Kelley Howard shares that she has 25 years of experience working in digital marketing and has worked with several startups throughout her career. However, it was through several negative experiences during her time in working with startups that she took matters into her own hands and founded DigiVid 360 and DigiVid Bio – digital marketing companies that have assisted dozens of startup companies, including ones in the bio space.
While Kelley’s track record in corporate America was an impressive one, the catalyst of her departure from that world came from founders and owners of these startups “pulling the rug from under her feet” and refusing to properly compensate her for work she had done for them. This culminated in one startup founder drastically cutting her pay, then threatening to fire her if she did not accept the pay cut.
“So basically, I had the CEO of this company tell me that he would reduce my salary by $20,000 and he was reducing my commission,” Kelley confided in the crowd. As the major breadwinner in her household, this took a tremendous toll on her as she scrambled to figure out how to provide for her family. She turned to two friends and former business colleagues, and this marked the founding of DigiVid 360. For Kelley, in addition to using her expertise and background in digital marketing, she also wanted to make the company an employee friendly environment that did not produce what she had experienced during her time working with previous startups.
“So, I started to coordinate and work with my two business partners and said, ” We can do this better. We can treat employees correctly, we can manage them correctly, run this company, and do it the right way.” Being able to own her business was a dream that Kelley had always wanted, and albeit under less than desirable conditions, she was able to accomplish it, while learning from the time of adversity.
“So, my key takeaway here is that adversity comes in all shapes and forms. But almost always, there’s something good that comes out of it. The good that came out of it, for me, having the rug pulled out from my feet was part of me saying ‘to heck with it. I can do this better. This shouldn’t be the norm. We should be able to create a business and treat our employees fairly and run the business the way you want, and have it run correctly and not do this’ So that was really kind of the pearl that pushed me.”
While Kelley was able to overcome this uncomfortable period in her life, this wouldn’t be the end of difficult times.
While in the midst of planning her 27-year-old daughter, Rachel’s, wedding, the family learned that her daughter had a “golf ball sized tumor” growing on the back of her spine.
“It was a very rare form of cancer that affects a little less than 1% of the population, specifically pediatric cancer. And talk about trying to get me out from underneath my desk in the fetal position.”
After recovering from this initial shock, Kelley immediately took the lead in managing treatment for her daughter.
“I’m going to have to be the one that really leads what’s going on with treatments. And when she is cancer free to be able to, you know, look back and be looking for clinical trials, all those things. The good news is she has three more chemotherapy treatments left; the cancer is pretty much gone. And now we just have to focus on the second part of the journey.”
And just like she took something from her experience in co-founding DigiVid 360, Kelley found that people and innovators who are willing and able to tackle these types of challenges are the ones that she can support with DigiVid Bio. After learning that not much research is thrown behind these types of cancers because of their rarity, she realized that DigiVid Bio could assist biotech companies in researching and tackling these issues.
“And that’s why we want to support people who are tackling those big problems. You know, it could be your daughter, it could be your son, it could be somebody that’s important to you. And I have worked around rare diseases before, but it became personal.”
Although these two major life events threw Kelley’s life into temporary disarray, she is grateful for the adversity and being able to regroup and come back stronger, smarter, and wiser from them.