Even though there is a lot of negativity out there, take a minute to think about how this has affected you positively.
No one is going through this alone! We’re all affected.
Our kids are going to be ok. All they need is our love and encouragement, and they are going to be ok, no matter what. I repeat this to myself daily.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allie Danziger.
With big ambitions, Allie Danziger started Integrate in 2009 at 24 years old after she noticed businesses struggling to understand social media. Allie is highly driven and passionate about helping companies determine how to strategically integrate digital, social media and PR strategies together. In 2018, the company was acquired by forces with Spark, Wright & Colgin in an effort to strengthen Integrate’s digital position, create more career paths for employees, and double down on the company’s growth. Today, under her leadership, the agency continues to thrive and pivot to constantly keep up with communication trends and the ever-changing marketing landscape.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I started my career at a luxury real estate-focused traditional PR agency in NYC. Our clients included brokers, developers and interior decorators for the >50MM dollars penthouses throughout Manhattan. When the real estate market crashed in 2009, half the staff at the agency was laid off. I still had my job but was looking around in case I was part of the next round of layoffs and began to realize that big agencies were just starting to focus on social media services.
I went to my boss and offered to be let go on the next round of layoffs because I was more interested in what I thought the future of the PR industry was going to be — social media. Instead, she offered me the incredible opportunity to start the company’s social media department. The formation of that department ended up pivoting the agency’s future, and mine.
From there, I was able to hire a small team, travel the country speaking on panels about social media and PR, and ultimately caught the entrepreneur bug after experiencing what it was like to build out a team, run business development and implement a new service to help the company survive. I was meeting people from all over and started helping businesses and individuals on a freelance basis.
After a year of working full time and freelancing on the side, I used up all my sick and vacation days to work with my freelance clients. At 24 years old, I was stuck in this pivotal moment of “should I put this on hold or quit my job to be more fulfilled”. I decided to give myself a month to test out what I would do given the opportunity; I ended up winning more business in that month and became even more motivated to keep going forward.
I decided to move home to Houston and start Integrate Agency in August of 2009. Eleven years later, the agency is still thriving and has continued to pivot to constantly keep up with communication trends and changing landscapes.
In 2018, I sold the company to the forces of Spark, Wright & Colgin to strengthen Integrate’s digital position, create more career paths for employees, and double down on the company’s growth. Today Integrate continues to thrive and pivot to constantly keep up with communication trends and the ever-changing marketing landscape.
What’s interesting, is there are so many parallels from then to now. In 2009, I was seeing an opportunity to focus on social media and now there’s limitless opportunity to focus on digital marketing and virtual opportunities with businesses having to pivot during the pandemic.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
In 2017, I was home with my first child, looking at expenses and how the business was going to continue growing. My clients were hitting a plateau in their growth with us through traditional PR and social media services, and my employees were as well. I decided that we needed to bring digital marketing services in-house and started looking for the most strategic ways to do this. I started thinking about raising capital to buy a small digital shop, but ultimately ended up meeting Robbie Wright, CEO of Wellington Group, based in Houston and Austin.
Wellington Group was a 4-person lifestyle-focused PR agency in Austin that Robbie Wright, and his partners in Spark, Wright & Colgin, acquired in 2016, in an effort to transition it into a digital marketing agency. They raised capital and after a year of steady growth, they were looking to expand and acquire an agency with more experience in the “agency” industry and ability to cut larger deals.
We met the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2017, and quickly realized that we, as partners, could fill very important gaps in our businesses — allowing him to focus on operations and HR, and me focus on growth and sales. Within 6 weeks, Wellington Group acquired Integrate, I came into the new company as President, along with my whole team, and we were off to the races to grow Integrate (we kept my company’s name for the combined entity) as the first fully-integrated digital and traditional agency in Houston and Austin.
The wrinkle in the plan… we signed the deal on January 18, 2018. I had been feeling sick for the last two months and thought it had been due to the stress of selling my business. However, to my best friend’s credit and recommendation, on January 19th after a night of celebrating Integrate’s future, she encouraged me to take a pregnancy test and… Surprise! The test was positive.
The next 9 months weren’t exactly what we had planned, my VP of Operations and I were both out for maternity leaves, and growth was slowed due to my pregnancy, but I am so grateful for my daughter, Eve. She’s my constant reminder that sometimes life has its own plans that are even better than my own.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I strongly believe that the way of life and business, for many, will not go back to the way things were; businesses will adapt, and new ventures (and industries!) will launch from this, so I’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming what’s next. At Integrate, we’ve hosted a webinar series, Pivot Don’t Pause, sharing our experiences, recommendations and industry predictions for pivoting your marketing strategy.
