As a young entrepreneur, Jill Kelly is consistently putting the pedal to the metal. But if you ask her about it, it’s clear that she’s enjoying the ride.
Kelly is the owner and brand strategist of Red Bicycle Communications, a brand strategy and design firm located in downtown Lloydminster, which has grown progressively since the doors were opened in January of 2014. For the past two years, she has been a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce Achievement of Business Excellence (ABEX) awards, and looks to do it again in 2017.
Kelly said it’s been exciting working with clients and helping them to grow their brands. Her passion is evident in the name she chose for her business.
“I spent a lot of time researching potential names. I looked into what similar companies had in the area, then provincially, nationally and internationally. I wanted something fun and creative and I wanted it not to be just my name,” Kelly said.
“I began thinking about why I wanted to start a business in the first place and it’s because I love what I do. Yes, it pays the bills, and that’s wonderful, but I’m doing this job because I love doing marketing and design. When I thought about it, I realized that’s like being a kid riding a bike. You ride your bike because it’s fun and cool. Sure it’s a healthy exercise, but who cares? You want to ride your bike because you love it. That’s how I settled on the name Red Bicycle.”
Kelly’s love affair with the marketing agency concept began shortly after she graduated from the University of Lethbridge. Growing up in Lloydminster, she moved to Halifax to be with her boyfriend (now husband), who was finishing up school. She was eventually hired as an account coordinator by the creative agency Arrivals + Departures (known previously as Extreme Group).
“My intention was to get an agency job so that I could figure out what industry I wanted to help market,” Kelly said. “The agency worked for a wide variety of industries: health care, not-for-profits, and government. I thought, ‘I’ll figure out what I like and I’ll pursue that path.’ As it turned out, I really began to like the agency side. I dealt with different clients on a day-to-day basis. If a client needed an ad, I would make sure the designers got everything they needed, including the specs and direction. The designer would create the ad and I would proof it, send it back for any further edits and then submit it to the client.”
After her boyfriend received a job offer back in Lloydminster (his hometown as well), they decided to move back home. Kelly received contract work with King’s Husky, a fuel provider, a supplier of instrumentation and valve products and services throughout Canada. She helped re-brand the company to Kings Energy Group and generated a buzz in the community.
“As the word got out about what I was doing for Kings in our community, people came to me and asked if I could do similar work for their business,” Kelly said. “I received a lot of contract job offers, but I thought, ‘Instead of going contract to contract, why don’t I start my own business and do this full-time.’”
That, of course, is exactly what she did. In the beginning, Kelly worked out of her home before eventually making the move to an office. She hired a full-time designer in 2015 and added an account coordinator to the team this year.
With no other creative agencies in the area, Kelly noted that Red Bicycle has worked hard from the beginning to change the mentality of local business owners concerning advertising and branding. The company has worked with small to medium-sized businesses which Kelly said have traditionally had a small budget and reserved attitude when it comes to marketing.
“Lloydminster is a unique market. When my business opened a boom was happening, but a lot of people didn’t quite understand the value of marketing,” she said. “Some businesses took an early 20th century style approach of, ‘Build it and they will come’. They felt they simply needed products in their store and customers would show up. But there were also a lot of forward thinkers who thought that model wasn’t sustainable, and saw the value of marketing. We started working with these companies and once other companies saw how impressive the work was, the realized that they also wanted to differentiate themselves from the competition.”
One of the bigger projects Red Bicycle has worked on is a corporate re-brand for the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation, which focuses on enhancing healthcare and promoting innovation through the support of donors. Through the money it has raised, the foundation has done valuable work such as providing new health equipment and enhancing various wards such as orthopedic and maternity. But as Kelly notes, there was one problem.
“Many people didn’t realize the great work the foundation is doing,” she said. “For example, many people didn’t know medical terminology, and why they should care about the work of the foundation. Unless you’re in the position where you need access to healthcare, you’re not paying attention to it. We developed the Give Hope campaign that focused on how the foundation does more than simply finance equipment or recruit physicians to the Lloydminster area. They give residents hope that they don’t have to travel to larger centres. They can get the same quality care right here at home.”
An innovative project Red Bicycle has worked on was spearheading the creation of the popular Lloydminster Local & Traveler’s Guide, developed to help both locals and travelers alike explore all the community has to offer. Kelly was responsible for coordinating a similar project during her time in Halifax and wanted to discover the hidden gems of her own hometown. Her company approached the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce and struck a partnership.
“When we first went to sell ads to local businesses, we didn’t have a product to show people. We told them to trust us,” Kelly said. “Supporters fully embraced the idea and the Lloydminster Guide has grown ever since.”
Kelly has been pleased to see more individuals getting into the marketing business in Lloydminster. She co-founded a marketing collective group for those interested in enhancing marketing in the area.
“Red Bicycle doesn’t only want to be the only ones here, but we want to be the best ones here,” Kelly said. “My mentality is to dream big. One day, I want to compete against the big international companies. I want our clients to look at our work and be proud that it’s better than the work of an international company.”
By Pat Rediger