As a young girl, Amanda was always drawn to TV, design and advertising. Her mom would say that when the family was watching a TV show, Amanda would pay closer attention to the commercials than the show. Amanda thought that was charming until she had her own daughter and realized that all kids are captured by TV advertising.
In high school, while determining her career pursuit, she always felt an internal conflict between her calling to help people, based in her strong faith, and her desire to work in advertising. She entertained the idea of joing the Peace Corp to fulfill her goal of working in service of others. It wasn’t until she had a conversation with a teacher about her career goals and how she viewed advertising vs. helping people as an either/or decision. She was 17 and the teacher told her that “Good people need to be in marketing to make it better.”
The teacher helped her realize that we all have the ability to do good and we have to spread ourselves across industries to make it happen. We can’t put the responsibility solely on nonprofits.
So, off she went to pursue her degree in Mass Communications at Winona State University, where she was very active in peer ministry and worked 20 years per week. Graduating in 3 years and debt free is a source of pride for her because it shows what a hard worker she was and is.
After college, she worked at several ad agencies, Fallon being one of them, in various account roles rising to leadership very quickly. I first heard of her in 2009 when she was recognized on the 40 under 40 list in the Minneapolis Business Journal. At that time, she was the VP of Creative Services at UHG where she built their internal agency, Carrot. I remember reading about her work in that issue of the Journal and thinking that I wanted to know this woman.
Whether she knew it or not, she was building her path as a successful intrapreneur. An intrapreneur is someone with entrepreneurial spirit who is able to position themselves within large organizations to bring their ideas to life. It’s a unique funding strategy and quite smart really, if you can manage the constant push back on your ideas, as well as the politics in a large company.
Her most recent work of art, I’m sure you’re familiar with, is the Small Business Revolution. Amanda has brought this series to life on Hulu, Amazon Prime and .com, working as the Chief Brand Officer at Deluxe Corporation. From where I sit, this is where all the good stuff comes together.
Amanda leads by the principle of “doing well by doing good.” You’ll hear her say it all the time, in conversations, articles and speeches. It’s not just another pithy mission statement from an executive. She really lives it. She lives it so authentically that she often can’t describe it when asked about her leadership style. It’s so innate and comes from her core. It’s like asking Monet: “How did you paint the Water Lillies?” I doubt he’d be able to explain the detail people yearn for because sometimes things just come from inside a person. I see Amanda’s work in the same way.
If you haven’t watched Small Business Revolution, you’re missing out. Her team at Deluxe is revitalizing small businesses in small towns across the country. America gets a say on which town by voting on the submitted nominations. The winning town gets awarded a $500,000 boost to revitalize businesses and Deluxe documents the transformation by creating a touching series of small business stories for us to enjoy.
Let me take moment and tell you why this work is so truly aligned with Amanda’s mission to “do well by doing good.” Small business ownership ain’t sexy. Nobody has the same love affair with small businesses like they do with the “start-up” culture based in Silicon Valley. Especially not in small towns.
In a small business, you earn every single penny. When employees don’t show up for work, the owner will put on a uniform because someone has to cover the hours. When the small business owner can’t make payroll, she’ll forgo her salary to ensure that her employees are paid. Sexy, right?
Small business owners typically start their companies for altruistic reasons. They want to create a lifestyle for their families so one parent can stay home. Or, they see a problem they can solve to help people. It may simply be that they want to open a coffee shop on main street because even small towns should have good coffee and a place to meet with friends. The beginning of the idea is rarely about money, which is contrary to the start-up fantasies we read about today.
All of these wonderful stories and nobody was paying attention, at scale, until Amanda came along. Through her vision and commitment to helping others, she has shown a light on a community of people that rarely get the spotlight, even though they are a huge economic force in this country. Small businesses create about 50% of the non-farming gross domestic product (GDP), or roughly $6 trillion every year. Since the small business revolution program launched in 2015, it has achieved over 9 billion impressions in social and earned media. Nearly 4,000 articles have been written about it. It was named by Inc Magazine as one of the top show entrepreneurs should be watching. It is the #1 unscripted show on Hulu, outperforming network competitors by 5 times. And finally, it has been discussed on the floor of Congress, twice.
That is quite a spotlight.
What’s truly exciting, is that I believe Amanda is only getting started. We haven’t really seen anything yet. She shared with me that her experience with the Small Business Revolution has been incredibly fulfilling and has also exposed hints to her about her next mission to help people. Her experiences in these small towns across the country have opened her eyes to opportunities around the topics of diversity and inclusion. Being a woman of faith and her commitment to working in service of others, I’m confident she’ll find clarity around those topics and what’s she’s supposed to do next. Let’s just say that I’ll be waiting, watching and cheering her on.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Ellen or Oprah. They both use their platform for doing good. I don’t think they have fame for nice houses and cars. I think they have answered a higher calling.
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I would not mind being famous if there was a greater purpose for it. Any notoriety I may already have is because I’m destined to do something good. As I continue to earn more visibility because of my platform with Deluxe, I’m still discovering what I’m supposed to do and where I need to lend my voice. Through my work on the Small Business Revolution, diversity, inclusion and love are topics that are trending for me to have a voice around.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleeping in only to get up and be active right away so it’s done for the day. Giving a speech and connecting with people afterward. Then, going out with my family to have good beer and good food.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
This morning. I play Pandora when I’m getting ready. I sing in the car. I sing anywhere people aren’t listening.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’ll be hit by a bus because I always have my head down, on my phone, not paying attention to where I’m going.
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
We both love craft beer and traveling. We also appreciate our midwestern roots. Being raised in the midwest, we learned a good work ethic and how to be frugal. “Save before you spend,” is one of our mantras.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I know I’m supposed to say my daughter. Motherhood is an important part of my life, but I wasn’t put on earth solely to be a mother. I wouldn’t change it, I like being a mom, but I’m most grateful for my ability to look at life and appreciate the serendipity of it all. I rest in this space of believing that life is one part hustle and one part the universe doing it’s work. I can control the hustle by showing up everday and doing the work. The universe part, I can’t control, but I believe in it and that mindset gives me perspective.
What is your most terrible memory?
One time I said something mean to someone in Sunday school and I replay it all the time in my head. I was trying to be funny and it didn’t land right. I didn’t realize the impact until the teacher told me how it came across. I was devastated because my love language is Words of Affirmation and if that is reversed, it’s painful. It was just a joke that went wrong, but I ruminate on it to this day.
What does friendship mean to you?
It means encouragement. Being that support system when needed. I see my role in friendship as being a cheerleader for my friends.
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I’ve dreamed of taking a year off, traveling around the world and homeschooling my daughter. We haven’t done it for all the same reasons everyone else hasn’t. It’s expensive and I fear not being able to get a job when I return. I have the same worries as everyone else.