Kelly Ehlers, Ideas That Evoke
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Kelly Ehlers, president/founder, Ideas That Evoke.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
The most rewarding is absolutely seeing the growth of individuals — and collectively our team — and success as it relates to their involvement in delighting our clients! With a young team, there’s an immense pride in that professional development piece. Additionally, at Ideas That Evoke we have a motto: we “over-manage the details.” As rewarding as it is to seek opportunities for improvement in areas that others do not see, it can also be a challenge. I guess that’s why, to date, our business had been 100% referral based. One relationship leads to the next, and my team continually grows with every new challenge.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
My parents are absolutely my role models in business! They were both entrepreneurs who had exciting ebbs and flows within their journeys and the companies they started. I know that’s why the “risk factor” isn’t scary for me in business. It’s thrilling to try new things and, if needed, to fail and make changes on the path to success.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
I started Ideas That Evoke when I was five months pregnant during the heart of the recession. At that time, I guess you could say it wasn’t necessarily a “high point” — due to the circumstances of the market — but rather one where I made a commitment to myself, and my family, to try something new. I took a risk to self-educate and innovate in an industry that was evolving. Every time I reach a new milestone — an award, or even the launching of a new company last year — I remind myself to look back on the moment I took a risk that changed my career and my life.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
I love this question! I would assure myself that patience is a virtue. Just because you’re confident, you have the greatest idea, or think you can move quickly through the ranks, doesn’t mean you should skip ahead. Experience is golden, and it’s really valuable to take the time to learn and grow from mistakes. Looking back, patience meant being intentional with my time at the start of my career so I could more efficiently manage it later on as my job became increasingly fast paced.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
Where do I start? My family and I have truly made a home in Dane County. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs working out of the same historic downtown building, and we’re never far from our two boys. While my agency has plenty of global clients, I get so much out of the personal connections. The partnerships with our local clients — both working and charitable — are so rewarding because you get to see your work in action. Living and working in a mid-size city, especially one so highly ranked for livability, means I get to stretch my resources further to make a greater impact. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I think that all moms have hidden talents. Managing my business in a way that gives me time with my boys feels like a superpower some days. I’d say staying positive is probably my secret ability that I bring to work. It’s not uncommon for an email or call to potentially change the tone of the day for me and my team, but I believe there’s a positive solution for even the toughest issues. Life moves fast, so why not make the best of every day?
What are your guilty pleasures?
Shoes! I can’t say no to a good pair of shoes — especially if they have a lot of character or trendy touches like tassels or metallic elements. I’m an outgoing person, but it always helps to have an icebreaker and I’ve found that a fun pair of shoes can be the perfect conversation starter.
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