The 2020 business market is an earmark in history, and it’s not even over.
Marketers across the globe are going above and beyond in leadership and delivering creative, impassioned campaigns that make a difference.
At Ignite Visibility, we wanted to recognize those who deserve it most through our Courageous Marketing Leader Awards. Now, the results are in — and we’re sharing them with you.
What are the Courageous Marketing Leader Awards?
This summer, our readers, viewers, listeners and Ignite Visibility community members nominated their most award-worthy marketing leaders. They told stories of challenges overcome and trials won. For many of these marketing leaders, votes from supporters came flooding in. We listened and developed a list of marketing leaders showing some serious courage.
Ignite Visibility’s 57 Courageous Marketing Leaders of 2020
1. Michelle Ngome
President and Founder, African-American Marketing Association
After spending six years searching online for a group of Black marketers, Michelle decided to launch the African-American Marketing Association. Michelle is dedicated to creating and sharing opportunities with others. She founded AAMA to create a platform that empowers Black marketers all over the United States. Michelle is also President of the inclusive marketing firm Line 25 Consulting.
2. Ramesh Srinivasan
Through his leadership role at Indian marketing firm Lessburn, Ramesh works to supercharge the growth funnel (even during a pandemic). Their plan involves revamping the branding strategies of UI/UX businesses to witness the transition from traditional classroom training to online classes. In a case study, Ramesh sliced 60% of operational costs spent on the in-house marketing team with a double rollover.
3. Sophie Bowman
PR & Branding Manager, Hypeglo Ltd. and Brand Branding PR LLC
In a power move aimed at disrupting the online marketing game and supporting business owners who want to adapting to pandemic-related restrictions — Sophie has not only waived her influencer fee to promote local businesses survive, but she has also won three awards for a video she created for a local business with zero budget that went viral (the video ultimately amassed more than 150,000 views). A published social media marketing contributor to Forbes who knows all the tricks of the trade, Sophie launched a new startup during the pandemic. The startup exists to show business owners trying to do it all how to do it all. Consider the digital marketing industry officially shaken — not stirred — as Sophie challenges the status quo.
4. Julio Viskovich
Founder, NexLevel Sales
During the ongoing crisis, personalized marketing is key (and cold calls may just be obsolete). Julio developed an innovative strategy by exporting LinkedIn contacts, sorting them and using their emails to run Facebook custom audience campaigns while remarketing personalized ads based on their website activity. This increased touchpoints and generated double the leads that he’d received before using this innovative strategy.
5. Kathy Fielder
Founder and Designer, Kathy Fielder
Like many business owners, Dallas-based Kathy Fielder faced the choice of furloughing her staff and halting operations when shelter-in-place mandates were issued. Instead, she and her team went all-in. In three weeks, they reworked the entire business model of Kathy Fielder Boutique and Isabella Collection by Kathy Fielder, utilizing resources and contacts through her illustrious 20-year career in the field of manufacturing to bring in crucial PPE products for frontline defenders as well as three-ply disposable masks for medical workers and general public use.
“This is an unbelievably stressful time for all business owners, but I’ve always been one to tackle a problem head-on instead of letting it defeat me‚” said Kathy Fielder. “I am thrilled that I can help my local community, keep my staff employed, and continue to stimulate the economy.”
6. Beth Cooper
Director of Marketing, KNB Communications
Beth Cooper directs marketing operations at a full-service marketing firm focusing on health tech. When the pandemic hit and remote work took off, Beth took a giant leap in the internal communications program.
She arranged for several care packages to be sent to each employee, set up a group chat on Google Hangouts so that people could stay connected and began putting out a question of the day to encourage employees to communicate on deeper levels. She made a scavenger hunt where employees were asked to find things like their old yearbooks, favorite board games, and ticket stubs. There have been several happy hours and even a “Wellness Wednesday.” Employees have responded to Beth’s efforts positively, feeling a sense of togetherness and mental wellbeing. As a result of her efforts, Beth’s tactics have been featured by media outlets including Forbes and The Story Exchange.
7. Bronwyn Karaoglu
VP of Marketing, Genbook
The beauty, wellness and personal care sector has been hit hard since the pandemic began. To help small businesses generate income, Bronwyn Karaoglu displayed immense creativity and innovation. She lead the launch of the #SpreadLoveInstead campaign that helped businesses raise over USD $180,000.
This campaign was designed to stimulate the economy and encourage the public to spend money on the businesses they love by buying gift cards from their favorite services. As a result, it helped over 22,000 entrepreneurs generate income to stay afloat. Being a small business themselves, Genbook could run with the campaign despite zero budget allocation. It’s through Bronwyn’s determination and leadership that the company continues to support and stay relevant to its clients by shipping out valuable projects and campaigns.
Being courageous in the face of adversity (especially in the wake of this pandemic) requires genuine marketing prowess. Bronwyn has clearly got it. In the past, she has led similar initiatives with SiteMinder and contributed significantly in making the startup a unicorn company.
