Member Showcase: Michelle Roach

by | Oct 6, 2021 | Member Showcase

This is one episode of our FOCUS Coworking Members Showcase Videos. In this series, we interview our members to learn more about them and their entrepreneurial journey. 

Michelle Roach is the CEO of a marketing company called, “Promote Local”.  She actually started this company five years ago, and she works with her staff of five other people who each have individualized tasks.    Michelle also works alongside a business solutions company called, “Heartland”.  Heartland focuses primarily on payments, solution space, invoice platforms, ecommerce gateways, and other types of platforms.  She enjoys building her team and watching them grow.

Member Showcase Transcription


Damon Shopen

Hello, everyone, I am Damon with FOCUS Coworking. And we’re continuing our member showcase with Michelle Roach today who is with Promote Local and Heartland. And before we dive into that, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to FOCUS Coworking, we’re a shared office space and community for entrepreneurs, business owners, we love to help each other out. And we are showcasing and highlighting our members in this series, because they’re doing a lot of really cool stuff. So welcome, Michelle. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started? 


Michelle Roach

Sure. So Promote Local is a marketing company that I started about five years ago, I am the CEO of that company. And I have a staff of five, we focus in the digital media space. And working with locally owned businesses, like Promote Local, our name provides, I like to talk about our business based on you know, the strengths of all of our people. So you know, we do a lot of design, and that’s Dylan. And he so he’ll do you know, web design, UI design, graphic, just regular graphic design for promotional products, brochures, things like that. Sarah is my videographer and photographer. So she’s really good at creating custom stock photography, when we can stage safe


photoshoots.  And she is a video superstar, and actually has been producing a lot of zoom videos like this for our clients during this time. Shea is is our writer, though, she helps with all of our social media channels that we manage for customers. So a lot of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram content, she writes, press releases, different things like that. And then the newest addition to our team, we actually hired her last week. Her name is Katie, and she is also a writer and a project manager. So she’ll be doing case studies and more in depth writings and reports and helping me manage all of our product projects. So that’s Promote Local and then Heartland is a business solutions company that focuses primarily in payments, solution space, so invoice platforms, ecommerce gateways, platforms, the you know, Merchant Services arena. So


your point of sale system in a restaurant or a drugstore, or you know, a little credit card terminal at the auto body repair shop, that might be us, or an app, you know, like a text to pay if somebody if your dentist says text here to pay your bill. You know, that could be us. And then we also do payroll. So kind of your run of the mill payroll services. And they’re both really great. And let me know if you want to know more.


Damon Schopen

Very cool. Well, congratulations on the new hire and the growth. Is that a new position that you’ve added on? Or are you filling an existing position?


Michelle Roach

Yes, yes. So we were fortunate enough to get a couple of really large contracts in the last quarter that just went by so in quarter three, it’s it’s coming to an end, we secured a couple larger contracts that are going to require some more in depth writing projects, and a lot of video work. A lot of campaigns a lot, a lot of a lot of folks are sort of pivoting have pivoted to figuring out how to, you know, provide outreach for their products or services through digital means. So yeah, so we’ve we’ve added a lot of new exciting projects. So that means another new person. So yeah, it’s been good stuff.


Damon Schopen

Congratulations. That’s awesome. I know, with 2020 being such a wild and unpredictable year, I have been hearing a lot of good things, though, from other entrepreneurs and small business owners that you know, they’ve, they’ve stayed busy or if we even had some growth. So that is kind of the nice thing about entrepreneurship and business ownership, right. You can maybe weather some of these storms a little bit better versus the full time employment where if the company you’re working for is got some problems, then you’re just out right you can Yeah, kind of retool, reevaluate a little bit even pivot a little bit which is which is good. So congratulations.


