‘Can-do’ team

Oshkosh media firm Candeo Creative thrives on offbeat creativity

Posted on Aug 31, 2016 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

In a virtual world where news travels at the speed of tweets, companies need to make their brands and their messages get out and stand out — fast. Social media and marketing companies like Candeo Creative of Oshkosh not only understand that, they make it happen in the face of fierce competition.

Case in point: at 11 a.m. on Aug 21, 2015, the former Outagamie County Regional Airport became officially known as Appleton International Airport. And Candeo was on the hot button, ready to flip the online switch.

“As our new brand was announced during our press conference, Candeo simultaneously released the new versions of our website and social media pages,” says Pat Tracey, ATW’s marketing manager. “We heard many comments from the community that our old brand literally disappeared, and the new branding was everywhere. That was a fun project with a lot of moving parts, and Candeo was great to work with.”

Working to make local companies “shine bright” (the Latin meaning of “candeo”) is what Candeo Creative President/Owner Zack Pawlosky is proud of. At 24, the Oshkosh native heads the company he started to “bring value to Oshkosh, Appleton, Neenah and all of the other areas that we serve,” he says.

The company is four years old, but it already serves more than 300 clients across the region, state and nation.

In 2015, Candeo Creative grossed $1.2 million in revenue and is on track to gross   $2.5 million by the end of 2016. In May, the company was awarded the Rising Star award from the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, which recognizes new “up and coming” small businesses with a unique blend of vision, energy, perseverance and skill.

“We really see a good mix,” says Pawlosky, who names the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Thrivent Financial and the Supple Restaurant Group among his clients. And they continue to handle websites and multiple social media accounts for ATW.

“It’s pretty amazing; we study our clients quite a bit and see how we are doing for them,” Pawlosky says. “All of our business has been sent to us from existing clients. We have never really placed a cold call.”

That success in good old fashioned word-of-mouth marketing has led to a three-month waiting list for clients. “We’re just slammed,” Pawlosky says.

The ‘Weird Ones’

Pawlosky was just a college grad with a degree in business from UW-Oshkosh when he started his company. “I’ve always enjoyed advertising and marketing, but first and foremost, I always loved business.

“There was an opportunity that I saw. There weren’t a lot of advertising agencies that were really taking significant risks. I wanted a fresh take, especially in the world of web and social media. We take a lot of pride in being the ‘weird ones.’”

Weird and offbeat is an embraceable quality for today’s Millennial generation, but Pawlosky admits his out-of-the-box and off-the-charts mentality did scare away some early employees he tried to woo.

“I started with who I knew; on my own, I went to events and to groups asking who are the people who are seasoned in the industry and I would say, ‘I have this idea.’ I got a lot of ‘No’s. There were people who did not call me back.”

Pawlosky says he was told, “That’s impossible. That’s crazy. No one is ever going to trust someone who is 20 to spend their money on advertising.”

So, with no loan, no investors and no business plan to speak of, Pawlosky forged ahead — appropriating a unicorn as his company’s mascot.

“Unicorns are different, unique, rare, freaky,” he says. “That’s who we are; that’s who we want to be, but saying that makes some clients uncomfortable.

“Most of our work is pretty unexpected. We challenge our clients to step outside of the box. If you’re looking for a pretty safe relationship where everything is pretty standard, that is not us.”

Still, Pawlosky says his company, which has a staff of 30 where the average age is 30, is profitable, winning about 95 percent of its pitches.

“When we go and pitch, we never pitch our product,” says Pawlosky. “What we sell is the culture and experience you’ll have with us.

“We remind ourselves that we’re really not a Web company, we’re not just a social media company, we’re not an art company; we’re a creative group of people that just so happens to know how (to do all these things).”

Naysayers may have had their doubts in the beginning. And Pawlosky says there are still companies who may not be the best fit for their services. But that’s fine for this up-and-comer unicorn.

“Our goal has never been to be this ultra-profitable company,” Pawlosky admits.

“We pour everything into the happiness of our employees and our clients. Nothing else matters.”