8. Halston Puchek
CMO, Hoban Law Group
In the midst of the pandemic, Halston Puchek launched The Hoban Minute podcast. She saw the opportunity to reach out to a global network, check in on folks from around the world and gain insight on the pandemic’s impact on the cannabis industry. Since its start at the end of March, The Hoban Minute is up to 100 published episodes.
Halston was also able to land Bob Hoban himself a contributor opportunity with Forbes, where he now publishes five blogs a month. There was no rest for Halston during the pandemic; she was able to bring a new perspective to the cannabis industry through the Hoban Law Group’s thought leadership.
9. Angela von Weber-Hahnsberg
CEO and Founder, Manoula Marketing
In times of crisis, you do what it takes to help. That’s the philosophy that Angela von Weber-Hahnsberg adheres to. So when the COVID-19 lockdown hit several of her agency’s biggest clients, she worked with each of them to determine what they could pay. Her agency continued to handle the marketing for all of them at an average 70% reduction in rates, not only providing the same services as before, but stepping it up several notches. At the same time, Angela promised her own team that she would do whatever it took to keep their pay at the same level, in spite of the drastic cut in revenue.
Having bootstrapped her own agency and fought through difficult financial times herself, Angela understood the struggle on both sides, as well as the need to think creatively when faced with a crisis. She led her team to develop outrageously innovative marketing strategies to keep their clients afloat…and it worked.
For one client, a dental supplier whose brand is all about humor, her agency organized a free virtual comedy show for dentists while their offices were closed. This built goodwill, but also helped gather email addresses for future sales opportunities. They helped another client pivot their brand messaging creatively to address the new reality, and gained them significant PR exposure on a major network as a result. And after just a couple of months, all of Manoula Marketing’s clients were actually exceeding their pre-pandemic sales numbers. Angela’s agency was able to return to prior revenue levels, all while having gained several new clients.
10. Shakun Bansal
CMO, Mercer | Mettl
In a complete brand strategy reversal and transformation story, Shakun Bansal had to shift focus from products on hiring to online education in just one month’s time — at the height of the pandemic, no less. As offices were shut, the core messaging of the brand changed from “all your hiring needs under one umbrella” to “welcome to the new normal in education.”
At a time when all business was drying up for other companies, Mercer | Mettl’s education business grew 70-80% and the organization has been successful in adding multiple Indian and international logos to its testimonials page.
Under Shakun’s able leadership, strategic vision, future-readiness and nimbleness, Mercer | Mettl became a global brand and a name to reckon with — not just in the hiring space, but also in the online exams and remote proctoring industry.
Shakun transitioned from a Founder’s Team Member to Head of Marketing in a short span of time. His journey has been one of experimentation and establishment of the best marketing strategy paradigms that work for the organization.
11. Rameez Ghayas Usmani
Digital Marketing Strategist, PureVPN
Rameez Ghayas Usmani has been continuously working with small startups to successfully shift their business online in order to keep their wheel running during these difficult times. Rameez also creates content for small businesses, helping them to come out of this pandemic even stronger. He uses his in-depth technical knowledge of SEO and digital marketing best practices to get the job done.
12. Aalap Shah
After launching 1o8 — a Chicago-based digital marketing agency with a focus in eCommerce and CPG brands — in November 2018, Shah has experienced tremendous growth. Under his leadership, 1o8 is now an award-winning agency, with triple-digit YoY growth, multi-million dollar revenue and over a dozen new clients. Others have taken notice of Aalap’s achievements, with private equity firm Fuller Road recently investing in 1o8 to help expand the agency’s service lines.
As a result of its partnership with 1o8, Rafi Nova, a Boston-based maker of facemasks, pouches and bags, has experienced a whopping 600% increase in return on ad spend, 171% increase in conversion and 100% increase in average time spent on its website. Other key client wins over the last 20 months include TOMY, Sweet Leaf Tea and Schylling.
In addition to delivering incredible wins for his agency and clients over the last year, Aalap became a leader and advocate for diversifying Chicago’s workforce. He partnered with the 2019 Chicago Business Opportunity Fair, which connects employers with marketers from marginalized communities.
13. Flynn Zaiger
CEO, Online Optimism
Flynn began Online Optimism in 2012 with nothing more than a laptop and a lot of coffee. Today, he manages 22 Optimists who handle a variety of digital marketing accounts throughout New Orleans and the nation. As COVID-19 turns our country upside-down, Flynn continues to thoughtfully and successfully lead his team.
Flynn has gone above and beyond to ensure all employees receive their paychecks. He’s even cultivated company growth through new hires. In a move of transparency, Flynn regularly meets with his employees to present and discuss current company finances.
Online Optimism’s Specialist program usually employs 4–6 interns over the span of 3 months. Because COVID has rendered job acquisition extremely difficult, Flynn decided to keep on Specialists for an additional period as Senior Specialists. This promotion included a raise and the opportunity to choose aspects of digital marketing where they’d most like to focus their work efforts.
To support staff while working remotely, Flynn provided everyone with top-notch technological equipment. He has also directed the Growth team to ensure everyone stays connected, motivated and engaged through relevant policy updates and remote celebrations like happy hours and gift deliveries. All in all, he’s truly exemplifying courageous leadership.
