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Meet Kimmy McAtee Bell of Creative Drinking Agency in Arts District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimmy McAtee Bell.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Before starting Creative Drinking Agency with my husband, I worked as the Marketing Director for a design agency and prior to that, the VP of Partnerships / Marketing for a global non-profit. My husband, Nathan Bell, is an artist and creative director – we met 15 years ago through the skateboard industry, and together we had a ton of friends that were freelance creatives or worked at brands. We decided to have these fun nights, where we, along with a few friends, brought people together and introduced them. “Oh, you always need a photographer / you are a photographer.” We called it “Creative Drinking – where creative people drink.” word started spreading that we were good at finding the right person for the job, or to be the storytellers ourselves and the agency sprung from that. Now we are a full-service boutique agency and creative consultancy with capabilities across branding, strategy, creative and production – we also like to think we are still a place where creative people like to drink.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a business owner, I think imposter syndrome has been my biggest struggle. That question of “are you worth it” seems to creep up at the worst moments. I am always comparing myself to other agencies, other creative producers or entrepreneurs – most always a male. I’ve always loved standing up in front of the room and pitching a project or talking about my team – but learning to talk about myself with the same confidence has been my Achilles heel. Believing in myself has been the single hardest part of this road – and also the most important.

Creative Drinking Agency – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I was recently on a zoom call with my family, and my brother said, “Kimmy, can you tell everyone what you do for a living… I mean, I know… but I would like you to explain.” and I laughed, but then it kinda hit me that the term creative agency is so broad and not easily understood. It’s easy to speak in your own language about multi-platform campaigns or experiential and digital experiences and not realize that people may not know what a creative agency does beyond what they have seen on Mad Men or Black-ish.

These days brands are not only launching a campaign for traditional media like print or TV; they are rolling that campaign into social, adding in experiential in-person events, building microsites, and bringing in cultural partners. Full-service agencies like ours are the ones that can create the work that goes behind any of these directions, so a one-stop shop for art direction, strategy, creative production, art buying, environmental design, set design and styling, content creation, photography, brand identity, and visual language – the list goes on.

What I am most proud of as an agency is our ability to see the project from all angles and ideate how something will work both granularly and in the big picture and filling in those articulated needs that a client didn’t even know they were missing. We understand what it’s like to be the artist you asked to design a campaign, the person who walks in the door of an experiential pop-up, the person flipping through the catalog, and what needs to be done to make them all come to life.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint the “proudest moment” of my career… there have been moments where you work on something for six months, it releases into the world and it is completely overwhelming, usually the feeling of exhaustion mixed with joy. I think the biggest things I am proud of are the small things. Learning my value, co-owning a business with my husband, and honestly saying that I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else, or just when a client recommends you to another company – the true mark of success.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I think I can talk for all business owners when I say we have no idea what the future is going to hold and just learning to adapt and navigate this new normal. What’s been great about this period is being able to pivot and show off different skill sets in a more digital landscape and taking a step back and thinking about where we want to move the agency in the future.

I think the biggest thing I am looking forward to is having my team all in the same place together again. Either on a set or in the office – we feed off each other’s energy, and I am definitely missing that – until then a lot of virtual brainstorming and happy hours.

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