Meet Clara and Erica, the digital marketing extraordinaires and kick-ass quarterlette entrepreneurs behind ClearHart Digital. A year ago they left their day jobs to focus on ClearHart and since then they’ve tackled projects for clients from the US government to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. We hope you enjoy getting to know these amazing quarterlettes as much as we did!
Quarterlette: Give us a bit of background on yourselves, your careers, where you went to school, where you grew up, etc.
ClearHart: ClearHart traces its roots to our undergrad days. We met at Boston College and bonded over an unforgettable performance by the men’s Step team. Erica cut her entrepreneurial teeth as a Marketing major, starting LibbysList – a CraigsList for Colleges that spread to 40% of the campus in 6 months. Clara was busy leading an improv group and majoring in English. Clara is an Argentine/Peruvian writer, Star Wars enthusiast and equestrian. Erica is a skier, a traveler, an efficiency expert and bonafide tech nerd from outside of Philadelphia.
Qlette: What interested you about working in the advertising field?
CH: We were both drawn to advertising because of the opportunity for creation and the promise of the business of ideas (that and Clara thought it was the closest thing to professional improv, without waiting tables). Erica worked as a Digital Strategist on Pernod Ricard and Clara worked as a Copywriter on L’Oreal at different big NYC agencies.
Qlette: What was the moment when you decided to start your own business?
CH: After 4.5 years of getting frustrated with the traditional agency model, we decided now was the time to be cowboys (girls?) and start something on our own. ClearHart Digital’s first project was creating a social media strategy for the US Embassy in Guatemala (something we picked up thanks to some skillful networking). We proposed that, in lieu of posting dense policy articles on their FB page, we would leverage Facebook as a way to interact with and influence the future leaders of a developing country (keep in mind this was back in early 2010, so Facebook had yet to gain much clout in the public arena). Our recommendation somehow found its way into the hands of Hillary Clinton’s Senior Economic Advisor for the Western Hemisphere…who loved it! When we started fielding phone calls from the State Department, asking for permission to implement our strategy as best practices across all US Embassies, we knew we were onto something and had the goods to take our own thing seriously.
Qlette: How do you feel about being two women trying to charge the tech space?
CH: The fact that we’re both big tech nerds definitely helps. It’s such a thrilling industry that no one’s in unless they have a passion for creating, a drive to make something new–and that breeds a certain degree of open-mindedness. Whatever assumptions people may make about us because we’re two young ladies goes out the window as soon as we start talking and that same drive becomes apparent. There’s something very refreshing about the tech community, that people know that no one gets anywhere on their own. While it’s a competitive industry, ClearHart has found that it’s one where people are always willing to help each other out.
Qlette: What did you want to be when you were growing up? What do you want to be when you grow up?
- Erica: Marine Biologist. Entrepreneur.
- Clara: Artist. Han Solo.
Qlette: What was it like packing up, leaving cushy jobs in NYC and heading south to set up shop in Peru?
CH: Not as crazy as it sounds! We’re both very adventurous and have been traveling most of our lives, so picking up and moving ClearHart Digital HQ to a new city where Clara had family wasn’t *that* hard. We have such great friends in NY and between Skype, FaceTime, and GChat, sometimes it felt like we never even left.
Qlette: What kind of clients did you work with there?
CH: ClearHart’s main client in Peru is the Institute for Liberty and Democracy – a think tank that focuses on the formalization of property rights for the poor. We continue to work with them to discover ways to leverage digital and social to better disseminate their cutting edge solutions to world problems. What we’re working on with them now is really exciting. We can’t really divulge too much but suffice it to say it’s pretty groundbreaking – world peace-type stuff. We also orchestrated the bulk of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic’s media partnerships from Lima (which made for some interesting conference calls!).
Qlette: For Quarterlettes who are looking to start their own company, tell us about the thought process in deciding to go off on your own. Describe the emotions you experienced when deciding to leave your old job to pursue working for yourselves.
CH: This is not a decision to be taken lightly, so patience is key and so is a support/advisory network. We consulted with friends and family and made sure we had their support before pulling the trigger. There were a lot of moments in the year and a half of moonlighting leading up to “the leap” when we just wanted to march into our respective boss’s offices and quit our day jobs outright. Thankfully our CFO kept a level head and reminded us of the bigger picture, and not to leap before we were ready. From an emotional standpoint, you have to ask yourself if feeling frustrated with a flawed system is more intolerable than the feeling of unpredictability that comes with breaking the mold. How willing are you to be without a routine? How comfortable are you with being the key decision maker? You have to be able to look at (inevitable) uncertainty as just a widening of possibilities. When self-doubt creeps in, you have to be able to push it aside and believe wholeheartedly in yourself.
Qlette: What is the most fun part about running your own business? What are the challenges?
- It’s extremely empowering to see your ideas come to life. To really see them through from concept to creation, working on every step. To know that every action you take is moving something forward–it’s true ownership, and it’s the best.
- A challenge of course is time definitely equals money. If we aren’t putting in the time, there’s no new revenue coming through the door (it’s a services business after all!). You have to be comfortable with that degree of responsibility, knowing that if you don’t do something, no one will.
Qlette: Who is your dream client? What would you promise them? What could you give them that no one else could?
CH: At the moment? Our dream client would want to do something awesome with 3D printing. Our whole marketing ethos revolves around using cutting edge technology for real-world use, and 3-D printing is something we’ve been super eager to play with. We specialize in that sort of first-to-market thing, similar to how we brought Near Field Communications (NFC, the same technology that’s used in Google Wallet) to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. We implemented NFC in two ways it had never been used before–one to create the ultimate digital goodie bag for opening night Gala attendees, complete with Social tie-ins. We also integrated NFC with fashion, by working with Bonobos to outfit 8 influencers with NFC readers embedded in their lapels so anyone could “Like” their outfits. Future stuff!
Qlette: What’s next?
CH: Well, having hit our 1 year, ClearHart is having sweatshirts made! More importantly, we’re undergoing some substantial expansion to keep up with ClearHart’s increased client demand. We’re building a network of like-minded, complementary service agencies, allowing us to expand without losing our focus on what we do best. We’ve also got a few non-client projects launching soon including SentFromMy.Com: an email signature generator. That and a lot of other really exciting projects on the horizon we can’t wait to unleash…