Michelle Roach

Yeah, thank you. That’s and that’s definitely what I’m what we’ve done, you know, we, I always, I always look at what I’m doing based on, you know, the strengths of who’s on my team and what the company can provide some like promote local, I always talk from the team partland I always talk about the strength of their services and how you know, they’re a business that also during these times is stable enough to, you know, take on and really help and partner with businesses who might be finding, you know, trying to figure out the best pivot or solution in their arena. So that’s been really good. And then yeah, I was fortunate enough to mean, we were already in a pretty good space that we can, you know, we all operate remotely, of course, I come here, you know, some of my time, I have another co working space that I work out of in Madison, but you know, we can all work from home in different places, and still be really productive and help other business owners, you know, get stay on their feet, I guess. So. So it’s been, it’s been, you know, there’s been challenges along the way, especially with trying to figure out, you know, what, what different opportunities make the most sense for us, but also what opportunities are really going to make the difference for our clients, which are all, you know, largely locally owned businesses. So what can we do that, you know, what, how can we provide the largest return on investment for our time spent with them that we can so, so that’s been good.


Damon Schopen

Very cool, I think that’s a huge point, or a good point there is leveraging the team you have and the skills that they do best, you know, as a business owner, you can do anything, but, you know, knowing what you and your team do best and really focusing on that can make life a whole lot easier, right, and make it more successful for you and your clients.


Michelle Roach

I think so. And then knowing when to, you know, reach out to the other people in your network, who that’s their strength. So I’ll plug you right now, Damon, with we, you know, we got to collaborate on a really cool project that enabled a community farm to sell their products online. And, you know, that happened because of COVID-19, he never would have, you know, take taken the time to think about how to raise his digital presence had it had everything that happened the way it did. And, and I knew that, you know, our team wasn’t as strong as at quickly implementing an e-commerce platform. So we used Damon and portlight as our partners on that project, to make sure that our client had what they needed. So, you know, we’re not afraid we I mean, we love working with other local business partners to to deliver products


and services. So that was that’s been fun to collaborate with new partners, and really give people the best, the best solutions that they can to keep moving forward.


Damon Schopen

Absolutely. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, you know, the collaboration works. So well, you know, I’m always doing the same thing, right? It’s okay, who can help me with this? Or who could help me with that? And can I just refer them? Should we work together on it? You know, what is the best fit? And you can just be so adaptable that way, you know, and, you know, we provide a great result. And yeah, that was so much fun and worked out so well to collaborate with you guys. So yeah, appreciate that a lot.


Michelle Roach



Damon Schopen

So how did you get your start with your business? Tell us about that.


Michelle Roach

So with Promote Local, it was 2015, I was I had been working at an a corporate position with a long term care company, and kind of, like we were talking about, you don’t have a lot of control over what’s happening from the top down and businesses sometimes so. So they did a massive layoff when they got a new CEO. And so my entire department, my communications department was eliminated. And then I, you know, went back to the job search, but had already really been wanting to become more of a consultant or branch out on my own and work with multiple businesses at once versus just focusing on one and I worked with a nonprofit briefly. And then sort of after that experience determined that I probably had enough tools and was ready to to just take the next step and I found a somebody else that was sort of in the same position named William so he was my co founder of promote local and, you know, we ended I ended up bringing enough experience and contracts to the table he brought some from the veterinary space, I brought some from the disability space, and we quickly grew a team of professionals in you know, the various marketing communications arenas, so we you know, five years ago I think what promote local did did looks a little bit different. We were really focused on social media management for locally owned businesses and I managed the team have a lot of student interns because we operated most largely in Madison, Wisconsin at that time. And and we also you know, we would attend trade shows and do a lot more hands on sales for customers and a lot more of like sales consulting, but as time went on, We figured out what we were the best at. And our team sort of settled in, you know, we, we just we determined that the, you know, the internship onboarding process wasn’t as productive and the just the turnover and managing all of that wasn’t the best use of our time that we really were good. We’re, we were much more suited for agency level work with the professionals on our team. After about a year and a half, two years. So, um,


