Communications firm reaches across generations

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 5:09 PM

A baby boomer and Gen X-er have discovered that their generational diversity can be a strategic asset when interacting with customers.

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Karen Winner, left and Jennifer Schwegman are partners in Schwegman Communications

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

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Two things jump out at first blush about ­Schwegman Communications.

First is the multigenerational approach the small agency brings to the workplace.

Principals Jennifer Schwegman and Karen Winner match Gen X savvy with baby boomer sensibility respectively in bringing marketing strategies to their business clients.

Second, there is no home office for the 16-year-old firm as it strives to keep overhead low.

Schwegman and Winner can just as easily meet in a quiet corner of the Guthrie Theater building in the Minneapolis Mill District or at a table in the usually bustling Good Day Cafe in Golden Valley.

“Creative energy comes from different things and different places,” said Schwegman, 45, the Gen X-er partner. Schwegman was born in Memphis but moved to Minneapolis in the 1980s and received an international business and economics degree from the then College of St. Catherine.

Winner, 62, grew up in Omaha and earned a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin. She worked in direct marketing in Los Angeles before moving to the Twin Cities in 1992. She currently lives in Minnetonka.

The two were introduced by a mutual professional contact and in 1998 became partners in a business-to-business marketing and communications firm that currently has a dozen clients on a regular billable hour basis.

Schwegman’s specialty is with clients in the technology and health care fields, although the agency also has clients in other professional and business services.

The agency provides a broad range of assistance from public relations to marketing communications to Internet marketing. With an on-call staff of eight to 12 independent contractors, Schwegman Communications offers writing, graphic design and website development.

But Schwegman and Winner are clearly the yin and the yang of a business that has generated double-digit growth in each of the last five years.

“Five years ago, when our business started to take off, we asked ourselves, ‘What is it that’s working here?’ ” recalled Schwegman. “We realized that neither one of us needs to be in control. We both are happy to step back if that’s the case.”

Recalling her work in Los Angeles, Winner said: “I was frustrated with the agencies I worked with. None of them specialized in technology. So I went after technology companies.”

One of those companies is Jump Technologies, a cloud-based provider of supply-chain management software that works primarily with the office supply industry and the health care marketplace.

“They provided a techno-centric focus,” said Laurie Healy, vice president of marketing for the Eagan-based company. “I’ve seen a real virtual approach in building [support] teams. That really gives me a lot of flexibility. You can either ramp up or ramp down as your needs change.”

Healy said the fact that Schwegman has freelance employees on call rather than on staff has been “very cost effective” for her company’s marketing budget. Healy said the agency helped pull together case studies of services that Jump Technologies provided other companies, brought attention to Jump Technologies by getting stories printed in trade journals and helped with blog content.

“They got us visibility,” Healy said.

Other present and past clients include Lawson, Imation, Target, 3M, PeopleNet and the technology and management resources divisions of Robert Half International.

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