14. Sacha Nasan
Along with his cousin, Sacha Nasan launched a blind dating app called Blindlee — without any funds.
Blindlee is a new dating service blending the free-flowing style of Tinder with the video function of Zoom. The app sets users up on blind dates using three-minute blurred video calls. The two unfocused faces can refocus on shared chemistry or other interests before they lay eyes on each other online. After that three minutes, they can decide by mutual consent if they want to continue the connection.
Video dating has become increasingly common due to the recent pandemic, and Blindlee is looking to capitalize on that trend by designing for video at the core. People are always looking for the next exciting dating platform to try out, so Blindlee has generated a lot of excitement and press coverage as a result of their innovative approach, which has fuelled their marketing. Sacha is, in large part, to thank for that.
15. Kristin Marquet
Creative Director and CEO, Marquet Media LLC
Kristin Marquet launched FemFounder.co (operating under Marquet Media LLC) as a digital marketing resource for female entrepreneurs in 2017. Compared to 2019, this year’s revenue grew 250% and readership grew 300%. There’s also now more than 175,000 email subscribers. This fast growth is due to aggressive search engine optimization efforts, digital PR outreach, Instagram and Pinterest marketing — all implemented by Kristin.
The site has been featured multiple times on Forbes.com, Inc.com, SmallBizTrends.com and more. This year, the website and founder have received more than 80 press features or mentions, despite the pandemic. Right now, the platform’s goal is to provide readers with the tools and resources to push through the pandemic and recession.
16. Erica Valcourt
Director of Marketing, MOON and Founder, Valcourt Media Group
Erica Valcourt has worked with several businesses to help build and develop their names. From super mogul Mona Scott-Young to young startup businesses like MYX Fusions and Aglit Italy, she worked with each business individually to take their brands to the next level. Now that’s leadership in a nutshell.
17. Jackie Nepola
Co-founder, Business Owner Society and Founder, KLEEN HAIR
Jackie Nepola constantly gives back to the community. Throughout the pandemic, she’s been out there volunteering at homeless shelters. Meanwhile, Jackie launched BusinessOwnerSociety.com with her colleague to show business owners trying to do it all, how to do it all. She’s working to disrupt the online marketing industry along the way.
18. Joshua Strawczynski
Managing Director, JMarketing
According to Joshua Strawczynski, when a wolf gets amongst the hens, the strongest will survive and prosper. JMarketing has invested heavily during the pandemic, guaranteeing all staff their jobs at full pay, hiring key strategic partner Walid Singer and scaling up all media obligations.
Their “Save Isla Mujeres” promotional campaign was an organic, scrappy success. For any company donating to provide food for the people of this tropical island, Joshua and his team provided detailed marketing recommendations valued at $2,500. This resulted in an influx of business, and the company is on track to grow sharply in 2020.
19. Crystal McFerran
CMO, The 20
Tim Conkle, CEO of The 20, knew his own employee Crystal McFerran would truck on. He just didn’t expect her to go on as if nothing happened.
Crystal is able to market in a way that capitalizes without profiteering or exploiting the suffering this year has brought. She is able to gracefully walk the delicate balance between the aggression needed to succeed in a brutal marketplace and the empathy necessary to retain her values. She is able to manifest the company’s spirit and vision into something that can navigate the turbulence of the market without sacrificing morals. The 20’s content pipeline is full and their lead generation has kept going like nothing even happened.
Tim believes the irony is that they’re doing so well because they didn’t have to change anything aside from implementation. Crystal uses the same tactics and techniques as always, just targeted to the new world we all live in. The 20 isn’t surviving, but thriving because of the strength of her campaigns and her consistent efficiency and energy.
20. Brandon Amoroso
Founder, electrIQ Marketing
At just 23 years old, Brandon Amoroso has been able to expand his digital marketing company during a global pandemic. He founded electrIQ marketing back in March 2018 while attending the University of Southern California.
Thanks to his significant experience with platforms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Instagram, Brandon is knowledgeable in startup marketing. From running SEO audits to creating innovative content campaigns, from generating national media buzz to providing insights through Google Analytics and target ad buy campaigns, he does it all.
Because of this, Brandon has been able to hire a full-time team of 7 individuals to help him execute various digital marketing strategies and handle his growing clientele.
21. Beth McRae
President of The McRae Agency
During the COVID-19 quarantine, Beth McRae had a leadership role providing numerous Phoenix-area vets with much-needed food and supplies. She had people dropping off unbelievable quantities of goods at her own home. Her living room was filled to capacity.
She personally texted about 100 friends and asked them to participate. Many of them wrote personal checks and asked Beth to do their shopping. She would go to Costco in the heat and fill up several shopping carts, loading up her SUV. She worked with Senior Placement Services, who handled the distribution of everything to the veterans at several shelters in Phoenix. It took courage for Beth to step up to the plate and do what was needed for homeless and hungry veterans during a time when no one wanted to go out to the stores.
22. Kimberly Afonso
Kimberly Afonso does more than marketing for her own clients. She is also the CEO Whisperer, which means she combines coaching methods to boldly help her clients understand the why behind their actions.
