Inside Track: High-risk move pays off
Rebecca LeClaire started marketing firm 14 years ago.
When Rebecca LeClaire became a parent, she took unconventional steps to support her family.
Undeterred by the negative stereotypes that sometimes surround entrepreneurship, she decided to venture out into the business world and hasn’t looked back since. That was about 14 years ago.
Four years later, her startup became incorporated and it has now grown into a robust international marketing firm called Start-up to Success Media, Marketing and Consulting Agency, which is located in Douglas.
The marketing firm focuses on startups and small businesses. It offers services such as strategic consulting, startup consulting, SEO and mobile optimized website design, social media marketing, photography, video production and marketing, SEO and visibility, content creation and marketing, and email marketing.
“My oldest child and my twins are only 14 months apart,” LeClaire said. “So, I knew I couldn’t keep this up with three kids. My intention was to find something that I could do, to work from home, to make some extra money. I had to use my brain. It took about two years before I found a job doing administrative tasks and very quickly then I found my first client, who I did their first website for, and then I went from there.”
Her business has grown from just her working at home to an office space that has four employees who work across all industries for approximately 20 clients in the U.S. and Canada.
LeClaire also is trying to help people in the community who are stuck in unfavorable circumstances that hinder them from taking the initial first step of exploring the resources available for entrepreneurship.
“I am looking to help people who are in the same situation I was in or certainly worse by offering a select number of free consultations,” she said. “If someone comes up to me and says, ‘Yeah, I think entrepreneurship can help me get out of this,’ I am offering a free consultation to talk about a strategy, or maybe it is someone who has already started a business but it is not working out.”
In just a few weeks, LeClaire will be able to broaden the assistance she wants to provide as she embarks upon another milestone.
She will be moving her business into a larger office space in Holland in March, which she said is more centrally located for her local clients.
When she and her team settle into their new office space, LeClaire said she plans to host events to help change the narrative and the stigma that is attached to startup businesses.
“We actually just signed a lease on a new office that has a nice space for workshops and classes and just so that people can come in and work and use our free Wi-Fi,” LeClaire said. “So, we’ll have a day when we’ll invite people to do that. We’ll hold networking events, where people can come in and maybe get some consulting advice.
“My whole staff has such a heart for small businesses and startups that we’d love to be a resource. I have had people come up to me and say, ‘Startups? There is no money in startups.’ The perception of startups is that they quit. I feel as though they quit because people don’t have support. They don’t have resources. If they have a proper strategy, they are more likely to be successful. So, personally, I haven’t found that there is no money in startups. Maybe there is less money in startups, but it is much more rewarding.”
LeClaire is living by the old adage “never forget where you came from” through her desire to help others, but she also has consciously taken on the attitude of “never forget how you got to where you are now.”
She is the co-founder of a support group called The Women in Motion. This year, LeClaire said the organization is especially focused on traveling across the U.S. and Canada to find women entrepreneurs who are willing to share their stories so it can inspire others who are thinking about starting their own business.
“We are hoping that we can get women to talk because women don’t talk and there are a lot of good reasons why we don’t talk about things, but we need to talk to each other, tell our stories and support each other, one on one at least,” she said. “So, that is definitely a big goal this year.”
LeClaire’s creative nature and risk-taking abilities stem from her childhood. She grew up in Kentwood with four siblings in a Christian home.
She grew up in a time when there were no video games. She and her siblings had to find creative ways to entertain themselves.
“We had a fireplace in our basement and a big room that used to be the garage, so it was just all cement,” she said. “My brother and I would take the fireplace poker tools and we would take the ends off and we would ride our bikes while playing sword fights. I was a tomboy, very adventurous and barefoot all the time, climbing trees and jumping out of them.”
She took that adventurous attitude and went off to Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, where she spent a year. She later transferred to Clarks Summit University in Pennsylvania, where she majored in psychology.
“I always wanted to help people, help them get out of circumstances and into better circumstances, especially those who are disenfranchised, where it doesn’t seem fair,” LeClaire said.
She was two classes shy of graduating but decided to return to West Michigan. She worked four years at an office products company called Boise Cascade in Grand Rapids. Throughout that time, she worked in different positions that ranged from doing administrative work to working with the company’s clients, showing them how to use different computer software.
It was in that capacity she learned and mastered how to write codes to build websites and became the internet specialist.
During her fourth year working at Boise Cascade, she started working from home to take care of her children. She immediately knew she couldn’t be as productive at her job as she wanted to be while taking care of three young children.
So, LeClaire decided to stay at home to focus on raising her children. Nevertheless, she still needed to make money to support her growing family. Two years into motherhood, she found a job, but she had her eyes set on bigger things.
It was during that phase in her life she considered becoming an entrepreneur. With the knowledge she gained at Boise Cascade regarding technology and how to build a website through coding, she found her first client, which was a startup business, and designed its website.
LeClaire quickly realized she wanted to start a marketing firm and coding alone wasn’t going to get the job done. Based on the needs of her small but growing client base, she took the necessary training she needed.
“One thing about my childhood is that my father taught us a very strong work ethic,” she said. “You do what you have to do, whether you like it or not, when you have to do it.”