The Beaufort Digital Corridor leadership profile series is focused on the individuals who are driving Beaufort's tech scene forward.
Ginger Wareham is founder and CEO of Picklejuice, a five-person Digital Marketing and Creative Agency based in Beaufort. Wareham started Picklejuice in New Orleans in 2004 prior to relocating to Beaufort. Ginger and her husband, Will Wareham, are partners in running the business.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Southern Illinois in a small town called Harrisburg, population 9,000. My dad worked in the tire business. It was all cornfields and coal mines.
How did you end up in Beaufort?
I left Illinois for my mom's alma mater, Ole Miss. After college, I headed to New Orleans, where I lived for 12 years. It's a great and vibrant city for art and design. Will and I met two weeks before Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, I moved to Charleston and eventually Will joined me there. In one year, we got married, I got pregnant, and we discovered Beaufort. We drove down to Beaufort from Charleston during one of the festivals, I think it was Shrimp Festival, because Will got a marketing job offer to work there. We just fell in love with it. It was completely random, but everywhere we went on that trip, and everyone we met, convinced us that this was home. We've never looked back.
What was your first job, or most memorable early job? What did you learn from it?
When I was in college, I had three jobs that shaped my work to this day. One of the professors was hiring graphic artists and teaching us html and coding. This was in 1995. It was pretty cool because it turned out we were designing an online poker game! That's how I got into Web design. I also had a paid internship for the summer at a local Whirlpool plant, where all they made were ovens. My job was to draw out the technical sheet that hung on the assembly line – a visual tutorial of how to assemble an oven, part by part. That's all we'd do. That job opened my eyes to all the details. It took forever just to draw one screw. It also made me appreciate the people behind the product. Even today, I will pick up the most common household thing and think to myself, "Some person put that together." Then there was my internship at Amscan. They make party supplies. Designers would print out mockups and my job was to cut them out with an X-Acto knife to build a prototype. It made me appreciate the functionality of design, that, even though I wanted to be creative, there was discipline involved. Good design also has to work.
Did you have an entrepreneurial drive early on?
Yes. This is just who I am. Right out of college, I was hoping to get into a fast-paced agency, but in the end my natural drive was to create my own agency.
In your own words, what does your company do?
At Picklejuice, we are at heart a creative services firm. We bring our clients' vision to life. We live our tag line – We infuse your creative projects with zesty stuff to relish. It all starts with the logo and branding, the overall feel and concept. Then we take it across the channels and media that make the most sense – event branding, marketing, web site design, graphic design, social media and digital marketing. It all has to play together to work.
What drew you to your current business, or inspired you to start it?
I've always wanted to do my own thing and be as big and as great as I possibly could be. When I was in New Orleans, my business partner did not return after Katrina. That made being in this creative business a full-time reality. Over the years, I figured it out – how to strategize with a client and deliver something fun and unexpected. Now with Will on board, we bounce ideas back and forth. He has a different skill set and perspective and that plays on both our strengths. Will's presence on the team allows me to let go and be creative because I know he's got the other stuff.
How would you describe your organization's culture?
Fun! We try to make our space and our business reflect our personalities. Our office space says it all. It's colorful. It's playful. We want our employees to feel that way, too. I'm always changing things, moving things around. For me, the space has to feel right or I can't create.
What is your management style? Why is that your approach?
I'd call my style flexible. We don't necessarily have rules. I'm not against change. Whatever will make our lives easier and help us work smarter wins. Also, I believe in open and honest. If someone comes across something cool, they can explore it. It's good for all of us when everyone is able to learn and grow. With all that flexibility, time management is always a challenge. To keep everyone on track, we leverage a project management tool. It works for us to a point and it could always be better.
What obstacles have you faced building your business? How have you overcome them?
In a word: balance. We're in a place today that we've worked so hard to get to. Lately we've been approached by a number of creative and well-respected people in this business who want to work with us on strategy. On top of that, we have recently signed on some big clients with longer contracts. New strategy and new business can require investment in new resources: full-time hires, enhanced infrastructure. Strategic expansion – which is desirable – has to be balanced against available resources and managed operating expenses – also desirable. The other balancing act comes with being practitioners who are also building and running a business. In this situation, you're constantly balancing design and delivery of the company's products and services at the same time you're signing clients and pursuing new business opportunities, and keeping the lights on. It all has to get done. The only way to overcome these tensions in the business is to find your balance and know when to pivot.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Follow your passion. If you want to do it, just go for it. If you go for it and you fail, at least you tried. Then pick up the next thing with no regrets. Also, use your passion as a filter for what to focus on. For me, it has always been about design. So many entrepreneurs try to do it all, understand it all, pursue it all. If you don't focus, you dilute your impact and you end up working on things you have no passion for. You can't do it all.
Do you have a routine that's important to your day? A morning ritual, meditation, etc.?
While my two little people are still sleeping, I get up really early. This is my quiet time to think and bounce around online to see what sparks my creativity. These are my inspiration sessions and they're the best way for me to start my day.
What do you see as the future of your company?
We're going for it. It's now or never: we're at an inflection point where we are assembling the structure of the company in order to grow. We need to put the right elements and people together to make it happen. We want to leave a legacy for our family and we're building the company's future around that vision.
How can the BDC best serve you?
It would be great if your members could access a virtual community – an online private group that connects members to each other for solutions; something similar to The Rising Tide Society, which is a free curated community for creative entrepreneurs. A members-only online group with a tech spin – where I could post a question and get answers – would be great.
What has it been like building your technical team in Beaufort?
Its been fun. Then again, we are a relatively small shop. Between the interns from the University of South Carolina-Beaufort Campus and creative freelancers in the area we have had no issues with talent to drive our business.
What do you see as some of the challenges recruiting tech talent to Beaufort?
We have seen some of the web developers move away so having the Beaufort Digital Corridor here and making connections to developers through the organization is terrific.
What are your thoughts on how Beaufort's technical landscape has grown?
While there has not been the explosive tech growth in Beaufort like in Charleston, change is gradually coming. There are professionals who are relocating to Beaufort for lifestyle reasons with a lot of experience in tech and tech related areas including social media and digital marketing. I am confident that over time Beaufort will be able to capture its share of tech growth and the Digital Corridor will play the key role with connecting people to make this happen.
Outside of work what keeps you busy?
Our 3 and 6-year-old. We love the beach and taking in an occasional round of golf. I also really love to paint with acrylics and restore furniture. I have painted most of the furniture in our PickleJuice office. I love to have traditional art projects going on since I am digital all day. It's nice to have a little break from the computer every now and then.
Are you a Mac or a PC? iPhone or Android?
Mac and iPhone.