Northland Marketing LLC Owners Bri and Todd Michaud are passionate small business owners committed to ensuring small businesses in our region stay afloat. They founded their company to provide website design, search engine optimization (SEO), and digital marketing, essentially helping businesses enhance their online presence. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price connected with Bri to chat about their startup experience.
NAN PRICE: Have you always been entrepreneurial?
BRI MICHAUD: My parents are both entrepreneurs, so I think that got instilled in me at a young age. At Central Connecticut State University, I studied graphic design and social work—which is an interesting combination. I enjoy technology and design. I also enjoy helping people.
After college, I started freelance designing websites and helping businesses with their SEO. Eventually, I reached a point where it made sense to go out on my own. I kept asking myself: If I didn’t do it now, when was I going to do it? How was I going to start? When is the right time?
I knew starting our own business was something I needed and wanted to do. Especially during this pandemic, seeing so many small businesses struggling, I knew we could help them. I thought if I could help even one business from closing their doors, that would make me feel fulfilled, like I was doing what I was meant to do and serving the community. I transitioned from freelance to an LLC in September 2020.
NAN: Tell us about that process.
BRI: At first, I was overwhelmed. We have never done this before, so I didn’t know how to get started. I stumbled along the way and figured it out as I went. BAM University provided complete mentorship throughout the startup process, including helping me decide on our business name and determine whether I’d be an LLC, a sole proprietor, or DBA.
I was looking for some sort of business checklist, which I found at CT.gov. It put everything into a nice, neat step-by-step checklist. I also relied on my mother, MakerspaceCT Founder Devra Sisitsky, as she’s launched dozens quite of startups. She helped me establish the LLC and continues to provide a lot of direction.
NAN: How are you marketing and building clientele?
BRI: I started by making a list of local small businesses I wanted to start working with and began connecting through LinkedIn and cold calling. I’m trying to create personal connections and let businesses know I’m a small local business, just like them, who wants to keep them from closing their doors.
I’ve also used Facebook to join some marketing groups in Connecticut and New England. And, I’ve been looking into the Business Network International (BNI) circles.
NAN: You’ve started a business during COVID-19, which is already challenging. What other hurdles have you faced?
BRI: One of the biggest issues is getting people to be willing to listen to me. I don’t think that’s even related to COVID-19, it’s an issue with marketers in general. The minute someone hears you’re a marketer or you’re trying to sell them something, they immediately don’t want to listen to you.
So, I had a hard time learning how to get through to people before they put up that shield—and learning how to position myself so I can let businesses know that I’m a helper. The whole reason I started my business is to help other businesses.
COVID-19 has been a little beneficial in that meetings don’t include driving time, but at the same time, it’s hindered us because we can’t make those personal connections.
It’s also been tough because businesses are financially struggling. Even though I’m ultimately trying to help them make money, in the beginning they’re not willing to invest in my marketing efforts. I have to explain how marketing themselves can bring in more revenue, which helps grow their businesses. They have to get out there and let clients know what they do. It’s a “pay to play” mindset.
NAN: As a marketing company, what makes you innovative or different than other agencies?
BRI: We take a personal approach. I’m not outsourcing to someone else. I’m personally reaching out to businesses, letting them know what I can help them with and what I do.
Also, my approach isn’t one-size-fits-all. I sit down and research each client’s website and their competition. I take a video of my screen as I’m going through this research, so the client can be there with me and it can be a part of the process. It provides inclusion and transparency, which us something I haven’t seen other marketers do.
NAN: What advice do you have for others who are launching a business in the Hartford Region?
BRI: First and foremost, come up with a realistic plan, set your goals, and then just do it. We spend a lot of our time contemplating “what if” and never follow through. If starting a business is something that would change your life, then let this be your sign!
Second, Hartford is full of other businesses and it’s a great place to focus. Even during this pandemic, there are a lot of ways to reach out to other business owners and make connections. We all need to help each other during this time, so don’t be afraid to form joint ventures or partnerships. There are a lot of resources around for new business owners to utilize, we just have to take the first step.