Christine Lobas of Studiothink
Meet Christine Lobas, founder of Studiothink
What is Studiothink?
Studiothink is a strategic brand management and high performance culture development firm. That may seem a strange combination, though to me, one that makes absolute sense. I've always believed (and said to anyone who would listen) that the best organizations' brands live from the inside out. When we can help to influence and manage both internal and external brand through messaging, marketing and people there’s alignment that can be seen and felt and therefore, really believed by both employees and customers.
Why did you start your business?
I started my business because I believed there was a better way to build a mousetrap. I've always loved advertising -- the strategy, the big idea, the creative, the execution, the pitch, the sale. I loved to watch the TV show Bewitched
growing up in the '70s. When Darren Stevens would go to work I would think to myself that I wanted to be Larry Tate one day -- owning and guiding the direction of the firm. I thought that there was a way to do all of that. But I wanted to have a place that valued people and not only produced really great work for our clients, but was a fun place for people to spend most of their time. I'm blessed by the people that I work with.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
I put in a small amount of cash to begin and had quickly brought on one client to work for. I also had a close family friend who, at the time, held a very high position with a Cleveland sports franchise and was/is highly regarded for his progressive thinking and business acumen. Apparently, he believed in me and my ideas. He invested in me during my second year and became a 10-percent partner in the business. During the subsequent five years he was a very silent partner. Recently, I've gotten a lot smarter and he is guiding the financial aspects and pricing strategy (as well as a lot of terrific creative ideas) for the firm.
PNC has also been a great partner for us. I consider our banker a great friend. Also, because we are a Female Business Enterprise, we are learning better how to take advantage of opportunities associated with that designation.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first full-time employee and I met in kindergarten. She is still the glue that holds everything together at the office. I'm actually really proud to say that by the end of my second year in business I had five full-time employees and four of them are still with Studiothink (the fifth has moved to Colorado).
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Live and work where you love, love where you live and work. I love Cleveland. I was raised here, my mom and dad are still here. I live next door to one of my brothers and his family and we are extremely close. It's a weird phenomenon about Cleveland. We recently put out a "Cleveology" quote contest to the public and created items from the winning quotes. One of the winners was: "Cleveland: Where all your friends have family." And it's so true. No matter where I travel, when I say I'm from Cleveland, inevitably someone says, "Oh, my (fill in the blank; aunt, cousin, best friend, etc.) lives in Cleveland! Cleveland is great." I agree.
Doing business in Cleveland is great too. We have an excellent arts community, great restaurants, buildings with character and so much happening downtown that this next decade is going to be a time of explosive growth for our city and will set a new foundation for the Cleveland of the mid- and late-21st century. For my industry in particular, there are so many smart and talented people and it's great to strategically partner in an effort to deliver the absolute best end-product for our clients.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I recently acquired a small business here that was a culture development firm (organizational development, change management, leader and team coaching and building) and merged the business in to Studiothink. The former owner of that firm is an amazing guy and is now a partner in Studiothink. We had been pitching a huge world-wide company with a major hub in Charlotte, North Carolina on culture development work and change management. We received a call at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon that they'd like to meet the following day at 1 p.m. (in person, in Charlotte) to go through our proposal and plans for next steps. We said, "Absolutely, we'll be there!" then hung up the phone and looked at each other rather stunned. Then, we just put everything in to action.
Flights were ridiculously expensive, so we rented a car, went home, threw things in a bag and were on the road within three hours. We drove all night (got a speeding ticket within the first 45 minutes); stopped at a hotel to rest from about 2-5 a.m., got up and traveled the rest of the way.
We wrote up the plan on an iPad on the way there, and arrived 20 minutes early for the meeting. We left the meeting at 3 p.m. and drove all night back and were at work the next morning to field a conference call to go over the proposal. We got the business. That was an example of doing whatever it takes, but also an example of passion that a couple of entrepreneurs harness and channel in to the confidence it takes to go in and make something like that happen.
What inspires you?
My children inspire me and drive me to be better every day. I had children at a young age and was determined to raise them believing in the values of education and empathy, humility and hard work. Somehow it seems to have stuck. My son just graduated from Miami University and will start law school in the fall, and both of my girls are entering the healthcare field -- one will be a junior at Xavier next year with plans to be a pediatric oncologist; and the other attends Duquesne University and is working on her doctorate of pharmacy degree. The fact that in some ways we grew up together -- and they are far more confident in themselves and their potential that I ever was or will be -- is truly inspiring and makes me want to be a better person every day.
I am also inspired by an incredibly smart, talented and strong group of women that through business and various connections, I've been fortunate enough to have forged personal friendships with. We encourage each other, support each other, learn from each other and these women each have amazing stories. Within the last month, I traveled to Utah with two of the women from this circle of friends. During the trip challenged ourselves to climb to the highest point in Xion National Park. We encouraged each other all the way up and resolved that quitting was not an option -- no matter how long it took. This is really the kind of attitude and support we offer to each other in our daily lives. I am humbled by and grateful for my family and friends.