How is Michelle working to build BadCat through building community? How does a person start a business in a new town and connect to potential clients? And how did Michelle pick the name BadCat for a digital marketing agency?
Answers to these questions and more as JoyGenea interviews Michelle so you can get to know her better.
J: Ok you ready for this?
M: I’m ready for this
J: Ok, here we go. Hi I’m JoyGenea and I own Solutions by JoyGenea.
M: And I am Michelle and I own BadCat Digital. Welcome to If These Heels Could Talk.
J: So today on our show…
M: I feel like I need to redo that because that was really awkward and weird.
J: Fine, hang on.
M: Hi I’m Michelle owner of BadCat Digital!
J: And I’m JoyGenea and I own Solutions by JoyGenea. Welcome to If These Heels Could Talk!
M: Today on our show…
J: I’m going to interview Miss Michelle
J: As we know you would like to get to know us a little bit more. But we have tried this once and had a technical difficulty – it was the worst audio we’ve ever heard.
M: We’re gonna do it again.
J: We’re gonna do it again and she has volunteered to do it again so thank you.
M: Well, what I like about this doing it a second time thing is honestly now I’ve had more time.
J: So not fair.
M: It’s really not fair.
J: We started out with you going first an being brave. This is not about fair.
M: And now the story isn’t brave, the story is, “ha ha, I get to do it twice.” So if I sound extra-articulate, it’s because I already heard these questions and if I don’t we’re gonna cut this part out so that you never knew I had extra time.
J: I may have snuck in a few extra questions just to keep it….
J: Oh yeah, you didn’t know and I didn’t scroll.
J: I did.
M: You’re so mean.
J: It’s why we’re friends.
M: Cuz you’re mean. That why we’re friends? Well you know with my history that’s probably better.
J: Because we can just be people.
M: That’s true, we can just be people.
J: Yeah. So question number 1. How have you shown influence in leadership in your profession and industry?
M: I don’t really know. Like you know, it’s one of those things that you don’t think about what you do.
M: So when you hear that question, it’s like, “Hmmmmmmm, I guess I could get more involved in my industry.” But really what it is, is I don’t like a lot of the people in my industry. Is that bad to say?
M: I just really don’t. In digital marketing there are a lot of people that are very focused on gaining clients, getting clients into contracts, and then not doing anything after that.
J: Think of your cable company.
M: Well that’s very true that we both face that in the industry and what the challenge then is that when we go into talk to business owners we get lumped in that same kind of category and so we’re both constantly fighting against that stigma or people kind of painting us with that brush. BadCat is no exception so when I focus – and I’ve made a concentrated effort to focus – on transparency and focus on client ownership and making sure clients own everything that we do. That I’m setting them up to be sustainable. That we’re talking right from day one about what happens when they decide to leave. Because they’re going to. Nothing lasts forever. Every client’s going to move on at some point in the future.
J: Their business might grow so much that you’re not the right fit anymore.
J: Their business might shrink and you’re not the fit.
M: Or they might have a new marketing person comes in. That’s very common. We both know that. A new marketing person comes in and they have a preexisting relationship with somebody else and so our job at that point is to transition them as smoothly as possible and to not wrap it up into ego or anything like that.
J: Or ghost them.
M: Or ghost them. Yes, we’re there to set them up for success. So because of that I think that that does show leadership and influence on the industry because it is different. It’s a different way of approaching the service. I really try to approach digital marketing like an accountant or lawyer, where like any other professional service we publish our hourly rate, we’re not there to force people into a situation that they’re not interested in. We’re there to give advice.
J: You’re also coming along in an environment that was – I don’t have a better word for this –
M: Oh yeah. Very Bro. Ooo, I have a joke for you
M: What do you call a group of bro’s?
J: I don’t know.
M: A bra.
J: That’s good.
M: Yeah, you like that?
J: I’m keeping it.
J: So that is one of the other things that I know you have brought into that space is having a space available for people that are not able and will not work .
M: With bro’s.
J: With bro’s. Like in that environment.
M: Let’s be really clear – there are female bro’s. This is not a male versus female thing. This is a word that’s perhaps not the best way to communicate an attitude but it’s about communicating an attitude in this moment in time. There are female bro’s, there’s a ton of them, and it’s this concept of being really chummy but not necessarily delivering the goods.
