How a Recent College Grad Started a Marketing and Strategy Business during COVIDDavid Cawthon
Coronavirus has left many business owners unsure of what’s next. The pandemic also left many passionate students and new grads without jobs or internships.
Camryn Okere was one of those new graduates.
“I was thinking, ‘I’m graduating. But what is this actually going to look like?’” she says. “’I have this degree I’m really excited about, but what am I going to do with it?’”
In April 2020, Camryn formed Rem and Company — yes, she started a business in the middle of a pandemic — to answer that question and provide free support to the small businesses that need it the most.
Creating new opportunities
Camryn earned a degree in leadership and strategic management from Washington University in St. Louis, and already had experience working with some big names on her résumé, like The Wall Street Journal, SoundCloud, Bumble and Valentino. But COVID-19 meant most traditional avenues for employment were closed.
While pondering her next steps, Camryn was struck by the challenges small businesses faced. With limited resources and an ever-changing environment, many business owners seemed unsure how to communicate with their customers.
Camryn saw an opportunity and founded Rem and Company. It matches business owners, students and senior strategists with the goal of helping businesses move forward in the new normal.
“We’re serving two different kinds of communities,” Camryn says. “One of those is small businesses. Secondly, there’s been a huge displacement in the workforce. A lot of really capable students had amazing internships but are now sitting at home with nothing to do. COVID-19 has created a lot of opportunity for both groups.”
Rem and Company has grown quickly.
“One day, it was just me,” says Camryn. “Then, all of a sudden, it was 20 volunteers. Then 50.”
Now, about 170 volunteers from more than 30 different schools are dedicating their talents to Rem and Company’s clients.
Serving small businesses
Rem and Company provides guidance and helps established businesses develop actionable plans.
“We provide marketing, user experience and strategy assistance,” says Camryn. “Our main industries are retail, fitness, restaurants and hospitality, and nonprofits.”
Businesses can gain insight on everything from brand development to charitable initiatives by perusing the ever-growing library of content at remandcompany.com. Or they can reach out for personalized help. Each client is paired with a team built to address their specific need.
“We’re placing a team with someone—for example, say a restaurant comes to us and there’s no foot traffic. Or a gym and they say, ‘We don’t even know how to create online classes,’” says Camryn. “We’re all about working smarter instead of harder.”
The teams at Rem and Company are led by senior-level strategists from companies like Morgan Stanley and Yelp, and high-performing students and recent graduates round out the teams. Everyone volunteers their time to help businesses thrive. And all of the support is available for free.
Harnessing student know-how
Not only are the students and recent grads passionate about business and marketing, but they’re also native users of social media—an area that many small business owners struggle with.
“So many small businesses have been reaching out, asking, ‘What should we be posting? How should we be reacting?’” Camryn says. “Gen Z and millennials know what’s up. These are the people you need on your team. We’re bridging the gap between younger consumers and older business owners.”
Increasing transparency is an area Rem and Company focuses on with many clients.
“We’ve been figuring out the correct amount of info people need to know. There’s a difference between ‘Our bathrooms are being cleaned’ versus ‘Our bathrooms are being cleaned five times a day,’” says Camryn. “Things change every day. You don’t want to think you’re doing a great job with five times a day, but now the government is saying eight times a day.”
Knowing how to reach target demographics is also a big issue.
“A lot of small businesses are doing things but not telling people,” says Camryn. “They need to tell people what’s going on. Don’t assume everyone knows that.”
Figuring out these details is just part of what the volunteers at Rem and Company do.
“We are an extra set of hands and brains, and we’re here to think things through with you,” says Camryn.
Getting input from business leaders
Rem and Company is based in St. Louis, but it serves small businesses all over the country. And its volunteers gain insight from senior leaders from a variety of leading corporations. In addition to the strategists who work with clients, Rem and Company also welcomes C-level speakers from companies like St. Louis Bread Company and Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.
It’s an exciting opportunity for students and recent grads. But what will happen once the pandemic is over?
“The biggest thing is making people feel valued and maintaining connections with clients and volunteers,” Camryn says. “Clients we work with can always reach out to us. Even once their project ends, we’ll still be here to help. It may be a bit different, but we’re going to be that sounding board that small businesses need.”