Hey! Nice meeting you. | Episode 000

I just wanted to take a shot at introducing myself as a small business owner, a marketer, and a person who’s absolutely wild about both of those topics.

I believe small businesses like yours deserve big strategy. Let’s get to it.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Amy Morales. I am currently the Marketing Director and Owner of Kapeesh Marketing, LLC. I am also on the board or Kapeesh Cares, Inc, our non-profit that supports small business owners and encourages entrepreneurship. Not only do I love doing what I do, I love telling our story. It’s my favorite.

So what I think would be most helpful is to start out explaining how I got interested in business and marketing. To do that, we’ll have to go back to when I was 6 or 7 years old, living in El Campo, TX. I was a Girl Scout, and I took it all very seriously. You would have thought I was joining the CIA or something.

Cookie Season rolled around, and that was it. I rode my bike door to door within a 2-mile radius of my home and sold a ridiculous amount of cookies. I remember having to get an extra order sheet to keep up. Once the cookies came in, I would load up my red Radio Flyer wagon and walk those same blocks to hand over the goods.

I loved it. I got to meet neighbors, it made people smile, I loved riding my bike anyway, and this came with Top Sales and Early Bird badges when I turned my cookie order in before the due date. Recognition was cool, and I was hooked on the whole idea of exchanging currency for a product.

Cookie selling was addictive. The whole process of learning your product, setting a goal, pitching to strangers, then making the sale was incredible. And I needed more of that, long after Girl Scout Cookie Season.

That summer, I tried my hand at a lemonade stand. Never mind we lived on a dead end street and I hadn’t selected a genius location… I still loved it. Our neighbors bought from us, and I felt important. They trusted me enough to flip me a quarter and take a swig of what could have been ditch water as far as they knew. (I happen to know it was a recipe from a Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House On The Prairie Cookbook, and I followed it to the letter, thank me very much.)

How else did I reveal myself as a budding entrepreneur growing up? Still around the age of 7 or 8, I would do things like paint rocks or draw cartoons and paint beach scenes. Then I’d walk door to door just like with Girl Scout Cookies. Only, I was selling what was admittedly junk – but enough neighbors would by my arts and crafts, and I’d make enough to get a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a Banana MoonPie from the Handy Pak down the road.

Over time, I learned which neighbors liked cats, which old lady collected geese, and which doors weren’t worth knocking. Market research at 8 years old!

Fast forwarding to pre-teen years, and I was itching to get a job. Since I was too young to hire for anything other than baby sitting, coming up with business ideas became a hobby.

Seeing that I was interested in being my own boss, my dad, John Driscoll, asked me an important question one afternoon on the front porch of our bay house in Cape Carancahua. “What do you think about capitalism?” At the time I had no clue. I had never heard the word. On my dad went explaining about entrepreneurship, innovation, taking pride in what you do, ownership and the importance of doing for yourself. I think at the time maybe 30% stuck. But over time, that conversation has become a pillar of a memory in the architecture that is who I am, fundamentally.

Business ownership, entrepreneurship, and capitalism have never been bad words to me. Instead, they evoke a deep sense of responsibility, pride, motivation, and nostalgia.

I grew to learn more and more about business operations as my work history trailed on through high school and college. Restaurant, retail, lifeguarding, real estate, convenience, more restaurant, clothing manufacturing… I found myself able to complete the tasks, excel at the jobs, but still left feeling like I didn’t do enough. I didn’t make any real decisions or difference. In several jobs, I actually planned and pitched new roles altogether – trying to convince my bosses that I could make more of a difference if I could be more of an idea and relationship person.

Community outreach and PR, sales and marketing manager… I was going to come up with a way to do what I felt I was good at. Imagine: A teenager, wet behind her ears, approaching a business owner or manager to say “hey, I know I have absolutely no experience and you have no reason to trust me, but I think I can apply psychology, creativity, and business savvy to make your business more successful.”

I got lots of weird looks. In some instances, my manager got wind and retaliated for whatever reason, so I ended up leaving because they made doing my job so incredibly difficult. Looking back as an adult now, I see how small-minded and insecure those supposed “grown-ups” were. They didn’t like the idea of a kid without a drivers license outranking or outshining them. The problem is, blowing someone else’s candle out doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.

Some time during my freshman year of college, I got in touch with a fellow I used to ride the school bus with – like, literally shared a seat with every day – he had joined the Marine Corps after high school. Vincent Morales and I stayed in touch through the remainder of his service, and we got married shortly after his return from Afghanistan in late 2009. By February 2010, I had a corporate marketing gig in Houston and an apartment all to myself while Vince was still in California finishing up his active service.

Still awake? How’s that for a character backstory?

Well, grab a snack because we’re not finished yet.

Four years of working in what amounted to a stale cubicle farm took a toll on my happiness. There wasn’t much room for new ideas, and I really wasn’t enjoying the work – day in and day out. I wanted a place to shout my creative ideas to the world. I wanted to make a difference for individuals and see the impact first-hand.

After a discussion with my husband, we decided I should start working on building a client list. Better yet, set a goal based on my minimum income needs and make a plan to get that many clients on retainer. In 2013, I was getting close and we purchased a home in a little town called Wharton, Texas. I had grown up in the county, and the small town life suited us.

