This is the last in a three-part series during Women in Small Business Month.
LEWISTON — The glitz and glamor of Madison Avenue always excite Laura Rinck and you can hear it in her voice.
Yet when she and her husband, Peter Rinck, made the decision to start their own advertising agency, the appeal of New York and even Portland lost to Lewiston, despite the fact that they had a connection. solid. Her father was, as she describes him, “a ‘Mad Man’, he was on Madison Avenue”, a reference to the world of advertising centered around the iconic Manhattan street.
Before going into entrepreneurship, Laura Rinck was a teacher at Montello Elementary School for eight years before moving to Turner where she taught gifted and talented students.
Although three out of four teachers in American public schools are women — a statistic that hasn’t changed much since the early 1900s — Rinck said she entered a male-dominated scenario at Montello but that she wasn’t intimidated.
There are few things that intimidate the president of Rinck Advertising, who has described her teaching style as non-traditional, creating her own curriculum and only teaching math from a textbook.
“I tried my best to never teach the same lesson twice,” she said. “Being president of an advertising agency is the same job. You create an intellectually stimulating yet psychologically safe space for geniuses to inspire courage and unleash their power and watch what happens next.
THE EARLY DAYS OF RINCK ADVERTISING
Getting there was not easy. Her first contact with the advertising world came when she was asked to be in an advertisement with her two children for a health insurance company to talk about her experiences with cancer. She said she loved the experience, despite the director, Peter Rinck, making her cry during filming.
Bitten by the advertising bug and with her low threshold for boredom, she sought an internship in her thirties in the creative department of Garrand & Company, a Lewiston-based agency that produced advertising for the insurance company. She never returned to teaching, moving to the agency full-time as a writer.
Fast forward to 2001 when, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the nation was in a recession and Laura and Peter Rinck made the decision to start their own agency. They ultimately decided to stay in Lewiston for the sake of their children. “We were partners in life and we became partners in business.”
They started the business with no client list and no office in the midst of an economic downturn. Still, she said, there was hope. “Lewiston was so receptive, they embraced us. We were offered free office space.
Rinck’s first client was non-paying — L/A Arts. So they relied on this pro bono work, winning the first of many awards for their work.
As the agency grew and became successful, Rinck said each year has been difficult, but now the company has grown into its own entity. She said it wasn’t just Laura and Peter Rinck. “It’s filled with dynamic and really smart geniuses. It’s amazing to me.
WORKING IN A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY
Laura Rinck said it didn’t occur to her that advertising was a male-dominated industry when she started her business. But it was, and had a well-documented reputation for misogyny and sexism, perhaps the most famously portrayed on the award-winning TV show “Mad Men.” Set in the 1960s, the critically acclaimed show depicts an industry plagued by smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia, feminism and racism.
Women have made progress in the industry over time but remain a minority in 2021, according to employment data analyzed by business data website statista.com. He cites 42% of employees in the advertising and promotions industry were women, while 57% were men.
In 2016, a female executive at J. Walter Thompson, perhaps the oldest and most recognized advertising agency in the United States in the 20th century, filed a lawsuit against the company’s chief executive, accusing him of sexism and racism. The executive resigned within a week.
Rinck said she was lucky to never have experienced the kind of sexism and misogyny that so many other women have faced in the world of advertising.
“The great thing about owning your own agency is being able to choose the type of clients you want to partner with,” she explained, and that means partnering with people who share the same values as ‘they.
Women outnumber men at Rinck Advertising 3 to 1, with eight of the team’s 10 executives also being women.
“We don’t hire women, we hire the best humans,” Rinck said.
There is a checklist: are they in line with the core values of the agency? Are they strategic and smart and are they creative, are they innovative, are they geniuses?
“That’s what I’m looking for: leaders, and can I build leadership within them?” So it’s no surprise that eight out of 10 are women, but they’re the best humans for the job,” she said.
Rinck’s advice for women who want to become entrepreneurs, managers, or even leaders largely reflects how she has lived her career.
“Be brave in your choices, be creative in your vision, aim for happiness,” she said. “Let integrity guide your mindset. Respect yourself and those who come into your life to teach a lesson…know that you are allowed and encouraged to change course and change your mind at any time along your path. .
MORE WORK TO BE DONE FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS
When asked about equal pay and gender equality, Rinck’s attention intensified.
“There are thousands of women who don’t have bodily autonomy and that’s unacceptable,” Rinck said, referring to the US Supreme Court’s decision this year to strike down the constitutional right to a woman having an abortion. “So when we’re talking about things like pay autonomy, how can we even get there when we’re faced with the battles we’re facing?”
Statistics on women in business certainly point to progress in owning businesses and achieving pay equity over the past 50 years, a point Rinck didn’t lose, with one caveat.
“We have (come a long way) but we still have a long way to go,” she said, “and we cannot rest at all. We fight every day, and not only that, we stand up and speak out. Look at what is happening in Iran,” she offered. “Women’s rights are human rights and we don’t all have the same rights. I feel strongly about this.
Rinck also thinks there is a child care crisis in this country. She said people need to remember that every vote counts as the midterm elections approach, and that women need to understand each candidate’s position on women’s issues and women’s rights, such as child custody. children and health care. Her advice to women struggling to cope with the challenges of being a woman today is simple.
“Take advantage of education — especially Maine Community College — many programs are free,” she said. “Having a growth mindset is being ready to learn. It can absolutely improve your life,” she offered. “We are very lucky to be in a state with our first female Governor Janet Mills, and I think what she’s done with community colleges and tuition is going to uplift young women and young men.”
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