Friday, August 22 marks the official 30th anniversary for the advertising agency now known as Current360. And it’s been an amazing ride. However, the seed for Current was actually planted much earlier than that date.
Embryonic Stage of Current
During my junior year as a Public Relations Major at Eastern Kentucky University, my roommate (and high school friend) Rick Atchison was an immensely talented commercial art major. So it was only natural, that when my printing class was assigned to design and print a business card, Schardein/Atchison & Associates, Inc., was born. And set in print.
Three years later, I landed my first job in advertising after answering a classified for a copywriter position at a Louisville agency named Doninger & Doninger. Within two years, I was named Creative Director and convinced my boss to hire Atchison.
It was a heady time. We were two twenty-somethings who were sure we were smarter than the old man and convinced we could do things better if we were on our own. It was also during that time that we met Nick Ising. I hired Nick to replace me as copywriter, then—at my boss’s insistence—fired him within a year.
Schardein/Atchison & Associates is born
Shortly after, came the opportunity to test our wings. A friend’s father was in the portable ATM business and had come to Doninger for some brochure work. Because the budget was too small, Doninger declined the business. Had I been forthcoming about wanting to do the work on the side, everything would have been fine. But I wasn’t forthcoming. And it wasn’t fine.
In fact, it got me fired. Atchison was told he could stay, but he refused. Truth is, he was much more enthusiastic to make this college-class-business-card-inspiration a reality than me. After all, I had a mortgage, a 3-month old daughter, no clients and no money.
But somehow we survived. And we held on. And we eventually began attracting clients.
In 1986, Nick Ising left the security of Sheehy & Associates to join the scrum. Over the next decade—even while we grew—we were making every mistake a company could make, yet remained in business. We got stiffed for media bills but paid the bills anyway. We kept folks on the payroll when we couldn’t afford the overhead. We bought capital equipment out of operating income. We played too much and worked for too little. It was a mess.
By 1995, Rick Atchison had enough and wanted out. We had a buy-sell agreement in place but not enough cash to fund it, so we settled by trading a Mac IIci for some of the cash due and spread the rest out over time.
CurrentMarketing starts to take shape
At about that same time, I found the missing piece. Her name was Lisa Koier. She was co-owner and Creative Director at another Louisville agency, though we’d never met. We happened to move into the same apartment community, were each going through a divorce and finally met through a combination of my children and her puppy.
Our relationship blossomed quickly, and she soon sold her 40% stake in the other agency. She was perfect for what was then known as Schardein/Atchison/Ising.
Even while working without pay, Lisa began to shape and build the positive, family-friendly culture that sets Current apart. The energy that has been fundamental in attracting and retaining an amazing team of creative and strategic thinkers ever since.
Within 5 years, things had improved so dramatically that CurrentMarketing (as we were then known) was recognized as one of the 500 fastest growing privately held US companies by Inc. Magazine in 2001.
And the forward momentum has continued.
Today, Current360 is 100% employee-owned, with more than 40 employees spread among our Louisville and South Florida offices, with clients of local, regional and national scope. We’ve become a thoroughly integrated agency, comprised of all things traditional blended seamlessly with all things digital.
While Lisa and I remain active and involved at Current360, Nick Ising is now president and responsible for day-to-day operations. And Lisa Koier is now Lisa Schardein.
Not bad for a dream born of a printing class project. Not bad at all.
Now, eyes back on the road ahead…