We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Lager and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Whether you spend $4k a month on ads or $400,000 on a TV commercial, focus your energy on email marketing or organic growth, your immediate goal is always the same––get people interested enough to stop, read, click, learn, and/or buy. We tend to overcomplicate things in life (don’t I know it), but successful marketing really comes down to connection: how are you connecting to your current customer or new customer? How are you grabbing people’s attention, providing value, and selling a vision of something greater––something they can’t help but be a part of?
Apple’s update is teaching us a lot. Why we need to have an integrated approach to marketing vs. putting all our eggs in one platform; and that no matter what, creative is what moves the needle the most. You can have the best FB ad managers who really understand how to optimize campaigns and target the right audience, but it’s the story you’re telling, and how you’re telling it, that matters most––especially when marketing to a much broader audience. After all, we’re selling to humans––not an algorithm. What’s going to make them stop and look?
What should our readers know about your business?
Mango Creative Co is a woman-founded, creative-first marketing/advertising agency that helps businesses find the sweet spot of what performs and what’s uniquely on brand for them. So many agencies focus on one or the other–- they sell metrics or brand intrigue (we’ll double your conversions or we’ll make you cool)––but our background in both worlds allows us to merge these typically disparate schools of thought and develop a unique formula for each client that we achieve through testing, iterating, and “what if we did__”ing. We make creative decisions based on data, but never at the expense of the brand. It’s a dance (or rather a shimmy) that requires both pieces to work in unison. Yes, you can have that fun, clever line AND it can perform.
For so long brands have had two options if they want to work with exceptional marketing and creative talent––go to a big agency with exorbitant fees or hire a team internally. There are countless companies that don’t have the resources to do either. That’s where Mango Creative Co comes in. In a way, we’re the anti-agency agency. We make expert marketing and creative professionals accessible to brands that otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. We want to get rid of the red tape, unsensible overhead, and create a true partnership between passionate creatives/marketers and the brands that know they have a world of opportunity in front of them. Instead of hiring a full creative marketing team—which usually isn’t feasible–– you get access to all of them with Mango. We’re a small, nimble shop which means we turn work around quickly, we integrate into your team seamlessly (thank you Slack), and we’re going to give you our all––whether you’re a startup with a scrappy budget or a Fortune 500 company.
I’m incredibly proud that in under 2 years, we’ve not only 6xed our revenue, but we’ve been able to help over 20 brands, from small one-person shops and nonprofits to publicly-traded companies and household names. We’ve rebranded companies, built websites, grew social accounts, created hundreds of ads, written thousands of lines, directed multiple photoshoots, and helped over 5 companies 4x their ROI goals. We’ve worked on celebrity campaigns featuring Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus; and one of our copy retainer clients was named D-to-C Brand of the Year by Ad Age. But more than any of that, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of our grit, determination, perseverance, and willingness to do better every day. This has been the wildest ride of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Was it easy? Hell no. When people ask what hobbies I developed during Covid, I explain that I lost any hobby that didn’t involve working. Mango Creative grew because we poured every ounce of ourselves into every project, and word spread. We haven’t invested in any marketing for ourselves (ironic right) and were able to grow solely based on referrals, which is still the only way we get new business. I had zero business acumen so our growth process was very much “build the plane as you fly it.” We learned, made mistakes, and learned again.
One of our biggest challenges was having too much work to handle and growing the team quickly enough to keep up with demand. While theoretically this a good problem to have, it’s a hard problem to solve, and the process of hiring and integrating someone into your business takes way more time and energy than you’d realize. But I just keep reminding myself that although it’s a time investment up front, it pays off in the long run. The fastest and best way to hire in my opinion is to tap your network. I started talking about our hiring needs to everyone and anyone (friends, neighbors, even dates) and the people we needed just naturally flocked to us.
I learned that it’s always best to fake it ’till you make it, but it’s never good to bite off TOO much more than you can chew. A little more is fine and productive because that’s how you challenge yourself and grow. But saying yes to everything doesn’t get you where you want to go––it just leaves you tired, burnout, and frustrated. This is a lesson I’m still learning. Contorting yourself to do it all and fit every need (the downside of being a “yes” woman) instead of “this is what we offer and what we’re good at” can sometimes lead you to projects you’d rather not be doing.
Only .1% of ad agencies are founded by women. We’re here to change that. We’re a woman-founded, creative-obsessed group that wants to push the boundaries of what marketing can be, help brands tell their story in novel ways, and enable our clients to do what they do best.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Start your day at Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney. Their coffee is outstanding and they have a good workspace with chill local vibes. Walk around the neighborhood–-the streets, greenery, and homes are lovely. Take a stroll around the canals – you’ll feel instantly transported out of LA–-and if it’s Friday, stop by the Venice farmers market (the microgreens guy is my fave). Grab a smoothie at Erewhon, walk down Abbot Kinney, hit up the flea market if it’s a Saturday, and grab a bite at Gjelina or Plant, Food & Wine. Walk the Venice boardwalk, take a dip in the ocean, or rent a bike for sunset. Then head to Wallflower on Rose for dinner––it will blow your mind.
Los feliz/Silver Lake
Start with a hike at Griffith Park, coffee at Maru, then hit up Crossroads in Los Feliz (I think it’s the best one in LA) if you want some cute/cheap finds and/or head to Atwater Village for more fun vintage moments. Get in a juicy stretch at The Body Los Feliz and do dinner at Blair’s. They have incredible food, awesome energy, a “not too LA” atmosphere (though you might see Casey Affleck), and it’s the perfect place to dine outside with natural wine. The service is impeccable and the entire staff is super nice and accommodating. Lolo wine bar in east hollywood is another amazing option.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First, all my friends and family who believed in me and held the vision for me, especially when I wasn’t sure if this dream could become reality. Alex Cook — my co-founder and one of my closest friends who I could not have done any of this without. She can bang out a script in 2 minutes flat, design a new ad in 10, and can make a joke about literally anything. Thank you for being on this wild ride with me.
Liron Damir – a brilliant designer/artist and my first manager in tech who told me I had “balls” and encouraged me to always push the envelope, say something provocative, and try what you’ve never seen done before.
Dr. Joe Dispenza and the spiritual community that taught me to believe in myself, my power, and know that anyone can make their wildest dreams come true.
Creative Matters – a little ad agency where I started my career, learned what being a copywriter was, and got to play a million roles which ultimately gave me the perspective and skills to find my passion, excel at it, and build my own agency. I’m forever grateful.
for hers ads (Hers), for spicemode ad (Spicemode), for balance ads (Balance), for studio photos of Steph and Alex (Bessie Lacap, Mithi Studio),