New marketing company hits national spotlight, sees revenue growth

SANTA ROSA -- At an age many are still novice in their career and in a time new business is sparse, two North Bay entrepreneurs have turned a once miniscule enterprise into a nationally recognized firm uniquely dubbed The Engine is Red.

Last September, business partners Chris Denny, 26, and Dan Sartin, 25, launched their dream business, an events planning company called Sartin Denny Productions. The pair had little more than about $3,600 in start-up cash but made fast headway bagging several notable clients in their first two months. But the rosy beginning was short-lived when in November revenues began to deflate with the onset of recession.

"We had a fairly decent client base by the fall, but very quickly the events started to dissipate as the economy tanked,” Mr. Denny said.

In an effort to raise spare capital to stay afloat, the experienced marketing and Web design partners began taking on new clients as a contract public relations firm late last year. Though the two admittedly did little to promote the new business, the offshoot soon produced about 85 percent of their revenues, and it was clear it was time to refocus.

"We thought about it, and it just made more sense to really pursue the marketing business. ... The Engine is Red [named after an undisclosed “inside joke”] officially launched in February, and within weeks we had nearly doubled our client base almost entirely by word of mouth,” Mr. Denny said.

In March the business hit the national spotlight with a feature by a large television network, which led to requests from about 60 new businesses almost overnight. Now their clients range from companies with 3 to 200 employees, both nationally and internationally with revenues in the multimillions.

The Engine is still growing and has only had the manpower to take on about six new clients, but they expect to add at least 12 more in the next few months. Revenues have consistently increased between 15 percent and 30 percent since February, and they expect to bill about $400,000 in services this year.

When asked what they would attribute their success to, both responded candidly, "We’re just two really lucky guys."

But it is clear a Web-infused approach to marketing has fueled the fire.

"We seek out clients that – like we did – see this downturn more as an opportunity to gain more market share," Mr. Denny said.

The Engine offers marketing packages on a one-time or ongoing basis, including Web design, keyword optimization, branding and marketing campaign management.

Previous to launching the new company, the two worked together as events and marketing directors with New Vintage Church in Santa Rosa. Both also served in similar positions with Education Finance Partners, IMU Marketing and Design and Pacific Pulmonary Services.

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