The founders of Clear Lake Connected, a boutique digital marketing business, may not be what you expected. Paige Rolling and Jillian Enke founded Clear Lake Connected in August 2020 as high school juniors after attending the NIACC Youth Entrepreneurial Academy. Clear Lake Connected serves the small business owners of Clear Lake, creating brand awareness and engagement campaigns, bringing Main Street businesses into the digital world. Paige and Jillian were inspired to start Clear Lake Connected after seeing the effect of COVID-19 on Clear Lake’s predominately brick and mortar shops.
“We live in Clear Lake where there’s a lot of local businesses. With COVID hitting, we saw how hard it was for them and we thought how can we help? And we came up with social media marketing,” explains Jillian. Clear Lake’s businesses have traditionally thrived without the assistance of digital marketing – reliable foot traffic from the town’s well-known status as a bustling tourist destination has often been enough. But as mandated closures and social distancing measures placed limitations on business as usual, many local businesses struggled to adapt. Without a website or even a social media presence to fall back on, let alone an online store to maintain sales, small brick-and-mortar shops were caught playing catch up. Paige and Jillian determined that there was a need – and they were positioned to help fulfill it.
These young entrepreneurs are capitalizing on their technological savvy and understanding of modern marketing. The upcoming generation of entrepreneurs are digital natives who have an innate understanding of how digital technologies, including social media, can be used to leverage business. Now they’re turning the tables to create their own digital marketing business to benefit their own community. Clear Lake Connected provides a range of social media and digital marketing services which can be found at their website www.clearlakeconnected.com. These services include social media management, the planning of social media posts, content creation, customer interaction, and the creation and revamping of accounts. The company specializes in Facebook and Instagram management, but also provides services for other platforms as well.
Paige and Jillian credit the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy for helping them get started. The Youth Entrepreneurial Academy is sponsored by the Hanson Foundation and is held every summer at North Iowa Area Community College; the one week camp is designed to provide high school students with the fundamental skills to start a business and become an entrepreneur. Students learn how to take an idea through customer discovery, build a working business plan, and determine startup costs and cash flow, among all the other necessities of building a thriving business. Jillian says, “We came up with the idea a little before YEA started. We came in with the idea and through YEA we set up some of the most important connections we have. Connecting with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Pappajohn Center to reach clients was really important.” Paige added, “YEA gives you the path to actually start your businesses. When you go through the program you realize this really is possible for me to do.”
Paige and Jillian are building a business and creating local jobs, while lifting up their fellow Clear Lake business owners. As some of the youngest members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, they’re linked in to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and know just how impactful a business like theirs can be. Paige and Jillian pitched their business plan at the regional Pappajohn Student Entrepreneurial Venture Competition, held at NIACC on March 12, 2021. Clear Lake Connected was one of three winning business plans and was awarded $500 in seed money.
Kelley O’Rourke of the NIACC Pappajohn Center said, “It has been my pleasure to work with Jillian and Paige and observe their journey from concept to fruition. They’re high school students with busy lives, jobs, and preparing for college in the fall, and they still have the mindset and determination to create something of their own and help their community as well.”
As young entrepreneurs, Paige and Jillian have a few words of advice for their peers. “Whatever your idea is, just do it. You think you have to wait for the right time, but you don’t,” Paige said. “There’s never going to be a perfect time,” added Jillian, “so just jump!”
The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is the expert in rural business innovation and success. In partnership with North Iowa’s Small Business Development Center, together we provide tools, support, and resources to Iowa’s entrepreneurs. We counsel both new and existing local businesses, from Main Street to industry leaders. We’re growing Iowa’s entrepreneurial culture through grade school initiatives, college and community programs, and business training and development. Contact the NIACC Pappajohn Center at 641-422-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.