So yeah, we, William ended up going on to work for one of our customers a startup, he, you know, he transitioned away and grew that company, and now he’s with another startup. So that’s very much his strength is, you know, bringing bringing things up, and, and then, you know, leaving them in the hands of competent people, which I guess was me, and I guess it’s work, it’s still working. For now. I’ve been able to lead and, and grow the team to just continue to serve more and more clients. We really aren’t just focused on the Madison market anymore. A couple years, I’m from this area, you know, originally and I bought a house in Fort Atkinson, a few years ago. So it made more sense. You know, it made sense for me to start looking at our own community and what we’re needing business wise and focusing on just breaking in and helping helping businesses not just in that greater Madison area. So, you know, now we serve clients in Fort Atkinson, Milton Janesville, Beloit, Wisconsin Dells, you know, I have most anywhere, Milwaukee, you know, we have some some larger contracts with government entities in Milwaukee. So we’re a little bit more widespread. And but that, I like that, because that means we’re making a difference in more communities than just one. And that’s, that’s really what our passion was, from the beginning was making that positive impact for locally owned businesses. And now I feel like we’re, we’re doing it across the board in a really, really great way. Like I’ve just been, it’s been an awesome ride, and I am excited every day still, by promote local and our team and our work and our philosophy. So, it’s good stuff,


Damon Schopen

Well, you’re out, you are definitely making it work, because you just hired a new employee. So congratulations, and how is it to work with government entities? That’s not something I’ve ever delved into. I’m just curious, any thoughts or advice for anyone who would want to get into that space? I’m not sure it’s ever something we’re going to personally do. But who knows? just curious.


Michelle Roach

Well, um, we’ve really loved you know, because one of our verticals, you know, one of our industries, and we have strength in the disability community and long term care programs that advocate for the rights for people with disabilities. And so that’s the space that we usually operate within for government entities. And I think they’re really fulfilling projects, you know, they, you know, the, some, some  department of, you know, a county or state governing body will, you know, typically issue an RFP, or hear about you, um, you know, through other work that you’ve done, I’ve had to, you know, answer and when RFPs or request for proposals, I think, you know, that process can be really lucrative for companies who, you know, think that they can provide the services necessary. They’re, you know, they’re, they’re really, they’re, they’re pretty low risk contracts, you know, because once you once you win them, the, the, the money is pretty much guaranteed, and you just have to provide the deliverables that they need. The you know, but I think from a technical standpoint, sometimes it’s a little bit more work to, to work with government entities. But the impact again, going back to like that local impact that you can make through those big projects and programs are is incredible. So, you know, for example, I love talking about the Wisconsin disability vote coalition. So you know, that that funding is coming from a couple different buckets, from a couple different entities that have federal or state funding. And, you know, we’ve, we’ve helped them you know, identify how to reach out to the most people in Wisconsin


with or without a disability to educate them and make sure that they’re aware of all the, you know, accommodations or different different opportunities they have to get involved in, in the voting process in their community. And that’s, I mean, especially in a voting year, like this one, that’s it. The feeling that we get, you know, like of accomplishment after we finish some training tutorials for them or, you know, see that we posted something on their Facebook that got 5000 views and 100 shares, you know that and how powerful we realize that that can be to empowering people to get out, and be exercising their civil rights is, is really exciting. So, so I do love that, you know, typically programs that we’re working with that are, you know, government funded, are looking for those types of outcomes, and we can help them fulfill so really, really fulfilling work.


Damon Schopen

Yeah, very cool to be able to, not only, you know, do business, but then also have this higher purpose and higher level of, you know, really serving your community, in a sense, right. And government often has the reputation of not the best content, materials, communications, things like that. Right, in general. Right. So it’s great to be able to maybe break that stereotype a little bit. Right. 


