I had the pleasure to interview brand strategist, Lexi Montgomery,
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory?”
I am the owner of Darling, an internet marketing and branding agency based in Miami. From helping to scale a small cosmetic surgery practice into a surgical center to building a vodka brand from the ground floor, our company specializes in consumer seduction and building brands that make money.
When I started my career in marketing, I was an actress making $72 for 8 hours of work. After spending thousands of hours on commercial sets for companies like McDonald’s, Nutri Ninja, and Chevy — I fell in love with branding, but hated working at the ground floor of the “entertainment industry.” At the time, my husband had an affiliate marketing business so he taught me the ropes.
In just a couple years, we have been featured in the Associated Press & Bustle, syndicated in the New York Times & INC. We’re known for high click-through rates, low bounce rates, and as one of our clients put it “[we] have the ability to bring “visions” from a person’s brain to life.”
Why did you found your company?
It took me sometime to find my “passion.” They say you should do what you love, and I loved so many things but wasn’t really great at anything. I went to college, got a degree, and took the normal steps that everyone says will make you “successful” but I wasn’t happy. So I convinced my husband to move to Hollywood and I planned to become a professional actress.
After dealing with subjugation and appearing in some awesome shows and commercials, my bank account was embarrassing. From managers to agents to the union — everyone was cutting into my checks, and I was depending on my husband to pay most of our bills.
So I joined forces with him and started selling web design services. It took about a year to get the hang of digital marketing because I WASN’T TECHIE AT ALL. But eventually I felt confident enough in my skills, and experience to take a leap, and start an agency.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I think being a minority, woman in STEM is inherently disruptive. I’ve spent so much time avoiding sexism, racism, you name it! Every week someone reaches out showing interest in our work, when all they really want to do is take me out to dinner, or get in my pants.
Sadly, I can’t really think of a successful ethnic woman in digital design, branding, or marketing. At least not one that built her own company. At my first event with a client, I was told I should be an escort instead of working in tech. That hurt my feelings so much, but I then used that angle to brand our company in an edgy, eye-catching way.
I hate calling myself a CEO, or owner because I really just love what I do… but I guess it is disruptive.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My husband has been a huge support. He’s my best friend. But most people don’t understand what I do, so I guess they don’t really know how to be supportive. I’ve take a few courses and joined some of the leading platforms for digital agencies, but it’s a pretty lonely road.
Most of the lessons I’ve learned have come from failure, books, and weird unexplainable & synchronistic experiences.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I might be writing a book.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
1) “You should be an escort, they make good money” — If you’re a woman in business for yourself, people will always underestimate you and your ability to make money. Use this to your advantage.
2) “You can make some inferences about a man’s character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered.” — So Richard Dawkins ‘The Selfish Gene’ talks a lot about how we’re all inherently selfish and that has been one of my most important lessons in business.
At the end of the day, people are paying my company because they expect us to deliver a certain result. Every relationship I have built served a benefit of some sort for me, and the other person. Everyone is selfish, even the most charitable, kind hearted people. And knowing the value I bring to a situation is the single greatest asset I have. Once I am no longer valuable, I become disposable and that’s a very dangerous position to be in.
3) “I’ll never be a slave [because of you].” — My dad died within my first year as an entrepreneur. It was one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with to date. He called me on my birthday in October just before being diagnosed with cancer, and he passed just before his birthday in January…
Toward the end of his life, I spent a few weeks back home with my parents. One night he uttered the words “I’ll never be a slave” to me, implying that he was proud of me, and felt “ready” to die. He was weak and struggled to make his point, but I think he was basically saying he was proud of me.
He grew up in the 50s & 60s, lost 2 children prior to my birth (one was killed in a racist hit and run incident), struggled with alcoholism, and he worked a blue collar job for over 40 years. He always had a side business (extermination) but it never became his main business.
On his deathbed, he let me know that he was happy with his life because I was alive.
He was proud he could leave his offspring in a better position than he ever had.
That was such a powerful statement to me.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
John Kehoe’s content has been huge for me.
I struggled with saying “no” and charging adequately for my efforts.
John Kehoe combines a sort of metaphysical way of thinking with a capitalist agenda, and has helped me remove the feeling of guilt that used to come along with making money.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Yes, Kris Jenner.
I’m a huge fan of her Kylie & Kim.
I think they’re epic and have never known someone personally who had that amount of business savvy, male or female. I would love to chat with any of them.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Our website: http://darlingwebdesign.com/
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lexmontgomery/
Instagram: @LexMontgomery and @DarlingWebDesign