Within the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped one key client turn around an entire marketing plan. All the while, she onboarded new hires within her company. She doesn’t go into fear mode, even when other agencies lost revenue. Kimberly had her highest revenue month so far of 2020 by powerfully serving and helping her clients. Her all-female team is located around the globe and she is passionate about empowering each team member from the get-go.
23. Melinda Wittstock
CEO and Founder, Podopolo
Melinda Wittstock is a serial entrepreneur who has built four businesses in media and tech to upwards of eight-figure success. Her fifth endeavor is Podopolo, the world’s first socially interactive and “gamified” podcast network where people listen to their favorite podcasts, connect with hosts and win rewards.
Podopolo is the first to share revenue with podcasters and donate 10% of its earnings to mission-driven businesses and charities worldwide. An acknowledged visionary in tech, media, mobile platforms and social content, Melinda hosts the fast-growing “Wings of Inspired Business” podcast named by Entrepreneur Magazine as number eight of 20 of the top business podcasts for 2020. The Wings mission is to #LiftAsWeClimb, helping female founders leverage their power and collaborate to change the game of business and succeed without tradeoff, guilt or apology. Formerly an award-winning journalist, executive producer, and TV anchor for the BBC, ABC News, CNBC and MSNBC, Melinda created and grew a BBC show to a 20 million audience and innovated one of the first crowd-sourcing mobile apps, growing unique users to three million in eight months.
24. Carla Williams Johnson
Marketing and Advertising Strategist, Carli Communications
This year, Carla Williams Johnson went all in for herself and for her clients. She knew that she may not be in control of a lot of things, but that good leaders are in control of their brand’s visibility to ensure their customers see, hear and remember them.
So she decided to show up and use her knowledge to help as many business owners and entrepreneurs as possible by implementing a PR strategy. In four months, Carla’s business has been featured in upwards of twenty publications, guest blogs and online forums, not to mention appearing twice on national television.
Carla has even been named one of the top marketers to follow for 2020 and was recently awarded Best Promotions Company (West Indies) at this year’s Media Innovator Awards. Because of this visibility, Carla has helped her own business as well as that of her clients.
25. Monica Garrett
CEO and Founder, Margaux Agency
Monica Garrett uses creativity as a means for success. Her passion for client projects, emphasis on unique branding design, an eye for detail and a deep understanding of digital marketing are the secrets to the success of her agency.
Over the course of the last year, Margaux Agency has seen an impressive 329% increase in revenue growth. With Monica at the wheel, the Margaux Agency has become a top social media agency in Los Angeles, CA, partnering with companies such as Nike, Gorjana, Nekter Juice Bar and BOXHAUS. She uncovers and captures the distinctive quality that sets her clients apart from others.
Monica wants to harness her agency’s talents and skills to help businesses grow and be recognized. From mid-size brands to large Fortune 500 companies, Monica builds meaningful relationships with every client and makes it her mission to truly understand how each unique brand story should be told.
26. Kyle Hjelmeseth
Founder and CEO, G&B Digital Management
It’s hard to make a wave, or even a ripple, in today’s loud digital and influencer world. As such, it’s an art when an under-40, self-made, bi-racial leader is able to do so. Meet Kyle Hjelmeseth.
Kyle has reached multi-millions in revenue while introducing an innovative 100% founder-owned and debt-free business model. The company’s 75% referral rate speaks to the quality of their work and dedication to each client’s success. Partnering with brands from Chanel to Target and everything in-between, alongside macro and mid-tier influencers, he considers his team and clientele like family, ensuring they have the resources they need to succeed.
27. Simon Tam
Founder and Executive Director, The Slants
During the pandemic, there were two major repercussions that were given very little attention: how many event-dependent artists lost their incomes and the sharp rise of violence and discrimination toward Asian Americans. At the same time, we saw important conversations taking place about police brutality and Black Americans.
Simon Tan wanted to find a way to bring light to each of these without being divisive or politically charged. So he established the Countering Hate with Art grant through The Slants Foundation. Because they use 100% of our funds towards programming, he had no marketing budget for messaging. Instead, he shared stories that generated compassion and empathy, calling for artists to create works that did the same.
In the end, Simon helped raise enough money to help fund eight projects within the sectors of music, film, poetry, and art. There’s even a sculpture that is now in the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles, CA. His team also provided resources for Asian families to hold productive conversations around anti-Black racism in eight different native languages. This all took place during May, which is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
28. Krista Neher
CEO, Boot Camp Digital
Krista Neher holds an ability to remain positive and keep her team motivated during the global pandemic. Her agency, Boot Camp Digital, is a digital marketing training company. Pre-pandemic, most of their work was done by traveling to other cities to train teams or speak at conferences or events. Due to travel restrictions and limits on the number of people allowed to gather in public, the business took a significant hit.
While some businesses went into a state of panic, Krista saw opportunity — not obstacles. She created a sense of calm optimism within the organization that allowed her team to focus on the task at hand while switching to a fully virtual training model.
