How did CAP Creative, a full-service advertising agency transplanted in 2004 from the Green Mountains of Vermont, open its doors here with just one client, and within 28 months grow an enviable client portfolio full of some of the Sarasota-Manatee business community's heaviest hitters?
Owner and president Roxanne Joffe's first response isn't all that startling. The key, she says, is being "100 percent focused on customer service"-that and round-the-clock hours, a booming region full of possibilities and a marketing approach that takes a big-picture look at what makes some companies name brands and others forgettable flops. "I like to say we're not media brokers, we're business builders," she says. "It's not just about us buying media for a client. We look at everything, from how the business answers the phones to what their office looks like."
CAP also concentrates on looking at what the end user wants-which sometimes means the client's vision is secondary to the process.
These strategies have yielded results, helping CAP and Joffe's team of eight employees win an impressive 40 local advertising industry awards in two years-including 21 ADDY awards in 2006 alone-and to capture important local and national clients. Gross revenues for 2007 are estimated at $5 million.
The campaign that put CAP on the local map was the "I'm an Original" campaign for the Sarasota-Manatee Originals (www.freshoriginals.com), a group of local, independent restaurants that joined together to form Florida's first chapter of the Council of Independent Restaurants of America (CIRA).
Don Luria, president of Tucson, Ariz.-based DineOriginals, the trademarked brand for CIRA, liked the campaign so much that the national organization also decided to work with CAP. "We felt that what they [CAP] did was very effective, that they did their homework and looked at focus groups," Luria says. In the past year and a half, Luria says, "They've done very well for us."
Joffe says the invitation to join Transworld Advertising Agency Network (TAAN) this year has also helped give CAP an edge. TAAN, established in 1936, is a professional marketing organization that also includes 14 European firms and four Pacific Rim agencies with combined billings of $750 million. CAP is one of the smallest member agencies, and one of only 20 firms selected in the U.S. "We collaborate and work on international industry standards," says Joffe. "It helps keep us ahead."
A petite powerhouse of energy, Joffe gets her stamina from the daily workouts she never misses and the decades of running she's got under her belt. (She's run several marathons, including New York's, and runs locally with a group of friends; her agency developed the logo for last year's inaugural Sarasota Marathon.)
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Joffe, who holds American citizenship, lived in New York City for a decade before moving to Manchester, Vt. She spent 10 years in Vermont, running her ad agency-formerly called Acrobatix Worldwide-on her own and happily raising her two children. She finally hired staff when it dawned on her that simultaneously promoting seven concerts, a film festival and the 10th anniversary of the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure (Joffe chaired the Vermont race between 2000 and 2003) was too much for one person to handle. A desire for warmer weather and the chance to live near her parents, longtime Sarasotans, made the move here inevitable after her children were grown.
Joffe and CAP CEO Sam Stern, her husband, began transitioning their business from Vermont to Sarasota in 2004, commuting between the two offices for several months. It's not surprising that several key Vermont staffers elected to follow them; they may one day be running the show. "We have an amazing creative team," Joffe says. "Our long-term vision," she adds, is to eventually "hand the company over to them."
Even though that day is still far off in the future, Joffe is already laying the groundwork for a successful transition. Her agency, she says, is organized into horizontal "teams" rather than the more traditional, vertical hierarchy.
The company's growth is reflected in CAP's new offices at the upper end of Main Street, where vibrant red walls give a high-energy vibe. "You just have to look at the skyline," Joffe says, gesturing toward the window, to see the potential for growing not only her business, but her clients' businesses as well.
With all the cranes dotting the cityscape, it makes sense that CAP's local client mix is heavy on home builders and real estate developers, including Detroit-based Triton Companies. Triton, in partnership with RBS Companies, is the developer behind One Palm, a condominium/retail project to be built adjacent to the M&I Bank Building on Palm Avenue at Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. "When we met for breakfast," Joffe says of her first meeting with Triton executives, "they asked me if I was connected to the good old boy club in town and I said, 'No, and I probably never will be.' I had to be honest. But then I told them [Triton] what I thought they should do and they must have liked it." Other CAP clients include Standard Pacific Homes, Pag Print Machinery, the state of Vermont, Carlson Studio Architecture, Charleston Place Development, Bank of Bennington, The Equinox Resort and Spa and HealthTrust LLC, an appraiser in the Medicaid/Medicare industry.
The downside to the region's high-end growth is a talent pool that Joffe sees as diminished due to lack of housing-and a few growing pains for the city, as well. Joffe describes Sarasota as being on the cusp of adolescence-almost, but not quite, "a teenager" in terms of its "life cycle" as a city. "It still has that small-town mentality in some ways, which is great socially," Joffe says. But from a business point of view, she says, that mentality can hamper the creative thinking necessary to take businesses to the next level.
Joffe and her team also donate considerable time and expertise to national and local philanthropic efforts. Among Joffe's more high-profile projects this year is serving as national chairperson of the board for Casting for Recovery (www.castingforrecovery.org), a nonprofit, nationwide organization for women with breast cancer that incorporates fly-fishing into the healing and recovery process.
CAP also rebranded the 2006 Sarasota Reading Festival. In anticipation of the Reading Festival's 10th anniversary next year, CAP developed a fresh, new logo featuring dancing book palm trees and a "More to Explore" ad campaign that features a scuba diver, astronaut and Sherlock Holmes-like detective on vivid orange, pink and blue backgrounds. She's also donating services to the Sarasota Museum of Art, and last month launched the Five Points Park Neighborhood Association, along with co-founders Ron McCullough and Elsie Souza.
As for her own business, Joffe says her short-term goal is twofold: to maintain the high level of customer service that CAP Creative has come to be known for and to offer that service to "a diverse array of clients."
But not just any client.
Not surprisingly, Joffe has considered every detail when envisioning the perfect consumer for her agency. She seems to look for client partnerships that mirror her own and her agency's strong emphasis on creating powerful, long-lasting relationships and achieving bottom-line results for all involved.
That ideal CAP client, Joffe says, is "collaborative, smart, trusting," and, she adds with a smile, "pays their bills."