Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of business profiles highlighting forward-thinking, Missoula-based start-ups. The Montana High Tech Business Alliance recently feted the firms, all of which meet at least two required criteria: steep revenue growth or work in a high-growth sector; high-potential products or services; valuable intellectual property; major clients or new markets; will expand operations or add a significant number of jobs in the next year; led by experienced entrepreneurs or top experts.
Working side-by-side with young businesses, The Insight Studio follows the road less traveled while serving 25% of its customers in Montana.
The other 75% of businesses founder Stefanie Sample and crew serve are spread across the United States, according to Andrew Schulz, The Insight Studio team member and former Goodworks Ventures marketing strategist in downtown Missoula.
The main headquarters is located at 1515 E. Broadway, but Sample and husband Joe Sample opened a branch in Bozeman, too.
“We don’t operate like a ‘normal’ digital marketing agency,” said CEO Stefanie Sample. “We focus a lot of our time on teaching and doing working sessions with our clients — working side by side.”
The Insight Studio, founded last January, zeroes in on start-ups seeking knowledge for creating “predictable growth,” lessons in how to use Hubspot Marketing Pro or Hubspot Sales Pro – and have at least one team member as a point person for training, said Sample.
Working as an extension of their clients’ business, The Insight Studio helps primarily in sales and marketing, especially when businesses need extra guidance in the early stages.
Sample, a Billings native and entrepreneur since college, prefers the old-school term for new companies.
“I’m not sure I’d say I’ve been part of start-ups but instead businesses,” she said. “To me, a start-up sounds like something on a rapid growth trajectory, that needs to scale fast, have an exit and needs a lot of capital along the way. My past has mostly been in creating small businesses in Montana that don’t have hyperscale opportunities, but instead have a steady growth trajectory that can continue for a long time.”
The Insight Studio leverages HubSpot to help their clients find repeatable, data-driven processes behind marketing efforts that will help them create and execute long-term business models.
In other words, Sample and a staff of three Montana residents and nine specialized contractors across the country help clients use the popular Customer Relationship Management to find new leads and grow their business.
Customer Relationship Management – known as CRM in the tech industry – is a popular type of system that tracks, organizes and communicates with customers, audience and networkers, said Schulz.
Basically, it’s a one-stop shop to help grow a business – and most of Hubspot’s products are free. Owned by Dharmesh Shan, Hubspot is a partner agency of The Insight Studio.
“We leverage the CRM Hubspot to maximize growth for our customers and ourselves,” added Schulz. “But there are tons of CRMs out there.”
It seems the team at The Insight Studio teaches what it knows.
“We are Hubspot experts,” he said. “Hubspot is much more than just a CRM, but offers website builders, forms, email templates and more.
Paying it forward in terms of knowledge and skills seems to be among The Insight Studio’s strengths.
“That is why we like them as well since we echo this ‘teaching’ mentality,” said Schulz. “With our customers we like to teach them to use the platform, and for them to become experts with our help.”
Sample’s contractors share skills in HubSpot web design, Search Engine Optimization, graphic design and data visualization.
She said the company plans to add five more staff by the end of the year. Sample is looking for people looking to serve others with their digital marketing or data science skills.
But why did she choose Missoula and Bozeman for The Insight Studio?
“Because of people,” she said. “I wanted to hire the ‘right’ people and not focus so much on location. Missoula is where I live and a couple of people on the team needed to be in Bozeman, so we got an office there.”
As a Missoula job creator, Sample focuses on well-rounded hiring criteria: a work/life balance, tech skills with Hubspot emphasis, fun and connectivity to the community, plus skill sets in digital marketing and automation.
Schulz, for one, is sold on the business model and work environment at The Insight Studio.
“Stef and The Insight Studio have given me the opportunity to leverage my years of experience working with individuals and teams, and combine that with the power of the Hubspot CRM,” said Schulz. “The Insight Studio is a great place to work that supports me in my personal life just as much as my professional one.”
Among The Insight Studio’s success is Rewire, a software protocol.
“Over two years, I brought them onto the HubSpot platform and created their digital marketing strategy,” said Sample. “They recently did a digital marketing assessment by another agency and got perfect scores in all marketing categories.”
While many young, innovative businesses or start-ups compete in various business tech pitch competitions to win monetary awards to boost their bottom line, Sample said she is 100% self-funded. She did not enter or win awards to start the business.
She and her husband Joe own an impressive portfolio of businesses, including Voicesifter, a software ethics hotline; Cactus Consolidators, which helps military families moving overseas; and MTB Management, Inc., for which company President Joe operates eight Taco Bells throughout western Montana.
Stefanie owns the popular Massage Envy stores in Missoula and Billings. They are the only two such stores in Montana and part of a national franchise of 1,000 stores.
Launching her into the start-a-business path was Mile 22 Bags – her first company she created after college. It is a bag company comprising runners’ race day memorabilia. She did her market research, as she traveled to national marathons for a year.
But Stefanie Sample flies on her own trajectory, seemingly a prerequisite for launching and juggling several successful businesses.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had the right “credentials” to do the things I have,” she said. “I’d more say I’ve always been willing to try and fail at something that I wasn’t qualified for then to not try at all. I do things outside of my credentials every day.”
At any rate, she and The Insight Studio seem to be thriving while parlaying a specific set of skills into workable solutions for clients.
“We are excited to be a part of the growing business community of Montana and hope to help it grow in a positive, meaningful way,” said Sample.
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