Photo by: 406 Memories
Kelli Maxwell epitomizes the concept of small business values with big business reach. She not only has the drive to pursue her own dreams - whether those dreams include princesses, coffee, or podcasts – she campaigns for the success of others. In her mid-20s, she was working as the marketing director of a financial firm, a position that gave her great insight into financial practice as well as the reach of quality marketing. However, Kelli was looking for something a little more creative, so during that time, she and a friend started a party company, Ever After Events, with a focus on providing professionally trained actors, dressed as characters for events. Kelli oversaw the payroll, administration duties and marketing, and they hosted parties throughout their local area of Billings, Montana. One time, Kelli even stepped in as a princess in a pinch (and had a blast) putting herself into role of actress from then on. The company took off, and soon there was a large demand for party services.
In July 2018, after growing her freelance marketing services due to the princess company’s success, Kelli took the plunge into full time entrepreneurship. She sold Ever After Events, quit her full-time job, and founded Ember Marketing Group. After just two years, Ember Marketing Group now pulls in six figures, and Kelli is scaling accordingly by hiring employees and expanding her services as they sign on new clients. Part of her rapid success comes from the content style she has become known for, focusing on collaboration over competition. “People liked me and knew I could share their unique voice through content,” she says. “I have a talent for making clients comfortable, so they can be authentic.” Another element of Kelli’s success was the fact that she made the decision to accept only one client per industry at a time. This way, she can really do a deep dive into each client and their needs, products, and philosophies to deliver the best results without walking the line of sharing trade secrets among industry experts.
As a creative outlet and to help shift the close-minded culture in their region, Kelli decided to start a podcast called Campfire Hour, that would attract not only clients, but also provide resources for other entrepreneurs who embrace the spirit of collaboration over competition. “There is always room for collaboration,” Kelli believes. “We started the podcast to celebrate this because Montana is still very old-school in a lot of ways. The podcast was a place to have local guests, who are being innovative and doing groundbreaking, bold things, and share that.” Today, Campfire Hour is in its third season, has two paid sponsors, and interviews guests from around the world.
To bolster funding for the podcast, Kelli and her team started producing coffee as a tie-in product, Campfire Blend Coffee Co., in December of 2019. They developed a unique blend of coffee with beans aged in freshly emptied whiskey barrels from a local distillery. The whiskey-soaked wood imparts a woody, rich flavor, but the roasting process removes any alcohol. “You have the aromas and flavors of whiskey in your coffee, without the harshness of taking a shot of whiskey,” Kelli says. “We took a risk, it worked, and people love it.” They now have customers across the U.S. buying their coffee.
Kelli attributes her success in all of the diverse ventures to her willingness to be bold and try anything, as well as her spirit of collaboration and appreciation for working with local entrepreneurs, both on the podcast and via Ember Marketing Group. Thanks to this, Kelli has created a unique business community in the area and has become locally known as a connector and an influencer. In addition, she and her team exclusively create their own marketing content to keep things in-house and keep costs down. “I love connecting with other people who aren’t afraid to fail and doing things bold and different from anyone else,” she says. “I care more about relationships than dollar bills, and this has taken me farther than I ever imagined.”
CEO & Founder — Campfire Blend Coffee Co., Ember Marketing Group, LLC