When Stacey McClenathan founded her business, Bee-line Communications, she did so in her Green Oaks home with just one employee — herself.
Now, the Libertyville-based company has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States.
"I could not imagine doing anything else," said McClenathan, adding that it's "the joy of the work" that inspires her every day.
The idea of starting the global marketing creative communications agency came to McClenathan when she was home on bed rest while pregnant with her third child. She worked in the strategy department at Motorola at the time.
From her bed, she started talking to friends and former colleagues about building her own business. She soon had to make a decision whether to return to work or pursue her dream.
"Within a few weeks, I decided I had to be all-in," said McClenathan. She said her husband was very supportive. By the time her son was born, she already had clients in place.
McClenathan started the company, which was officially incorporated in September 2006, in her basement. Within a year, her husband quit his job to handle the books.
"I had a basement full of employees," said McClenathan. "I had to tell my neighbors I was having Bible study so they wouldn't complain about all of the cars."
By 2008, McClenathan decided she needed to leave the basement and set up shop at their current office, 260 American Way in Libertyville.
It is from that office that McClenathan makes it her goal to help businesses grow.
"I want to be very tied to the business results," she said.
Working with companies large and small, McClenathan and her staff meet with those businesses to learn about what growth means to them.
"They walk us through what their aspirations are, and we help create the marketing to get them there," said McClenathan. One of Bee-line's first projects was a marketing plan for Johnson Controls. McClenathan said people would often confuse the company with businesses like SC Johnson. The marketing plan, aimed to not only help the company grow but to also redefine the business, included employee communications and the company's website.
"We do everything. There's nothing in the mix we won't do," said McClenathan. Some companies may just need business cards, while others require a brand overhaul. "It runs the entire gamut."
The economy, McClenathan said, has definitely had an impact on companies' marketing efforts. From 2008-10, companies outsourced a lot of their marketing due to layoffs within their marketing departments. McClenathan said Bee-line employees look at what companies are already spending on marketing and "try to spend the same amount and make it work for them."
McClenathan said many companies are focusing on ramping up their online presence. With that in mind, she aims to make sure that presence is being seen. For example, in representing a local home builder, McClenathan said she encouraged the business owner to to share pictures of their designs on a design-oriented website.
"You need to take your message where people are looking," she said.
Bee-line now has satellite offices in the United Kingdom and Asia — and more than 100 clients. The company also gives back locally through a pro bono project with organizations like Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Feed My Starving Children and Libertyville's "Shop 60048" campaign.
"You just keep putting one foot in front of the other," she said of Bee-line's growth. The company uses referrals, not advertising, to gain new clients. McClenathan said Bee-line also seeks out companies that may need Bee-line's services.
"The best part of it is when a client calls and says, 'You're a lifesaver.'"