Low-key approach beams success for Moonlight

Company's team strives for long-term clients

Tampa Bay Business Journal  |  by Jane Meinhardt Staff Writer  |  Friday, January 25, 2008

photo by Jane MeinhardtPALMETTO -- Business attire for members of Moonlight Marketing Group's team can range from pajamas and slippers to a three-piece suit, depending on the situation.

The Palmetto-based company has a small office with purple walls, RC Cola and Moon Pies near the main downtown street, but it is basically "a landing place," said Yonilee Miller, Moonlight's co-founder and managing partner.

All five employees -- they call themselves teammates -- work from their homes, coffee houses or other convenient locations about 90 percent of the time. That method is part of the company's growth strategy and overall philosophy.

"Telecommuting is the way to go," Miller said. "First of all, there is less impact on the environment. It also provides a great work-life balance. Artists are more creative when they don't have to punch a time clock."

Moonlight has no standard business hours. The office is open by appointment or when the team gets together to meet a special deadline.

Instead, Miller goes to the clients.

"If the client sees anyone, it is usually me," she said. "I see the clients whenever and wherever it's good for them. If a client only has time to see me during their child's soccer practice, that's when and where I go. I am the company road warrior."

The strategy keeps the firm's overhead low, which, in turn, means Moonlight's fees to clients can be lower than if the company operated from a big office.

"We don't put on airs, and we don't have a lot of flash," Miller said. "We are a come-as-you-are kind of place, but we also can handle executive clients."

Moonlight's telecommuting strategy is not typical for most Manatee County companies right now, but that may gradually be changing.

"I wouldn't say it's the norm," said Nancy Engel, executive director of the Economic Development Council, Manatee Chamber of Commerce. "I think we'll be finding companies being more creative though because of economic conditions, especially tech companies."

Since Moonlight started in 2004, it has concentrated on business and customer service consultation, graphic design and media placement for small businesses, winning awards along the way.

The business plan includes the focus on small businesses because Moonlight wants to establish long-term client relationships by helping businesses grow and become successful, Miller said. It also now has some major corporate clients, including Bright House Networks and Leslie Wells Realty.

Moonlight began with $500 in its coffers. The company created its own Web site. Miller and her team took no salaries the first year and worked second jobs as they built the company.

"We put money back into the business instead of taking salaries the first year," she said. "We also did a lot of comp work that year."

The company is now debt-free, Miller said.

Moonlight has a 10-year business plan and is "pretty much on track," she said.

The housing market downturn has adversely affected Moonlight's desired growth because real estate developers and related businesses are among its industry clients. However, the company has overcome these problems because it has such diverse clients.

"Our list of clients is pretty crazy," Miller said. "We've been good about being diversified and about what we offer. We're not out to be millionaires, and we're patient."

This year, Moonlight plans to put increased emphasis on customer service consultation and training. It also intends to acquire at least five retainer clients.

This article orginially appeared in the Tampa Bay Business Journal. To view the original article online visit their website here.

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