I wasn’t one that knew definitively what she wanted to be when she grew up, other than maybe a famous photographer. While that didn’t work out like I had planned, I HAVE worked in multiple industries over the years, from food distribution to medical billing and collections. Each of these experiences taught me many things, but none really piqued my interest or challenged me. This changed years ago when I landed at one of the nation’s largest media companies. There, I did a bit of everything as the Administrative Assistant for their largest sales team, and I was able to be involved in all aspects of digital marketing and sales. I love that the digital world is ever-changing—there is always something new to learn. Especially now, digital platforms are important because they keep people connected when we are often physically apart.
That brings me to today, where I’ve now joined Team 1909 Digital! I’m so impressed with 1909’s vision and core values, and I can’t wait to put my skill sets to use—my love of organization, collaboration, and problem solving.
10 Things to Know About Kelly
- Hoosier: I’m a born and raised Indiana girl.
- Loss: I lost my Mom in 1993 when she was just 37 years old. It has molded me and made me more empathetic and adventurous. I treasure the time I have with those closest to me, because you never know how long you’ll get to have them around.
- Co-adventurer: This year I will have been married to my husband Kyle for 18 years! He is an amazing partner and makes me laugh every day. He is many things: mechanic, scuba instructor, photographer, backpacker, blogger, luthier, and woodworker. He’s a busy guy!
- Big Sweetie: Coco is our lovable German Shepherd. We adopted her into our family in 2017 at the age of three. She adores cuddling, belly scratches, and chasing squirrels in the backyard.
- Aunthood: While we still have never been blessed with children of our own, I am “aunt Kel” to countless kids and I love spending time with all the kiddos in my life. Nieces, Nephews, and all my best friend’s kids as well. It takes a village!
- Musick: My Dad was a member of several bands while I was growing up, so I’ve always been surrounded by music. I even married into a Music(k) family! I love attending live shows, but ALWAYS have music playing of some type or genre.
- Travel: I love to travel and experience new places and cultures, domestic or abroad. There are so many places on my to visit list, but Italy, Ireland, and Hawaii are right up there at the top!
- Besties: I am honestly so lucky to have the group of friends that I do. Friends can make all the difference in the direction your life takes, and mine have for sure steered me down an amazing road. They make me feel supported, valued, and accepted in all things. Some of my favorite things to do with the girls: movie nights, wine tastings, crafty things, and road trips.
- To Do: I love lists, organization, and I CAN be a perfectionist when it comes to some things.
- Nerd: I love all things Harry Potter (I’m a Hufflepuff), Star Wars, and Marvel. I love watching the movies, visiting the theme parks, and just geeking out in general.
If anything is necessary regarding 2021, it’s a good reflection session with plenty of focus on the big wins and a healthy discussion about the challenges. It’s easy to get hung up on a couple losses, but at 1909 DIGITAL, we know that we always land in the best place.
Not landing a project we know we would have excelled at? There’s usually a bigger, better, more “fit-to-our-expertise” project knocking down our door the next week. In fact, this has happened frequently! In this blog, we’ll share fun facts from the year, some stats and wins from our clients, and our thoughts about the rollercoaster that was 2021.
In November we took the time to get our whole team together to reflect on our past year. We gathered at the Peace Learning Center, a local nonprofit which facilitates community learning to act as a catalyst for peace, equity, and justice. They also happen to be a 1909 client! Their beautiful office and grounds are located in Eagle Creek in Indianapolis—the perfect space for our small gathering. The serene, natural surroundings provided a wonderful spot for our team to brainstorm and reflect. We are so fortunate to have partners like the Peace Learning Center, because they are willing to share their spaces and resources to do good work for our community.
APPRECIATING OUR TEAM MEMBERS
We celebrated our team members individually during the retreat by handing out Hot Wheels “trophies” and sharing the amazing things each individual has brought to the 1909 team this year. Each Hot Wheels car subtly represented a distinct skill or interest for each team member. It’s always fun to reflect on the breadth of experience and depth of expertise we rely on daily and don’t necessarily appreciate on a regular basis.
