May 16--Kelly Zaske and Jodie Pundsack had barely launched their own ad agency, Gaslight Creative, when they got a call from Cold Spring Brewing Co. in fall 2010. They were getting a chance to market Northern Beer.
"That was kind of our big break," said Zaske, who was working out of a 9-by-20-foot office at the time. "They didn't care that we were new and not very big. We put together a good campaign and competed. So when they decided in 2011 that they were going to start this craft brewery called Third Street Brewhouse, they trusted us."
The Northern Beer ads won several awards, and their work for Third Street Brewhouse won a Best of Show American Advertising Award.
As Gaslight grew from its two co-founders to a full-time staff of eight, 90 percent of its business remained in Central Minnesota, and much of it had nothing to do with alcohol.
But lately, Zaske and Pundsack have used their beer success to broaden their horizons.
In April, Zaske attended the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, an event that draws almost 10,000 people and 250 industry exhibitors.
Last week, she traveled to the Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose, California, and was the featured speaker at a breakout session about "Marketing on a Shoestring," which is a typical budget for some start-up breweries.
Her message: Invest whatever time and money you can in a good logo and website, or else you'll spend more money later trying to fix it.
She detailed 10 ways to market on low or no budget, including developing an "elevator speech" and connecting with other communities or businesses to create a strategic partnership.
Her trips and the contacts that come with them are beginning to pay off with some national business.
"Because of the success we experienced with the launch of Third Street, we're looking to expand our portfolio -- especially as it relates to wine and spirits," Zaske said. "The whole craft brewing movement is exploding, and so is the market for craft wineries and distilleries. The fact that we've gone out of market already has resulted in one new job and quite a few proposals."
Gaslight is partnering with a brewing company that plans to launch next year in Denver and, later this month, Zaske and Pundsack plan to travel to Chicago and make a pitch to a company that invests in small breweries.
"Right now, it's just a request for proposal, but whoever gets it will instantly have about four breweries to market and what could be continual work after that," Zaske said.
That resonates well for a company that recently took over the second level of a vintage building at 713 St. Germain St.
Zaske is a 45-year-old from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has a technical communications degree from Michigan Tech University.
Pundsack, 31, grew up on a dairy farm in Greenwald and earned a fine arts and graphic design degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. They feel like their business is "growing up."
"We'll remain broad-based because that's one way to keep our work fresh, and we consider creativity to be our specialty," Pundsack said. "But it's nice to feel like you've got an area where you can attract new business. With craft brewers, we know how important it is to have the right name and label. You're fighting with everyone on the shelf. You've got to be funky and cool. You can't be crazy enough. So we're going to throw our hat in that ring and see what happens."
For more, visit www.gaslightcreative.com.
Send business news and tips to Times Business Reporter Kevin Allenspach at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get business news at www.sctimes.com/business, on