When the economic crisis affected the publishing industry, Greg Warner decided to take his experience working with nonprofit clients to start an ad agency. His branding and design business evolved to include lead-generation marketing campaigns and direct mail efforts, and Warner wanted to redirect his firm’s activities to focus on nonprofit fundraising.
He invested his savings to develop MarketSmart, a marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more money more efficiently. MarketSmart’s vast clientele includes the Ocean Conservancy, the San Francisco Opera, and the United States Holocaust Museum, among many others.
Warner has increased his staff from two full-time roles and two contractor roles to 11 full-time staffers and about a dozen outside contractors. In addition, Warner is able to support four paid interns from nearby University of Maryland each year. A growing team needed more space, and Warner says, “We were originally set up in a shared space in a dirty printing plant and warehouse, but have moved into a beautiful high-tech office setting.” MarketSmart received the 2015 SCORE Awards Outstanding Innovative Small Business Award.
“I wanted real-world help from someone who had been in the trenches,” Warner says. Mentor Hal Shelton of SCORE’s Washington, D.C. chapter works with Warner to create clear action steps to achieve goals. Warner and Shelton meet for breakfast a few times each year to review the state of MarketSmart and evaluate big issues Warner’s working through. “Hal usually gives me specific to-dos,” Warner says. “I promise to do them because I know he’ll ask me about them the next time we meet. I don’t want to let him down. He believes in me and wants my business to succeed as much as I do.”