By just being thoughtful, a 99 cent purchase—Hot Wheels are very budget friendly!—provided the morale boost our team needed!
We accomplished BIG wins in 2021. Despite a worldwide pandemic, our team and our list of incredible clients has continued to grow. In contrast, there were a number of prospective projects that encouraged us to stretch our skill sets, networks, and work process. The experience and confidence we gained simply from the opportunity to pitch these projects was invaluable to our leadership team. While we didn’t secure these next-level contracts, we were often the second choice, with valid reasons that another agency was selected. It showed us that we can stand next to the extremely well-resourced, larger agencies and are absolutely capable of the “big” stuff.
Speaking of the “big” stuff, it’s easy to forget that we launched a whole second company this year! TrustEngine is a brain trust of vetted marketers, developers, and creatives who we know, love, and are confident will deliver on project goals without breaking the bank. TrustEngine helped us streamline our core 1909 team to focus on strategy and optimization. This allows our wider network to support implementation and delivery work. We always say, “There’s no such thing as competition,” and we stand by it. This networked-centered venture means we can spread the love when work comes our way, while still supporting both our clients and our trusted vendors with our project management and processes.
We are committed to seeing everyone—team members, our network, and our clients—excel in the future.
Are you a numbers person? Take a look at this wrap-up from 2021:
✔️ 3 co-owners full-time
✔️ 6 full-time team members
✔️ Over 25 clients from 2020-2021
✔️ 6 Preferred Partners
✔️ Launched a second business—TrustEngine!
✔️ 5 TrustEngine Clients
✔️ 40+ Trusted Freelancers
⭐ $550,000 raised in three months for a local nonprofit’s capital campaign
⭐ Helped a long term client increase sales by 25% YOY with less staff
⭐ Completed tech stack overhauls and data migrations for two essential community-centered nonprofits
⭐ Selected to run a facilitated live webinar on Social Media Strategy for an online resource library focused on small museums
⭐ Got a music school back to pre-pandemic registration levels at a higher margin
⭐ Clients returned for additional trainings, renewed contracts, and kind referrals & recommendations
⭐ Developed more processes and streamlined our own work to better serve our clients and our business
PLANS FOR 2022
If 2021 was so great, where do we go from here? Only awesome things are in our future. We’re excited to start the year off with clients we’ve worked with since the beginning, clients we’ve found and continue to build strong relationships with, and new clients who share our values and make an impact in their communities!
Here are some of our hopes and internal goals for the new year:
🎉Continuing to build out a new “Clients” page on our website
🎉Sharing case studies about all of our extraordinary client projects
🎉Bringing on another team member to support TrustEngine
🎉Networking in person again.—is this a long shot?
🎉Adding more Preferred Partners from our extensive, skilled community of digital marketing friends
Cheers to 2021, our fabulous team, the impact we’ve been proud to make, and the partnerships we’ve developed along the way!
Lori comes from a strong museum background, clocking 10+ years as Manager of Digital Content at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She’s passionate about mental health and the museum industry, so it was no surprise to see her using her expertise to write about both—the exodus happening with professionals in the museum sector. This phenomenon is one piece of a much larger picture, what psychologists and economists are calling “The Great Resignation.” For four months in a row, nearly 4 million people each month have quit their jobs due to a number of factors related to the pandemic, from front-line health concerns to work-life balance. Museum workers come upon both of these issues, and many others besides.
But for the cultural sector, this didn’t start with the pandemic.
Lori wrote her original post, The Great Museum Social Media Manager Exodus, in August 2019 to specifically address the issues among social media managers. The concerns laid out in this first blog certainly hit a chord: The lack of proactive support for burnout and mental wellnessthe challenge of being overworked but unvalued; and the fact that, simply put, there’s a lot of better-paying work elsewhere.
Now, Lori has written a follow-up blog focusing more broadly on the museum sector as a whole.