Krista organized a virtual team retreat and lead exercises that allowed everyone to clarify their vision for the company. Leaders are clear on their vision and do not waiver. Leaders embody their vision in everything they do, and encourage the team to come along. By standing strong and not allowing fear of the unknown to overwhelm her, Krista led her team through this challenging time and created the space for them to see the possibilities ahead.
29. Adrian Tobey
Adrian Tobey dropped out of college to pursue the goal of building the first marketing automation plugin/CRM for WordPress. There were ample naysayers who told him, “It’s impossible.” It took courage to deploy a tool like this in a busy terrain, primarily controlled by SaaS competitors such as Salesforce and Hubspot (with multi-million budgets, no less). As it turns out, many programmers have tried to build a solution for WordPress, but never deployed. Within just a year, Adrian had deployed with over 1000 WordPress users from 18 countries using his tool. Groundhogg has achieved great success in a short span of time, garnering rave reviews and profitability in year one.
30. Lisa Pion-Berlin
President and CEO, Parents Anonymous, Inc.
Lisa Pion-Berlin is a passionate and compassionate leader with more than 38 years of experience in her field. Fondly called Dr. Lisa, she is also a clinician and clinical hypnotherapist working with people of all ages to address their underlying emotional issues, change behaviors and reduce anxiety, just to name a few.
Lisa launched the first and only National Parent Helpline with the support of Governor Newsom’s administration. The California Parent & Youth Helpline is open seven days a week to provide evidence-based emotional support and referrals to address the problems facing families due to the pandemic. This has been a game-changer for parents both in California and across the country as we face many new challenges this year.
31. Johnna Devereaux
Founder, Fetch RI
Johnna Devereaux has been a small business owner for over a decade. In addition to being a clinical pet nutritionist, she’s the founder of Fetch RI, a holistic pet boutique and supply retail store.
Johnna has been invited to speak at various veterinary hospitals to discuss the benefits of proper nutrition for dogs and cats. She has also been a repeat presenter at Potters League University, teaching children and adults the benefits of feeding pets in a species-appropriate way. Her writings have been featured in a variety of publications. Her store has been awarded “Best of Rhode Island” by Editor’s Pick and Reader’s Choice, as well as awarded “Top Dog” by Animal Print magazine.
This year, Johnna has helped the Bow Wow Labs, Inc. team formulate their new treat line, Waggy Wafers, which contain the finest, healthiest ingredients for dogs. In addition, Johnna has won the 2020 Pet Age Women Of Influence Award, where she has been acknowledged and honored for her hard work and ambition in the pet industry.
32. Mike Capuzzi
Owner, Persistent Marketing, Inc.
Marketing Expert and Guru Mike Capuzzi released his new book, “100 Page Book: The Business Owner’s Guide to Self-Publishing a Short Customer Attraction Book‚” in mid- July. It’s already a #1 Bestseller on Amazon.
In this book, Mike explains and outlines to business owners how simple it is to write and utilize their own 100-page short books (or shooks, as he likes to call them) to help attract more customers and increase their profits. In 2020, this marketing tactic is one worth bookmarking.
33. Shawn Walchef
Owner, Cali Comfort BBQ
To survive in the modern world, Cali Comfort BBQ had to embrace digital hospitality. When dining rooms were shut down in San Diego, the family-run restaurant knew right away to pivot to takeout and delivery in order to focus on continuing to make and sell the best craft BBQ and drinks possible. Now, they’re growing in one of the hardest years for the restaurant industry on record. As a digital restaurant, Cali Comfort BBQ is selling family meals, alcohol and slow-smoked barbecue through their website first. Then, it’s going out for pickup and for delivery safely and easily.
On Father’s Day, the restaurant sold out of BBQ half an hour before opening their doors. Changes to local laws during the pandemic even allowed them to start selling their specialty fishbowl cocktails to-go (including the spicy “Tiger King” and sour “The Karen” drinks).
Cali Comfort BBQ also has its own weekly podcast (Digital Hospitality) and a regularly updated blog on the restaurant website. They believe digital media is a gift to small businesses, and that the phone we carry in our pockets can unlock endless opportunities.
34. Joy Gendusa
Despite huge losses due to the pandemic (when earnings dropped 41%), Joy Gendusa navigated her $60 million, 285-staff marketing company called PostcardMania back to profitability.
With hundreds of employees relying on her, Joy quickly committed to doing whatever it took to avoid layoffs. She got creative. She sold assets, improved efficiencies and kept PostcardMania’s employees working full time. In the end, this meant taking on debt (personally and within the business) to continue paying 285 people in full every week. Joy made another commitment early on to continue her marketing uninterrupted. Because PostcardMania spends about $100,000 per week on marketing, this was no small feat.
Both gambles paid off. PostcardMania has already rebounded and revenue returned to its pre-pandemic range in May. That month was the best May in her company’s 22-year history, and June was the second highest-grossing month ever in what is usually the slow season for PostcardMania. In addition, PostcardMania has added 25 new jobs since May 1.
Now that she’s seen her company through what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic, Joy continues helping other small businesses succeed through proven and innovative marketing services.
