Heather Gibbons, Inmo Creative
Heather Gibbons is a wife, mother, twin sister, and musician. She’s also the co-founder of INMO Creative, a full-service creative agency based in Atlanta. As Heather and her business partner, Simon, establish their agency in its first year of business, they focus on the “simple things.” Together, they’re committed to building a solid foundation of systems and processes that aligns with their beliefs, values, and mission.
Episode 05 – Lauren Ramsey, Betsy Bash
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Heather Gibbons is a wife, mother, twin sister, friend, lover of the outdoors, and musician. She’s also the founder of INMO Creative, a full-service creative agency based in Atlanta. Before starting INMO Creative in July 2022, Heather served as VP at another design agency, and before that, was the General Manager of a popular restaurant in Decatur, Georgia. Here today to talk business, boundaries, and bringing meaning to work is Heather Gibbons. Heather, welcome to the show!
[00:01:23] Heather Gibbons: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on.
[00:01:27] Sanjay Parekh: Before we get into all the nitty gritty stuff, I'd love for you to give us just like a minute about your background and touch on probably some of the things that I didn't touch when I did the intro.
[00:01:36] Heather Gibbons: Definitely. So, I moved to Atlanta in the late nineties. Actually, I was working for the Alliance Theater when I came here and I came to play music. That's what brought me here – the music scene. And I just resonated with the music scene here in Atlanta. And I wound up working at a place in Decatur called the Brick Store Pub. And that was a great place for me, and I met a lot of really amazing people. My career just kind of happened from there. I wound up doing IT after I worked at the Brick store. I played in a band for about four years in Decatur. Then I did IT for four and a half, five years. And then I left IT because I was thinking about opening a restaurant, went to Leon's in Decatur, opened that restaurant from the ground up, and I left that role to join a small marketing design agency in Atlanta. And then I left that role to start INMO Creative and Intentional Momentum.
[00:02:43] Sanjay Parekh: I love it. I love it. Your career spans all over the place. Started creative, but then you did this side thing to IT stuff, which I mean, I guess you could be creative in that. I'm a tech guy too, but people don't think of IT as really creative. And then food stuff, which I guess you could be really creative with potentially, as long as diners are happy with how you're doing that. So, is INMO Creative the first time you've done something entrepreneurial? Or is there something entrepreneurial in your background before then?
[00:03:16] Heather Gibbons: It's not the first thing I've done. I think, gosh, I don't know. The first thing, I think it would be the mango stand. And then reiki.
[00:03:25] Sanjay Parekh: Oh, you’ve got to tell me about that. You can't tease a mango stand, and not tell me about that.
[00:03:30] Heather Gibbons: When I was younger, I did sell some mangoes on the street in my neighborhood. And my sister and I joke about it. It wasn't the most legit business. But in Miami mangoes are everywhere, like literally on the sidewalks.
[00:03:51] Sanjay Parekh: So that's what I was going to ask. You got to walk me through this. So geographically you were in Miami, Florida?
[00:03:55] Heather Gibbons: Yes, I grew up in Miami, Florida and we lived near a large number of mango trees, and we would collect them off the ground and sell them on the side of the road. Not really our mangoes to sell. But mangoes nonetheless, that would've rotted into the ground like the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of mangoes in South Florida. And we sold them on the street. I want to say it was three for a dollar. I just remember having a very large wad of cash in my pocket and being like nine or something like that. And being so impressed with the sheer just volume of the dollar bills.
[00:04:41] Sanjay Parekh: So, I wasn't going to touch upon the fact that you were in theory stealing the mangoes from a property.
[00:04:49] Heather Gibbons: Yes, essentially, yes, that's true.
[00:04:50] Sanjay Parekh: Since you said that. I'll talk about that. So, you had a zero cost of goods sold. Your inventory cost nothing. Excellent margins. It was like a hundred percent margin. Because you had no employees and no overhead. How did you sell these? Were you like on the streets?
