Liz: Yeah. So ironically Russell and I actually never worked together! REIT was hired in 2012 working for Lisa Malat, who’s been on here and who Russell knows very well, as do I. She had a staff of two when I met her, and she was looking for another marketing company – they were using somebody based in Boston; they really wanted somebody from New York. And we had worked with a company called textbooks.com, so they made the introduction and we really hit it off. We started helping her with a number of different marketing initiatives, communications…and then we started helping out with their annual sales conference, the annual meeting. And that, I believe, is where we met.
Russell has this great personality and he’d be interacting with people, and I was moving people through the space, and I don’t even remember the moment we met, but we just clicked. We became friends. And every year at the annual meeting, I would see Russell, right? And we would interact throughout the week. And we maintained that yearly friendship for almost 20 years.
Russell: Natasha, maybe you’re going to ask this question –
Liz: Go for it. He’s taking over! [laughs]
Russell: Well, yes, and I’m prone to do that. [laughs] So here’s what was so fantastic for me. I’m getting ready to leave Barnes & Noble and I knew in my head what I wanted to do, but the one thing that was [that] I never owned my own business. It was about: What’s my voice? How am I going to position myself? How am I going to do things differently? I knew in my head, but how do I get that on paper? So what happens if I was able to work with an organization that worked in higher ed retail that I knew, but that was able to transform all this stuff in my head to voice and to messaging? So I reached out to Liz.
And that one hour conversation led to us spending so many hours with Liz’s team, [working on] everything from narrative to design. But I could not have done it and I could not have done it as quickly, if I had to spend hours and hours and hours telling REIT design, “Well, this is what the college store industry is”. So [that’s] how we started and that’s what made this incredible relationship. And I have used Liz and her team probably four other times…but it’s great bouncing off ideas. She was such a great help. And her team.
Liz: Thank you, Russell. For me it was so fun to flip it, right? It was so much fun to work with you on this in this capacity because again, you did have all the ideas and your energy is effusive – it was so much fun for our team because it was not only that you liked [the design], but you were appreciative, you were able to articulate what you were looking for – the whole process was beautiful. And then the win was he was already getting clients and building momentum even before [the website launch]. And what I love about Russell is he’s always thinking about, Okay, what can we tweak? How can I change it? Now I have more case studies, more clients…let’s add this, let’s edit this...
Russell: And it’s been fun for me, too. I mean, I thought there would have been heavier lifting [had I not worked with Liz], so to have this person, this team on my shoulder at times saying, “Have you thought about that?” We just launched our website 2.0 and we’ll probably [update it with] a couple other [case studies] after the fall. It’s been really great and really engaging. We challenged each other a lot – and I would hope that there were things that came out of our engagement and continuing that made Liz’s organization better.
Liz: Yeah. I mean, it was so fun to have the creative freedom…when we presented his first branding options, we had one very safe, traditional [option] – very collegiate – and then we offered a couple others. I love that he picked the really fresh and unique one.
And also for me, it’s been fun just to offer insights on just being a business owner and an entrepreneur because this is a new landscape for you. And there have been many conversations [between us about entrepreneurship] – I mean, I’ll never tell somebody what to do, but I’ll share my experience. So that added to the layers of fun for me.
Russell: I always appreciated that conversation and information.