Alexis Walsko, founder and CEO, Lola Red
Alexis Walsko says business has been on a roll since Lola Red, her Minneapolis-based public relations firm, helped launch a toy version of Star Wars' popular BB-8 droid.
Lola Red worked with nine other agencies around the globe to introduce the 4.5-inch, app-enabled droid toy last September, Walsko said. The resulting buzz helped the toy sell out months before the ball-shaped BB-8 rolled to popularity on movie screens in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Lola Red, serving as public relations agency of record for the toy's creator, Boulder, Colo.-based Sphero, worked closely with Lucasfilm in planning the top-secret project.
The launch attracted new clients including many tech companies, leading to a 20 percent increase in revenue in 2015. The agency made four hires, bringing its total to 15, and opened a second office in Boulder, where Walsko started the agency in 2001.
"It was an overnight success over the course of 15 years," Walsko said.
Walsko, who has a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado, Boulder, credits her team of "young overachievers" for much of that success.
"We're hustlers," Walsko said. "We want to be the best possible extension of our clients' brands and bring them to the world."
Q: What challenges have come with the agency's rapid growth?
A: The hardest thing we are doing now is saying no. It kills me. It breaks my heart. But if we cannot do something extremely well we are not going to do it. We have to have the right team in place and the right people to support our clients because that's how we got here.
Q: What are your secrets for working with millennials?
A: Give them a sense of ownership. Make them responsible and also provide them with life-related benefits. They like that it's happy hour at 4 p.m. They like that we have a massage therapist who comes in once a month. They like fun excursions. … My kicker, and I've earned it, is, you have to be on time in the morning. That's one thing I can do to train them for whatever they may do in their life.
Q: Lola Red?
A: I was 22. I love Madonna, and her daughter's name is Lourdes. They call her Lola. At the time my favorite color was red. This was way back when female marketing was of the moment. I had someone draw a cartoon character of what I looked like and Lola Red was who I went out to the national media and presented myself as.