Payge started her agency at just 22 years old, now 4 years later the agency has more than doubled the size, hit 1.9 million in sales last year, and now has 12 employees.

Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?

My personal agency background comes from the UX design and web design side. In the early parts of my career, I worked for an agency doing UX design, specifically for larger, corporate accounts. Though my heart was not always attached to the large projects in the same way it was to the smaller brands, I gained invaluable experience and expertise in analyzing user data and translating that into functional design elements. Towards the later part of my career before opening my own agency, I worked as a web director – this involved overseeing the creative and technical elements of the website design and development process.

Today, in my role at Wink, I fill two (main) positions (along with the 400 other mini-roles that any business owner fills):

In the first subset of my role, I oversee the creative direction of different programs within the studio. I advise on the design and development techniques used, and give overarching performance feedback. 

In the second subset of my role, I oversee the client acquisition and management process. Much of this is developing program contracts, engaging with clients and prospective clients, managing scopes of work, and forecasting for upcoming projects.

Q: What motivated you to get started with Wink Digital?

I started Wink when I saw that there was a major hole in the market. When a client engages with an agency, especially for websites, they usually get one of two things: 

  1. A templated site that was semi-customizable to them, but that still doesn’t feel exactly right. The benefit, though, is that they can, at least, make their own changes. -OR- 
  2. A beautiful custom site that fits their brand like a glove, but doesn’t give the client any autonomy to manage their own content.

Wink, for me, is the brainchild of this gap in the market. I wanted to create and utilize technology where our clients could get the best of both: a stunning custom website -AND- autonomy to manage their own website once it is set live. This hole in the market is (hopefully) closing, largely due to our work. 

Since then, Wink Digital has transformed into a full-scale marketing agency that supports this mission and these needs across all our different services and verticals.

Payge H. Kerman

Q: How have you attracted customers and grown Wink Digital?

I have grown Wink Digital by implementing a few strategies:

  1. In-person networking. Attending networking events, workshops, conferences, galas, and more. Developing genuine relationships and connections is unbeatable by any other marketing technique. My personal favorite of these is exhibiting at and attending conferences. Being able to engage with your target demographic yields higher quality prospects that meet your sales standards.  
  2. Cold emails. Say what you will, but these WORK! Yes, it’s a numbers game, but it’s also a quality game. Spammy cold emails are OUT, and engaging, trustworthy cold emails are IN.
  3. SEO. In a market that’s as highly saturated and competitive as Portland, OR is for marketing agencies, we have had to get creative with our SEO. We focus on keywords that are less-searched, but indicate more possibilities of purchase.

Though there are infinite techniques we’ve employed to grow our business, we have seen the most sweeping success with these three.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

With full transparency and dedication to authenticity, I say this: we have no business model. Our model is to continue to innovate, iterate, and develop meaningful relationships with our clients. The best model we have is: do great work, have fun while doing it, and make people happy. This is how we’ve grown our revenue. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we operate in business how we would like a company to work with us– with humor, kindness, sass, and high-quality deliverables.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

If you had asked me this question before COVID-19, I would have given an entirely different answer. I would have probably mentioned revenue goals, team size, and more. Right now, my goals are:

  1. Prepare financially for situations we can’t control. This involves growing our team sustainably, developing forecasting documents and savings goals, safety nets.
  2. Expand our breadth of work, while ensuring the quality doesn’t suffer. When you expand services, there is often a “wobbly” effect that occurs: a period of time where your competency level does not meet your expectations, largely because your processes weren’t outlined well enough. My goal is to scale so efficiently that this “wobble” time disappears.
  3. Continue fostering a company culture that values people over profit. We are a business and we do need money to survive, but things like mental health, time with family and friends, a fun and energizing workplace, and more, help our team understand that they are not just tools for our profit, they are essential figures of growth in a way that supports both their lifestyle and our goals.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?

As someone young in business, funding has always been a major challenge. For 4 years, we remained unfunded by any external sources, largely because we had very minimal personal credit history, and the credit history we did have was impacted by choices we made when we were 20 years old. We continue to experience setbacks due to client payment cycles, but as we show more reliability in our payments on loans and credit cards, it becomes increasingly easy.

Q: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Absolutely! I cannot stress enough the value of community. Finding like minded business owners who are operating companies similar in size and structure has been instrumental to both personal and professional success.

Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?

Don’t. Just kidding! ;) 

I would advise female founders to do everything possible to not burn yourself, or your team, out. Remember to build in days off, vacations, dinners with friends, and time to sleep. I still sometimes forget how critical these things are to success, but I’m reminded every day that I feel burnt out by my choices early on, when I first started Wink Digital. Make sure to do something every day that fills your metaphorical “love bucket”, both professionally and personally. And most importantly, leave work outside the bedroom. Get a good night sleep, away from your emails, every night. 

With all that said, when push comes to shove, be prepared to drop everything for what you're building, for sleepless nights, for inevitable burnout, and for pushing yourself when you want to quit. Do your best to surround yourself with people who can support you through that.