Some interesting tidbits
- Mission-guilt is fading.
- Staff appreciation increased. Resources didn’t.
- There’s no patience for fake virtue.
- Words are not being matched with action.
Why is this important for 1909 Digital?
Everyone on the 1909 DIGITAL team has a breadth of experience while each has a depth of expertise. We have a number of team members who came from the museum industry, so we love to support museum professionals through our work. Their expertise has been invaluable while we have worked with the Canadian Museum of Immigration, Museum Computer Network, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and the Akron Art Museum, with the most recent being the National Indo-American Museum.
Our motto is “Family first, Health first, Mental Health first.” We truly aim to keep these three things top of mind in how we manage our workflow and processes. Our experience with the toxicity of social media and the broader museum landscape has directly led us to do our best to stay on top of our mental health. We are happy to continue to share the sentiments in Lori’s blogs, especially as they relate so closely to 1909 DIGITAL’s core values.
Feedback on The Great Museum Exodus has shown that it’s already making an impact for people and industries outside of the cultural sector! We urge you to read the blog and then consider how you and your company utilize social media, content breaks, and time management to keep mental health as a top priority for your team.
Click here to read Lori’s full post, The Great Museum Exodus.
Hi! My name is Courtney Krauter and I’m the Intern-turned-teammate here at 1909 DIGITAL!
Having just graduated from IU Bloomington this August, I’m so excited to finally put my skills in Digital Marketing and Graphic Design to use.
HOW’D I GET HERE?
With my concentration in Media Advertising and specialization in Ad Creative, at IU I got a great deal of exposure to powerful messaging and effective design. One of my favorite classes was Advertising Portfolio Workshop. We came up with strong campaigns for different companies and created deliverables that captured the essence of the product/service from a fresh and creative perspective. It got me thinking about how important creativity is to digital marketing. Nobody wants to see the same thing twice. Digital marketing requires fresh ideas at every turn, which is why I love it so much. There are no limits when it comes to advertising and I feel so lucky to be a part of a team that lets me dive into my imagination to bring ideas to fruition.
Other than creative thinking, I’d like to think I also succeed in the execution process (you can definitely double check this with my boss, I won’t be offended.) I have about three years of design programming experience under my belt that helps me work efficiently and bring ideas to life almost immediately. I got my start in year two of college when I randomly took an Intro to Photoshop course. (The curriculum said we’d be adding shark bodies to bird heads, duh I’m gonna partake in this.) From there, my curiosity in design rocketed and I started teaching myself how to work in other programs like Adobe Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and AfterEffects. I love that even when you think you have a program down, there’s always more to explore and implement into design, whether it’s for advertisements or beyond.
When I’m not designing ads and optimizing campaigns for 1909 clients, you can find me at my other job at Sun King Spirits, where I bartend and serve! I’ve always had a passion for meeting people and can talk for hours straight if somebody doesn’t stop me. I love being part of a workplace that encourages communication. Other than work, I spend a lot of time with my family and obsess over my adorable nephews. My siblings are my best friends and we geek out on video games and music together. When I find some time for myself, I love perusing the Target aisles for things I definitely don’t need and thrift shopping for clothes I definitely don’t have any more room for in my closet.
A fun fact about me? I was in an acapella and sketch comedy group at Indiana University. My singing group performed all around campus and the Bloomington community and my comedy group had wacky hour-long shows once a month. Because of this, I have some sketch writing and music composing under my belt! I’ve always been into singing and acting and I don’t see myself stopping post-grad. I’d love to get involved with local Indy theatre. You might just see me onstage performing soon!
So that’s all about me in 534 words! I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with 1909 DIGITAL and grow in my marketing skills with some of the nicest, knowledgeable, and hard working people in the field. (Yeah I’m biased, so what.)
