one I already mentioned was not every client is your ideal client. And I had to, a friend told me this and I thought it was so smart. She’s like Kaitlyn, you’re helping the client more by telling them you can’t help them. And referring them to someone who’s a better fit than taking them on and trying to piece it together. And I never really thought about it like that because I should have said no to more clients than I did. It ended up that we figured it out, but you know, it could have been better for them or maybe more cost-effective for them. But I learned that in the beginning. And then I think one of the main things that I learned that maybe I should have started with a little bit sooner was getting coaches and mentors. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve come to the rescue to help me with situations or helped me with things. So I would highly recommend if anyone wants to Google the SPDC, they have a free resource for business coaches. And that’s what I used in the beginning when I was just kind of like bootstrapping it. And they’re free, which is amazing. So that’s where I got my first business coach. And then I think another thing that you just kind of like don’t know what you don’t. So having those coaches and resources is amazing, but implementing processes and systems. And that’s really hard in the beginning because you’re still trying to figure everything out. But if I could go back into time and know what I know now, I would have implemented more automation, more processes, more systems just to streamline everything because I like look back to see how we did all these processes. And I’m like, how did I even keep everything organized? Like how did they even work?
Jason Yormark: Are you guys virtual or do you have a physical office?
Kaitlyn Study: We’re fully remote. We went remote, Luckily right before the pandemic. So the lease was up at the end of December 2019, and we had kind of been experimenting with it some days in the office, some days out. And so now we’re a fully remote agency.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. So you did have a physical location at some point and then transition to that. How has that worked out for you? What have been, what’s worked well? What have been some challenges that have come from that?
Kaitlyn Study: I think one of the challenges is well, it can be communication, but I described slack as the backbone of our company. I mean, all of us are on slack. We have all of these automations going in. If something’s going wrong, the team will get a notification, but I think that that’s been really great. Before I went remote, I did a lot of research and I read this book called remote office, not required by the founders of base camp. And that really kind of helped me reset my brain as to why everything couldn’t work and why it really could work. So slack is really big. We also have a lot of programs and processes that help us stay on track too. And then one of the things that we do too, is we work in short sprints, like the scrum methodology to where we have weekly, like week one, week two, week three, and week four clients. And we do all of their content in that particular week. And then in an ideal situation, the client would get back to us. Everything would be posted in that week too. And then week two, we move on to the next client.
Jason Yormark: As far as you as an agency owner, are you still working in the business or just on the business?
Kaitlyn Study: I would love to say that I’m working on the business, but there are days that I’m also working in the business too. But I have a really amazing team that enables me like today, I was, I was just thinking about it before I hopped on, I set aside an hour on my calendar just to do continuing education on different things that I feel like I can learn more about. So I just was watching a webinar and, you know, I think the, the fear of every agency owners, if I step away, everything’s going to burn down and it’s just going to be rubble on the ground. And I have to tell myself that sometimes too, like, Hey, Nope, my team is doing a great job and nothing’s going to go wrong. But I mean, even having time to do that and like just blocking time on my calendar and being able to do that is pretty incredible. So I’m, I’m working more towards that.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. What’s been your recipe for success in terms of generating new business, you know, getting new leads, like how’s that broken down for you? How do you guys what’s been worked really well for you? Maybe things that haven’t, but what’s kind of your secret sauce or your superpower that’s really allowed you to kind of grow the business.
Kaitlyn Study: Number one, it’s our online reviews. We have 94 five star reviews on Google from the clients that we’ve worked with. Yeah. That’s one of our main priorities is just to ask people to please share your experience that other people can find us online. Another one is search engine optimization. I started doing that in the very, very beginning. And so now we come up for a ton of Google searches. So I like to tell our clients what we do for ourselves is exactly what we do for you. Cause this is how we get leads too. And then I think the other secret sauce to our success is the automations that I’ve set up. So Zapier’s one of our I guess I would call it like a secret weapon. I’ve dubbed myself an automation nerd. So I just love getting in there.
And if someone fills out a form on our website, they get an automated, an automatic email that says, Hey, thank you so much for filling out this form. Let’s go ahead and get a call on the books. And then with our availability, we can normally get them in the same day or the next day, just to learn more about their strategy. So going back to that, Amazon two day methodology and mentality, I think it just helps to get people’s instant responses out there and to get them scheduled and on the books. So that’s what we try to do.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. How many clients do you guys currently manage? I’m just trying to get a sense of magnitude that you guys are.
