The Journey to Opening Modern Roots Marketing

A Letter from Creative Director and Co-Founder, Celia Coughlin-Surridge



If you had told me two years ago that I would be the Creative Director and Co-Founder of a successful marketing firm, I don't know that I would have believed you. Even more so, if you had told me my business partner would be my mother, I'm pretty sure I'd think you were full of it. But yet, here we are. On November 1, Modern Roots Marketing will have been officially in business for one full year!


The past year's journey has been filled with amazing experiences. I cannot begin to explain to you the sense of accomplishment I feel. However, I'll leave the retrospective on our first year of business to Mary Nauer. She'll be sharing that with you next month.


For me, celebrating the first year of our business brings me back to how it all started. When I could say the first official seed for what we now know as Modern Roots Marketing was planted. You see, opening a marketing firm was not something I dreamt about for years. It wasn't even on my radar until just a few short months prior to opening our virtual doors. But, I did know that I wanted to be a business owner. More specifically, a business owner that made a difference in people's lives.


I've always been driven to learn and do as many things as possible. I guess you could say I'm a natural "Jane of All Trades". However, when it came to finding a career I loved, I was lost. The "creative" field as we know it today was reserved for highly successful [insert field here] Designers up until recently and I had the notion that I would either have to go to college to get into it, or be doomed to accept a stable, but possibly boring corporate job.


Celia with Patty & Will Shelton, Married October 13, 2012

Not a fan of the full four-year college idea, I did eventually try my hand at opening a wedding and event planning company after years of hopping around customer service based jobs. This endeavor lasted a few years as mainly a "side-hustle" and ultimately closed for one major reason. I had priced my services too low and the burn out I experienced from this mistake was irreversible.


Looking back on that now, the fact that I can even identify that that was what caused me to close my business is something I'm proud of. No, you do not need to go to business school to open your own business. You do, however, need to understand basic pricing and management structures in order to be successful.


Pro Tip: Binge Shark Tank, and take notes. You'll quickly learn that a 60% profit margin is something you should always make a top priority.


After I closed my event planning business I made it my goal to move up from my administrative role at UC Davis. I had been working there while side hustling and thought if I put all of my energy into trying to climb the ladder there, I'd have everything. The job, happiness, and money. I took as many career and skill development classes as I could, (UC Davis offers a great educational program), read personal and business development books, and volunteered to do as many new tasks as possible, (especially those that interested me).


I started to realize that my knack for Graphic Design was a special talent and that it had practical uses at work. Up until that point I thought my love of Photoshop would be reserved to Roller Derby flyers and personal projects. But, I had a few great mentors who helped me see that what I thought was a hobby could become an actual skill that I put on my resume.


That is the moment that the Modern Roots Marketing seed was officially planted. Although I did not know it at the time, that small encouragement that I received, (helping me to realize that volunteer experience and wacky poster creation was resume-worthy), brought me to where I am (we are) today. The marketing and communications career field seemed so boring to me, but when I learned that it entailed many tasks that I loved doing, that is when the ball really got rolling.


To wrap up what could possibly be a very long story, I took the advice of my mentors and started volunteering for nonprofits needing digital marketing assistance so I could gain more experience. That turned into freelance opportunities that ultimately led me to the notion that I could open a marketing firm of my own. I knew I would need a business partner to make it work and have been thankful that my own mother is that perfect partner for me.


We took the leap together and worked hard to make Modern Roots Marketing what it is today. We've accomplished things I would have never imagined and there are so many things we still want to see come to fruition. This is just the beginning and I'm so excited to see how it all unfolds.


If there is one thing I want you to take from my look back today, it is that you have the ability to do great things and accomplish whatever your heart desires. You may be like me, where you honestly have no clue what your next step is, or what your dream career even is. But, know you can make things happen for yourself. Just be open to listening to the Universe. Try new things. Find people that support you. Pay attention if something keeps coming up for you and listen to your intuition.


I'll leave you with a quote from the book "You Are a Badass", to which I credit learning the ability to be more in tune with my intuition and taking Universal cues:


“The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information.”

~ Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life


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