Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
A dog-obsessed, self-proclaimed awkward introverted extrovert who’s creative by nature and data-curious. That’s me, Becca Post. I’m also the founder and CEO of Helen & Gertrude, a social media agency focused on bringing together the worlds of the left and right brained. We’re a mix of creative, account management, media, and statistics-trained folks. Our first year was a wild ride. We grew from 9 to 18 people with nationally recognized clients such as Universal Orlando Resorts, Jergens, Curél, and Bioré Skincare.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Ha. The short answer? A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader/singer/actress/model. I outgrew that dream, to an extent, fairly quickly. But I still knew I wanted to be involved in the arts to some degree. The majority of my childhood was spent on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania. I attended a high school where any semblance of digital design was nowhere to be found. So I started dabbling in every aspect of the fine arts: music, acting, writing, painting. Then I took my first computer science class learning Visual Basic. I created a very simple weather application where I made a snowflake ... animate. Drop the mic. Game. Over. When it came time to choose a college, although I would be studying art, I knew I was drawn to the left brained. Studying design at a predominately engineering school was right up my alley. I joined a program that introduced me to the world of code, but also allowed me focus on creating.
How did you get started in your current business? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Upon graduating from RIT’s New Media Design and Imaging program, I was introduced to a little tech/marketing company called Brand Networks (BN). I jumped on board as their first designer overseen by the CTO, Mike Garsin. Together, we built an extraordinary team across interactive design and engineering. I had the fortunate opportunity to work with some incredible mentors during my time at BN. I was able to learn a lot within the security of a thriving business. I developed the skills needed to run our line of service as its own business before I even dreamt of leading an agency. In late 2016, with the help and support of BN, we successfully became our own independent entity, clients and all. For most start ups, they aren’t worrying about payroll for a team of nine people and invoicing for long-term clients on day one. This mind-blowing opportunity opened me up to a world of HR, payroll, creating cash flow projections, and finding office space, meanwhile still serving as a functioning creative on the team, as well as marketing the business. Plus, there are still plenty of days when I am the janitor, that’s all part of the hustle.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up? If I’m not uncomfortable, then I’m probably bored (which I guess makes me a bit of a masochist). And that generally means I can be pretty hard on myself. Self-reflection is one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned on my journey. In both tough times as well as the high points. From the interns to the CEOs, we’re all a work in progress. Having thick skin also really helps. I think growing up with three older brothers really toughened me up with their gross snakes and terrible nicknames.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
I once was told that I’m not intimidated by authority. When I first started out, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone else in the room seemed so much more confident than the meek, quiet college grad in the corner. I was scared to speak up and naive, thinking that someone else would have already thought of my ideas. I didn’t ask questions because I felt I wasn’t smart enough and that people would catch on and believe I wasn’t good enough to be at the table. How crazy does that sound? At some point in my career, I leaned in. Hard. I eventually learned to know my audience in every situation. Maybe it’s coming from the UX/UI world, but looking at every situation as a “customer journey” really helped me in those moments of important conversations. I found the balance between having a filter and speaking my mind. I knew when talking to upper management, the level of detail was MUCH different than talking to my peers. I gained the knowledge that asking for what I wanted (in a way that benefited both parties) was far more effective than just making demands.
What inspires you?
My husband and I love to travel, whether that’s climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro or finding little adventures in the everyday, like driving down a side street we’ve never been to in Rochester. There’s something to be said about getting away from your screen and doing something with your hands. When I’m anxious and uninspired, I find myself rearranging our home décor three times in one weekend, putzing around our small backyard garden or finding a new and unique recipe to make for dinner that night. Also, because everyone loves a little cheese, my husband. He has a way of offering a different perspective on why someone may be acting the way they are or how my actions are being perceived that I might not realize. He makes me a better, more understanding manager. He also has a knack for sending me silly pictures of our dog, Finn, at just the right moment in a tough day.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
I thrive on change. Just ask anyone in the office, it’s rare to see me sitting at the same desk for too long. Social media is a blast with everyday being different and the industry evolving so quickly. But what really makes me tick is working with people who are smart, curious, passionate and thrive on pushing themselves. Growing our team at H&G, not just in numbers, but as people, has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. Seeing someone move from being a junior member of the team to being able to rock a tough conversation with a client is really inspiring and gratifying. The days with waffles and wine pairing photoshoots aren’t so bad either.
What do you find most challenging?
Early in my management career, I was told my employees’ success is my success, and their failures are also my failures. Part of my role is getting pulled in when things are going less than stellar. Some days you have to be the bad cop and provide unpopular feedback, while still keeping the team motivated and energized. The weight of having the well-being of others on your shoulders can be crippling if you think on it too long. Dreams of “I’m not a regular boss, I’m a cool boss” can’t always be achieved. At the end of the day, you have to remember you’ll get more respect for not letting things slide when it matters. At the start, we were a tight-knit group and I had personal relationships with each and every employee. The more we grow, the more those relationships change. While we’re still very close, you can definitely see the dynamics of the team shifting with each new hire. I have the challenge of ensuring it’s always for the better and making difficult decisions when needed.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
I’ve been really impressed by the young, fearless community in Rochester. This city is vibrating thanks to amazing talent from artisans, restaurant owners, and incredibly driven people in tech. Of course, I’m partial to the creatives I get to work with each and every day at H&G.
We love working with the team at Optic Sky. The quality of work they’re producing is really impressive, and it’s always a guaranteed good time when we join forces.
Liz Gombert at Paychex has a “take no BS” way of communicating. She’s bold, blunt, and not afraid to take charge. We have a very different approach to communication, and she offers great perspective on leading a creative team.
Kirsten Seversky is also a force to be reckoned with. She’s an amazing advocate for women in tech and is doing some awesome things with her Girl Develop It chapter here in Rochester.
Courtney Martin at Infinti Salon blows me away by how much she has accomplished already. She’s sassy, driven, and knows exactly what she wants in her business.