Kaitlyn Study: I think on a monthly basis, it’s anywhere between like 40 to 45, maybe.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. And then you have folks that basically are like, do you have like account managers that manage chunks of those clients basically responsible for those.
Kaitlyn Study: That’s one of the departments that we’re currently building out. So I’m actually tomorrow I have a meeting with my account strategists to talk about either a junior account strategist or an account coordinator. So we’re going to look at getting some support for her because as we’ve been growing, she’s going to need more help with taking on the client load and to make sure that we can make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. So you had mentioned that, this might be your answer to the following question. But like what’s the biggest challenge for your agency right now. Like what is the big thing that’s going to take you to the next level of success? Like what keeps you up at night right now?
Kaitlyn Study: I think always the challenge is the balance between employers and workers versus the work, because you don’t want to have too much work and not enough team members and you don’t want to have too many team members and not enough work. So I think it’s always that constant balance of, okay, when is it time to look to hire someone else? When do we need to bring someone else on or, Hey, we lost X amount of clients, so we’re going to have to decrease hours for, you know, this person or whomever, luckily that hasn’t happened.
Jason Yormark: You had mentioned, what percentage of the work that you do is in your area versus national, and then the follow-up to that, like your team, does your team mostly based out of I think you said you’re in Orlando, in that area, or do you have people kind of across everywhere?
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah, so most of our clients are in Florida. We have some in different areas of Florida, but most of them are in Florida, but we’ve worked with clients in Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, all over the place. And then just like just kind of like our clients. The majority of our team members are in the Florida area. One’s in Melbourne. The majority of us are centralized in Orlando, but we have one in Nashville, one in Kansas. So kind of all over the place, but more centralized to Florida.
Jason Yormark: So when I think about agency owners, they’re usually in one of two buckets, they have a ceiling or they don’t have a ceiling. Like they might, we’ll be big as the universe allows us to be, or there’ll be like, no, we’re happy being kind of a boutique agency. And I don’t really want to have multiple layers of management. Where’s your head at with that? Like what do you want to build?
Kaitlyn Study: I think I’m definitely in the first bucket where I don’t have a ceiling. But it goes back to kind of that constant balance that I need to make sure is there with having enough work for the team members and enough team members for the work too. But yeah, I don’t have a ceiling, so I’m open to wherever we go.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. Well, I love learning about everything that you’re doing and what you’re building, anything that I didn’t ask you that might be helpful or that we should fill in based on our conversation.
Kaitlyn Study: One of the things I want to share is books and podcasts have been huge helpers to me. So I love audible. I think it’s like $14.99. You can get one book a month and that’s just great for me, cause I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and read. So I’ll just listen to it in the morning or on a bike ride or wherever. And but podcasts are really great too, like this podcast where you can talk to real people who have done it before. So I think that’s great as well. And then speaking of coaches and mentors, I would reach out to someone on LinkedIn in your industry that is already doing what you’re doing, ask them for, you know, a zoom coffee, or if they’re local to where you are a coffee meeting. And then find people that have a coaching background, like we as an agency offer coaching for people. So if someone like that is within your wheelhouse, you can do that or go to the SBDC for free or reach out to someone on LinkedIn and grab a coffee together.
Jason Yormark: Cool, awesome stuff. Where can people learn more about you and find your agency?
Kaitlyn Study: Yeah, so you can go to www.southstreetmarketing.com. And then you can follow along with me personally on LinkedIn. It’s Kaitlyn Stoody in a bright pink shirt on there and I’d love to connect with you. And we also have a toolbox page on our website that has a ton of free resources and how we do things. So that’s really great for someone trying to start up and just needing a little bit of more collateral to point them in the right direction.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. Well, I love your story, love what you’re doing. If you’re a small business owner, I would definitely check them out. It’s not an easy thing to do to be able to help small business owners and do it successfully. So it certainly sounds like you’ve got quite the recipe for success around that. So, Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. Great to have you and learn about your story.
Kaitlyn Study: Thank you for having me. This has been great.
Jason Yormark: Absolutely. Well, thank you for listening and like share, subscribe. You guys know the drill. Thank you for listening this week. We’ll catch you next week and thanks for listening.
Jason is a 20+ year marketing veteran including time spent at Microsoft overseeing social media for Microsoft Advertising & Office for Mac. Once named to Forbes Power Social Media Influencers List, Jason is the owner and founder of Socialistics.