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Meet Debra Sheridan of IVY Marketing Group in Glen Ellyn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Debra Sheridan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 1989 I was working for a small advertising agency that was merging with an agency handling Mattel, the toy manufacturer. I had brought five accounts into the firm and they no longer wanted to service them. I shopped my band of clients to other agencies to see if they would be willing to accept them as clients with me as the account executive overseeing that they received what had been promised to them. Just like any bad shopping experience, I couldn’t find any firm I wanted to work with and that would give these clients the services they expected and were promised. As a result, and with all of their enthusiastic urging, I started IVY Marketing Group 1990 in my home.

One night as my husband came upstairs to go to bed and found 5 people sitting on it doing a creative meeting, he told me it was time to move out. We did and quickly grew to a staff of 18 people working with shopping centers throughout Chicago and the US, local banks, local surgical centers, a retirement community and a retail store that was quickly expanding throughout Chicagoland with an eye towards a sale to a larger company.

It was a great run but shopping centers were changing rapidly from being unique, charming mom and pop retailers to “category killer” retailers who said they would not pay for marketing of the mall but would be happy to put the name of the mall in their ads. With the handwriting on the wall for mall/shopping center marketing, I regrouped to decided how to stay in business and chose to focus on the senior housing and services in 1997.

Since that time we have been a national leader in marketing and public relations within this category and are now riding the wave of the baby boomer generation to bring new ways to age successfully.

In the early 2000, we began to notice that marketing and public relations were now morphing into a different type of business. With a significant degree of investigation, research and learning, we figured out how to continue to serve our clients well. It is that natural curiosity to always be learning that has been the key to our success. Today we are uniquely positioned to compete in our very competitive industry because we have the in-depth knowledge of three areas: storytelling, marketing to make the numbers and a desire to always serve our clients with the best possible tactics for their success.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There is nothing smooth about running your own business. Cash flow is king and you never have the right amount of people for the right amount of work; so, keeping some sense of balance is a challenge.

Keeping up with technology has always a challenge because it is our responsibility to know what is available for our clients, how to use it and what results to expect.

When I first started there was no widespread use of the Internet, buying a fax machine for $2,500 was a BIG deal and the Apple Mac was not born so we had to decide between PC and Apple computers and hope that we made the right choice. There was no expectation of instant response to emails or texts.

There were also financial difficulties. Since cash flow is critical, we have had to dip into our personal finances (including our retirement fund in 2008) a few times to make payroll. There have been years where I took no salary.

Market changes, technology advancements, service offerings to your demographic and the role of marketing and PR are constantly evolving and it is important to keep one eye on the ball with the other on trends and emerging industries.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with IVY Marketing Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
IVY Marketing Group has chosen to remain a boutique advertising, public relations and marketing agency. We have a core group of eight people and then a stable of writers, designers and specialists that we work with regularly to serve our clients’ needs. While we specialize in senior housing and services, we are more than capable, and have worked, in a number of service-related industries. What sets us apart is our creative ability and responsiveness to clients and media. We treat both of these groups with equal respect and regard.

I am most proud of the integrity we have always had as a company regardless of any circumstance that could have derailed us. I am proud of the people who have and still work here and their exceptional effort and dedication to making our work the best it can be. I am also proud of the fact that we have lots of fun together, laugh a lot and always support each other.

Probably my proudest moment at IVY was in the development and implement of a national program for shopping centers. Called HEROICS (Helping Everyone Reach Out In Community Service) this multi-faceted program helped local not-for-profits cross pollinate their volunteer pools, offered them resources onsite at the malls, celebrated the kind and good work of everyday people in the community and provided an opportunity for each mall to serve their community-at-large with programs that they developed and nurtured under the HEROICS platform. This program was very successful and was accepted into the America’s Promise program under the Clinton administration.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am still having fun, loving my team and my clients and looking to the future with excitement about what will be the next new wave in technology, media, marketing and senior services.

Big changes are not on my radar as I like the smallness of IVY because it keeps us nimble and we have bountiful and exceptional resources to bring the best in class to any project our clients could benefit from.

Pricing:

  • Our pricing is based on the scope of the projects and services requested.

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