[00:05:09] Heather Gibbons: Yes, on the street. So, we would stand on the street, and I guess we made up a sign that said mangoes, like three for a dollar, and people would stop and get mangoes, which is hilarious because like I just said three seconds ago, there's like mangoes rotting everywhere. All over the place in Miami, but there's kids standing on the side of the road selling mangoes. I guess it's like a lemonade stand.
[00:05:32] Sanjay Parekh: So, did they feel like these were like legitimate mangoes from a farm somewhere? Or were they like, are you guys just picking these up and selling them or what's happening?
[00:05:40] Heather Gibbons: Yeah, great question. I don't know the answer to that. It was, all I know is that my sister and I joke about like our first thing being like this, like racket, where it wasn't legit. And now, in retrospect I can think back and say, wow, I shouldn't have done that. I would not model that for someone else. However, it sure was fun when I was like nine and I didn't think about, I wasn't thinking about it like that.
[00:06:16] Sanjay Parekh: And we're not even going to get into like where your parents were when all of this, these hijacks were happening. We'll just move on from that issue. Were there any other entrepreneurs in the family that you saw, that you got inspiration from?
[00:06:35] Heather Gibbons: Yeah, the childhood, in all those moving pieces, we won't go into just because there's a lot of moving parts there, but my dad owned like a painting business at one point in life, I know. My dad was just kind of like the guy that figured out how to do whatever it was and then did it himself. Okay, I'm going to go work for an asphalt company and then he'd start a business, that kind of thing. He just learned skills and then would take them and run with them. And so, actually, as I say that out loud, I guess I've done the same thing. And then right around the time I was actually nine or so, my mom was working for a small marketing agency and she and the owner of the company wound up getting married, so they had a marketing agency when I was a kid. They weren't doing creative work. They were doing promotions; they were doing deals. It was like the, I don't know if you remember the days, but it was like you go to the grocery store, you spend a certain amount on groceries, and then it you had the ability to utilize something for an airline ticket. That was their deal.
[00:08:03] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Fascinating. Okay, you took all these experiences and then you decided to start your own thing. Why did you try the thing that you're doing now, INMO Creative? Like why did you decide to step out and start doing this of all the things that you potentially could do?
[00:08:24] Heather Gibbons: That's a really great question. I'll back up and say I also co-founded a nonprofit in Atlanta called Girls Rock Camp in the mid two thousands. So that was a great experience. It was something I'm passionate about as a musician and empowering kids through music and, all of the different classes that we had. So, there's that. And then I did also co-found two other businesses. I started a Popsicle business actually, two months after King of Pops started, called Sueno Pops. And we were, we did it for about a year. And we were in like Farm Burger, and we sold it the community farmer's markets. But I was also working a full-time, busy job. And my partner and I were pregnant with our first child. So, I left that business and then a little bit later I started another business. It was like a competitor to Kiwi Crate, if you're familiar. But a little bit more elevated. So much so that our margins were terrible when you factor in postage. And it was not, in order for the quality to be what we wanted, it was not, a viable business. So, I wound up closing that. So, some good life lessons. Yeah, after my initial mango life lesson of don't sell things that don't belong to you.
[00:09:55] Sanjay Parekh: Unless you're young enough and you can get away with it. Maybe it's okay. I will note for listeners we've actually had Stephen Cars of King of Pops on the podcast before. And the arc of development that they've gone through with King of Pops is just fascinating it's really inspiring. But it's a hard business. And especially being pregnant and all those things like man. Yeah, I can't even imagine it.
[00:10:20] Heather Gibbons: It was fun. At that time, it was it's funny, I’ve read about their story, actually just read an article about him the other day in the Business Journal, and he and his brother. It's inspiring. I love it. But I went to Mexico to Tulum a year ago on a yoga retreat. And that was my introduction to paletas, even though I, you think I would've been introed to them in South Florida, but that was really my intro to them. And then I was also working at Leon's in Decatur, and we were doing a lot of really amazing things with flavor profiles. Flavor Bible, by the way, is a great book for anyone who's excited about flavor profiles and combining them. And so, it was just, I was really inspired by the ability to be creative with those. So that, I think, was super fun at the time.
