When Moira Vetter was 7 years old, her dad was a pharmacist and her mom was the business manager. Every day after school, Moira would hop on a bus and ride it to the family business to help out at the cash register. Since she was too short to reach it, she’d wear roller skates while working.
“I received a small paycheck from them every two weeks, cut on a business check to me,” recalls Moira, who also helped with merchandising, filling prescriptions, cleaning shelves, running bags to the bank window and more. “It was a full family affair, and I really understood the commerce of that family business.”
As a young adult, Moira opted not to finish college, and instead, try to find her niche in the working world. As it turned out, she had many. She started as a temp at a tech start-up in Atlanta, Georgia. She became receptionist, learned customer service for software product support, was bookkeeper and then moved into sales and marketing.
“I was sales manager at 20 years old and didn’t have a car, but was flying places to sell,” Moira shares. “I worked for people who saw potential in me and allowed me to try anything I expressed an interest in trying.”
As a salesperson, Moira thought the company’s marketing materials were awful, so when they were looking to hire an outside company to reimagine those materials, Moira asked if she could work with them. That’s when she discovered her true passion.
“I worked with them and the lightbulb went off,” she remembers. “It’s storytelling, sales, operations, delivery—all those things. I got a few other marketing jobs, then landed at an agency.”
Moira spent eight years with her first agency, rising to vice president before the company was purchased and shut down. She was 30, without a college degree, and didn’t know who would hire her. “I didn’t know of any other VP jobs I could get without a degree,” Moira says. “I tried to start a company doing marketing for tech companies, but that was during the dot-com crash.”
Moira did eventually land a position as an agency president. She helped the owner to successfully scale his company and at the end of four-and-a-half years, she decided she was working too hard for no equity. It was 2007 and she “laced up her skates” and got rolling again as a woman business owner, among other things.
“I have always been big on major milestones.,” Moira shares. “Where am I tracking at this time in my life? Where did I think I would be? I was approaching 40 and hadn’t completed my college degree, hadn’t successfully launched my own company and hadn’t had children. I had stuff to do and not unlimited time. In a few years, I got a degree, had twins and birthed a company.”
Today, that company, Modo Modo Agency, is an award-winning strategic marketing firm based out of Atlanta that helps Fortune 500 and hyper-growth mid-market firms capture and grow their markets. Its core capabilities include brand and marketing strategy, integrated campaigns, omni-channel marketing and media, sales engagement and internal communications.
Some of the milestones Moira has seen in her business over the years include exceeding $1 million in revenue in her first year in business. She thought they’d be able to grow by $1 million a year after that, but it wasn’t the case. “We had itty bitty growth spurts and then I lost both of my parents while having two children under 3,” Moira shares. “It was hard for me to get it back together and in a focused place.” Another recession also hit during this time.
Modo Modo Agency survived, though, and coming up on their 10-year anniversary in 2017, Moira felt like they had been coasting and it was time to focus on the future. Part of that was looking at their systems and what they would need for the future. The other part was looking at their people to identify those who could grow with the company and wanted to be there for the next step.
This positioned the company to scale and grow in the years to come. In fact, in 2019, Modo Modo Agency had a huge year and expanded to a team of 25 (they had been at 15 for a long time). Then, the pandemic began and Moira was forced to make strategic changes again. She parted ways with her financial person, reset banking relationships, updated client pricing, negotiated change orders and new payment terms and even explored alternative financing for growth.
“We had serious growth expenses and were taking on larger pieces of business,” Moira says. “Some large contracts come with real handcuffs if you want the opportunity. So with the pandemic, like anyone who has succeeded, we got very serious about every penny we were spending. We conducted ourselves not like a small business, but a good business that knows what their costs are.”
In the process, they resigned several smaller accounts that weren’t well aligned with the agency. At the same time, they brought in some very large clients whose industries experienced massive growth during the pandemic. They’re currently at 33 team members and looking to bring on another 10 to 15.
Moira also asked that team members came into the office during COVID to keep their culture in place and to continue to grow. Two-thirds did, and one-third were on the fence until this past spring when the agency moved into a new 9,000-square-foot office that supports their ability to collaborate and develop young talent. The space has a large, open kitchen, community zone, on-site gym, electrical vehicle charging stations and more. “We didn’t want to insist people come back to a substandard office,” Moira says.
In October of 2021, Moira held an off-site retreat for her team where she shared one-year, three-year and 10-year revenue plans. By August of 2022, they had already exceeded the one-year plan and they are tracking to end the year closer to their three-year plan.
Modo Modo Agency is also certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). In fact, that’s how Moira discovered NAWBO. A woman she met with to do the company’s re-certification spoke about NAWBO and how Moira could capitalize on her position as a woman business owner.
“She asked, ‘What are you going to do beyond getting this certificate? Are you doing programs? Are you networking with groups?’” says Moira. “That’s when I started looking at programs that would make me more personally valuable as a thought leader for clients and team members, and I learned about a few NAWBO programs.” Moira is now a member of NAWBO Atlanta.
About being honored as one of this year’s Woman Business Owner of the Year finalists, Moira says the experience has been both humbling and exciting. “I’m a Leo so I love attention and acknowledgment,” she laughs. “But at this stage, I also feel a tremendous responsibility to give back and bring people up. That’s what everything is about in this next chapter.” And these things are no doubt worth “lacing up her skates” in the race to the future!