35. Abhi Lokesh
Abhi Lokesh has a dedication to keeping his company carbon neutral (because it’s the right thing to do, not the easiest). Fracture solar-powered facility and always keeps their values first, like pulling advertising from a show that promoted hate speech.
In less than a year, Fracture held a massive fundraiser to help animals impacted by Australian wildfire, performed a major work-from-home shift for much of Abhi’s 80-person team and delivered bold public and financial support for Black Lives Matter.
All of this occurred mindfully, without losing focus on marketing to his brand’s creative customers.
36. Kate Rooney
Brand Director, Design Pickle
Kate Rooney has led Design Pickle through the past several months of world turmoil with ease and grace. From shifting brand messaging and ads from quirky pickles to helpful work-from-home content, to releasing a strong Black Lives Matter statement and custom illustrations to amplify the voices of the Black community, Kate has leveraged creativity to ensure Design Pickle lives up to the mission of being the most helpful creative company in the world.
In her role, Kate oversees all video, social, written and visual content on behalf of the company, and has led the pivots across all of those channels.
37. Alyssa Jarrett
Director of Brand and Content Marketing, Iterable
Alyssa Jarrett specializes in creating data-driven content to educate growth marketers at leading brands like Zillow, SeatGeek and Box. She joined Iterable in November 2016 as the company’s first content marketing hire. Since then, Iterable has raised a total of $140 million and grown from 30 employees to 300. Alyssa has doubled the size of the content team, which is now responsible for content marketing and strategy, visual design, brand awareness, public relations, corporate communications and organic outreach through various channels.
Alyssa has effectively shifted Iterable’s go-to-market strategy to be content-backed and built for scale — leading to double the company’s YoY growth in revenue. She has also led the content strategy of Activate, Iterable’s flagship growth marketing conference, since its inception in 2018. While traditionally held in San Francisco and London, this year she successfully helped pivot its third-annual Activate into a virtual experience, complete with viewing party kits, meet-the-speaker sessions, gamification and more. Iterable exceeded all of its event goals, with 3,300+ registrants and 1,000+ attendees.
38. Dan Salganik
While most companies were shutting their doors or pulling back budgets, Dan Salganik and the team at VisualFizz pushed to market more, drive more engagement, hire more team members, invest in creative and so much more.
It was a scary decision at a time which was so unpredictable. But now, the team has seen growth through larger clients that would have normally chosen a larger company. Their marketing budget has increased, their client-base has increased and they’re continuing to take risks under Dan’s leadership.
39. David Reischer
CEO and Founder, ProBono.LegalAdvice.com
David Reischer’s business strategy has transitioned during the pandemic — from meeting clients in the physical office to marketing a legal services online product. While his law firm and pro-bono practice totally shut down for in-person meetings. However, many clients can still get service through David’s online web portal, LegalAdvice.com.
40. Lucas Rubix
Online Coach, Lucas Rubix
Not afraid to bend the rules, Lucas Rubix is a passionate leader paving the way for online coaches who are ready to turn their knowledge, gifts and life story into a wildly successful online coaching business.
Lucas is not afraid to stand out, no matter how saturated the internet gets. He delivers real, raw and completely uncensored value with his audience online. And when the pandemic shut down the economy around the world, Lucas stepped up with a very clear message, “This pandemic sped up the inevitable.”
For coaches, building an online coaching business has always come with tons of benefits and extremely low expenses. Lucas is stepping up to help thousands of coaches worldwide build their own coaching business. He’s inspiring millions more through what has been a year like none other in living memory.
41. Luanna Tierney
Luanne Tierney was asked to speak to the master program at Pepperdine University about marketing during a pandemic. She shared that today’s marketing requires grit. She also told the students to always be generous, relevant, innovative and timely. Luanna used her experience with Betterworks to prove her validity, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the students.
42. Tracy Montour
Director of Marketing, Arbeit
Tracy Montour was extremely responsive during the pandemic. She acted quickly, calmly and considered her customers and their wellbeing — all while leading company communication. Tracy made sure the marketing team was comfortable and able to work safely from home with everything they needed. She worked with executive leadership to ensure all customers were supported with frequent, non-alarmist communication. And that’s worth more than its weight in gold.
43. Lukesh Pillaii
Digital Marketing Consultant, Daiki Media
Lukesh Pillaii is a Malaysian that’s truly one of a kind. He’s a well-known entrepreneur and digital marketer that maintains his creativity. Lukesh can make just about any business scale with his unique ideas. He has been helping garner tremendous traffic to his company’s site. During the pandemic, he even offered pro-bono work when they couldn’t afford his full retainer.
44. David Peterson
Senior Director of Marketing and Strategy, HealthMarkets
With millions of Americans losing their jobs, and often their health insurance, David Peterson saw an opportunity for his company to help the country. As one of the largest health insurance agencies in the US, David recognized that HealthMarkets was in a prime position to augment its website to help people navigate a complex health insurance landscape at a time of great need.
