In Ashley Logan’s world, everything is moving at warp speed.
Founder and CEO of Yakkety Yak, a Chicago-based marketing agency, she knows that words have power. That every story is worth telling. And yet, as a Hinsdale mother of three very young children (including baby Samuel, born during a global pandemic) she is constantly grasping for the fulcrum point to find the balance she needs to (attempt to) “do it all” and do it all well.
In some ways, ways that can’t yet quite be quantified, the stillness and reflection that became necessary in 2020 may continue to chart the path ahead for this entrepreneur, innovator, dreamer, and builder of stories.
Logan, who once took the leap from commercial real estate (while finishing a master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism) to venture into the world of making a difference with words, says the calm of the Coronavirus storm not only changed the trajectory for her purpose-driven clients, but it also changed the way she thinks about work.
“During the pandemic, I have leaned into the fact that I cannot do it all. When my kids walk in and I am on a Zoom call, I don’t freak out. I’m a CEO, but I’m also a mom, so I’m going to put you on hold while I give my son a pacifier or give my daughter a hug,” says the stylish mother, wife, and entrepreneur from the family’s 1940s-renovation-in-progress. “I let them say ‘hello,’ and then it’s back to business. That allows me to keep stress low, do right by my children, and let my clients see the human side of this. As a boss, I have tried to give my team as much flexibility as possible—especially those who are balancing e-learning with full-time jobs. It’s a really challenging time for working parents, but it’s also an empowering time in a lot of ways.”
Empowering is one word to describe Logan’s accomplishments since she took her first content marketing client in 2012 and informally launched what is today her 15-person Yakkety Yak boutique marketing firm. Other words might be inspiring, enlightening, or even bold.
“I was a creative person working in a super corporate business of commercial real estate. To flex my creative muscle, I started working with nonprofit organizations to help them use social media to build an online presence,” says Logan, who grew up in Oak Brook and graduated from Hinsdale Central High School, as did her husband, Dan Logan. “This was during the dawn of social media marketing. I realized that I could combine my creativity and love of business by starting an agency that focused on writing for a target audience using digital storytelling. I was never afraid of going out on my own and knew that no matter what happened I would land on my feet.”
That fierce, unapologetic confidence is what fueled a journey to build an agency that could help brands and businesses tell more effective stories.
In the beginning, that meant taking on a variety of clients, from law firms to furniture companies to interior designers and doing nonprofit work, often pro bono.
“It was so much fun for me early on,” says Logan, who studied creative writing as an undergraduate English student at University of Tennessee. “We’d do ghostwriting of blogs and social media and email marketing and then we kept growing with our clients, based on their needs. We added website development, Google Ads, lead generation, marketing collateral … and now, advanced video production. It’s been really fun to become a full-service agency and focus on work that does good.”
Now, they seek out a select group of clients who share a common goal—to do good in the world and leave it a little bit better for the next generation.
“We love working with purpose-driven brands. That doesn’t mean you have to be a nonprofit; it means you have to have a greater purpose, or donate back to the community,” she explains. “We help businesses communicate that message to the world. In addition to nonprofit, we have done a lot of work in the health care sector and have developed quite the expertise in neurology, for example. Some of our biggest clients are the American Migraine Foundation and the American Brain Foundation”
As a young girl growing up in Oak Brook, Logan says she loved photography, art, and storytelling with dream of someday going to New York to be a journalist. But the timing was off. That was the last generation’s medium. Logan knew that, almost instinctively, pivoting for a few years before she found her way back to the place she was meant to be.
“I have always been drawn to businesses because I love using creativity to solve problems,” she says. “Content marketing was a way to meld all of my passions, while having the flexibility to be there for my family.”
As we embark on a new year, and a new generation of consumers bends the content marketplace, Logan feels poised and ready to take the lead and help her clients find the audiences—and the engagement—they need to succeed.
“You have to stand out!” says Logan, who lived in downtown Chicago for 10 years before deciding to bring their family first in La Grange, and now to Hinsdale. “People scroll through more than 300 feet of content a day—that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty. Yakkety Yak uses words, graphic design, GIFs, and video elements to try to stop those thumbs in their tracks. There is so much content out there that deliberate and refined creativity is about the only way to get attention.” She and her team do that by reinventing what it means to tell a story, utilizing the power of words as a call to action, a call to think, and a call to question the world around us.
“It starts with understanding the goals of our clients and what they want to accomplish. Then, we figure out who they are trying to reach. After that, whether we are creating a social media post, a website or a Google Ad, we always ask, “How do we want people to feel when they see this?” she explains. “We also focus primarily on working with purpose-driven brands. It is a lot easier to tell stories for brands and businesses who are working toward a greater good or prioritize its social impact.”
Simultaneously, Logan is also raising a young family. Samuel Roy, who will be 7 months old by the time this story is published, was born during a global pandemic to a mother-in-chief who was also caring for 4-year-old Antonia June and 2-year-old James Daniel while running her business from home.
Her advice to other parents during these times? “Give yourself some grace. Everybody’s in the same boat.”
Though there were challenges, Logan says it was one of those moments that will mark a cultural shift in how we parent, how we live, and how we work.
“My office is downtown at Jefferson and Jackson and I have a staff of 15. Our office is currently closed, but we are working with Hinsdale designer and entrepreneur Lauren Ashley Allan to rethink our space so that we can open again in the spring with a different layout,” she explains. “The goal is to create a safe workspace for people to come and be creative, spread out, and get a change of scenery. I can’t wait to see how she helps me transform our loft space into something incredible.”
The pandemic also became a catalyst, and a challenge, for Logan and her team to reimagine how they serve their clients. “When it came to COVID, we pivoted to offer virtual events and fundraisers for our clients. We’ve done some really incredible virtual events on a global scale,” she explains, adding: “We’re leaning on the resources that we have to continue storytelling in a digital space and make sure nonprofits aren’t left behind.”
Because at the end of the day, that’s really what matters. The story. How it’s told. How the audience feels when they hear it. And what action we want them to take next.
“Generation Z is really motivated by social impact, which applies to both where they buy and where they work,” Logan says. “You don’t have to be a nonprofit to do good. You can tie it into your overall business plan and use the opportunity to show off the business, and the good that your business is doing.”
If you look at the Yakkety Yak website, you’ll see photos of Logan and her team of young creatives. In addition to sharing their individual talents, the mini bios tell you what they like to do in their down time. For some, it’s travel. Others, it’s cooking or pursuing a hobby.
What does Ashley Logan do when she’s not working, being a wife, mother, daughter, or friend?
While she also loves travel (and guilty pleasure: Netflix!) you’ll mostly find her masterminding her next project.
“I am brainstorming other business ideas or mentoring other young entrepreneurs. I believe deeply in paying it forward so do a ton of nonprofit work both independently and through Yakkety Yak. I am a founding board member of 100 Women Who Give a Damn, a women’s organization here in the Western Suburbs. We just took our latest event virtual, which was awesome,” says Logan. “I believe in the power of community.”
Her personal mantra is to ask for help, accept help, and give help.
“When you are feeling low, someone else is on their game. And when you are feeling great, find out how you can support someone who might be going through a rough patch. I’ve found that when we all lean on each other and be a little bit vulnerable, that’s when meaningful relationships are forged. This applies to both family and business.”
A new year awaits Logan, her family, and well, the rest of us. With leaders like her in our community, we think we might be in good hands.
For more information about Yakkety Yak, visit yakketyyak.com.