J: That was exactly what I was gonna say. The client’s best interest is not that individual’s best interest at all. Like it’s barely on the radar.
M: Right. And so what we’re looking to do – I’m not looking to be my client’s friends – I’m looking to be their marketing partner, which means that I get to have difficult conversations with them at different level and I get to say this isn’t working. Let’s try this next. Because it’s not just about being their friend.
J: Yes, and that I feel that’s a very professional space that you’re building for your employees to work in that environment. Your employees would not work well in that other atmosphere that is not client-based, that is not about huge support.
M: Well and there are a lot of agencies…
J: And they’re phenomenal.
M: There a lot of other agencies that approach it the way we do so I’m not saying that this is only BadCat doing this. Industry is shifting because that attitude is something that is not sustainable for clients over the long term, and so the industry is shifting and clients are demanding more. They’re demanding more transparency and they’re becoming more educated. So I really feel like I’m moving where the industry is moving. And hopefully on the leading edge of that which I think is what sets us up for success in the future. So again, 100% clear, so that all the trolls can be their troll self and not pick on this one thing is that this not a gender thing. This is not a male versus female. Men versus women – this is not any of that.
J: It’s a type of personality.
M: It’s a personality type that we’re giving that gendered word which we perhaps should think about finding a different word for, but I feel like it’s indicative and so I’m going to stick with it for now. But we’ll continue to…
J: Oh yeah.
M: …we’ll soul search on that.
J: Right. If you got a better suggestion.
M: We are totally willing to hear it
J: We’re open.
J: Next question.
M: Oh my gosh, we’re not done yet?
J: Nope. How have you shown influence and leadership in your community?
M: Ok, so this is actually, I moved to a new town and started a business very quickly and so the way that I did this is very different than how other people would do this. Because I didn’t have a network here. I had to build one and we don’t have networks built in because I don’t have children, we don’t go to church, none of the kind of adult networking abilities. Like I didn’t work for somebody in town so I had no coworkers.
J: Your husband has not been a long-time resident of this area.
M: Nope. He was here first but he’s also very introverted. So, he barely knew our nextdoor neighbors. Like he knew the other guy who mowed the lawn but he didn’t know the guy’s wife’s name or any of their children. So, I mean that’s really the extent of who he knew in town and he had been here for several years. I was coming into this cold. So how I did it was I started to volunteer. I started to network and then I started to volunteer because that’s just how I interact with people. And so I started volunteering and working for different things in town that I believed in. I started working with the Chamber of Commerce which was a huge thing for me and massive influence in my early beginning and still is. I’ve changed how I volunteer for it, interact with the chamber, because you have to kind of move within those circles to make an impact on your business. You can’t just do the same things over and over and over again. But volunteering and community involvement and you know I joined the Optimist Club and then you know that wasn’t a great fit, so then you try something else and maybe that’s not the best or maybe it is. Maybe they’re doing great work and you still give them money but you’re not able to give them time anymore. Or maybe some of the people that are other members there, like the development director of Anna Marie’s Alliance, local domestic abuse shelter. It opens that door. Maybe it’s a person with junior achievement or you know, whatever is going to fit for your business. We have a whole podcast on this and so if you want to look that you would look at the podcast on Volunteering and giving to impact your business to hear some more details about this but that was a huge way of me influencing a joint leadership with a community. Within the business community, I join other small business owners in things. I’m part of an executive dialog group. I am one of the founding members of a bra drive for Anna Marie’s Alliance that several female business owners put together last year. And were gonna continue with that. Two staff members on boards in the community. I’m also on a board for the Beautiful Mind Project about reducing stigma around mental health care. All of these things that I really believe in and that I focus on – that’s what we do.
J: For someone who’s been in this community less then 3 years I think.
M: 4. Less than 4 years
J: Oh yeah less than 4 years. You’ve made a huge impact on the community and it is really impressive to watch that and sometimes get to be a little part of it. And I thank you.
M: Well I didn’t really even understand what it was until you start going places and you meet people that know who you are that I’ve never met before.
M: And I have pretty good memory. I’m not great with names but I’m pretty good with faces. And so that was a huge impact on me just understanding the kind of the way I’ve been able to kind of zig zag myself or just like infiltrate this community. I would have been a really good spy turns out.
J: There we go.
M: Because I’ve been very able very quickly to connect myself into the community. I would have been a good spy. I should be a spy.