With the help of his team and the IT department, David launched a first-of-its-kind online tool on HealthMarkets.com to support finding and evaluating health insurance coverage options in a free, unbiased way. In just a few questions, consumers can discover top coverage options to consider. HealthMarkets’ recommendations even include coverage options that it doesn’t offer, such as Medicaid, COBRA and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. During these times, HealthMarkets and its marketing leader David are all-in on helping people find coverage that fits their needs and budgets.
45. Rita Katona
Co-founder and Chairperson, So Good So You
Rita Katona’s business recently launched a groundbreaking sustainable packaging material that biodegrades at an accelerated rate in landfills. Given it’s specificity, the marketing team has been challenged to simplify and clearly deliver the message.
Rita has demonstrated great leadership by offering constant guidance and education to her team and to the greater community throughout the process. She walks the walk each and every day, setting the standard for living a healthy and sustainable life and making a major impact on those around her. Rita defines what it means to be a great marketing leader.
46. Venkatesan Lakshminarasimhan
With over 35 years of executive managerial experience and a focus on shaping young leaders to the business, Venkatesan Lakshminarasimhan is a digital marketing professional who isn’t giving up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
47. Teodora Nikolovska
Founder and CEO, Vrootok
Vrootok is a digital marketing agency that works with clients in the US. While running Vrootok, Teodora Nikolovska decided to open a new company in her home country of Macedonia to share the digital marketing knowledge and experience she’s gained through certified digital marketing programs. She partnered with the Digital Marketing Institute in Dublin and has become the first company in her Macedonia to provide a certified, globally recognized digital marketing program.
The start was rough — the launch coincided with the pandemic’s rise in Macedonia. All of their trainers are certified from the DMI, and they managed to get 31 students to study with them, some of which have already passed their certification. Teodora is proud to be making a positive change in her community, by transferring global knowledge and experience with the people back home.
48. Barbara Castiglia
Executive Editor, Modern Restaurant Management
Barbara Castiglia runs a website that provides content geared toward restaurant industry professionals. During the early months of the pandemic, she threw out the editorial calendar and was responsive to the news cycle, providing round-the-clock coverage of resources for those in need in addition to survival stories. Barbara and her team take great pride that they were able to hold onto their goal, all things considered.
49. Travis Hartliep
Owner, Cougar Digital Marketing and Design
Travis Hartliep has always been more than flexible with his employees, making sure they’re doing the things that will make them happy and successful. In fact, he opened a sister company, Crimson Vine Marketing, to develop winery marketing in his area because that was one of his employees’ personal passions.
Then COVID-19 hit. Travis stayed positive and assured his team that they would make it through this without losing anybody, despite having some major clients put services on hold. He regrouped us as a team and made the decision to forge forward while working from home and adapting to video conferences with one another. The team shifted responsibilities and utilized previously unused talent amongst their group. They have created a small power team that is stronger than ever.
Travis’ team has survived by working together, not only internally, but with their existing clients as well. They have appreciated the company’s flexibility and have shifted to working on their own businesses as well during the shutdown to catch up on website updates, develop new marketing strategies and learn how to operate in a digital world when they can’t see customers face-to-face. His business is now more profitable and busier than ever thanks to their fearless leader.
50. Kristin Robinson
CEO, NexGen Credit Consulting
Kristin Robinson has been in the mortgage/credit enhancement and business consulting industries since 2003. She is a Board Certified Credit Consultant and Mortgage Expert that has pushed through the pandemic with hardly a scratch on her back — for herself and her entire team.
51. Ryan Ellis
Owner, Red Egg Marketing
Ryan Ellis has incredibly close relationships with his clients. These small business owners rely on his expertise to keep their lead flow up and marketing strategies fine-tuned.
During the pandemic, Ryan immediately began discussions with clients, advising them on how to pivot their marketing strategies to not only remain competitive but to stay afloat during uncertain times and capitalize on opportunities to increase market share. His company’s nimble size allowed them to react quickly. The staff worked around the clock to develop and swiftly implement new strategies while also developing business offerings that would fit the new landscape. Maintaining marketing efforts made all the difference.
For example, a construction supply business in Denver maintained their marketing spend with Red Egg Marketing despite furloughing many of their employees in March. Ryan and his team quickly shifted e-commerce marketing and advertising to consumer-facing products. The thought was this: Since so many people were home doing house projects, they could take advantage of the increased demand. This, paired with new customer service offerings and email communication to promote it, resulted in record profits. It enabled the client’s business to rehire all their staff and even add more to the roster.
52. Rebecca Grimes
CMO, Ruby Receptionists
Courage requires vulnerability. Great leaders make their team feel empowered and courageous by talking about, facing and overcoming their own vulnerabilities. Rebecca Grimes is the CMO at Ruby and perfectly embodies the role of a courageous marketing leader. She openly shares her own vulnerabilities and invites her team to share their own.
Most importantly, Rebecca combines empathetic leadership with data-driven decision-making. Despite being established for two decades, Ruby’s sales and marketing department lacked a strong reporting structure. In less than eight months with the company, Rebecca has created alignment between the sales and marketing teams through a focus on clean data.
