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The Chicago-based creative agency landed its biggest client but faced 90-day payment terms. Fortunately, early payment through C2FO helped The Lemon Ad Stand get through a tight squeeze.
Vanessa Jackson has always been a fan of puns.
So when she agreed to leave the corporate world to join her husband’s Chicago creative agency, The Lemon Ad Stand, she immediately set about giving everyone a more memorable job title. Calvin Jackson no longer was just owner and president; he was Lemon Ad Stand’s “Main Squeeze.” As Head of Marketing and Communications, Vanessa was also “Vice President of Sweetness.”
Many new clients of The Lemon Ad Stand get the name wrong at first. They call it “The Lemonade Stand.” Calvin and Vanessa Jackson never correct them. Eventually, clients see the agency’s name on a business card or the website, and they smile at the pun.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh, I get it. That’s creative.’ And we say, ‘exactly!’” Vanessa said. “So it really just embodies everything we are here at The Lemon Ad Stand.”
Calvin launched his company in 2003, after several years of developing his skills as a graphic designer and a creative leader for different Chicagoland agencies. Since then, The Lemon Ad Stand has grown into a full-service digital agency specializing in website and app development, content strategy, social media and more.
In April of 2020, during the depths of the pandemic, The Lemon Ad Stand landed a sweet new client and the largest contract in its history. But the new business also included 90-day invoice payment terms.
“That’s not sustainable for a small business,” Vanessa noted.
Fortunately, the client offered an early payment program through the C2FO platform. Calvin and Vanessa activated their account, weighed the option of offering a small discount in exchange for early payment, then decided to give C2FO a try.
“After (the client) accepted the offer, it took less than a week for the payment,” Calvin said. “So you’ve mentally prepared yourself for 90 days, and you get this notification that it’s going to be in a couple of days. And we’re like, ‘Wait — what? This is incredible.’”
Having a simple, seamless way to accelerate payment on receivables enabled The Lemon Ad Stand to grow its business with larger clients at a time when many companies had to scale back.
“Being able to say we’re going to give X percentage of this so that we can continue for the long game — it was a game-changer for us,” Vanessa said.
Starting his own agency was the realization of a lifelong dream for Calvin Jackson, who began his creative career as a third-grader selling painted ceramics to his classmates.
Still, as a Black business owner, he was self-conscious for many years as to how he would come across to potential clients. He even wondered if having his photo on the company website was a good idea. Could it be bad for business?
“It took me a while to actually own that, appreciate that and celebrate that,” he said.
As The Lemon Ad Stand has grown to serve an array of companies, Calvin and Vanessa now understand the value of leading an organization with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. That not-so-secret ingredient has helped the agency relate to clients, understand their audiences and find the best ways to promote and position brands.
“We have so many people on our team from different backgrounds that we’re able to address cultural matters in an authentic way,” Calvin said. “I want everyone that’s on our team to be themselves.”
That message of inclusivity and opportunity is one he shares as a guest speaker at schools in the Chicago area. Not all kids, he said, grow up in a supportive, nurturing environment. They may not envision having a career or being an entrepreneur. But those opportunities do exist.
“We want to educate others — other minorities in particular — who never even thought about thinking that way,” Calvin said. “It’s a great option and a great opportunity to get out of your current situation and be amazing.”
The journey of owning and growing The Lemon Ad Stand hasn’t always been easy. There have been a few bumps along the way. As it has been for many minority-owned businesses, finding access to the working capital needed to grow has sometimes been challenging.
That’s why the ability to accelerate payment, in exchange for a discount that they determine, is a valuable tool in helping fuel The Lemon Ad Stand’s continued growth. It’s exactly what the company needs as it enters the “big leagues” of serving larger clients.
“We’re in a new world. It’s unchartered waters. And this kind of gives us that blanket of protection that helps us sustain and survive,” Calvin said.
The Lemon Ad Stand uses C2FO to accelerate client payments and fund growth.
C2FO can shrink 90-day payment terms to just days.
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