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Jill Monson-Bishop

Jill Monson-Bishop says women who own businesses can benefit from creating a team of advisors who can support them.

That famous quote from Oprah Winfrey — “Follow Your Passion: It is What Will Lead to Your Purpose” — is emblazoned in oversized letters on a wall in the waiting room of Inspired Marketing Inc. in Springfield.

The quotation is in line with the belief system embraced by the company’s self-named ‘chief inspiration officer,’ Jill Monson-Bishop, a title she put on her business card when she established her full-service advertising company, then went on to hire team members with a driving desire to help clients realize their goals.

The climate within the office was also carefully orchestrated: there are three dogs on-site most days; they sport the titles  ‘employee satisfaction manager,’ ‘customer experience associate,’ and ‘siesta manager.’ Everyone has a pair of comfortable slippers under their desk, and not only is collaboration encouraged, milestones of any kind are announced and celebrated.

It’s a formula that has led to success: Over the past three years Inspired Marketing has retained 93% of its clients and increased revenue by 362%.

“We don’t strive to be the number-one local marketing agency and win awards,” Monson-Bishop said. “Our aim is to have our clients win awards and reach goals and know that everyone here is invested in their growth.”

Indeed, awards have been forthcoming: One client was feted with a Better Business Torch Award; others were finalists for the honor; and still others have been named Super 60 companies by the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce for revenue and revenue growth.

Monson-Bishop tells new clients she doesn’t just want to purchase media for them, create a logo, or do graphic design; instead, she wants to be part of their team. That vision has materialized, and one business sends her their weekly sales report.

“I’m part of their growth or struggle depending on the week,” she noted.

She took pride in the fact that one client, the Good Dog Spot was recently able to open a second location, which was among its goals, and says she and her team have been invited to a number of company holiday parties.

Team members at Inspired Marketing

Team members at Inspired Marketing have increased revenue over the past three years by 362% and retained 93% of their clients.

One thing she focuses on is creating synergistic relationships between clients. For example, when Square One needed a pizza donation, she approached Frankie and Johnnie’s Pizzeria. Today the restaurant donates pizza to the non-profit once a month and employees and families involved with Square One frequent the eatery and buy lunches there, which they hadn’t been doing in the past. In addition, Frankie & Johnnie’s will cater an event for Square One next year.

Another example is a collaboration between Bob Pion Buick GMC; Square One; and the American International College Men’s –D1 Ice Hockey team.

AIC had planned to stage a toy drive at a December ice hockey game, and, thanks to Inspired Marketing, Bob Pion has volunteered to donate a truck, the toys will go to Square One, and every donor will receive a ticket to another AIC hockey game.

“I believe businesses are stronger together and if they can find opportunities to work together, they can grow together,” Monson-Bishop said “Our clients know we put our heart into what we do. If I write a press release and the media uses it, my teammates come running down the hall to tell me. They get very excited when we help a business attain success.”

Personifying Beliefs

Monson-Bishop says starting her own business has been the most difficult and rewarding thing she has ever done.

“I love being an employer,” she said, “being able to watch people’s dreams come true and being part of it.”

The decision to launch her advertising firm was made after her mother died unexpectedly at age 56. The loss was devastating, but also prompted the thought, “What if I only get 56 years on this planet? What would my legacy be?”

Monson-Bishop had worked as a radio broadcaster, and when her mother passed away she was selling coupon advertising and making more money than she ever had in her life. “But I didn’t want my legacy to be selling 50% off pizza coupons,” she said.

“I enjoyed working with clients and had found that small and medium-sized businesses were not being served by advertising agencies. Many were good at what they did but they had no idea how to spend money effectively on marketing,” she noted, explaining that the belief was reinforced by Butler Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, which had been in business for 30 years, and became her first client.

Monson-Bishop launched her new venture by renting a desk in a friend’s Springfield office. She moved to Agawam after hiring one part-time employee; then moved back to Springfield two years ago, which is a city she truly loves.

