Finding Solutions During Uncertain Times – How This Marketing Agency is Getting Creative With Their Efforts
For Gail Helfer, President and Creative Director of Authentus Group, one thing that has remained true throughout the lifetime of her business is that relationships are the key to a fruitful endeavor. Starting a successful career at the creative team’s helm with Hallmark, Gail wrote the book on Emotion Marketing in the early 2000s. Working with big named clients of Hallmark like Busch Entertainment Corporation (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and their 12 parks), Wells Fargo, Georgia Pacific, Nestlé, Purina, to name a few, Gail was part of a successful company.
As the card industry began to take a hit, in 2007, Hallmark announced that they would be shutting down Gail’s business unit. This devastated Gail as she loved working with her clients and providing them creative solutions to their marketing needs. This situation sparked an idea in Gail, which led to the development of Authentus Group. As many of her previous clients with Hallmark were left without an agency, Gail took them all on with Authentus, and many are still her clients to this day.
A veteran in the marketing industry, Gail has truly built a name for herself and Authentus. Above all, she is grateful for the loyalty of her clients. Her book of business is made of clients she has had for over a decade, along with the companies they have referred to her. Natives Kansas City, Gail, and her husband Marc, who is also a team member at Authentus, made the move to Sedona in 2019. It was a place near and dear to the heart as it was where they got engaged and married.
Since opening the doors of Authentus in 2007, business had always been great, even during the 2009 recession. As 2020 began to unfold, Gail was prepared to have another great year. Little did she know that in March, her business, along with countless others, would be flipped upside down. As COVID-19 began to ravage through countries, states, and cities, Gail began to grow weary of how the pandemic would impact her clients and, in turn, Authentus.
As Gail had suspected, her clients were the hardest hit. Overnight, 90% of the business for Authentus had disappeared. Longtime clients turned friends were furloughed, and Gail was no longer able to keep her team of art directors busy. A tight-knit team, the newest team member of Authentus, has been there for over 10 years. Eager to continue working, Gail reached out to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce to be listed as a COVID-19 resource, which led to opportunities for Authentus to volunteer their time to local small businesses who were also suffering in the hospitality-driven town.
On April 13, a few days after the announcement of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Gail submitted her application through her longtime business and personal bank. As her accountant assisted in getting the proper documentation in order, Gail was confident that she would get the much needed PPP. In the coming weeks, she began reaching out to her bank in hopes of receiving some guidance. Finally able to make contact, Gail found out that Authentus was still in Phase 1 and that she was only one out of the 240,000 customers that were in the Phase 1 queue.
For Gail, this was soul-crushing news as she felt like she operated under her mission of loyalty with this bank. Without hesitation, Gail put her thinking cap on and began remembering back to a networking opportunity she came across when she had first moved to Sedona with Local First. She immediately went to their Facebook member page, where she came across a post from Amber Cordoba from Prestmaos talking about PPP and inviting businesses to apply. Gail decided to send a direct message to Amber, thinking she wouldn’t hear back as it was a Saturday afternoon.
To her complete shock, Amber immediately reached back out, introducing herself and giving her all the instructions necessary to get started. What came even as a bigger surprise was that she continuously heard from Amber and Tim throughout the entire weekend with updates on the process. By Monday night, she received the message that she never thought would come, Authentus was approved for the PPP. She was in complete disbelief that she had completed the process and obtained the approval within 72 hours, while she had not even made it out of Phase 1 in her first attempt with her business bank.
“I was beyond impressed with Prestamos. The PPP funding was a lifeline for us. My husband and I co-own Authentus Group as our sole source of income, so we used the PPP to cover payroll while we hustled to find new business.”, says Gail. While the business aspect is still on a standstill in terms of her current clients, the PPP was a bridge that truly helped both her and Marc catch their breath as they figure out the next steps.
While most of their existing clients cut their budgets, this time has proven to be quite the inspirational moment for Gail. As she began thinking of the future and what it means for Authentus, Gail found inspiration in a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that says, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” This quote led her to the idea of 100 seeds, 100 days, which is a way to feel her business movings but making new contacts and reconnecting with old ones. She believes that planting these “seeds” today will lead to roots, and eventually, the nurturing of a growing business.
Prestamos CFDI continues to work and impact small businesses in our market communities of Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. We exist to help nurture and grow entrepreneurs through their journeys. We are a mission-driven entity that operates under the non-profit Chicanos por La Causa, which provides communities with resources ranging from health, education, financial services, housing, and advocacy. Prestamos continues its efforts to advance our work to provide high-quality financial products and services for small businesses that lead to impactful economic development projects. We invite you to visit our website to find out how you can be part of this impact.