In Conversation with Amy Ogden of The Collective
Describe your business in a few words?
My company is called The Collective. I’m a matchmaker between companies and agencies. I solve the problem of companies spending weeks blindly searching for agencies in digital marketing, PR, social media, branding, creative and more. At no cost (key differentiator), companies work with me to save time, “skip the line” and are expertly matched with highly vetted, best-in-class agencies that deliver.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I had the space to take a breath and clear my head. I was sitting alone in my NYC apartment with an 8-week-old puppy and the gift of perspective. I felt like we were experiencing a crack in the universe and if there was ever a time to take a leap in life, this was it. I had an idea for a business model that just made sense to me and I decided to give it a shot. The beginning of the pandemic felt so surreal that I remember thinking things couldn’t possibly get any worse, so why not take this risk? To be really honest, without the pandemic and the universal shakeup we all experienced, I don’t know if I would have had this idea or had the courage to try it. I’m so glad I did – it has surpassed my wildest expectations. Even I didn’t dream a dream this big.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I was part of the leadership team at a PR and social media agency and was responsible for business development and branding. I was at that agency for 9 years. Before that, I was at another marketing agency for 10 years. My agency background gives me a unique lens when I’m matching clients with agencies. I know what a good client acts like and I also know what a healthy agency feels like.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not at all. In fact, many people have asked me over the years if I would ever start my own thing and I consistently said no. I’ve always loved having a senior level role at a respected company. The only reason I started The Collective was because the business model made so much sense and I just knew that I was the right person to create it. I’m so happy I did.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I used LinkedIn strategically through joining in conversations and maintaining relationships. One thing I firmly believe in is the magic of connections. I will talk to anybody because you just never know where that call could lead and I truly love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I say no in a lot of other areas to protect my energy (consulting work, joining groups and boards, hosting webinars, etc). I reinvest every moment I have into The Collective. My clients and agency partners get the very best of me every day. I really believe that good work is the best marketing tool you can have. I focus on good work.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I launched The Collective on July 7, 2020. Starting a company alone, in a New York apartment (spoiler alert: they’re small), during a pandemic was very unceremonious. I wish I had asked for more support and encouragement. Those early months were exciting, but also really lonely. I also fully acknowledge that we were (and still are) in the middle of this horrible pandemic and people had much more important things to focus on than championing me and my company, but I do wish I had asked for more help.
The other mistake I’ve made is a limiting belief I’ve told myself for years. The story was, “I could never be in a fully commissionable job on a single income.” I decided years ago that I needed the stability of a salary and couldn’t be in a risky role that was based on commission. I was wrong.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m most proud of what I did in the years leading up to launching The Collective. For a few years before launch, I got my personal finances in really good shape and lived below my means while I saved and invested a percentage of my income. I had no idea I would launch a company one day and didn’t know what I was saving for, but I trusted that I would be grateful for that money when the time came. If I didn’t have the financial cushion of my savings and investments, I couldn’t have started my company because I needed to be able to live with no income for several months. I’ve always said money in the bank is equal to freedom and options (my online savings account is actually named “Freedom and Options” as a daily reminder of this). I’m a huge believer in financial freedom and smart financial management.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
From my years of experience at companies with employees, my best advice is to take your time with interviews and not rush the process. Hiring someone is a commitment that will hopefully last for many years. I’m surprised how quickly some companies extend a job offer without really getting to know the hire and, honestly, how many people accept jobs without asking more questions.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I started my company mid-pandemic, so it’s all I know. I do think that if I’d started this before the pandemic, it may not have been accepted as quickly by clients or agencies. During this time, brands need expert agency partners to keep their growth on track and agencies are more open than ever to working with a partner like me. Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when the pandemic is in the rear view, because this really is all I know as an entrepreneur. Instead of future-tripping, I’ve tried to focus on each day and not get too far ahead of myself. I tell myself each day to do my very best work and that when good days stack on top of more good days, you have a good life.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I expect to stay true to my business model. I expect to keep expanding my agency partners – I’m always on the hunt for agencies that do world-class work. And I’ll have a couple of people working with me, expanding the mission of The Collective.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
You’re not as in control of your life as you think you are.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I’d known how fun it would be. It’s really, really fun to create something from scratch. That’s been a sweet surprise.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Launching a company alone in a tiny NYC apartment will keep you grounded. I took almost all of my calls sitting on the floor with my computer on my coffee table (see photo) because I didn’t have a kitchen table or desk. I just moved to Nashville in March 2021. NYC was a dream, but I needed to be in a space that’s more expansive in order to reach my vision for this company (and to get off the floor, literally).
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I’ve had very little work/life balance since starting my company. I’m doing this interview at 11 pm if that tells you anything. It’s also been a pandemic, so I just don’t have much else to do other than work. Balance is a goal for 2021. I need to get my wellness and personal life back on track.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
How much time do you have? I’ve worked on a rabbit farm, pulled chickens (don’t ask), cleaned commercial corn production machinery…. I lived in a small country town during high school so I had a lot of very strange jobs.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
I keep a fresh, hand-written list of tasks next to my computer and stay focused on what needs to get done each day. I don’t get distracted by household tasks during the day – I act like I’m at an office even when I’m in my kitchen working from the counter. I eat healthy food all day long so my brain is awake, focused and strong.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means believing in myself and the vision I have for my life. It means championing others who are building their dreams. It means setting the stage for those who dream one day of creating something from nothing and showing them what’s possible.