If you're involved in the economic development scene in the Kansas City metro, chances are you've partnered with Lee's Summit-basedCandid Marketing & Communications. The public relations and branding firm is celebrating its 11th anniversary with an impressive track record and roster of clients. What started out as a “one-and-a-half woman band” is now a full-fledged marketing and communications firm with ten employees and a niche group of clients including the City of Edgerton, the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, Southwest Johnson County EDC, Logistics Park Kansas City, and The City of North Kansas City.
We sat down with President Becky Freetly and Vice President Sara Freetly of Candid as they looked back on their successes as a company and what is in store for the next 11 years.
MWM: How did Candid get started? How did you develop this niche of serving to economic development-related firms and organizations?
Becky: I started the firm in 2005 and actually didn’t have large aspirations of owning an agency of this magnitude, but it really just happened organically. Getting our first economic development organization in 2007 was really the springboard for us to become what we are today.
Sara: It happened by accident. In 2007, when we got our first economic development client, we were schooled in the world of economic development. We found out that it’s a really cool area and a great way to be a part of a community and help develop workforce and investment in communities, and we really enjoyed it.
B: We were just sort of figuring it out and taking projects as we could and really making our way into eastern Jackson County.
How has this niche group of clients helped you define who you are as a company?
B: I think that it defines us because there isn’t another firm specializing in this like we are. If they are, they don't have the longevity, consistency, and the experience that we have.
S: People that build roads and bridges and 500-square-foot buildings might not be the most glamorous to some agencies, but we love it. We always really enjoy that industrial feeling. It’s different than selling hamburgers and hotdogs and shampoo.
Do you feel that being women in this industry is what drives you to be successful?
B: Being a woman-owned business is in this male-dominated industry is interesting. A lot of times we are the only women in the room. We do good work and we’ve been awarded for it but I do think we have something to prove. Women who own businesses don’t make it as long as we have made it, so we’ve defied a lot of odds.
S: For me, the relationships and the tight-knit community of the industry is what drives me. We want to continue to deliver what we say we’re going to deliver on and keep doing that great work so that we do have opportunities and referrals and happy clients.
B: We have a 100 percent retention rate for last year, and I think that’s pretty telling.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
B: Everything happens for a reason. I have really come to accept that things are not in your control. We always learn something from a mistake or a failure and I embrace that more today than I ever have.
What is it like working together and being sisters?
S: It’s good. We balance each other out. We are typically in tune and in sync with one another.
B: Our backgrounds and our personalities go together really well. Candid is our life’s work, it has been put first, which is hard, but it’s part of why we are still here 11 years later.
What is your business philosophy?
B: This is a fun business to be in, so it’s okay to be a little quirky sometimes. Just do the right thing.
S: Everything you touch, make it better. If you see something, fix it and deliver what you say you will.
Where do you see the company going in the next 11 years?
S: Nothing but up.
B: We’re young, we still have a lot of life and energy left in us, so we’re just going to keep going.