I’m starting an interview series to bridge the gap between Her Campus and Her World! We are at a transitional part of our lives, and I want us to hear the stories of some amazing women that have come before us. I want to shine a light on the kick-ass things these women are doing but also to inspire others to take chances, shake up the system and be bold. And it seemed a fitting start to the series to introduce you to Clemson alumni, Adriane Willis!
Meet Adriane Willis, our Founder and Director. Hometown: Greenville, SC. It you could be any fictional character who would it be and why? “If I could be any fictional character, I would be Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series. Katniss is a protector, a helper, and an agent for change. She is fiercely loyal, honest, intelligent, and compassionate. She has a strong moral compass and fights for what she believes is right and good.”
Adriane came to dear old Clemson back in 2008 and never left! She worked for the university for a few months out of school as the marketing and communications coordinator, and Adriane eventually founded Hartwell Marketing, an agency for startups, small businesses, and nonprofits. I met Adriane when she gave a presentation for my non-profit marketing class, and immediately, I wanted to know more about her story. When she had done all she could do for the University, she moved on to an agency in Greenville for a few months. When her work was done in Greenville, she decided to do freelance consulting on the side, buying herself a few ads on Google. It turned out to be the best 20 dollars she’d ever spent!
Why did you decide to start your own agency instead of continuing to work for an existing one?
“I ran the marketing program for 3 years after I graduated. I got to a point where I thought I had done all I could do. Everything was running smoothly. I kinda felt like Mary Poppins in the way that it was time for me to go and do something else. I got a job at a small agency in Greenville and worked there for about 7 months. The culture wasn’t an awesome fit. I decided to leave and I didn’t have another job lined up. I was just gonna do some consulting or freelance work temporarily until I found another full-time job at an agency. I got my first client, then my second client and it kinda turned into a full-time job. I joke that I started the agency by accident. I started out freelance but then got to a point where I needed help so I built it into an agency. That was almost 5 years ago!”
The name Hartwell? Where did it come from?
“It took me a long time to land on a name. I was all over the board and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to position myself as a brand and a company. I have a heart for small businesses and nonprofits so I decided that I wanted to be known and connected with the community. And my name was an important part of that! I wanted a name that was recognizably local, and I just decided on Hartwell. Lake Hartwell is an important part of our community! It’s at the center of our community, and it touches and connects a lot of different places. My heart and soul are in nature anyway, and the name just fit what I’m trying to accomplish and what we stand for.”
Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.” Why do you do it?
“My ‘why’ is to use my powers for good! My ‘why’ is just to do good in everything that I do. I want to make a positive impact. That’s my main goal and motivation. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s helping these local businesses and nonprofits succeed because when they succeed, the whole community succeeds.”
Between your very first client to now, what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
“I’d say the thing that’s made the biggest difference in the success of my work is starting every project with a clear plan. And being able to develop a really clear plan comes with experience because you have to know the right questions to ask, where you’re going, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Starting ou,t I was a lot more reactive and I’ve just gotten better with planning things out and listening to the customer. I definitely learned from not having really good plans and strategies.”
What would you say has been the fulfilling moment thus far?
“Honestly, working with students! I get the most joy from working with students every day. Teaching them things, learning from them and watching them go off and be successful; it has always been a favorite part of my work.”
What’s one thing every business/boss woman needs?
“One thing that I’ve been trying to get better at is owning my success. I feel like a lot of women, myself included, struggle with imposter syndrome. That’s something I felt for a long time and didn’t have a word for. I struggle with it every day, but when I take a step back and look at myself as a woman and a business owner, I see that I’m successful but there’s still that voice inside that says, “Oh I’ve been lucky” or “I’ve had a lot of help” but no! I’ve gotten here because I’m smart, I worked hard, and I’m good at what I do. And I think more women need to own their success and stand up for themselves because they deserve to believe in themselves and believe in their worth.”
What are the words that you live by?
“One that keeps coming back to my mind is, ‘You can’t change it.’ I feel like I’m good at identifying situations that a lot of people would worry themselves sick over, and I really try to avoid worry and anxiety in my life as much as possible. Being able to identify situations you can’t change is really important so that you can spend your energy elsewhere. It’s not very eloquent, but it’s something I use in my everyday life because, in this work, we are constantly putting out fires and sometimes you step back and sometimes you have to keep going.”
What advice would you give to other ambitious women who want to use their powers for good?
“Ask a lot of questions! And don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. To be successful in literally any situation, whether it be personal or business professional, you need to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. My “why” has really directed my career and I would encourage any woman that wants to do good to figure out her “why”. Why are you here? What gets you out of bed in the morning- and then chase that!”
Adriane Willis inspires us to figure out our “why’s” and go make a difference in whatever way we can! She uses her powers of influence for good. She built something that gives back to the community that all of us have grown so fond of. It’s her world, and we’re just living in it!