[00:11:19] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:11:36] Sanjay Parekh: INMO Creative: What was the spark that got you to the point of saying hey let's do a new thing. Let's launch this.
[00:11:48] Heather Gibbons: That's a great question. I wish I had a really good like I had an epiphany kind of answer, but I didn't. So I worked for a creative agency for seven years proior. And we were doing great work, had great clients and I loved marketing and I loved the creative work we were doing. But I just, I needed to move on. It was time for me to move on and do my own thing because I did have this entrepreneurial spirit. But I think I was always afraid of leaving, one, and two, I just, I wasn't sure, like I've had a hard time thinking like, okay, where do I put my energy? Like when I left, I actually left my agency. I didn't have a plan. Like I had no plan. And I had a lot of people reach out, which was super cool, and say, hey, if you want something, come talk to me. Like marketing folks, and actually, and some people that I had already been working with which was really great. But I told everybody the same thing, including the owners. I'm going to take a breath and I'm going to determine what's next after I have a moment to take a breath. And I really meant that.
But then my last day was June 3rd, and on Monday morning, one of my good friends messaged me and I have this tight group of friends. We call each other framily and he's part of that group. And he was, and we've worked together before. Like we've collaborated. He's a creative director. I've brought him in on projects in the past, so I don't know why I didn't connect the dots, because that's one of my favorite things in life to do. But he said, do you want to collaborate, on a proposal for an RFP? And I was like, sure. And by the end of the week, it was in motion and by the end of the week we had a name, a website, a logo. It kinda happened quickly and I was like, okay, I guess I'm meant to go in this direction.
[00:14:01] Sanjay Parekh: And so that, that was the start of INMO Creative?
[00:14:05] Heather Gibbons: That was the start of INMO Creative. And I'll back up a hair and say that INMO Creative is part of Intentional Momentum. And Intentional Momentum is a benefit corporation, which is a newer legal entity in Georgia. And I think it's a legal entity in, I want to say 13 states. I could be wrong. And so, when we registered as a benefit corp. With intention. Intentional Momentum. And there's a story to that too, but it's too long. Our purpose, our goal is beyond the creative agency. But the creative agency in my mind is like our heart. And we got started there. It's makes complete sense for us to start there. But the goal for Intentional Momentum is bigger and I think that's what is helpful for me as someone who's like, okay, where do I put my energy? Because my previous boss was like, what are you going to do? And I was like, I don't know. I could start a restaurant. I could start an IT company. I'm like, I don't know. I'm going to take a moment. And I say that...
[00:15:20] Sanjay Parekh: But the moment ended up being less than 24 hours.
[00:15:22] Heather Gibbons: It was, yeah, it was real quick. And, honestly, like I had lunch with somebody on Friday and she inspired me to buy this Donald Miller book, and I did, and I haven't even read it. I want to, so bad. But I will, I'm going to read it, but I didn't. It's just, I've been in go mode ever since. And, we got a client, we got our first client that was like an official new client. My partner Simon had already been working with a couple of brands. We brought them into the fold, and we've gained a couple more clients along the way. So, we're growing. And it's happening in a way that feels really good. And we're working with brands that align with our values. And that's the big thing, is value alignment for me. And for us and for what we're doing and what I want to do and what I want to bring to business. I know there are a lot of good businesses out there operating with purpose. And we want to do the same. That's our primary objective.
[00:16:32] Sanjay Parekh: Let's, on that note, switch gears and talk about purpose but also talk about balance. How do you balance the stress? You were like, let me have a moment. And it was less than 24 hours. So, you didn't really get a moment. So, how do you balance the stress and demands of running an agency and family life and friends and all of the other things that there are that you do?
