Group of alumni find success with Yellowberri

Yellowberri owners Andrew Sturgill, David Downing, Derrick Hunt and Josh Hampton are WKU alumni who founded the company in 2008 in a Glasgow basement. “I love the company because it’s family,” Hampton said. “Work never really stops here. Great ideas come at 3 o’clock in the afternoon as well as 3 a.m.” (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Casey Downey

The Great Recession that began in 2007 heralded the end for many small businesses. While some investors held tight to their wallets, one group of WKU alumni saw an opportunity to start fresh and do things their own way.

David Downing teamed up with a Derrick Hunt, Josh Hampton and Andrew Sturgill to form a “different” kind of marketing agency.

After throwing around ideas that combined their appreciation for art and nature, the name Yellowberri was born.

Hampton, chief operations officer, said the slump in the economy provided more validity to their model of business.

“It was the best and worst time to start,” said Hampton. “In the recession, a lot of businesses started slashing their budgets, cutting advertising and people. So that’s where we saw our niche. The last thing you should cut is marketing — you have to continue to push yourself and let people know that you’re there.”

With Downing’s video and website production skill set, Hampton’s experience as an editor and Hunt’s graphic design talents, the team created a marketing firm with the purpose of revamping client’s images.

“Every business is unique,” Downing, chief executive officer, said. “But what’s different for us is we’re selling an intangible product, we’re selling ideas. We’re selling a strategy.”

After working in a basement in Glasgow for the first year, Yellowberri eventually found its first home in Bowling Green off of Fairview Avenue. That’s when Sturgill, account executive, joined the team.

Sturgill earned a degree in photojournalism at WKU and gained experience working for MSNBC in New York after graduating.

Since its foundation five years ago, Yellowberri has taken on numerous WKU students as interns.

“As far as education goes, Western did a great job preparing us,” Sturgill said. “We love the creativity that comes out of Western. We’ve had a lot of interns that have been recommended to us through professors and I’m proud to say they’ve all turned into employees at one point or another. They bring in new ideas and a fresh approach.”

Hunt shared what the creative process is like at Yellowberri.

“Whether we’re sitting around a conference table or a coffee table, it’s a lot of stream of consciousness,” Hunt said.

“Everybody throws in ideas and we tear each other down and make fun of each other,” he continued. “Eventually something comes up that isn’t a bad idea, or that sparks a good idea. I kind of like to approach it like improv. The key to improv is to not say no to anything.”

Yellowberri now has 9 full-time employees who take care of around 35 clients, including some in New York, Seattle and Las Vegas. Some of the local clientele includes Graves Gilbert Clinic, American Bank & Trust and Lawton Insurance.

In a partnership to share the old Commerce Building with Lawton Insurance, they recently left their warehouse on Beech Bend Road to move to their dream spot downtown, across from Mariah’s.

“To have something you’ve talked about and have it designed and built the way we wanted to, after thinking about it for four or five years, is a pretty cool thing,” Downing said.

Downing said he never imagined settling down in Kentucky for the long haul, but it’s working out well so far.

“Kentucky is really becoming something,” said Downing. “There are a lot of things happening here to to create progressiveness. And it is just a beautiful, self-sustaining area with good values.”

Downing said it is the values at Yellowberri that matter in the long run.

“That’s what makes me proudest, that we had it done our way,” he said.