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Allison Kulage of Bare Knuckle Marketing

How did you start your business?

I started with tons of research on small business, startups, how to get funding, etc. I contacted SCORE for help and advice, and my SCORE counselor helped me get on the right track with building a business plan. He also gave me positive encouragement and some great tips on how to grow my business. The best advice he gave me, though, was to contact Candace Klein of Bad Girl Ventures.

BGV was very new at that time, and had only completed one class in which 10 women learned how to run their business and competed for a small business loan. My initial goal was to teach a class for BGV on digital marketing, but when I met Candace and she heard about my aspirations, she encouraged me to sign up for the classes to be a finalist as well. I did, I was accepted into the second class and the rest is history!

How did you come up the idea for your business?

I worked as an SEO director for another company for almost 11 years and freelanced in that field for about 8 years. During that time, I found that the most successful clients were those who had the drive and determination to work hard to earn their success. As the internet becomes more and more competitive, businesses have to fight for their visibility online, and there are no easy fixes.

I was frustrated with the other so-called SEO companies and fly-by-night businesses who would claim that "this stuff is easy" and charge a lot for very little, or charge very little for a useless service.

I was seeing a lot of success with my freelance clients, and was using a lot of the newest digital strategies, combined with the tried and true strategies, and it was working. So I decided to go out on my own and see where this would take me!

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?

I started with SCORE, which I feel is a great place for any business to start. They have great resources and advice, and can really help with all of the fundamental issues of starting a business, and my involvement with Bad Girl Ventures was another key to my success. It was so helpful, in fact, that my original goal of quitting my day job within a year(ish) and running my business full time became a reality within about two months.

American Small Business Centers (ASBC) has also been a huge factor in my success. The advisors at ASBC helped me understand my profits and loss statement, how to create an employee handbook, and how to be a good manager.

What does a typical day in your business look like?

Some days I spend all day meeting with clients to review their marketing programs and discuss strategies. Some days we meet with prospects or other businesses who we may wish to partner with and we work on building our business. And other days, I sit behind my giant monitors and get into the zone of bringing success to my clients through the variety of digital marketing strategies that we specialize in. I try to spend most of the time behind those monitors, working on client projects. It's exciting and every project is a new adventure. We even have days where we have a strategy session poolside, to promote creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

What’s next for you and your company?

We are growing fast, and with the help of our advisors at ASBC, we are handling the exponential growth well. We have implemented some guidelines and rules, in anticipation of hiring new people this year. We're also meeting and working with new strategic partners to grow our business and offer SEO and digital marketing services to other companies who offer complimentary services but do not have the ability or interest of doing the SEO or digital marketing in-house.

Interview by Robin Donovan

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