J: Next life.
M: Maybe that’s my next life. Seems a little dangerous.
J: It does. Keep doing the successful stuff you’re doing.
M: Yeah ok……
J: That should occupy you.
M: But I wanna be a spy, JoyGenea!
J: Next life.
J: Number 3 on our questions. Explain your ability to have an impact on your profession and industry in the future.
M: I think the training and education we do with staff does that. Because I’m building a staff that has this same philosophy about education, transparency, that believes in what we’re doing for our clients. And that also believes in the community involvement you know. That’s huge. I was honored to, and hope to invited back to, teach a class this year at both the St. Cloud Technical College and St. Cloud State University and I really hope to do that again in the future. I think that as I look to the future I would really like to continue doing that and maybe in a more formal direct bigger way cuz guest lecturing is great but maybe it would be nice to kind of involved in some curriculum setting and some things like that. Honestly, when staff get trained, when they first start I hear over and over again from graduates of the marketing programs of the mass communications programs.
J: Which we hire people from.
M: Why didn’t we learn this? Why wasn’t this part of this? It seems so fundamental. Why didn’t we learn this? And I think that some of the limitations of higher education – how fast it moves or how slow moves have something to do with that. And I also think you know a lot of times people have been teaching for quite a while and they haven’t been in the industry for awhile (even though I do happen to know that the people that I worked with in these programs were active members of the industry) but you know it’s one of those things that when a digital marketing class covers 15 topics of digital marketing, you can have a professional who’s a graphic designer or a writer or a photographer or a videographer or web developer who won’t know about placing ads on google. Who won’t know about SEO, who won’t know about Social media strategy cuz that’s not what they do.
M: It’s like having a general contractor teach a plumbing class. It’s just not the same thing and so when we talk about kind of higher education in the community and those directions I am looking to foster those relationships and I do work hard at that.
J: That will be a great direction for you and you have a lot to offer.
M: We shall see. Hopefully it’s welcome. And I’ve learned enough to be soft enough with what I’m offering and not try to force things in a way that makes people uncomfortable and defensive.
J: This is true’
M: Because what they’re doing is good. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not in-depth enough. It’s not robust enough. And it doesn’t prep the students for what they’re finding in the job market unfortunately.
J: So last question in the group of these questions. Then we go off. Then we go rogue. Explain your ability to have impact on your community in the future.
M: We’re refining kind of what we’re working on and where were giving in terms of where the business is going. I continue to encourage the staff to volunteer their time and give them on the clock to do that. I think that’s really important. We do team building exercises that are volunteer based and I also think that’s really important. I don’t want to give away too much because I’m actually working on something. I am working something up. I have a terrible time keeping a secret and I love a theme so I you know I am working on something and we’re cooking something up. One thing that I am excited about that I really want to share with people that’s coming out is what the United Way is doing. United Way is kind of an umbrella organization. They work with a lot of smaller local charities that have a hard time fundraising. One of one great example in town here is Feeding Area Children Together. It’s an organization that leaves snack packs, breakfast and lunch…
M: Packed. Volunteers go and leave these in kids’ backpacks so they give food very subtly and without drawing attention to the child which I think is really important.
J: It’s amazing
M: Help feed kids over the weekend. Kids who have food insecurities and kids who just don’t have access to food at home. And this is something that I know that the United Way has helped because it started here at an individual school and thru some of tools that United Ways offers has helped to build into multi-school effort. Not taking anything away from the amazing work that the chief organizers are doing but the United Way helps with some of those tools. So one of the things they’re focused on this year is small businesses and helping people see what small businesses give their communities.
J: Oh nice.
M: You know that meme that floats around that says don’t buy it on Amazon because they’re never gonna support your local baseball team.
M: Um small businesses give so much to our communities but because what they give, even though it might be a higher percentage of their revenue, is not the large sums of money that create the baselines for these organization.
M: In our community, those things are given by some amazing large business partners in the community. Marco, CentraCare, Capital One. Huge organizations. And there’s way more than I can name.
J: Right. That create the backbones of these organizations.
M: But the small businesses together have a collective impact that I think doesn’t get really understood and noticed. So United Way is helping a bunch of small business owners join together to create a collective impact and were all kind of all paying into a kitty of money and then deciding on the direction of that giving together so we’re in the middle of signing up the first 50 businesses and that’s something that I’m really passionate about. Because not only do I want to continue to give but to shine the light on smaller organizations that fill amazing needs here. That again have a harder time getting in front of us then, say, the American Cancer Society.