I’m also mentoring startups through a variety of organizations including Mass Challenge, a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators, Founders Institute which guides startups with a comprehensive step-by-step program to launch and the Artemis Fund, the
first female-focused fund in Houston.
On nights and weekends, I am also collaborating with some really smart folks on a new business that is a professional development “gap year” type of program that offers curriculum to help teach and advance young professionals in their careers before, during or after college, and also offers virtual rotational internships, Ampersand. The goal is to create meaningful internship experiences for post-grads, while also offering coaching, training and mentoring throughout the program as many graduates are having to delay school or even career plans. I believe there is a much larger opportunity here to provide professional development to communities in need, who normally wouldn’t have access to this type of coaching ultimately bringing more diversity into companies of all sizes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Eric’s support in my business from day one — push me beyond what I think is possible for myself and my business; he helps me bring some of my crazy ideas to life and also keeps me grounded, while also encouraging me and supporting me to achieve everything in the world I set out to do.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
As a business owner and mom of two toddlers, I am used to managing a hectic schedule. But now, I’m having to manage even more; Zoom classes for my kids, my own conference calls and meetings, driveway happy hours or book clubs for some social interaction, and finding time for myself all while just trying to keep a smile on (sometimes behind a mask, which is heartbreaking to hear when my 2-year old reminds me to pull it up). The balance of it all has been the most difficult.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I refuse to let the pandemic consume or define our lives. It may sound dramatic, but I’ve been purposeful in working to make this a reality. We even escaped to Colorado for 9 weeks this summer to let my kids have a fun (socially distant) summer of being outside and experiencing new things. I’ve also tried to stay off of social media as much as possible. When I am tempted to open up Instagram, I choose to read books on my phone by women who inspire me to be better, instead.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
We have had a full-time, amazing nanny since my first daughter was 3-months old. She is more than a nanny to our family; we basically co-parent with her. She comes on vacation with us, helps to tell me when it’s time to potty train, has rearranged furniture to help satisfy the safety needs of our kids, etc. Since March, we have relied on her for so much including Zoom classes; virtual music and dance lessons; masked up, outdoor playdates; and more. The business-savvy negotiator that she is (which I love and respect!), she recently asked to change up hours and to renegotiate her salary with us (understandably!) but it was stressing me out.
During this, on a Zoom happy hour with 10 other (male) business owners, talking about our business struggles, I brought up how my nanny drama was distracting me and taking up way more time than needed. One of the other business owners interrupted me to say “Man, I never really think about how hard it is to be a woman entrepreneur. My wife just deals with all of this stuff.” I wanted to cry and hug him at the same time. YES! It is really hard to juggle the stress of the happiness, security, safety and education of our kids, plus keep up a healthy marriage, friendships, daughter/sister relationships, mentor other business owners and young professionals, AND run a successful business.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My husband and I believe in 50/50 parenting; we rarely co-parent and prefer to divide and conquer. While I tend to micromanage or feel like I am supposed to take on more, I have to force myself to let him do his share, and not pick on what he is doing differently than I would. Luckily, we are both entrepreneurs and have both managed dozens of employees in our careers so we can run our family like a business… most of the time.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Separating each aspect of our lives (work, school, family) as much as possible, while also slowing down to embrace the unique time we are getting with our kids. The situation won’t last forever — think about it as a way to “experience the experience” with your kids. But, also take advantage of extra help available, such as grandparents or nannies (and make sure you are all on the same page about safety precautions).
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
1. Find a passion project. Who knows where it’ll take you when this is over.
2. Move your body as much as possible. Walk, run, bike, anything! Yes, it means in Texas you’ll get crazy sweaty, but it’s worth it!
3. Talk to people you have good relationships with, outside of your family unit. We’re all experiencing the same challenge of staying sane.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Experience the Experience. This is a crazy time, but be in it.
- Even though there is a lot of negativity out there, take a minute to think about how this has affected you positively.
- You have the opportunity to make each day purposeful. Take that opportunity and do something with it.
- No one is going through this alone! We’re all affected.
- Our kids are going to be ok. All they need is our love and encouragement, and they are going to be ok, no matter what. I repeat this to myself daily.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Even if you can’t physically be there for family or friends, check-in on them regularly. Let them know that you’re available and if you can, try to create some normalcy. Start a book club, have a virtual dinner, or just talk to them as regularly as you typically would. And when the Corona talk gets to be too much, call “uncle” and change the topic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life motto: Experience the Experience. I try to experience everything to the absolute fullest capacity and be 100% present in the moment I am in. That sometimes backfires as I’m really bad at checking or responding to texts throughout the day, and often am late to things because I was so engulfed in the conversation I was just in that I lost track of time… but I think it works out in the long run. It’s not always easy, but something I am always striving for.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!