[00:17:00] Heather Gibbons: It's been a challenge. And what I realized is, I thought, for years, I think I thought it wasn't me, it was just, I was in an environment that required me to work all the time. But it's like the same logic of, no matter where you go, there you are. Which is, now it's just me, but I'm sitting on the beach with a laptop on my lap, so whose choice is that? And so, I have to find, it's been a challenge for me to say, okay, you've done enough for today. Put it down, take a breather, and wake up fresh tomorrow. And so, I've done things also. Throughout the day, I try to implement the Pomodoro technique. So, I'm not great at it.
I'm working on going for walks because being outside in the fresh air in the world, in nature, when it's not soggy like it is in Atlanta right now, smelling all of the beautiful, fresh blooms and it's just, it makes me feel better and it helps me relax. And then the Pomodors technique is the 25/5, right? So, 25 minutes of work, five minutes of brain rest, and I will go pick up my guitar for five minutes and strum my guitar and play. And maybe I want to work on something musically, or maybe I just want to do nothing musically but play, but it makes me get up and walk away. And I find that when I do that, when I come back, it's like the ideas are better, clearer. I'm not in a muck. It does help.
[00:18:52] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. When you think about your day, is there like a schedule that you do? Do you always exercise or is it always play music? Is there like something that is an anchor in your day that you always make sure you do?
[00:19:05] Heather Gibbons: I want to say that I do, but no. I'm working on finding that balance of saying, okay, I need to schedule a walk at this time. I have a lot of moving parts. I have a 12-year-old and he is doing baseball and rock climbing and drums and also does a couple different programs for school. He's not in a traditional school. He's in an alternative homeschool type environment, except it's not at home. It's outside of the home. So, all that plus...
[00:19:43] Sanjay Parekh: Somebody else's home.
[00:19:44] Heather Gibbons: Yes. And my partner's a midwife, so I've got the on-call midwife. So there's a lot of moving parts and I wake up really early and I get going early. And I do enjoy that time because it's my productive, get-in-the-zone time. And I try to have a document that I try to refer to that's a little bit of a reminder. It's kind of like my list of reminders and then values, and I don't look at it every day, but it's titled every day. I want to look at it every day. And then I try to write, and with the idea there being, I've not done The Artist’s Way, but I'm familiar with it and I know that, write three pages no matter what, even if you're writing, ‘I don't know what to write.’ Just to get my brain awake going and the creative energy flowing.
[00:20:47] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. Okay, so as you've moved it and INMO Creative and all of this that you've started is now just a few months old at this point, right? It's not even a year yet. Is there some systems or tools or applications that you and Simon have implemented that help you manage the business better?
[00:21:11] Heather Gibbons: Yeah, I think we've actually just recently from a project management standpoint, gone back to Monday, which I do really love. I think it's amazing in a lot of ways, but I love the calculations within your actual projects. Those are pretty cool. I love tools, by the way. So, I have a tab dedicated to them, and there's a million of them. One of my favs that I recommend to people is Untools, and I want to say it's untools.co. But it's a great resource for tools that are around thinking, right? And so, I think I would say that's one of my favorites. And then, let me think. Tools. I love so many things. It's hard to narrow that down.
[00:22:09] Sanjay Parekh: Is there one tool that you use every day that you would be lost without?
[00:22:16] Heather Gibbons: I would not know what to do without Google Drive. Of course. We wouldn't be able to function. We've got everything there. And then integrated into our project management software. I would say our combo of Google Drive. And then I think if we're going to talk about… So there's tools and then there's systems and processes, right? I think what we've been doing and focusing on in these, beginning months as a new agency, but new agency with like, it's funny, we were talking about music earlier. It's like I'm teaching, I play guitar, right? So, it's like I can play guitar right-handed, but if I needed to teach my myself to play guitar left-handed, my mind knows how to do it. I just have to train my other hand, right? So, I feel like, yeah, there's a sense, a little bit of that's happening.