Michelle Roach 

And, yeah, well, and I, you know, I, yeah,I definitely challenge I challenge departments to move a little bit more quickly and adopt and embrace, you know, concepts that I know are working for, for local businesses that they maybe just haven’t gotten around to adopting, it’s really exciting to, you know, kind of build that discomfort, but then have a breakthrough and have you know, a concept have have an idea really work and then watch the, you know, internal departments run with those ideas and thoughts is really cool. But yeah, yeah, you can, you can work from the outside to work from the inside sometimes, and it’s exciting when you can be behind the scenes and, and help, push, push, good, you know, good campaigns forward.


Damon Schopen

Absolutely. Cool. Any top tip number one tip, if you’re going to respond to an RFP that you should absolutely do. Because they are very different than what a lot of other people have to do for proposals.


Michelle Roach

Yeah, so I would, um, you know, read them and reread them and reread them 100 times over and be and follow their rigid structure as much as you can, you know, it’s not a time, and we’re a creative, you know, a digital marketing company. So we’re, we like to be creative and put our creative spin on everything, but they’re just some things in an RFP that you don’t change. So like, you know, the order of what they’re asking you questions, you know, the order of the questions, don’t try to answer Don’t try to answer them all with a story that like blunt, you know, it’s it’s not storytime it’s question answer time, or, and then also provide a lot of measurable data, you know, as much measurable data that you can provide to kind of back up your, you know, your suggested approach. Because typically, they’re asking for that, even if they’re not directly asking for numbers or dollars. They appreciate that type of measurable outcome being mentioned. And do be brief and succinct. Don’t, you know, again, don’t write a book or think of all these different ways that you kind of have fulfilled what they’re asking, you know, like, you know, I don’t know, the, it’s, you just want to be as direct and answering their questions as you can.


Damon Schopen

Sure. Very cool. Make sense? Um, let’s see. So, what is your goal or your endgame? Where do you want to take your business as you continue down the path here?


Michelle Roach

Sure. So for Promote Local, I’d love to continue to, to consistently, you know, build our team and our capacity to make a bigger impact. And, you know, hopefully, at some point, scale, while we do have customers all over the United States, we’re very heavily focused on Wisconsin, if we could, you know, help help package up some of the really great work that we’ve done in Wisconsin to help other states I would love to see that happen. Um, and you know, I think kind of a personal thing of mine is I really want to start living, see a little bit more seasonally, so maybe be a Snowbird or 30,31 31 I guess I am now, I don’t know, but um, I would let you know, I want to continue to empower like the freedom of mobility on my team to like as an internal thing and, and have us all be able to work wherever we want however we want but still be delivering this services and solutions that our clients need. And then on the Heartland side, I, you know, I’ve started to work with a lot of businesses really quickly on that side of my business. So I’ve been able to meet a lot of local business owners and help them with more Operational Services. So I’d love to have, you know, 200- 500 businesses that I’m working with that are, you know, all Wisconsin based, that I can continue to help and grow their, their businesses. And right now, I think I’m at about 50. So. So it would be, it would be nice to continue to expand my business network, and help them through Heartland products and services as much as I’m helping people through the, you know, through Promote Local products and services.


Damon Schopen

Very cool. Yeah, continue that growth and flexibility. I know, that’s always kind of a goal for me, I love that. I can be anywhere, but I can still be in Jefferson, because I have so many ties to the community with volunteering and family and friends. It’s always nice to be so connected, but nice to be able to have that flexibility to be wherever I want to be, you know, I can go somewhere else for several weeks or whatever, right? You know, have that flexibility. That is, that is nice. Absolutely. What is a mistake that you’ve made through your journey, that was a good learning experience?