The only drawback was that my new commute to CubicleTown was 2 hours one-way. But I did it! I’d get home from Houston at nearly 7pm sometimes and frequently stayed up cranking out freelance marketing work until 2am. I would wake up at 5am to be on the road before 6. I’d get to my desk at 8am, take freelance client calls during lunch, sometimes catch a nap, then get back to my gray cube until 4:30pm. Then, I enjoyed a 2-2.5 hour drive back through rush hour traffic to Wharton County.

That went on for a whole year before I escaped.

In the summer of 2014, I had done it. Kapeesh Creative Marketing & Design had taken on enough monthly clients that I could daydream about lighting my cubicle on fire, telling a select few what I really thought of them, and peeling out of the parking lot toward freedom.

Instead, I gave a two weeks notice and sat through an exit interview.

That exit interview is another one of those foundational moments for me. As I sat across from my co-supervisor (who – laughably – still treated me like his underling, mind you) and our manager, I was polite as could be as I answered questions about what could be improved, who should be promoted or trained to fill my position, and what my reasons for leaving were.

When I explained my plan was to start my own creative agency, I KID YOU NOT, our manager looked me dead in the face and told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life and that I would be back.

This was not some underground, grody, fight-club warehouse. This was supposed to be a professional forms, tech, and marketing corporation widely known in the automotive industry.

I remember just feeling flush and hot, wanting to pop off at the mouth but knowing I was seconds away from freedom. I handed over access cards, keys, and notes, then I was escorted out of the building.

That final drive home is something I’ll never forget. It was as if I were floating down the highway. I didn’t care about traffic, I could not have cared less it was blazing hot out, I just felt FREE. I was really doing it. I gave a proverbial middle finger to a 9-5, and it felt awesome. Kapeesh had truly been born, and as a business owner, so had I.

August 1st is the day I celebrate leaving that behind – by Monday, August 4th, 2014, I was officially Amy Morales DBA Kapeesh.

Kapeesh hit the ground running. We saw client numbers doubling in the first year, then quadrupling year over year for a couple years. Dozens of free classes, consults, and partnering with the local Chamber of Commerce made all the difference. We were quickly growing out of my spare bedroom office space, so our formal dining room became the new Kapeesh office. Next up was growing the business to a point where Vince could also leave his full-time job and join the team.

He did just that, and Kapeesh Marketing, LLC was established in May 2016 as an agency offering strategic marketing consulting, web, social media, and graphic design services to small businesses. By the summer of 2017, we had 3 virtual employees working on social media content, blog content, and web development. Kapeesh Marketing was needing its own space and just itching to get out of the home office. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I was nervous about leaving the comfort of that home office nest. But boy, did Hurricane Harvey kick us out of that nest and force us to fly!

We lost everything in August of 2017. The contents of our home and office were waterlogged in the flooding following the Colorado River inundation post-Harvey. All our clients in Texas suffered a loss of some sort, and the days following that time are blurry to this day.

What I do remember is our local community coming together like I had never seen it. I remember the comfort I felt the second I got a makeshift desk set up inside our mucked out home. 2 card tables, some extension cord, and our PCs were all we needed. I buried myself in work, focusing on what our clients needed during that time.

All along, our own needs were staring us in the face. If our house was ever going to get put back together, Kapeesh Marketing needed some space to call their own.

Though we found a great lease space just a block away from the historical downtown square in Wharton, we weren’t all that happy about throwing money away each month without making any real investment. Vince and I would walk to get our caffeine fix at Milam Street Coffee Shop, stroll the block and talk about our pie-in-the-sky plans. One day, we noticed a for sale sign in the window of one of those downtown buildings.

Nah, there’s no way. Wait, could we? Yes – we totally did. With funding through a great small business and community partner, BCL of Texas, we hold the deed to 247 W. Milam Street. That ride home after quitting my cubicle job? No. This was that times 100. I felt like I had come a long way from selling painted pieces of driveway to my neighbors.

So, here we are in downtown Wharton. Our team of 8 takes on small business clients every week and helps them navigate traditional and digital marketing strategy. I get to talk to risk-takers like me every day, hear their concerns, and come up with valid, affordable ways to bring them more customers. I never stop learning. There’s new marketing news each and every day, and I feel it’s my life’s mission to break that information down for moms and pops who feel lost or unsure.

I want Annie down at the bakery and Milo at the tailor to know that they deserve professional marketing help no matter if they’re making six figures yet or not. And, dammit – they shouldn’t have to look to Houston, Austin, or some faceless online service provider for help. We’re here, and Kapeesh Marketing is in their backyard. We’re one of them, and we get it. I look forward to decades of growing, scaling, learning, and serving the small business community.

Thank you so much for listening. Let’s continue this conversation:

  • text code MAKEITPOP (no spaces) to 3-1-9-9-6 to get exclusive content and show notifications
  • join the Make It Pop: Small Business Owners Community group on Facebook
  • if you’re local, attend a Small Business Marketing Meetup – they’re the first Wednesday of each month at 9am at Kapeesh Marketing in downtown Wharton, TX
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