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Spool Turns Three: Reflections from CEO, Catherine Merritt


It's September! My kids are back at school (!), I have my window cracked a bit and I am feeling...grateful.


Three years ago I took an idea for a new agency concept and I officially launched Spool. I launched it with a half-baked website (which is still our website, but I'm happy to say we have a new one in the works — coming soon), with some email addresses, a social media account and... that was kind of it!


The map for Spool has been an evolution from day one, partially by design and mostly because, well, I didn't totally know what I was doing (and even though my therapist tells me to stop saying it, which I mostly have, I still don't always feel like I know what I'm doing). But what I lacked in having a formalized plan or roadmap, I made up for with a bigger vision and the support of many who stood with me during those infancy days and said: "You don't know what you're doing, but you have a good idea and we're here for you"... or along those lines!


While there were many moments early on when I would have loved a crystal ball to see into the future and to see that Spool would still exist a year, two or three years from then, I am also glad I didn't know what was to come. I'm glad I didn't know I'd have to navigate running and growing a company in the midst of a global pandemic (oh hi, we're still here, right, right...). I am glad I didn't know that a year and a half into Spool's existence I'd crumble from the sudden death of my mom and spend the months following learning how to stand upright once again. Today I'm glad I don't have a crystal ball to see what other hardships await (spoiler alert — they do, they sure as sh*t do) but having lived through some of the hardest and darkest moments of my life have taught me I can get through it because I have gotten through it before.


I tell this story a lot, but the reason I started Spool was because I left the big agency world behind, tired of feeling so stuck in its slow cogs and bloated old ways, and I set out to consult and start something new. I quickly grew my client base and began assembling smaller teams, made up of past colleagues in many cases, who were able to quickly assemble, work in a new way and it allowed me to do great work for my clients while spending more time with my family. Ultimately, it was from these early seeds that Spool was born.


The world didn't need another agency, but I believed it could benefit from a new type of agency. And thus I started plotting and dreaming of what that would be.


As I sit and type today, three years later, I am amazed, humbled, grateful and honored that Spool is the living embodiment of what I hoped to build. An agency that puts its people first, that holds everyone accountable (employees and clients alike) to work as partners and to call out the b.s. when we fall below the line. I set out to create an agency that gives access to everyone part of it to do great work and to help our clients grow in meaningful ways.


No bullsh*t, no ego, no drama.


I started asking questions rooted in things that frustrated me at past agencies...


....What if an agency shared its growth and profits with its people instead of making a few people at the top wealthy on the backs of its employees? That's what we're doing with Spool. Creating access for our leaders and future leaders to earn equity and raising the tide for everyone at Spool.


...What if an agency can invest in the startups and new technologies shaping our clients' industries? We did. We invested in Silicon Road Ventures, a Venture Capitalist firm comprised of retail, CPG and consumer-driven startups, many of which support our clients and the brands we represent.


...What if an agency addressed complex, complicated and emotional topics in an authentic way, with its team and clients and in hopes that by talking about these things we can work together in changing them? Spool has worked with Courageous Conversations, an anti-racist organization, to conduct learning sessions for our people and clients as well as partnering with Black and POC-owned startups to provide them with pro-bono PR services as they take their ideas and companies to the next level. There's much still to do, but we're taking steps, being intentional and committed to continuing this work.


...What if an agency offered its people a way to work smart, not hard and enforce that everyone lives full lives outside of work? When someone starts Spool they automatically get 20 days off in which our entire office shuts down plus generous vacation, unlimited sick days, fully paid family leave AND we also offer family leave bonuses for our consultants and contractors. Working late happens, but when it always happens, that's a red flag, not a badge of honor.


...What if an agency set out to only work with brands, companies and organizations that align with the agency's values and as such, provides consumers, our families and community access to more healthful, sustainable, intentional products that fuel the earth, not deplete it? I am perhaps most proud of the roster of clients we have and currently work with. There isn't a single one that I wouldn't serve at my table, use in my life or share with my family.


In three short (yet also, very long!) years I can say Spool has gone beyond what I could have imagined, but with every step forward it's only propelled my vision for how much further we can and we WILL evolve it.


As I said — from day one there was a cohort of people who stood with me and who joined what we were building and it's because of each and every one of you that Spool is what it is and I cannot adequately convey my gratitude for the role you played.


I look forward to all that's to come, to more people to join us in our mission of building a new agency model and to many more adventures, pivots, twists and turns ahead. It's a bumpy road, but I wouldn't have it any other way.