Rebecca leads with passion, transparency and focus. She leans on her team to be the experts, is not afraid to speak directly and has fostered a symbiotic relationship between the Sales and Marketing teams by regularly seeking feedback from people across teams to understand where they can improve.
53. Michael Stahl
Michael Stahl joined disaster clean-up company SERVPRO as its new Chief Marketing Officer in mid-March of this year, just as the pandemic hit and the world essentially shut down.
Unable to move his family to their new home in Nashville, Michael started his new leadership role working from home, meeting his new team members and colleagues virtually. The crisis in the country called for a company like SERVPRO to do something, and under Michael leadership, they did.
In an effort to help businesses and facilities throughout the country combat the COVID-19 virus and plan to reopen, Michael and his team developed and launched the “Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned” service, a robust cleaning program that the more than 1,800 SERVPRO franchises throughout the United States were able to offer to customers of all sizes and industries.
He worked tirelessly to make the program come to life in just under three weeks, requiring leaps of faith for both SERVPRO in trusting in Michael’s knowledge and expertise, and for Michael in entrusting his new team to follow his lead. With more than 50,000 “Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned” customers throughout the past two months, his courageous efforts are paying off and helping save lives.
54. Anna Crowe
CEO/Founder, Crowe PR
A visionary trailblazer, best-selling author and speaker, Anna Crowe is a tenacious and empathetic leader who has positively impacted numerous people and organizations this year.
Most recently, when COVID-19 hit and small businesses started to crumble, Anna sprung into action, mobilizing her team to provide impacted business with pro-bono PR and social media services. As head of a 15-person organization founded on authenticity and purpose-driven values, Anna understood the severity of the crisis and wanted to lessen its impact on the community by providing complementary services to those in need. Crowe PR worked around the clock to review internal and external messaging, draft crisis communication plans, assist with social media content and more, helping more than 10 businesses navigate uncertainty.
Under Anna’s leadership, the team helped Milwaukee startup Washbnb pivot from servicing Airbnbs to providing laundry services to the elderly and immunocompromised; the team’s secured placement in The New York Times, which got syndicated to over 40 million readers, helped Washbnb land their first hospitality deal and a week’s worth of investor meetings.
Anna regularly leads corporate philanthropy initiatives at Crowe PR, volunteering throughout the community. She is an active member of philanthropy-based PEERS network, a co-chair on the board of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (where she helps local businesses scale to over $1 million) and a co-manager for female-focused Changemaker Chats.
55. Raime Merriman
VP of Marketing, Hubb
Fewer industries have been more severely impacted by the pandemic than the events industry. Watching some of their biggest clients cancel their events, Raime Merriman helped her company, Hubb, shift to providing a virtual event solution.
And to see if this vision could work, they went big by hosting the Untethered virtual summit that brought together thousands of event professionals from around the globe. Untethered, a name Raime created, was more than a test of this new vision. It was a way to bring the industry together to educate, inspire and innovate a new future for events. And it did more than just inspire; it raised over $17,000 for fellow event professionals in crisis.
Raime also created an Untethered Webinar Series to continue this mission. With hundreds of attendees at each session, Raime has helped thousands of event professionals create their own virtual events and thrive in this new reality. In an incredible comeback, Raime helped bring her company back from the brink to a place where they’re delivering more sales pipeline in a single month than all of the previous year — all while helping her industry carve a new path forward.
56. Kim McNealy
CMO, Ascent Funding
In less than 2 years, Kim McNealy built a world-class marketing team and grew Ascent Funding from a boutique startup to a national, award-winning brand.
Under Kim’s leadership in 2019, Ascent more than doubled their YoY. In 2020, while some businesses are experiencing a downturn, Kim’s bold and courageous initiatives are leading Ascent to achieve 40% more this year.
This success has caught the attention of key players in the student loans industry and beyond. This month, Ascent was named “Best Private Student Loan Company of 2020” by Forbes Advisor and ranked as the top student loan company by DollarGeek, Saving for College and The Balance.
Kim is always championing to make it easier for students to pay for college. This includes finding more ways to put money back in the students’ hands, updating the user experience online and launching a financial wellness program. Kim always puts students first, as evidenced by Ascent’s $50,000 scholarship giveaway. He is also passionate about fighting racism and launched a scholarship dedicated to students who are making a more positive impact in their community
57. Josh Cole
CMO, Sky Zone Franchise Group
Josh Cole has shown tactical execution through innovative partnerships with social platforms such as Snapchat and top-tier social media influencers, as well as led high-profile media integrations (on ESPN, Bad Moms Christmas, The Bachelorette and Nickelodeon’s Double Dare).
Amid the start of the global pandemic, Josh and his team implemented innovative ways to connect virtually with customers to remain helpful and to drive brand visibility. Such initiatives included providing kids and parents with fun, indoor active play ideas via an active play catalog, hosting virtual birthday parties, bringing guests’ favorite Sky Zone active play areas to life virtually through customized Zoom backgrounds and launching a new Sky Zone mobile game app.
As Sky Zone locations slowly reopen nationwide, Josh and the company continue to creatively adapt to the situation by staying engaged and helpful to customers.