As a kid, my dream was to become a newspaper writer. Another dream I had was to make a lot of money. If you know anything about newspaper writing, you know it’s not super lucrative. So I set my sights on advertising, and by the time I was nineteen, I was an Advertising Account Executive for the newspaper in my hometown. From there, I moved on to work for a Fortune 500 newspaper conglomerate, and worked my way from sales to account management, and eventually processes and training.
During my time in newspaper advertising, I got to learn and experience the “new” normal in advertising for my clients—digital advertising. During this time, I was also picking up speed in writing and transitioning into “influencer” status for my lifestyle blog. I’m a natural self-starter and willing to put the work in to learn how to be an expert at everything I do. To me, there’s No Such Thing as something I can’t do, just a series of steps I can take to get there.
All of these things have been smooshed together to land me here at 1909 DIGITAL. A little bit of advertising, account management, writing, social media, and blogging all go into what I do for our clients here every day. I’m so excited to join this team of experts to help make marketing and digital strategy dreams come true.
When I’m not swimming in Instagram posts or wading through Twitter, I’m a mother of three children under three. Yes, it’s as hard as it sounds. Along with my husband, we welcomed our shining star, Clara, to our family in 2018. We decided to add another member to our crew in 2021, but karma blessed us doubly! We now have identical twin boys named Pierce and Beck. I’m telling you, the vibe of my house is enough to make me Out of My Mind.
With all these kiddos, it’s hard to enjoy anything outside of them. It always feels like Something’s Missing, but it’s most likely my mind. If I ever happen to have a moment of free time, you can find me at local blogger events, reading comedians’ memoirs, sneaker shopping with my husband, on the hunt for the best bread pudding in the city, or literally just zoning out in my living room watching people share grocery hauls on YouTube.
My blog’s a huge extension of me and now an extension of my family too. What started as a way to share plus size fashion with like-minded women has now turned into a space where I have shared my journey with PCOS and into motherhood, my journey to becoming debt free, and how I manage as a working mom who still has her hand in home life and the Clarity to express herself online.
I GUESS I JUST FEEL LIKE
In true blogger fashion, I will leave you with a listicle:
5 Facts that Can Speak for Me
- I’m never physically or mentally able to sit through a movie. I will, however, watch a whole series of reality TV in one day.
- I’ll save money by buying bulk meats, then spend $100 on a pair of leggings.
- I only go outside because my daughter makes me. I much prefer the Great Indoors.
- I got an inner-lip tattoo in 2009. Those tattoos have a general lifespan of 1-3 years, but mine is still going strong 12 years later!
- I hid nine John Mayer song titles all throughout this post. That’s how strongly I feel about Mayer’s music.
Over the past few weeks, you may have seen an increased amount of animal posts coming from the 1909 DIGITAL socials, including—yes—the official 1909 Long Boi competition (we congratulate the winner Hemingway and reiterate our belief that all our competitors are very good bois). While everyone loves a pet social post, the truth is our pets can teach us a lot about digital marketing!
We’ve had a lot of time to hang out with our pets over the past sixteen months while working all-remote. We’d be remiss if we didn’t learn from our canine and feline coworkers!
Here are our top tips and learnings from the critters in our lives…
Social media accounts are like puppies or kittens.
Our co-founder Lori Byrd-McDevitt often deploys the motto “social media accounts are like puppies” with clients. While we featured Lori’s doggo Cedric a few weeks ago, this catchphrase also applies to Lori’s kitty coworkers Scarlett and Oliver.
When clients ask us if they should launch a new social platform, we remind them that every social account needs care and feeding. Different platforms also have different “lifespans”—for example, a few months ago it looked like Clubhouse was going to be the next TikTok, but now some experts believe Clubhouse is on its way out. In the end, it always comes down to intentionality. We discovered with the Chicago School of Musical Arts that a core audience—Chicago Public School principals—were using Twitter more frequently than Instagram. Though it seems odd that a small music school should have a Twitter account, it was worth cross-posting content from other platforms to Twitter because they had a specific audience who almost exclusively on Twitter.
