Ed Mitzen: Founder/CEO of Fingerpaint Marketing

What's Your NativeAdVice:

How did you get into the marketing/advertising industry?

My goal in college was to go to medical school, but my grades were far from spectacular.  When my student loans became due, I took a job in sales to pay the bills.  My career progressed away from medical school and into marketing roles, which I really enjoyed.  I ultimately started my first marketing company in 1997.

Tell us about Fingerpaint. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

Fingerpaint is a full service marketing & advertising company, with offices in NY, PA and AZ.  We wanted to build a truly innovative company, built on principals of uncommon collaboration.  Our staff loves to collaborate across offices, as well as across client teams.  Everyone owns stock in the company, so we are all in it together. Everyone has a voice and we celebrate our achievements together.

Our vision statement:  “To be a powerhouse marketing agency that is highly-respected and our employees are proud to own”

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Fingerpaint's success?

Since our beginning, we have always invested heavily in marketing our company.  Through PR, social media, digital and print advertisements, conference sponsorships and speaking engagements, Fingerpaint is rapidly becoming a well-known brand within the industry.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

In the past, we had no way of measuring advertising effectiveness.  Today, all of our decisions, including campaign refinement, are based on data analytics.  To be able to capture data quickly, and adapt our campaigns based on tangible metrics, is allowing us to truly drive ROI for our clients.  We are so confident in our work, that we often enter into risk-share agreements, where our fee is directly tied to our customers’ sales.

Life Motto?

Nice guys can finish first

Your greatest success as Founder of Fingerpaint? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

Our people are our most valuable asset.  As such, we do everything we can to ensure they feel appreciated and recognized as we grow.  I feel my biggest accomplishment is to have created a culture of collaboration, teamwork, respect and kindness that permeates throughout the entire company.  I am also most proud that despite being in a very “up and down” industry for nearly 20 years, I have never ever laid anyone off.  I feel such tremendous admiration for our staff, and I see it as my job to make Fingerpaint a very special place to work.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

First and foremost, make sure you are knowledgeable in the area in which you are starting a company.  For example, do not open a movie theatre just because you like to go to the movies.  Make sure you have a business plan that accounts for cash flow needs.  Businesses go out of business not because they are not profitable, but because they run out of cash.  Finally, work until your fingers bleed.  You have to be all-in in order to create a successful company.  Embrace the 20-hour days because it is so unbelievably gratifying to see your vision come to life.

How do you motivate your employees?

It is important for a leader to always portray confidence and kindness, even if you are stressed beyond words.  At Fingerpaint, we take great strides in making our employees feel appreciated.  Everyone is given stock in the company.  We provide spot bonuses, sporting event tickets, access to a ski-condo, four-week sabbaticals after 5 years of service, holiday parties, summer picnics and time to enjoy our four-legged dog friends at the office.

What's next for Fingerpaint?

Our goal is to continue to grow and provide new career opportunities for our staff.  However that growth will be controlled, so that we do not lose sight of our core values, which got us to this point.  We will continue to add offices, skill sets and talent to constantly improve our work for our clients.  Fingerpaint is nearly a $30 million company and we would love to grow to $100 million within the next five to ten years.