M: Fantastic organization.
J: Oh gosh yeah.
M: Not saying anything against it. It fills an amazing need but Feeding Area Children Together does too and they’re gonna have a harder time getting the press. But I also want more credit for what we’re doing. I’m not gonna lie. Like that’s a big deal. We give a very high percentage of our gross revenue in time and money and I would like that to be known and understood in a bigger way.
J: Yeah. Awesome. You’re always up to so many cool things.
M: Ah yeah well…
J: We should do these more often.
M: It’s not moving as fast as I want it to move but it is moving.
J: Rockets move slow. Slow down the rocket honey.
M: Slow down the rocket. Yes
J: Ok, let’s get a little more personal.
J: Where did you grow up?
M: I grew up in a town called Eau Claire, Wisconsin which I very recently went back to for the first time in 15 years and it got cool. I am so mad cuz wasn’t cool when I was there but it’s cool now.
J: That’s awesome.
M: I think it was Bon Iver and Justin Vernon that made cool. Cuz there is now a big music festival there that was never there before. It’s very cool.
J: Oh fun.
J: Was it a small town, big town?
M: It was about the size of the town I am in now. It’s a college town. I think there’s probably about 70,000 people there. You know its western Wisconsin.
M: When I grew up before cable and all the zillion channels, we were in the Vikings market because we were closer to Minneapolis then we were to Green Bay so you couldn’t get the Green Bay game you got the Viking game on local tv.
J: That’s funny. So your journey from high school graduation to the next chapter in your life. How smooth and beautiful was that.
M: This feels like a leading question. It feels like you might already know the answer. It feels like you might already know the answer to that question.
J: I am trying to spark a lot more people out there.
M: Well, yes, we have a fantastic other podcast on the importance of failure that I think would kind of help shorten. So, I graduated from a small Catholic high school and for those people who know that my parents are Buddhist that that creates a whole new set of questions that – we don’t really want to get into that.
J: That’s another podcast.
M: Or not, its ok. So yeah I graduated from a small Catholic high school in the top kind of you know third of the class. High achieving school. Very much college prep focused and then I went to a state college in Wisconsin and I studied comparative religion.
M: With a minor in law.
J: Oh my.
M: Because I was gonna go to law school and you know, rock the world and then I realized that I didn’t actually like myself that much. Because it brought out a lot of things that I felt like I needed to work on. It brought out a lot of my – I am now comfortable with my competitive nature but I wasn’t in my early 20’s and I wasn’t a good person.
J: Ok so you were kind of the nasty competitor.
M: I was nasty competitive.
J: Got it.
M: And now I’m really not so much anymore but you know it depends on how much I’ve had to drink when I’m playing the games that I play. So, I do really watch it. Not the idea that I’m competitive cuz I’ve now separated it from being mean and competitive.
J: You have.
M: But I was mean. I was mean. I was not a happy person and so the original plan that I had and then I had a job kind of lined up after college that fell through.
J: Oh that’s right. You graduated at that time and then the….
M: No, nope this was before that. That was the second time I went to college.
J: Oh ok
M: So I had a job all lined up. I graduated early. Semester early with honors like the whole nine, right? I had run for class president like the whole big thing but at every turn everything just kind of I kept coming in second or third, I wasn’t coming in first and that made a big difference and so I um I retreated. I went back to my parent’s garage/basement and licked my wounds for a while. I temped. I worked at beauty college which if you actually know me or see me you would realize that is hilarious.
J: I had to avoid for that.
M: Yeah yeah you laughed so hard. Don’t pee yourself.
J: I’ll try.
M: I did I temped for quite a while. I started working in retail. I worked at a bookstore and I was assistant manager for several years and then I decided this isn’t working out and I went back to school cuz that’s what you did, you went back to school. So, I went back to school. I got a second bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with an interior design focus and I graduated from that program a month after the housing market collapsed.
J: In Interior decorating.
M: In Interior Desig.n
M: Every construction job. Every design job. The internship that I had lined up, all of the interviews that I had lined up, overnight disappeared. Disappeared – just gone. So now I’m 26ish.
J: Oh boy.
M: With 2 bachelor’s degrees.