Social media managers also sometimes want to make accounts for pet projects or, in some cases, literal pets—as I learned from my past life working on a historic farm. But pets don’t live forever, and it’s rare for even cherished programs to outlast the institutions that host them. We discourage clients from making accounts for projects with a “shelf life.” We also often advise against program or project-specific handles unless there’s an intentional purpose for it.
No cat—and no brand—is alike.
I am the proud mom of two tuxedo cats who are almost indistinguishable but have very different personalities. I know firsthand that no two pets are alike. The same is true for social accounts! When we have a new client at 1909 DIGITAL, we begin with a six-week foundational process to help clients articulate the ways that they’re different. It sometimes frustrates prospective clients to hear that we don’t dive in and start creating content. But we’ve proven time and again that our process helps us know our clients better and also helps our clients know themselves better.
Knowing who you are and sticking to it is the second learning we have from kitties. We always encourage clients to embrace who they are as a brand, and lean into it. Our client Ritron may be a high-quality radio callbox company, but the staff still has a fun side. Their Director of Marketing, Marc, got in on the Bob Ross meme by incorporating a radio callbox into a Bob Ross painting and emailing his sales team. When monoliths were magically appearing in Utah parks, we put a callbox on the monolith! Their audiences loved the monolith and it earned them many likes and comments.
Cats like the person who feeds them best!
If you’re the family member who feeds the cat, you may notice the cat hanging around you more. Social media platforms are similar in that they are reciprocal. No matter the platform, you get out of it what you put in (in this case, time and strategy!)
Instagram debuted Reels in mid-2020. When the feature was first introduced, there were relatively few Reels creators compared to the numbers on Instagram, so those who were building the platform were rewarded within the algorithm. This concept is true across other platforms. Consistency in posting content always pays off. Social media is like anything else—the more time you spend on it, the greater the rewards would be.
Cats are cats—and dogs are dogs. Know your platforms!
Even similar content can have different results depending on where it’s placed. During our Christel House Walk Around the World campaign, we found that Facebook favored posts highlighting walkers, Instagram was best for highlighting students, and LinkedIn did best with highlighting corporate sponsors.
Take care to learn the differences between platforms, and apply this to your own content and audiences. Reporting on progress will uncover how each of your audiences differ from platform-to-platform. You can then tailor your content accordingly.
Always travel with your pack!
On any platform, shares can amplify the reach of your post. Lori is the admin behind the influential Museum Social Media Manager’s Facebook Group, so we know firsthand from our own community how powerful it is to have a pack. Sometimes, our colleagues will ask for backup—such as asking community members to share and comment on posts that might be getting negative feedback, or liking and sharing pages after periods of pandemic-related low activity. We’ve also organized cross-institutional campaigns, so we know the value of a good Outreach Kit!
We provide outreach kits and influencer marketing as a service, such as our work with the Akron Museum of Art #InterplayAkron project. We firmly believe that everyone is an influencer within their own circles. We advise our clients on strategic ways of mobilizing their communities. Everyone has supporters who want to help, but sometimes they need a little coordination. A good Outreach Kit ensures that your pack has the help they need to advocate for you.
Cute + quality = peak content
If you’ve made it this far in this blog post, then thank you—you’ve helped us prove our overall point. We drew you in with cute photos of cats, but kept you with the information. And this is really what cats teach us about social media: cute posts get clicks, but compelling content leads to conversions.
If you want to follow our lead and blast your socials with cute animal photos, we applaud that! Who doesn’t want to log onto Facebook and immediately see cute animals? But if that’s your strategy, make sure there’s quality content behind it! Cute gets people on your page, but thoughtful content will help them stay! If you don’t like our social pages already, be sure to like us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Yes—there will be more cute animals (and rich content!) coming.
As the world re-opens, more organizations find themselves in need of digital marketing—and we find ourselves wishing we could support everyone with our transparent, authentic approach. At 1909 DIGITAL we don’t want to see anyone left behind as large agencies prey on small, family-owned companies. We’ve made a habit of surrounding ourselves with brilliant marketers who are simply great humans. Out of this need, TrustEngine was born.
