Amanda Brinkman | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Amanda Brinkman

Background:  

Amanda Brinkman is a marketing and advertising industry veteran who currently hosts Small Business Revolution: Main Street. Brinkman and her team travel to small towns across America to boost small businesses with a $500,000 infusion of cash. The show can be streamed on Hulu and will return for its third season in the fall of 2018. 

The Mistake:

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to get into the marketing or advertising space. I was very attracted to film and storytelling and advertising. But I also grew up in a house where volunteering was very important, so I felt conflicted about those two things. I felt like advertising was a little too slick or secular. I remember I shared that with a professor once when he was asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I said, “I feel like I want to go into advertising, but it just feels like maybe I should go and join the Peace Corps instead and make the world a better place.” And I remember he said to me, “Amanda, if people who want to do good don’t go into marketing and advertising, how will it ever get better?” For me, that was a huge lightbulb moment. I’ve spent my entire career coming to this point where [I’m] trying to prove that brands can think differently about advertising. It doesn’t always need to be these slick sales ads. There are ways that you can do both things. You can achieve these business goals and you can also do good for your community.

What would the world be missing if you weren’t in business?

The Lesson:

Over the years I’ve [looked] at how much brands spend annually. As a global industry, we spend $500 billion on advertising each year. And when you think about what kind of an impact those dollars could have for real people, it just feels like you can do both things at the same time. When you put that kind of spending in context ... you can go to Mexico and build a home for $10,000. We’re spending 50 times that on one ad campaign.

While I’m not advocating that every company needs to go and solve homelessness or build homes, there are things you can do that are unique to your customer sub-segment and things that are unique to you as a company. There’s a reason why your company started from the very beginning, and it’s about getting back to the core and those roots, and truly delivering on that promise. What would the world be missing if you weren’t in business?

Follow Amanda Brinkman on Twitter at @amandakbrinkman and Small Business Revolution at @smbizrevolution.

Photo courtesy of Small Business Revolution — Main Street

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email jfisher@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain.