Hatch 130, a marketing and design agency in Bridgeport, has come a long way in its two years of existence — and has its sights set on becoming one of the state’s top five agencies by the end of next year.
“We’ve got our flag in the ground,” said owner Scott Lilly at the firm’s recently opened offices at 143 Golden Hill St. “And we’ve done it by being the anti-agency agency. We’re not into throwing around big buzzwords and thinking we’re smarter than our clients.”
Lilly spent several years in television sales at a Charlotte, North Carolina station, Time Warner Cable and Comcast — “I was a TV brat” – before becoming a founding partner of New York City’s Streetmarc Advertising and Marketing in 2004. Three years later he started HeadRush Creative, an ad agency in South Norwalk, which he said had run out of gas by 2015, when he closed it.
“I was thinking about going back to selling TV air time,” the 50-year-old Trumbull resident said. Then Steward Health Care Network, based in Dedham, Massachusetts, came calling, its interest piqued by a pitch that HeadRush had made before closing.
At the time composed of nine hospitals, and now totaling 36, Steward was looking to rebrand and simplify patient access to online information. Lilly huddled with his former HeadRush colleagues Chris Balzano and Justine Rapoport to see if they’d be willing to give it a try.
“They said, ‘Heck yeah, it’s better than having to go out on interviews’,” Lilly laughed.
The three partners — Balzano is creative director, while Rapoport is vice president of client services — worked together to incorporate a personalization feature on Steward’s website that “learns” a visitor’s behavior and can provide content related to their initial search on return visits. The team also developed a custom icon set for Steward to use as a visual language to support the brand’s recognition. As a result, Steward saw a 140 percent increase in mobile interactions, according to Lilly.
Hatch 130 was born and opened at 211 State St. in Bridgeport. The company name refers both to “hatching ideas” and what was then the combined ages of its four employees.
Lilly said the city was chosen for its great potential. “People are talking about Bridgeport now in a way that they weren’t before, at least not in as positive a way,” he said.
Building a client list mostly by word of mouth, Hatch 130 recently surpassed $1 million in revenues, Lilly said. The firm has worked with clients ranging from the Bridgeport bakeries Donut Crazy and Leisha’s Bakeria to Gateway Printing Co. in Bremen, Georgia and the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.
The move to Golden Hill Street, where Hatch 130 officially opened on Nov. 2, was in response to that business growth. The 4,000-square-foot, loft-style office was designed and built by the agency’s own designers. Most of its eight employees are still in their 20s.
The agency is determined to grow along with Bridgeport, Lilly said. In July, Hatch was named the University of Bridgeport’s agency of record, whereby it works with university staff to develop and implement marketing initiatives across its various departments. The work includes print and advertising materials, web development, public relations support and targeted campaigns.
Hatch is also working with Howard Saffan, developer of the Harbor Yard Amphitheatre, the concert venue that will replace the Ballpark at Harbor Yard and is expected to open in spring 2019. And, Lilly said, the agency informally helped Bridgeport shape its pitch to Amazon to become home to the ecommerce giant’s second headquarters.
Earlier this month, the agency announced “The Hatch Initiative,” which will provide marketing services to small local businesses for a reduced fee of $1,000. All of the fees will be donated to a nonprofit, said Lilly. The firm hopes to team up with one Bridgeport business each month through 2018.
Thinking outside the box is key to Hatch’s business approach, said Lilly. “I know, I know,” he said with a laugh. “Everybody says that. But we try to put it into practice.”
“When U.B. (University of Bridgeport) approached us about changing their website, they asked us to look at other universities’ websites. That’s fine if you want your site to look just like somebody else’s, but we’re more interested in stretching out and creating something unique, something that really stands out.”
That’s the plan for Hatch 130 as well. Lilly aims to compete with such Connecticut marketing behemoths as Adams & Knight and Cronin & Co.
“We take the approach that we can never know your business like you do,” he said. “What we do is come in and work with you to make what you do even better.”
“And that’s what we want to do with ourselves as well.”