Allie Hughes makes historic Quebec Bank her company’s new home
Allie Hughes likens her old job with the federal government in Hamilton to being a cog in the machine, one that could have easily trapped her in a daily cycle of staring at the clock and watching the small hand move tortuously slowly toward 5 p.m.
“It was very well paying — and very boring,” she said.
The young woman who was recruited right out of university to work on a federal youth employment strategy and then on unemployment insurance and pensions did some soul searching and realized she didn’t want to wait out the next 30 years or so to get a pension at age 55.
Still in her early twenties, Hughes walked away from the fat paycheque, the benefits, and the pension.
“I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “I needed to be more engaged and more interested in the work I was doing. I made the call.”
Fast forward nearly five years and Hughes’ decision to strike out on her own seems very savvy: her company, Hughes and Co., is a now a highly successful, million-dollar venture that’s shaking up the way firms around the world use digital media for marketing.
In October, Hughes was named winner of the 2016 Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Award in the emerging business category.
Hughes recalls adding ‘and Co.’ to her company name when she started out on her own to make it sound more than a one-person enterprise. “I thought it sounded bigger and I’d have a shot at cooler contracts,” she said.
It turns to have been foreshadowing: in just a few short years, she’s grown to nine employees with clients in far corners of the globe.
“We are trusted by very big companies to help them drive leads that generate millions of dollars in revenue,” she said from her firm’s new location in the historic Quebec Bank building in downtown Thorold.
Hughes, who’d been located in St. Catharines, said her husband’s job in commercial real estate made him sit up and take notice of the remarkable renaissance that’s taken place on Thorold’s Front Street. Under the leadership of businesspeople like developer Mike Skrtich and clothing retailer Shannon Passero, it’s been transformed from a tired old street and given new life.
“He’s really energized by all that they’re doing,” Hughes said. “We saw the revitalization of Thorold. We felt compelled to join that club.”
Hughes moved her company to the stately building last December, and when the opportunity came to purchase it, she snapped it up in late August.
She and her team are helping clients tap into the power of the Internet to generate leads and sales, with compelling websites, social media, and sophisticated digital strategies.
It’s all part of sea change to use information to attract today’s much more sophisticated consumers who have become accustomed to vast amounts of information at their fingertips.
“We have literally a world of information in our pockets,” said Hughes. “We like to walk into conversations armed with information.
“We’re more empowered as consumers than we’ve ever been.”
The eye-catching, blue glass award from the chamber is perched in Hughes’ office, but she is quick to stress it also belongs to the young people working with her.
“I’m really flattered; being recognized is really cool,” she said. “But I’m not an island: the people I have here are a huge part of why we grow.
“It’s a reflection of what we accomplish as a team,” she said. “We’re extremely good at what we do.”