Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in marketing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ben Swartz, Founder and CEO of Marcel Digital, located in Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Marcel Digital is a mid-market, Chicago-based, integrated website development, and digital marketing agency. We were founded 20 years ago with the mission to change people's minds about what an agency is and what it can be. We focus on the B2B lead gen and B2B e-commerce segments. Our clients are technology firms, healthcare, associations, financial services, manufacturing, logistics, engineering, and more. Our best clients have marketing teams stretched beyond their limits who don't want to hire five separate agencies to support them. They see us as a trusted partner, efficiently eliminating issues and driving business success.

Tell us about yourself

25 years ago, I was working at AOL and was not very proud of my work. We were a cliché, a massive faceless entity that regularly overpromised and under-delivered. My client Marcel used to tell me that AOL was garbage and that he wanted to move his budget to this new company called Google. I told Marcel that he inspired me and that I was going to start a company selling Google Ads, and that I wanted him to be my first client. Marcel told me to get out of his office. In a fit of desperation, I told him I would name the company after him. Marcel took pity, and the rest is history. To this day, I am motivated to never be a cliché. Not in work, as a leader, personal life, and with my family. I feel a responsibility to improve everything and anything within my control.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I'm very proud of who we are as an organization. Specifically the people I have had the privilege to work with. People who worked at Marcel many years ago still reach out with fond memories of personal and professional growth. That goes back to day one, 20 years ago. Our teams have been talented, passionate, curious, and dedicated to our client's success as well as the success of Marcel.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Sticking to your convictions even when it is inconvenient. AOL used to tell us to be chameleons. In many cases, it would make life much easier. However, those firms never survive 20 years and don't retain top talent.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Figure out how to both be patient and pivot quickly, all at the same time. I'm not kidding.
  2. Listen to everyone's advice and ask everyone a million questions. However, only depend on your own instinct in deciding which to apply to your business.
  3. Be willing to do more than anyone else. Not just working more hours. Be willing to think more rigorously about delivering more value than the competition.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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