J: In debt.
M: That I can’t use and then all of the debt that’s associated with that so I went and licked my wounds, married somebody I should not have married. The guy I was with when I graduated.
J: Oh sure.
M: Worked at the aquarium at the Mall of America wearing an orange polo shirt – looked like a skittle everyday. And eventually I got out of that and got into furniture sales. Ya know I had a design degree and they were the only ones hiring.
M: So I started selling furniture on commission and then moved into, eventually moved into the back office of that place. When I was going through the divorce. Commission sales and divorce don’t go together well.
J: Oh yeah bet not.
M: And so I moved into the back office, got on a marketing team and then eventually hired a company to do search and digital marketing for us. Through the process of working with that company I learned some things. They eventually hired me away from the position I was at. When their time with that company ended. And that’s it.
J: That’s the evolution
M: And that’s the evolution. And then I worked at that company for several years until I met my current husband and moved from Minneapolis to St. Cloud. And then the daily drive was just a lot. And so that’s it. Then I started my own company.
J: And then we had BadCat.
M: And then we had BadCat.
J: Which is awesome.
J: Where did you go college the second time?
M: the first one was University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh and the second one was University of Wisconsin in Stout. Menomonie. Menominee. I liked Menomonie. I still go back there. They have a great quilt shop.
J: Ok that will do it every time with you. Yes. Cool job. So, thank you this really a lot of fun interviewing you. I have just a few more questions because you did such a nice job with this for me, I am going to return it. So were gonna do just like in the actors studio.
M: Inside the Actor’s Studio. Bernard Peevo questionnaire.
J: Yes. You can’t look at the questions here. Let me rotate that.
M: It’s not like I don’t know them.
J: But you haven’t thought about your answers, so…
M: That’s true
J: First thing that comes to mind as I’m reading these off. What is your favorite word?
J: What is your least favorite word?
J: What turns you on?
M: Wow I sense a theme. Um What turns you on? Um great conversation.
J: What turns you off?
M: Boring people.
J: What sound or noise do you love?
J: What sound or noise do you hate?
M: That squeeky kind of laughter where people like where they breathe weird and are kind of super high pitched. Yeah no that just grates. I like big, big laughs.
J: This next one.
M: With snorts in them.
J: Then this one is your hardest one yet. What is your favorite curse word?
M: Mother Fucker
J: (makes a beep sound)
M: Was I not supposed to say that out loud?
J: We have bleepers.
M: You didn’t say yours out loud.
J: I know cuz that’s me.
M: You would never do that.
J: Different people.
M: Well it’s really very like completely and totally amendable to all kinds of situations.
J: It’s applicable.
M: It’s a verb, it’s a noun, it’s an adjective. It does all of those things.
J: Most of them are. Most of them fit in nicely there.
M: That’s true. That’s true.
J: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
M: Well evidently, I want to be a spy.
J: That’s true.
M: No in reality though cuz I would not want to be a spy. I can’t run that fast. I would like to own a quilt shop some ay.
J: Oh yeah.
M: Quilt shop and retreat center. That’s what I want to do.
J: What profession would you not like to do?
M: I would not like to be a plumber or electrician or garbage collector or any of the things that would require me to work with my hands really hard. Yeah all of the things you have been. Fireman, mechanic. All of those things. This is why we’re so good because we like different things completely. Good at different things.
J: Number 10. If heaven exists what would like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
M: This is a really hard one for me.
J: I know because for you heaven does not exist.
M: Right right… So if heaven exists. I think what I would expect to hear as an atheist was, “Well you got that wrong, didn’t ya.” But I don’t know if that’s what I would like to hear.
J: So lets say what would you like to hear, if it exists
M: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
J: There’s no expectation.
M: I honestly don’t have the answer to that. What I would like to hear if heaven exists………….. “We’ll let you in anyway.”
How about that?
J: I think it’s fabulous. Thank you so much Michelle for letting us into your inner world a little more
M: My little weird world.
J: Oh it’s a beautiful world. We thank you and it.
M: Is that the title of the podcast “Circumcised bananas.”
J: There is not enough editing power for this. Well that’s all for today’s episode of If These Heels Could Talk. We hoped that we have brought you some new ideas an encouraged you in new direction or inspired you just a little bit. If nothing else dang I’m betting you had a good laugh. Thank you so much for being with us.