Longtime readers of the Agency 100 know that no featured agency has ever copped to anything less than a spectacular, life-affirming, industry-trend-defying year. Revenue plunged 20%? “We were very selective about opportunities.” Staffers fled en masse? “We right-sized our operations.”
But when Brick City Greenhouse cofounder and client lead Renee Wills kicks off a chat about the agency’s 2021 fortunes by proclaiming, “Let me go on record: We had a spectacular year,” she’s not just playing to the home crowd. The company more than doubled its revenue (from $8.9 million in 2020 to $19 million in 2021, a 113% gain) and head count (from 31 to 67 full-timers).
The growth can be traced back to Brick City Greenhouse’s founding in 2015. Wills and fellow cofounders Fred Kinch (content lead) and Ashley Schofield (creative lead) had big-agency bona fides, but found themselves chafing against what came with it.
“When we opened our office, we thought, ‘Well, that’s what you do, you get an office,’” Wills recalls. “One day, it just hit us, ‘What are we doing?’” Kinch defends the approach even with 20/20 hindsight: “We were trying out the things we saw in our past lives.”
The decision to ditch its formal workspace, which predated the pandemic by a few years, gave Brick City Greenhouse a big head start on the trend away from the office. “Pre-COVID-19, we had to sell our model to people,” Schofield says. “Now their eyes have been opened about what your work life can be.”
Kinch agrees, adding, “Every time the big agencies send out a ‘We look forward to everything coming back to the office’ memo, our phones start ringing. I welcome all the big holding companies asking their people to come back to the office, because there are lots of smart individuals who don’t want to make those work/life compromises anymore.”
“That elusive work/life balance is possible to attain here,” Wills says, before adding with a laugh, “Well, maybe not during a launch.”
Which isn’t to say that managing a growing staff was any easier for Brick City Greenhouse than it was for anyone else. When one client budget grew fivefold over the course of 2021, the agency found itself scrambling.
“We couldn’t get ahead of our staffing because we didn’t have a lot of heads-up,” Wills says.
Admittedly, there are worse problems to have — and Brick City Greenhouse clearly got past it, given the staff numbers. At the same time, with clients such as Janssen, Scynexis and Immunomedics eager to expand the agency’s remit, that growth can’t just be a one-time spurt.
As a result, Brick City Greenhouse plans to strategically evolve its offering in the second half of 2022 and beyond. It will likely bolster its UX group and its content/editorial operations, just as it did its back-office infrastructure (via the hire of SVP, people and culture Minnie Damle) during 2021.
“We’re on a good footing to move forward,” Kinch adds. “We’re putting the right building blocks in place — the right bricks, you might say.”
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Work from outside pharma you admire…
Dove’s Courage Is Beautiful is a campaign I wish I had created, because it is so timely, powerful and real. It gives us an unflinching look at the toll the pandemic took on the individuals who were on the front lines: healthcare professionals. The images of these heroes — with the harsh, red imprint of their PPE outlines and the looks of sheer exhaustion — gave me goose bumps. — Schofield