Genna Franconi is a co-founder and managing director at Trade School, an integrated content shop and full-service production studio in Atlanta. Trade School helps clients like The Home Depot, FedEx, SharkNinja, and Sweetwater Brewing Company scale their approach to content creation.
Their name is taken from the idea that trade schools are where you go to hone your craft, and content happens to be their craft.
Genna, a wife and mom to three small children (aged 6, 5 and 3), has over 15 years of social and digital marketing experience, having overseen earned and emerging media offerings for clients across retail, QSR, CPG, auto, and travel industries. She helps her clients navigate the changing landscape of social, providing strategic counsel across platforms, audience insights, content strategy, and influencer marketing campaigns that maximize investment.
Q: Tell us about your background, and what are you working on?
I’m kind of an advertising mutt because I don’t have the traditional pedigree. I started out in PR and event marketing and then lucked out by arriving very early to the social media party. I spent several years at agencies in New York that specialized in social and influencer marketing when that world was still very much the Wild West. I went from being the copywriter for Barbie’s Facebook page to running the Mattel global social team at my agency in just a few short years.
After that sprint—and getting my butt kicked consistently by NYC—I was ready to see some trees and start a family, so I moved home to Atlanta, where I joined 22squared, an integrated advertising agency. Seven years (and three children) later, I started our content shop Trade School last February.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Trade School?
I’ve always been obsessed with seeing around the corner. The winds in the advertising industry have been shifting for years with the democratization of data, personalization and changing consumer consumption habits.
About two years ago, we started to sense a real white space. The earliest signals came from one of our clients, a Fortune 50 retailer, whose sophisticated audience strategies began unlocking a proliferation of content inventory which we knew would become the new baseline for all marketers in short order.
We looked around our industry and saw plenty of heavyweights making Super Bowl commercials, but who was going to produce thousands of Pins personalized by specific audience insights and make sure they still looked beautiful?
That’s how Trade School was born. We hybridized roles, cut out layers of process, and combined strategy and “making” to accelerate content creation at scale. We apply the strategic rigor of an agency to the nimble creation process of a production house. No one else looks like us, so we’ve decided to call ourselves a “content shop” for now.
Q: You launched the agency 3 weeks before COVID hit. How have you attracted clients and grown your agency despite the pandemic?
I could rattle off a lot of cliches about how we strategically pivoted in these unprecedented times, but the truth is just that we have the grittiest team in advertising.
Our crew turned on a dime through so many hard things: they didn’t skip a beat when we transitioned to working from home; we built out an in-house production studio, developed COVID-safe protocols to get us back to shooting as soon as possible, defended our largest account in a massive review and virtually pitched (and won!) incredible new business. And our team has done all of that while navigating the immense personal adversity everyone has experienced throughout the pandemic.
The Trade School team has shown up in ways that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. As a result, we’ve been able to double in size over the past year and now have over 100 team members.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
We were literally two days away from signing the lease on our new 30,000 sq foot office and production studio when lockdown started. We watched the plans for that beautiful warehouse evaporate into thin air, but we’ve accelerated our momentum towards almost every other goal despite the blur of the past year.
Looking ahead, we want to partner with more of the world’s most sophisticated marketing teams to help them deliver on the way people connect with brands today.
We want to build a company that isn’t precious about anything but our ability to change and adapt to the way our industry evolves.
We want to grow our group of scrappy problem solvers and create a place where a diverse and dynamic team genuinely enjoys coming to work every day.
And I hope someday we need a bigger warehouse.
Q: Women still make just $0.82 for every dollar a man makes, according to reports. Can you share your thoughts on achieving pay equity?
On a macroeconomic level, I shudder to think what the pandemic has done to the decades of progress women have made as they’ve left the workforce in droves. I hope there is enough federal and corporate investment in gender parity improvements to lessen that blow, but the current landscape is both maddening and heartbreaking.
But I’m hopeful for a resilient future and committed to my contributions towards an equitable future for our team. Our leadership team is two thirds female and we annually audit our compensation plans for equity. We’re fiercely committed to creating equity in all forms at Trade School and have an incredible executive and D&I team that supports us in fulfilling that responsibility.
Q: What's your best advice for female founders who are just starting out?
When I was in my early 20s and nervous about moving to NYC, a mentor of mine said “Genna, just jump and the net will appear.” I’ve been jumping ever since and have found that the net does in fact appear, but I would add “and you will most likely get a concussion, need some stitches, and scream a ton of obscenities on the way down.”
Also— and I mean this sincerely—hire people who are smarter, better and more talented than you, and then get out of their way.