“I just purchased a Victorian in the Historic McKnight area, and believe the city is on the cusp of a renaissance. Great things are happening and I want to be part of them,” she said, noting that she also owns another house in the City of Homes.

Today Inspired Marketing has five team members in addition to Monson-Bishop  and gets help from two interns every college semester.

Their business is split equally between marketing and events, and clients include Smith & Wesson; Northwestern Mutual, American International College and the City of Springfield School Department; as well as smaller businesses.

They also work with a number of nonprofits including Valley Venture Mentors and the Zoo in Forest Park. “They do so much for us and we need to support them,” Monson-Bishop said, noting that last year, Inspired Marketing staged a Tiny Tea to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Square One’s popular fundraiser. Dignitaries included Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse who enjoyed tea seated at a child’s table. They wore hats and the event attracted a lot of media attention.

The crew also takes pride in coming up with creative advertising ideas. When they did a campaign for one non-profit they mailed reading glasses to potential donors with a note that said, “See the difference we can make,” then went on to explain the charity’s mission.

Another client received the attention it was seeking when Inspired Marketing did a mailing that contained scratch tickets with a note that said, “You wouldn’t throw away the enclosed without taking a chance on it. Take a chance on us and you will win every time;” while a press release delivered to media outlets about a classic-car cruise night contained matchbox cars; and another client’s business blossomed due to a marketing promotion in which packets of seeds were mailed with handwritten notes that said, “Let us help your business grow.”

Unique Challenges

Monson-Bishop believes female entrepreneurs face challenges unique to their gender. Her own accomplishments are significant: not only has she grown from a sole entrepreneur to a thriving advertising firm; she lost 125 pounds 3 1/2 years ago, has kept it off and been sugar-free for more than 1,200 days; was chosen as a BusinessWest 40 Under Forty 2010 class member, among other honors.

When she was notified about the most recent award, “I only celebrated for about 10 seconds,” she said, adding that she believes it’s easier for women to praise other people’s accomplishments and victories than take pride in their own.

“We tend to beat ourselves up for mistakes and need to learn to celebrate our own accomplishments and say ‘thank you’ when we receive a compliment,” she noted.

She believes her weight loss has led business professionals to take her more seriously and is now able to purchase a professional wardrobe, which was difficult to do when she was 125 pounds heavier.

Monson-Bishop has an advisory board composed of 10 local business leaders who have guided her over the years by providing honest and critical input. She shares her financial information with them and believes every female business owner could benefit from creating her own confidential circle of supporters.

“When you have a hard day or have to make a difficult decision, it helps to have someone to talk to, and that person isn’t always your spouse,” she said.

The founder of Inspired Marketing also feels many women suffer from what she calls the “Wizard of Oz Syndrome,” which is her metaphor for the imposter syndrome.

“The world may see you as the big and powerful Oz, but sometimes you feel like the man behind the curtain who is afraid to have it pulled back and be found out,” she said.

But testimonials from clients say that Monson-Bishop and her crew are truly inspired, have the ability to attract attention and help clients succeed.

Blazing a Path

Monson-Bishop not only used personality and drive as criteria when she began hiring people, today when a new position is created all team members are included in interviews with prospective job candidates to ensure they are a good fit.

Heather Ruggeri was thrilled the team chose her to be vice president and chief events officer, even though her credentials didn’t exactly match the job description.

“But she had a willingness to learn; a desire for absolute customer satisfaction and it was evident that she was deeply loyal. She didn’t want a job, she wanted to be part of something,” Monson-Bishop said, adding that Ruggeri is one of many team members whose professional achievements have made her proud.

Kristin Carlson was hired immediately after graduating from Fitchburg State University, and says her fellow team members have become like family and whenever they reach a goal, it is viewed as cause for celebration.

“I have run down the hall to Jill’s office when we have achieved something such as getting 10,000 Likes on a client’s Facebook page,” said Carlson. “We get excited about things here.”

That enthusiasm is generated by passion and the purpose that Monson-Bishop has found since she started her business venture. “You only get one chance at life, and this is it,” she said.

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