Established in 2000, our current featured sponsor, KolbeCo Marketing, was started by club member Scott Kolbe and his wife Lauren. From their offices in Dardenne Prairie, their team of seven storytellers helps clients big and small with their communications and public relations needs. We arranged a brief Q&A with Scott to find out a little more about KolbeCo.
Q: What does it mean to be a full-service marketing and PR firm?
SK: KolbeCo develops a communications platform for clients. Often times the website is the hub of communications. Then we build out all the tactics and help clients deliver that message. Often times it is public relations, social media, video or graphic design work.
Q: What are the unique challenges for a small marketing firm like KolbeCo?
SK: The biggest challenge is tactics keep changing. So keeping our team up to speed on different approaches is a big deal.
Q: What are the advantages of a small marketing firm over a larger firm?
SK: A small firm tends to be more nimble and more affordable. You have to find the right firm for your organization. Some large companies will request 4 people from an agency in a meeting. That would be half of our team.
Q: What are KolbeCo’s core company values?
SK: Core Values: Straightforwardness, Honest, Respect, Disclosure, Receptivity, Fulfilling Commitments, Seeking Excellence & Recognition
Q: How important is a diverse client base?
SK: When the construction boom ended, 50% of our revenue was construction oriented firms. That is 15% today. The diversity allows us to keep our team busy and challenged.
Q: How diverse is your client base in terms of the various industries represented and the client’s company size?
SK: We have done work for Mercy which is a large regional healthcare provider to startups in St. Louis and San Francisco. So a company of 3 people to 20,000 people.
Q: Is there one particular industry which you might consider a specialty for KolbeCo or one where you’ve had a lot of success?
SK: We seem to do well with unique products in niche industries. Our biggest success story is a company called Antennas Direct, that make TV antennas. They have made the INC5000 list 7 years in a row.
Q: What % is made up of locally based clients?
SK: Our clients are 75% local. It is just easier most of the time to work with local companies.
Q: How do you celebrate the various awards and accolades KolbeCo has received along the way?
SK: We probably could celebrate a bit more. In general we tend to do stuff as a group. We do some runs together.
Q: You have as many four-legged companions at your office as you do storytellers. Tell us how and why your workplace was once named the Best Workplace for Dogs?
SK: We have as many as seven dogs in the workplace. The dog friendly office really came from our art director worked for an agency in Clayton and she lives in the South City. In order to convince her to work at KolbeCo she asked if she could bring her dog to the office. That is what started our dog friendly office. Then we jokingly made a board of dogrectors as the number of animals grew in the office. Today it has become a part of the culture. That later became a donation drive for animals. So it has grown over time.
Q: That donation drive, Frills for Furbabies, has been quite successful. Tell us more about it.
SK: Erin our Art Director who designed the Tri Club Site is in charge of the drive. We have gathered about $30,000 in cash, goods and donations from local businesses. We are big on local businesses. We were able to supply Stray Rescue for over 6 months last year.
Q: Last year was the inaugural Honduran Street Party Run, take us through the genesis of the event, how you became involved in the event and what your responsibilities were from event creation to race day?
SK: A client of ours invited me to participate in a golf tournament a few years ago. I told him that I really don’t play golf and asked him if he would be open to a run. He said he knew nothing about a run. I ran through how it worked and that I would work with Big River. I ran some projections and we decided to go for it. My wife Lauren helped theme it toward Honduras because the charity serves kids on a mountain in Honduras. Suddenly I was a race director and KolbeCo was organizing a run. We were thrilled to be named one of the best new runs. To follow the Stan Span Run and Katy 82 was some tough competition. I can tell you we have great sponsors and club members that helped make it possible.
Q: Tell us the story about the participant who came from Australia?
SK: The winner last year for our inaugural 10k run was a guy named Paul McClarnon from Sydney Australia. He ran a 5:39 pace. He was on a layover in St. Louis and registered for our race and then went back to the airport. Goes to show you always have time for a race! Always pack your racing flats!
Q: The Street Party Run isn’t your only link to a local endurance event, talk about your involvement with MO Cowbell, UnCorked Katy Trail Relay and other upcoming events.
SK: The success of our initial race, 340 runners with less than 2 months of registration got us some attention. Jeremy Nulik on our team is an Ultra Runner so he had experience with that type of event. The folks at MO Cowbell asked us to help them put together Uncorked last year. After our initial year the race evolved in 2015. With that we have done some work for MO Cowbell as well. This past year we were brought on to help the folks grow the run in 2015. As of now the race is expected to grow 70%. With that we have been asked to brand a new run called the Hollywood Dash, which is a timed 1 mile run this summer and we are involved the Superhero Dash and the Trails for Tails run.
Q: How often does an idea spark during a long run, long ride, or swim workout or are those times to zone-out and not think about work?
SK: Usually workouts are not when I am thinking about client work. It is a nice time to clear my head. What I have found is the approach I take to triathlon is the same approach I use for business goals.
Q: What are some other sources of creative inspiration for you and your staff?
SK: We are usually inspired by others positive energy and creativity, to be creative you have to be with every idea for at least 5 minutes to either improve upon it or dismiss it. Negativity in a creative environment usually doesn’t work.
Q: The Ironman World Championships in Kona is often described as the closest thing triathlon has to a Super Bowl. Were there any ads during the Kona broadcast that caught your eye?
SK: I have worked on a couple projects with Yurbuds, so anytime I see their ads I am happy to see their success. They since have been acquired. I am always intrigued by Timex and how they have a small percentage of the triathlon watch market compared to Garmin yet they are closely aligned with Ironman brand.
Q: Speaking of the Super Bowl, what did you think of Subway’s Tough Dodger commercial?
SK: I though they did a great job playing up the stereotype of triathlon. After I completed my first triathlon, most people I shared the information with think you have completed an Ironman.
Q: Are there any other triathlon or endurance sports related products or brands that you would single out for having a notable or unique marketing campaign?
SK: I am really intrigued by the running shoe segment. Brooks has gotten back to their roots. When I ran in Junior High and High School, I always ran in Nike Pegasus shoes. That model still exists today. Hoka, Rudy and Newton are brands that intrigue me. I am a brand ambassador for The North Face, that has been fun to experience working with their brand and testing products.
Q: In your opinion, what is the single biggest difference in the marketing industry from your first year in business (2000) to the present day, just starting your 16th yr (2015)?
SK: The biggest difference today is that anyone can share a story and it can get traction. 15 years ago it required mainstream media to get attention for your brand. Today if you can make a little noise, you may just get noticed. Red Bull is a brand that has basically created their own print publication and online content that is top quality.
Q: How much of an impact has social media had on the industry?
SK: Social media has been the most exciting thing to happen in marketing over the last 5 years. Social media is great for getting your message out for smaller and large companies.
Q: Has it become more difficult to keep customers engaged during this digital age with the rapid growth of mobile devices?
SK: People expect feedback much more quickly. People reach out in so many directions from text, email, social media… I have to turn off when I train.
Thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer these questions. If any club member is interested in finding out if starting their own business makes sense for them, Scott is offering a free consultation for an evaluation. Contact Scott via email at