What is TrustEngine?
TrustEngine is a brain trust of vetted marketers, developers, and creatives who we know, love, and trust to deliver on project goals without breaking the bank.
Yeah, I said “trust” twice (three times?) in that sentence. That’s because trust is at the center of this new venture.
- We’ve gathered a brain trust of smart freelancers who have deep know-how in their areas of expertise
- We trust the experts we’re calling on to support our clients’ goals
- Our clients trust us as we manage projects and ensure success
But why are we creating a whole new company?
1909 DIGITAL will celebrate our second birthday in November. The past 18 months have shown us that everyone—from for-profit businesses to small non-profit organizations—needs support implementing their marketing. We define implementing as “clicking the publish button” on those social posts, digital ads, emails, or web updates. More often than not, someone comes to us just wanting the button-clicking and results, not the strategy behind it.
While we always prefer to produce a digital marketing strategy for the projects we work on, sometimes we just have to focus on implementation and outcomes. Whether it’s optimizing a website, a brand refresh, getting digital advertising out the door, or any other one-off need, TrustEngine is the tool you need to get the job done.
We also learned how our core team at 1909 DIGITAL best functions. Jarred, Chris, and I first envisioned our extended 1909 “work fam” as a group of freelancers. We realized we’re strongest when our whole team can participate fully in our Agile process. To succeed at Agile, we have daily virtual or video-meeting scrums, a weekly retrospective to support a healthy work capacity and balance with family life, and many working calls to maintain camaraderie. As one could imagine, a part-time, freelancer lifestyle isn’t necessarily conducive to this structure. Our core team is now all full-time or nearly full-time to accommodate the remote but tight-knit workplace culture we’ve grown into.
But where does that leave all of the insanely brilliant, passionate, dedicated freelancers that we respect and adore? We still want to work with them! So we do. They are our braintrust—our TrustEngine. Some are former 1909 team members, while others are longtime friends and colleagues we’ve worked with on past projects. Everyone in TrustEngine is an expert we’re excited to work alongside.
Why is This Different?
TrustEngine is designed to streamline the freelancer-client process, with 1909 managing the project so the experts can focus on the task at hand. We discover the client’s needs and then handpick the perfect person from our vetted brain trust. Rather than the client coordinating directly with the freelancer, we coordinate the goals, tasks, approvals, invoicing, and follow up. This makes the process easy for the client and the freelancer!
TrustEngine is way more than simply subcontracting, where the client doesn’t know who is working on their project or may not even know that a task is handed off at all. We ensure that the client knows who is behind the work. Attribution is important to us, and we’re proud of our network of experts. Freelancers shouldn’t have to hide behind the curtain. They deserve acknowledgement for their work. (No one could be the “Great and Powerful Oz” without the machinery behind the curtain!)
If this all sounds exciting to you, good. It should! The idea for TrustEngine isn’t new, but it’s hard to make work. We’re absolutely confident in the people we work with and clients we work for, and we’ve never been more ready to tackle the needs of the many and provide amazing digital marketing services.
I invite you, from the bottom of my heart, to join in the TrustEngine journey if your organization, business, or boards needs digital marketing services today or if you’re planning your campaigns right now. And if you’re a strategic digital marketing freelancer looking to fill your bucket with awesome, mission-driven work and interesting clients, shoot us an email or give us a call and let’s chat. We’d love to grow the roster with people who are the best at what they do.
I can’t wait for the journey ahead and I hope to share my excitement with each and every one of you!
If you asked me eight years ago what I wanted to do with my career, I would have told you exactly where I’ve landed now–Director of Accounts; managing strategy, brands, and supporting our companies through digital transformation, paid advertising, design, social strategy and much more. This is, after all, a full-circle path that I’ve found myself maneuvering since my internship days in college with a start-up digital marketing firm here in Indianapolis. I managed Google paid advertising, wrote a fortune 500 website, and branded several companies’ product lines.
