If establishing a successful business partnership is anything like establishing a successful marriage then Creative Coalition is destined to thrive. Within five minutes of meeting Creative Coalition founders Sara Spencer and April Maglothin, you can tell they’re meant to be together. It’s in the volley of their conversation; the way they finish each other’s sentences and share each other’s stories.
The partners formally joined forces a year ago to deliver innovative marketing and creative solutions to the Nashville business community, but they’ve been making waves together in Nashville much longer than that.
They’re dedicated to each other, their customers and to advancing the idea that women can forge their own paths to success in business. They back their values with high energy and commitment. In part, as Creative Directors for Mod.
Here’s what they had to say about where they are, what they believe and what they think is possible.
How Did you Find Nashville? Each Other?
Sara: I came to Nashville eleven years ago, a year after college graduation. I didn’t have a job or a place to live but was looking for a chance to explore a new city, make new friends and just "get outta dodge" after spending the first 22 years of my life in the cold Michigan weather. I was using the computers at Belmont to search for jobs when I thought, ‘Hey. Maybe they have an opening here.” And it just so happened that the perfect position for a production artist was available at the college. So, I applied.
April: I was the hiring manager at the time. We had so many applicants for that job. But, she was the only person who applied with a short, succinct cover letter that spoke directly to her qualifications. When she interviewed, we immediately clicked and she fit perfectly into the culture.
Sara: It was like it was meant to be. I remember April walking down the hall to meet me. I remember what she was wearing. I knew immediately I was going to like this person. We’ve been friends ever since.
HOW DID YOU BECOME BUSINESS OWNERS?
April: For me the decision was as much about doing the right thing for my family as it was about doing my own thing. I was starting to consider what was next for me after Belmont and had begun building a freelance clientele. Then, my newborn started experiencing health issues and I was constantly taking time off. At one point, I had burned through my vacation and sick leave. But not being there for my daughter was not an option. I realized something had to change. So, I decided it was time to make the leap to freelancing full time. I left Belmont exactly a month before her first birthday. It was one of the hardest (and best) decisions I’ve ever made. It’s been three years now & I don’t regret it for a second.
Sara: When April left Belmont, I took her position as Creative Director. At the time, our department was facing an ever increasing workload that was taxing our already limited resources and the stress was starting to impact my health. It got to the point where my family told me I needed to do something. I didn’t have as stable a freelance network as April, but about a year after she left, I resigned and started freelancing, too.
It was terrifying at first, but over the course of a year I physically and emotionally healed from the stress of my corporate job and started to regain my confidence. The more I worked on my business and the more I collaborated with April, the more I thought, ‘Hey, this is something I can do and it’s something I do well.’
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
April: Ahh! The unicorn of work life balance. I’m not sure it can ever truly be a reality. But I do know that it’s a lot easier to manage a sick child when you have control over your time. You feel so much better about yourself when you know you can take the time to care for your child during the day or do fun things like take her to dance class and still get work done after her bedtime. It’s not easy, it’s exhausting at times, but it’s in my control. We hope to build a company where that flexibility is valued for everyone.
Sara: Knowing your core values and building your life around them are key whether you’re running your own business or you’re in a partnership, like us. Just like a good married couple, we have the same core values and the same work ethic. Each week, we sit down and iCal out every piece of work we have. We trust each other to do what’s needed to get the work done. But we’re also flexible enough that we can swap tasks if one of us needs time outside of work. It’s great to have someone to depend on.
WHAT TIPS CAN YOU OFFER ABOUT SUCCESSFULLY ADVANCING YOUR CAREER?
April: Never stop developing your soft skills & be nice to everyone. When I was teaching Design Administration at Belmont my students got tired of me reminding them to find a way to be truthful and confident without arrogance. There’s a fine line and in the creative world we live in, the competition is fierce. That sometimes creates an atmosphere of competition where it should be about connection. If we’re not the best at something, we own it & bring in someone who is the best. Even if it’s a competitor. That ultimately gains your client’s trust that you’ll always do what’s best for them.
HOW DO YOU SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE THE DAY-TO-DAY IN YOUR PARTNERSHIP?
Sara: Our partnership works because we’re both always striving for a healthy work life balance. We fiercely protect each others' time and in return, have gained the support that we didn’t feel in our previous jobs.
If we don’t agree, then it’s usually the one who’s most passionate who wins out. You have to be willing to let go sometimes.
April: What I’ve learned is that it’s critical that both parties have the same value set and it’s so important to keep things in perspective. We like to say, “We’re not fighting fires; or saving lives.” So we can let it go to the person who has the most passion for their opinion as long as the numbers work.
OUTSIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO OR SEE?
April: Spending time with my daughter, husband, and yellow lab Bama.
Working on my greeting card line, pop-in-greetings.
Camping - Center Hill lake is one of our favorite quick getaways.
Sara: Backpacking and hiking, running & yoga
Spending as much time as possible with my boyfriend, friends and traveling to visit family.
Creative Coalition is a team of experienced creative professionals partnering to elevate your brand through marketing and design. They love listening to your challenges and learning your story to extend your capabilities and solve your creative challenges. They love consistently and affordably delivering success to both our clients and our team through our focus on holistic thinking. They get the big picture strategy and we get the minutia. You get reusable systems and a fun, reliable team at your side. For more information, visit us at creativecoalition.co.
Tammy Hart is a strategic marketing consultant specializing in content development for small business growth.She enjoys exploring new ideas, sharing adventures and finding out what makes each person unique. In her spare time she can be found at a football game or a fashion show.