Ten Years of Relish

A Conversation About How it All Began

As we celebrate our clients, our staff and the work we’ve created over the last ten years, it seemed appropriate to give Relish Marketing president and founder Pam Willoughby, along with original team members, Corey-Jan Albert and Paul Marquardt, the opportunity to reflect on our beginnings, our marketing philosophy and agency values.

Q:Pam, when you founded Relish, you said that you wanted the opportunity to start an agency that did it “right.” What problems were you looking to solve?

Pam: Coming off of experiences working with and for agencies I felt there was a better way to structure a client-agency relationship that could be more beneficial and productive as well as more enjoyable.

The traditional client-agency relationship was often centered on a discrete project or specific opportunity. I believed that if we approached it from the standpoint of a strategic, long-term relationship, we would provide more value and be better stewards of our clients’ budgets.

There was also the matter of what kind of team we wanted to create. It had to be relationship focused and based on the understanding that every team member has a unique set of qualities, experiences and expertise to offer. That collegial, collaborative relationship was essential in the beginning and remains essential to this day.

Q: CJ and Paul – what thoughts went through your minds when Pam said, “I want to start an agency, will you join me?”

CJ: I’m sure my first thought was probably, “OMG, yes.” I had known both Pam and Paul for years, and we all knew that we had complimentary skill sets, even though we were all doing different kinds of marketing work. We had suspected it would be great fun to work together, and it has been the most exciting thing in the world to discover we were right.

Paul: I have always had tremendous respect for Pam’s work ethic and intelligence, but I don’t think I knew how good she was at strategy and attracting great clients until we started working together. That has helped me turn my focus to developing strong designs to compliment the strategy.

Q: Pam, at what point did you realize that the agency was outgrowing your basement office?

Pam: When I started Relish, I really thought it was just going to be me working as a solo practitioner providing marketing strategy consulting to a small number of clients working out of my basement, tripping over the laundry baskets and the cats. But it quickly became clear that I could not do this on my own.

Yes, I could provide the strategy piece, but I couldn’t do what Corey-Jan and Paul do. Then, as we gained more and bigger clients, I realized that it couldn’t be just the Pam, Paul and Corey-Jan show anymore.

That’s where Ryan Fitzpatrick came in as our production manager, and he turned out to be so much more. He has since taken steps to grow his own career, but he was integral to growing Relish and turning this collection of individuals into a true team and company.

Paul: And don’t forget the time when you met with a big new client at their office and they said, “Next time we should meet at your office.” You had been looking at the space we have now but hadn’t signed the lease. Then, practically overnight we made it look like we had been here for weeks.

CJ: It was like the movie, “The Sting.”

Pam: That really was a team effort. The client knew I was on the cusp of making a commitment to growth, and I think he saw himself as giving us a motivating push in that direction. Even so, they were expecting boxes and disarray – but instead, we were ready to get to work. We solidified that business relationship – and many more since.

Q: What has surprised you the most about the last 10 years?

Pam: I think it’s the longevity and the reception that we have gotten in the marketplace. In the beginning, I felt like this was something that we could do for seven or eight years and then we’d all move on to whatever is next. Then seven, eight, nine and now 10 years went by, and it still feels like this is where I want to be and what I want to be doing.

Paul: For me, the surprise is just how quickly it has gone. I’ve been fortunate to work in some really great places, and Relish has definitely been the best, because of the team mentality and working with some great designers. When Michael came on board as Creative Director, he reminded me of what it was like to really look at a design from a critical standpoint – to always look for ways to make it better. And then, Katerina with her eye for color and vibrancy. Everyone pushes me to be a little better and that helps all of us.

CJ:  If anything has surprised me, it’s how organically we have created this super healthy culture. I mean think about it: we have Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials – even a GenZ intern. We have diversity in terms of background, where we come from, how we live and what stage of life we are in. That adds a lot of strength. And no matter how we’ve grown, changed, pulled back, expanded, we’ve remained true to the core mission and values we’ve had from the start. I don’t know that I have ever worked anywhere that has been able to stay that healthy as its grown. It’s delightful.