2 years ago today, I publicly hung up the shingle for my agency Stack Creative, with no clients, a simple website devoid of case studies, and the publication of a Medium post.

(Funny story—I just checked, and it turns out Stack launched on May 2, according to that post’s date…and all this time I thought it was May 1! Memory is fuzzy, even when it comes to the date you told the world about your agency. But May 2 is awkwardly close-but-no-cigar, so it’s gonna be May 1 from now.)

In that time, we’ve gotten a few things right, a thankfully-fewer number of things wrong, we’ve worked with a variety of clients, team members, and project partners, moved offices a few times, free-trial’ed more SaaS products than I could have ever predicted, and had a heck of a time doing it all.

In 24 blisteringly fast months, we have:

  • Worked with clients that start with over half the letters of the alphabet (the record is 6 clients whose names start with M, followed by 5 that start with C — if your company begins with F, G, I, K, P, Q, U, V, W, Y, or Z, call me);
  • Designed, developed, content created, and launched 13 websites (soon to be 14+), ranging from completely custom multi-language content-driven websites to custom Shopify stores to Squarespace corporate sites;
  • Helped 5 clients figure out and express their story, messaging, copy, design language, and brand expressions, both online and offline;
  • Designed and produced everything from logos to websites to multi-channel digital campaigns to email templates to evergreen collateral to landing pages to social ads to COVID-19 safety posters to a mug;
  • Shared and received more Invision Links, Google Sheets, WeTransfers, PDFs, ZIPs, Figma Links, Sketch Files, PSDs, Google Docs, Word Docs, Pages Files, and wp-admin logins than any human can count;

In short — we’ve followed the path you’d expect a digital-first creative agency to follow, with core services that have gradually expanded beyond the heartbeat of art direction and design to comfortably include copy, UX, SEO, development, and strategy within our virtual walls.

Of course, like with anything, not every day has been brilliant.

But we don’t do this (work in/run/operate agencies, whatever the size) without getting a thrill from the variety of it.

The range of creative, business, marketing, and system challenges that we encounter on a daily basis is what keeps our ideas fresh and our work evolving. Narrowing the work that we do to a set of services that go well together is essential, but opening the shop’s aperture to apply those services across as many different verticals as we can is what leads to a stronger agency.

This outlook also generates stronger work that we deliver for clients. The only reason we exist is to help them present whatever they do, sell, make, or offer better — through clearer messaging, compelling branding, a clear-as-hell website, and fundamentally strong marketing. We want their customers or clients to be happy, and knowing what that looks like can only come from broad inputs and broader perspectives.

I will always believe that there is a time and a place for a piece of breakthrough creative. That’s what got me into this business in the first place.

But for it to actually do its job, it needs to connect to the bigger story of a brand. And making a brand’s broader context make sense together, in tandem with their marketing, product, or customer service teams, while offering them the right mix of services to get there, takes a ton of creativity, insight, strategy, and collaborative chops — from everyone, not just the agency.

It’s not about agency vs client, or client vs vendor — it’s about how can we best accomplish the clients’ goals, together.

A killer Tik Tok campaign and a crap website is the 21st century’s version of Ogilvy’s famous quote that “nothing kills your bad product like good advertising.”

So our ethos at Stack Creative is a simple one: let’s nail your messaging + brand + website + email marketing foundation first, and then tackle whatever comes next, next, however big or small those next steps are.

Stringing these pieces together isn’t rocket science, but it does take discipline, creativity, and true agency/client teamwork. And it’s a journey best tackled together.

Join us for the steps ahead?

Stuart Thursby is the Founder & Creative Director of Stack Creative, based in Toronto, Canada.