If you told me how long and wayward that path would be before I returned to my true passion and creative space, well–I would have thought you were mad! Over a period of six years, I would start off in NBA ticket sales, make a starving man’s salary, begin my family, and transition into food sales and distribution. But here’s the thing, which leads me to my favorite quote of all time…
“Have I gone mad? I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I will tell you a secret, all the best people are.”–Alice in Wonderland.
In many of my experiences related to account management, it takes someone in the room to think outside the box. That’s me. Do you ever listen to someone and think, “that’s crazy. There’s no way that’s working”? I aim to listen. I’m here to gather thoughts and ideas while discussing how we can best manage the brand, digital business, and marketing strategies–together.
It’s extremely important to set goals, but also to execute and make changes along the way in order to succeed. When things don’t go according to plan, flexibility is key in order to get to the finish line. It’s the changes along the way within the original framework that create success.
With digital marketing allowing businesses to reach new audiences more efficiently than ever, tapping into another layer of business development is exciting. I joined 1909 because I want to work with companies across all industries and help them with their digital footprint. Here, I am able to be a problem solver, creator, strategist, and communicator for our clients.
It’s a belief of mine that–not always, but most times–you end up just where you’re supposed to be. This full-circle path has allowed me to gain knowledge in different industries and come back with a sense of what is needed and what may be missing, with a vision for untapped potential. I have always had a fascination with sports, especially the mentality of winning, and I believe that background has given me the chance to be where I am today.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE GIG:
So what gets me out of bed every morning? I’m lucky to have such a loving family. My amazing wife, Erika, is always there for support and gives me great trust in our life decisions and vision. We have two boys, Lincoln and Lucas, a husky (Bruce), and a rescue cat (Khloe). We enjoy sitting out on the back patio watching them all play in the yard, the boys swinging swords and screaming “CHARGE! and “HIYAH!” They love riding their bikes, getting rather dirty and sometimes in trouble.
A few years ago, I probably would have told you that I wanted to own a vacation house, a new car, etc. Now when I wake up to the hustle and bustle of getting ready for school and daycare, I realize there’s no monetary value that can be attached to our loving family. This fits well with 1909 DIGITAL—a strong team who comes together to serve brands as our “work fam.” This just shows, again, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
1909 DIGITAL is an academically “Evocative” brand name. It’s slightly mysterious. When done right, an evocative name should cause people to ask, “What does it mean?” Things have gone just as planned for us. The story behind 1909 DIGITAL has inspired us from day one. It has built meaning into our brand and it’s let us share our values more frequently. Often we only have the opportunity to share the surface-level story behind our name. I’m eager to dig deeper into what 1909 DIGITAL has meant to us living and working through the events of 2020 and now as we embark on 2021.
More than a quote
The main source of inspiration for our business is a quote from former Indianapolis Mayor Charles A. Bookwalter, “I am, myself, a citizen of no mean city.” This quote is inscribed on the cornerstone of Indianapolis City Hall, which was laid in 1909.
“No mean” was used frequently at the time to describe something as impressive, or not insignificant. The line itself originates from Acts 21:39, in which Paul describes his home Tarsus: “I am…a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” Not so bad, comparing Indianapolis to the home of the Apostle Paul, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony, right?
Beyond that, in 1909 “No Mean City” was the theme for Mayor Bookwalter’s political campaign. The front page of the Indy Star on July 28, 1909 showed a photo of the cornerstone ceremony with a banner hanging above the Mayor that reads, “Stand up for Indianapolis. No Mean City.”
Juxtaposing then and now
There’s something about placing opposite ideas side-by-side that’s intriguing. We weren’t the first to bring the idea of Indy being “No mean city” into the present day. The quote saw a resurgence as a community touchstone for LGBTQIA rights in the wake of the 2015 RFRA legislation and resulting “Indy Welcomes All” campaign. It was at that point that Indy being “No mean city” took on a whole new meaning. We are literally not “mean,” and all are welcome here.