Michelle Roach

I think the biggest mistake that every entrepreneur makes, and I’m no different is, you know, not being humble enough at first and thinking like your way is the right way. And the only way or, or you know, feeling that personal like, like you’re being personally attacked, when it’s really like a professional critique or suggestion, that’s something that a business owner, maybe much more senior and experienced to you, tells you like and then not reacting to it properly. So I know that I have made too many excuses are defended in too aggressive of a way with clients and lost them that way, especially early on, you know, saying like, Well, what do you know about social media? You’ve never been on social, you know, don’t tell me how to do my job sort of attitude. I think, I think that, that we all go through that phase, as business owners, and even just as employees, you know, as a professional in general, I think you hit a time in your life where you think that you’re right, that you’re always right. And it’s really hard for you to, you know, take take criticism, learn and grow, you know, listen, learn and grow without getting too personally offended or invested in, in, you know, and I don’t know an outcome or, you know, doing it somebody else’s way even though you think it’s, it’s not the best way you you need to do those things and, and really embrace, like, the philosophy that the customer’s always right and differently, I don’t know, there’s just, there’s a little bit of, I think that’s always the biggest mistake, when I look back, I think, I wish that I would have changed my attitude more quickly. And just been more mature and humble, and, and, you know, been trying to form strong relationships and not jeopardize them over a silly, you know, a silly way that somebody wanted me to do something like just smile and nod and do it their way. Yeah, you know, like, there’s the so all the friction and the struggle sometimes just isn’t worth it. And I think we all get caught in that in business and you know, in other things, too. So just letting that friction go and smiling, maintaining a cool calmness and project management and when working with customers. 

Damon Schopen

Yeah, sometimes you just got to let the clients make a mistake, right, you can guide them and lead them towards the best path and but ultimately, it’s their, their business. Right? So yeah, you kind of have to let it go. I know I’ve been there as well. And it’s always a struggle to go, Okay, I know if we do that. It’s not going to get the outcome that they’re looking for. Right. But sometimes you have to let it go. And I’ve had times when we’ve done that, and then later they’ll be like, yeah, we should do it this way. You’re right, you know, but yeah, I’ve had the opposite to where my best guess and guidance would have, you know, and then they go another direction and it works so never know it could they could know something you don’t. Right. Right with their customer base or their industry or something. So


Michelle Roach

Yeah, and I watch. It’s fun growing a team and watching everybody go through these phases too. So internally and externally, I think that those types of things happen. Now that I, you know, I’ve had experience in those awkward situations, I feel like we, I can always overcome them or help my team overcome them. But that was definitely the the biggest struggle as a business owner is, is figuring out that dynamic. Yeah, absolutely. 

Damon Schopen

What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?

Michelle Roach

Um, just being able, I mean, I, you know, everybody, every business owner says be able to get up and do whatever you want, right, which is not really true, because you’re still at the mercy of all of your projects. But um, you know, definitely the sense of ownership and pride over every, you know, everything that you’re touching is really, authentically yours. And I like I like that sense of ownership. I feel really proud of that. And then also, I do love mentoring and coaching different, you know, other business owners, but also my team and watching them grow and become strong, entrepreneurial minded folks themselves. Almost actually, everybody on my team has like a passion project that they work on, outside of Promote Local. So that’s important to me, I want people to also, you know, want to have that sense of pride and ownership over over a project or a passion that’s there, that’s wholly there. So, so yeah, building that myself and fostering and others, I think, is my favorite part. 


Damon Schopen

Very cool.  For someone who’s just starting out, what would be one piece of advice for starting a business? 

Michelle Roach

Do your taxes.

Damon Schopen

Yeah, right. It will catch up with you no matter what.


Michelle Roach

It’s just, it’s, uh, it was it. I so for people who procrastinate, like me, corporate business taxes were due last week. So that was September 15, is the deadline for that. So that’s timely, do your taxes and have, you know, lay the foundation of your operations? In a I mean, take take some time to get those things right. before you’re off to the races and earning a bunch of money that you don’t, that you haven’t, you know, that you don’t know how to track or take care of, because I think that that’s a common, I think entrepreneurs usually are very fast paced, and just want to get into it and start selling and working with partners and, you know, do doing what makes them happy. And it’s almost never that stuff, right? The organizational operational pieces, but definitely get all of your ducks in a row. And there are tons of really good resources for those things, you know, and in Jefferson, you know, the chamber or a CPA company, or, you know, a lawyer can help you with that. Or you could come here and talk to somebody here, I’m sure that we’d be able to walk you through that. And then there’s, you know, all the UW resources in Madison, the, the law school, you know, like, there’s like a business Business Law Section.  What is it though?  Women in Business? Yeah, with the resources, there’s so there’s so many people that can help you with those things, and for almost little to no money? Just take, take the help and get those things right.  For you. 