And here we are beginning a brand-new agency. We have the ability to create our systems, processes and create a really strong foundation from the ground up. And that's what we've been really focused on, is doing that work that can get backburnered really quickly. And it's already happening to us and we're brand new, but we're really bringing it back to the front because I don't want to be years in and saying, I wish we would've done that from the beginning. Because, I got a tidbit from an article recently, which is a no-brainer, right? But it's always the simple things, and it's, if you attempt to scale on top of a weak foundation, it's going to crumble, right? You can't scale on a weak foundation. So, our goal is to build a strong foundation of systems, processes, and how we operate, beliefs, values, mission. So, that's what we've been working on.
[00:24:14] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. What's interesting of your answer is, if you think back 30 years, Google Drive and Dropbox and all of these things did not exist, even less than 30 years. Think about agencies back then and how did they get things done and function and all of those things.
[00:24:33] Heather Gibbons: Oh, amazing. I know Paper, right? Yeah. They were using paper. And then I know from IT days, it's a shared drive on a machine that's sitting in a server closet.
[00:24:49] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. That hopefully somebody is thinking about backing up. Because if they don't, and disaster happens — and disaster always happens — what happens then? I've gotten these questions before somebody had asked me, it was one of our kids, somebody had asked, what did you guys used to do back in the day to book airline tickets? Before the internet? I'm like, travel agent or you would call the airline. It's so easy to forget like how things used to be. And how hard they were. Like if you had to schedule a trip, like how would you arrange all the meetings? Like now it's easy. We're so used to it now.
[00:25:32] Heather Gibbons: Exactly. Even back when I was booking my band, it was hard, it was just a different time. We had the internet. I attempted, but people weren't, it wasn't what it is today. Yeah, a hundred percent. But I do think really quick, be only because I think I remember it, 1-800-555-1212. Was that the Delta number?
[00:25:58] Sanjay Parekh: Maybe. I don't know that. Sounds like some number that we should know for something. It probably doesn't exist anymore, right? Whatever that number is. Okay. Now with all of the tools that, everything that everybody has at their disposal, what would you tell somebody that's thinking about taking that leap? And doing a side hustle? And I know you, you've not done side hustle, you've done full on things. But you know people that have done side hustle. Or taking their side hustle and making it a full-time business, what advice would you give somebody like that?
[00:26:37] Heather Gibbons: I think because I've learned the hard way in my, earlier attempts at startups, I would say just develop your NVP. And then put it in place and then make sure it's right. And make sure that you've got good margins and make sure that you're making a profit. Because I think, in my early days, we were a dreamer. Like we had this beautiful concept around this whole box, Kiwi Crate competitor, for instance, but it just wasn't practical when it came down to it. We’d spent a lot of time on the vision, mission and all those things, and that's huge. That is important, but you got to make sure that your product is also something that you can sell and make a profit, right? So, I think that's one thing.
Another thing is, and I mentioned this to you earlier, a great piece of advice given to me years ago was, and this is, again, super simple. It's always the simple stuff. It's usually a checkbox, right? Instead of having ideas, swirling around in your head and then you're busy. You think you're busy because you've got all these ideas swirling around in your head. Write it down. Make a list, keep what's important and what's relevant and what's good, and get rid of the rest and move on, move forward. I think that's, these are tidbits of advice that have helped me. They helped me move forward and because I was definitely doing the swirly, I-think-I'm-busy thing. And that, that piece of advice was helpful.
[00:28:25] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Okay. This has been great, but if our listeners want to find and connect with you, where can they find you?
[00:28:36] Heather Gibbons: They can find me on LinkedIn. They can also find me on, Facebook, Instagram, our website INMOCreative.com. And I would love to connect.
[00:28:49] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Heather, thanks so much for being on the show.
[00:28:52] Heather Gibbons: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:28:59] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit www.hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter @sanjay or on my website at www.sanjayparekh.com.
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