Because other local groups have used the phrase for publications and initiatives, we chose its historically significant year for our brand name—1909. But it’s essential that we invoke the idea that contemporary and future ideals are our priority. This is why 1909 DIGITAL came to be. We’re proud of our humble Hoosier roots and also focused on the progress of our time, digitally and otherwise.
Lessons of 2020
The first year of our business coincides with a year no one will soon forget. At its worst, 2020 has numbed us to increasingly dire news and has normalized grief. At its best, the digital distance has humanized us and brought people closer together. Our core value is to be transparent and authentic humans. We’ve built a true “work fam” to keep us sane.
At the same time, we were deeply impacted by the progress and pushback resulting from Black Lives Matter and other BIPOC initiatives. As a business and on a personal level, there is power in understanding what you don’t know, in realizing that reactive response is not enough, and in learning what actions to take to truly make a difference. Most importantly, we’ll never stop learning.
I’m trying to do my part to take a second look from another less privileged perspective. In looking at the July 27, 1909 Indy Star photo of Mayor Bookwalter’s cornerstone-laying ceremony, it’s easy to see the exuberance and hope in the crowd. Look again and you’ll see that the crowd is made up of only white faces. We appreciate the positive connotations of Mayor Bookwalter’s 1909 “no mean city” quote. But what did that look like for the Black population in Indy at the time?
What was happening in 1909?
It is through this lens that I began to look specifically at what the year 1909 was like for communities of color in Indianapolis. To truly understand the significance of our company’s namesake, we need a full, rich context. Not just the whitewashed front pages of the early 20th century. Here’s what I found:
- In late 1909 Madam CJ Walker was preparing to move her thriving hair care business to Indianapolis from Pittsburgh. She settled in the Indiana Avenue district in 1910 and by August had 950 sales agents. She later became America’s first female self-made millionaire.
- The 1909 opening of the Indianapolis Speedway didn’t involve the local Black community at all. In fact, in August of 1910 Louis Chevrolet essentially forbade the famed boxer Jack Johnson from running an exhibition race at the Speedway, stating, “If…management cannot confine itself to automobile racing without bringing a negro barn-storming pugilist, I believe it is time for the white drivers to quit the game on that track.” Papers as far off as St. Petersburg, Florida reported on this with surprise because northern cities like Indianapolis had the reputation for being friendly to Blacks.
- The town of Speedway, Indiana was developed only a couple of years later in 1912. While the neighborhoods were optimistically intended to support the industry around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they also included racially restrictive covenants banning Blacks from living there.
- On the other hand, Indiana Avenue was the buzzing center of African American daily life and culture in Indianapolis. In the decade prior to “The Avenue’s” Jazz-Era heyday, 1909 was a time of budding businesses. The Indianapolis Recorder, the longest-running African American newspaper in Indiana, made its home in and around Indiana Avenue since 1895. It’s still thriving today.
- Indianapolis’ “Major” Taylor was a successful professional bicyclist at the height of the late 19th century bicycle craze. He was nationally and internationally known, becoming the first African American to win a world cycling championship. Taylor’s last professional race was in France in 1909. He retired in 1910 at the age of 32, pointing to the physical and mental strain of racial discrimination as a reason for stepping back from his career.
So let’s go back to that phrase that Indianapolis Mayor Bookwalter stated on July 27, 1909: “I am, myself, a citizen of no mean city.” The quote survives from a time before things got a lot worse: before the revival of the KKK, before the term “redlining” existed, before mass incarceration, and many other atrocities. It lives in a time before things started improving: before Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, before interracial marriage was legalized, before our first Black president, before Black Lives Matter became a spoken mantra. Indianapolis has seen progress. Indianapolis still has a long way to go. That’s the juxtaposition. The good and the bad. The past and the future. It’s our job to move forward with eyes open.
We’re located in Indianapolis on land which is currently occupied and is the ancestral territory of the Miami, Shawnee, and Potawatomi people.