Rebecca Nunez of The MRN Agency on embracing your seat at the table
Describe your business in a few words:
With over a decade and a half of experience working in Executive roles at the ‘Big 3’ marketing agencies in LA, launching numerous multimillion-dollar global & national campaigns and activations, I wanted to do things a little different, my way, my mode which is where modeRN was originally born, now called The MRN Agency.
There is this polaroid photo of my parents on the steps of the LA convention center when they passed their US citizenship test – proudly holding their certificate – my dad wearing a suit he probably spent his entire paycheck on and my mom all dolled up with bell bottoms and a scarf around her neck because she had seen that as “American women’s fashion” on TV. They looked so full of hope, like they had just gotten their golden ticket into a life they only dreamt about. Like they just couldn’t wait to get started.
As a female minority, I dreamt of entrepreneurship but was scared of failure. For the longest time, I conflated my worth ethic with my integrity and thought that was my worth. I was only as valuable as the seat I never really had and the voice I never really used. “Be grateful for this opportunity Rebecca” …eventually turned into “be quiet or you’ll lose it.”
And while I always had this dream of entrepreneurship, this belief of doing things differently… of owning my own agency – I always stopped right there. It was just a dream.
Then, COVID-19 hit and my role was eliminated – when you have more time to sleep, dreams get louder. In May 2020, The MRN Agency began from my living table. Then in December 2020, both my parents contracted the virus and as millions of families know, COVID is unpredictable & relentless. As my parents recovered, my sister got sick and 72 hours later she was gone. Out of grief, I wanted to give up – but thinking back to that polaroid of my parents, I was reminded that through sacrifice, resilience is born.
I channeled my grief into building a company that would enable change and tell a story that’d hopefully inspire. Today, I’m proud to have beat the 92% fail rate for female-founders within one year, without any funding. I’ve opened offices locally and internationally and hired a full-time staff (60% female+85% multicultural).
The MRN Agency is an experiential marketing agency that ideates and executes both B2B and B2C initiatives led by data-driven strategy. Our main mission is to replace random acts of marketing with data-driven decisions. Our core client base is prominently in the tech and wireless industry (inter)nationally. Our agency services include data insights, go-to-market plan development, creative services, production, execution, and ROI analysis. We specialize in grassroots/field marketing, experiential and live event activations, premium virtual experiences, executive visibility, and sponsorship management. The MRN Agency is also the AOR (agency of record) for a major US wireless company and their efforts to break into Mexico, also managing their sports & entertainment sponsorship portfolio – beating out some of those Hollywood elite agencies. Our agency has also helped design and build the first Automated Retail Experience in the EU. We are not just a marketing agency, we are a diverse collective of experiences, insights and creativity that challenge the status quo who believe in “always coming from a place of possibility.” We differentiate ourselves by being anchored by the motto of ‘Thinking like Marketers and Acting like Partners’.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I always knew one day I would own my own agency. Funny enough, when I interviewed at one of these ‘Big 3’ agencies, I was asked by the owner of the company ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years’? I responded, ‘Being in your seat’.
I am still learning every day, from all the different aspects, not only the business and the industry, but mostly being a business owner. I knew I always wanted to do things a little differently and work by my belief system of being an extension to your client, instead of just servicing your client. This is something I never saw across boutique or large agencies, it always felt as though the agency worked in a silo from the client, whereas my belief system is that if I’m an extension to them then you become irreplaceable. Then it doesn’t matter whether there is turnover or leadership change, wherever that person goes, they will take you with them. My loyalty is to the client, not the brand.
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?
This is interesting because I began with a fear of failing publicly. I did nothing to spread the word, which in hindsight is one of my biggest learnings. I was working behind the scenes and I didn’t even feel comfortable enough to put CEO as my signature on my work e-mails, so I would write VP of Brand Strategy because I felt like no one would buy it that I was now a CEO.
However, once I got over this fear, I began reaching out to my connections to create some visibility for myself and my agency. I began going on a couple of podcasts, allowing me to practice my capabilities and allowing me to create a narrative and story about who our agency is, what our goals and services are and what we stand for. After that, we built the LinkedIn Page, website, social media, etc.
From this, I learned that if you’re going to do it, then go full in, because although I was full in, I was held back by my fears and insecurities; it took about 6 months before I even did some self-promotion. This is one of the reasons I’m so excited about the Entreprenista League is because I would love to get a better understanding on how to market myself. I’m one of those who people who if they cannot do, teach; I can excellently market anyone else, but not myself.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Owning an agency that enables true diversity & inclusion & equity. The fact that over 70% of my employees are either females or people of color is very important to me. When we take a team photo and I see different ethnicities, countries, languages that’s what I’m most proud of because I feel like my employees are a representation of who our clients are.
Recently, we also participated in the 2021 Creative Muse Awards where there were 4876 entries, and my agency won 18 awards across multiple different categories for our campaigns and virtual events. To have been able to accomplish this in such a short period of time is what keeps me motivated to keep growing and working as hard as we do with my entire team.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
The best piece of advice is to not let the fear of failure and fear of failing get to you, and to remind yourself that it is a very normal and rational way of starting a business. Instead of leaning into that fear to propel me into taking bigger risks, I let it paralyze me in many ways.
Always trust the reason you have a seat at the table. If you were invited to sit there, that’s because you are respected, you have a voice to be heard, and once you embrace that you find your power. One of the most powerful tools in your toolbox, besides your degree, experience or network is your voice. Because your voice matters and your POV is important. I’ve been told too many times that I’m too aggressive and too emotional, or that I should let someone else deal with my job. For the longest time, I believed that, but deep inside I knew that I wasn’t aggressive, I was passionate, and that is the best thing you can be!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Over the coming years, we’re looking to continue conquering the international sphere with AT&T. Currently working with AT&T Mexico has allowed us to work with international vendors, clients and communities, but we’re hoping to continue venturing to other countries and regions and increase our global presence. At the same time, we want to focus on the local US Hispanic consumer, an incredibly important target group that has more than often been overlooked, and is an opportunity that we’ll get to have with one of our large scale clients; State Farm.
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
The ability to network with like-minded women across various fields, to be able to share industry insights and best practices. I’m also a fond believer that your net worth is only as valuable as your network, so I’m eager to get to know some of the other incredible Entreprenistas!