Damon Schopen

Yeah, the SBDC. Right, Small Business Development Center, they have free coaching, I mean, you can’t go wrong, you know, that signed up for that, do it. It’s amazing. Yeah, you know, and sit down with an accountant for an hour when you’re starting out, right, just to get everything laid out and know what you need to do and know it, learn what you don’t know, so that you don’t get six months or a year into it and go, Wow, I gotta figure this out. Now, you know, right.


Michelle Roach

There aren’t any surprises and just really harness that, you know, taking control over the financial piece, really understanding that because if you are, if you aren’t going to be a solo entrepreneur that you know, for your whole trajectory, and you’re going to hire other folks, you you want to get, you know, you want to get that those pieces, right, and you want to budget for those folks. Right. And there’s a lot more to it than I think what I said, Okay, William, I need to make $2,000 this month. Yeah, how much do you have to make? But you know, that that approach, you know, doesn’t work for a whole year. That’s that’s not a good way of doing it. You need to forecast and budget a little bit now.


Damon Schopen

Yeah, yeah. And all the costs associated with that right. Need to make X amount is not really just bringing in X amount you need right? so much more. So Yeah, it’s you got to kind of know what’s going on. Yeah. 

Michelle Roach

Just a little, you know, you don’t have to be an expert. 

Damon Schopen

No, no, it’s not too hard. I mean, you can figure it out, anyone can figure it out. And there are great people to help. I mean, the community here would be happy to help anyone, especially as they’re getting started, but anywhere along the journey, that’s what we want to be here for. Yeah, we want to be that cool place that all the entrepreneurs hang out in the business owners Hangout, right. It’s kind of the fun. 


Michelle Roach

Yes.  And lately, I don’t know, focus has been filled with Well, today, it’s filled with men. So I wrote really appreciate some women entrepreneurs coming in and spending time with me here. Because the toilet seat has been up every time. Today, Damon, it’s a new experience. Yeah.


Damon Schopen

Our mix is pretty balanced. It just depends on who’s here on what day you know, I think. But, you know, it happens. Yeah, I know. You think you’re here today. But that toilet seat down? 

Michelle Roach

Maybe I’ll write a note.


Damon Schopen

there you go. Yep.  What is your favorite thing about FOCUS Coworking to wrap it up.


Michelle Roach

Um, I, I love meeting new people I do almost every, I mean, at least once a month, I’m meeting a new person here. So that’s exciting, just to continue to expand my network. And the conference room. I love you know, I love just being able to kind of sit and camp out right now, especially during COVID in a closed space and have room and if I need to invite somebody in person, we can be safely distanced away. And, you know, just just the overall openness and friendliness of everybody here is, is good, and it’s a productive space. There’s plenty of Windows. You know, I think that just the space itself allows me to be really productive and successful. So I appreciate that. And I really like the food next door to a shout out to Brickhaus.  We need a petition for them to be open on Mondays, though.


Damon Schopen

They used to be I think, I think this is post all the shutdown stuffs. I imagine they’ll expand back to Monday’s again. least I hope so. I know. I was I forgot my lunch and my breakfast on the counter at home this morning. And I was like, Ah, it’s Monday. They’re not open. So yeah, I had to find other stuff. So. Well, great. Thank you so much for your time, Michelle and for being an awesome member here and we’ll talk to you soon. 

Michelle Roach

Thanks, Damon. Have a good rest of your week. 

Damon Schopen

You too. Bye. 

Michelle Roach

Okay, bye.

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