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Entrepreneur Profile , Stacey Nelson

Stacey Nelson decided to go into business for herself for one reason. She figured that with a flexible work schedule, she would be able to go back to school.

Nearly 10 years later, instead of a master’s degree, Nelson’s startup advertising agency, Ad Ease, is still going strong. In 2006, she reported more than $2 million in revenue and almost $8 million in billings.

She credits her success to “sheer will.”

Ad Ease, an agency with a retail emphasis, currently manages about 12 accounts, including the agency’s original client that Nelson started working with as a college student. Then she landed an account with Pat & Oscar’s, a San Diego-based restaurant chain, in 2000 and Ad Ease became a full-fledged agency, somewhat to her surprise.

“I never wanted to own my own business,” she said. “I saw time and time again how hard it was.”

Nelson’s mother owned an accounting firm, and watching her burn the midnight oil made Nelson realize at an early age how long the hours can be for a business owner.

For the first six months, Nelson worked from home, until she was able to rent a small studio. Six months later, she rented an office, and six months after that, she bought the building. Now she works a 40-hour week and travels as often as possible, either for a weekend trip to Montana or a longer flight east to the Canary Islands in Spain.


Name: Stacey Nelson.

Title: President, owner.

Company: Ad Ease.

Company address: 2056 First Ave., San Diego.

Company phone: (619) 243-2290.

Year founded: 1999.

Prior business experience: Advertising account executive.

Average hours worked weekly: 40.

Source of startup capital: Home computer and $120 in my checking account.

2006 revenue: $2.2 million.

2005 revenue: $1.8 million.

Number of employees: 12.

Web site: www.adeaseonline.com.


Birthplace: Sacramento.

Education: Journalism degree with an emphasis in advertising and a minor in marketing, San Diego State University.

Age: 34.

Current residence: Bay Park.

Family: Husband, Bo Smith.

Hobbies: Traveling.


Reason for getting into business: A flexible work schedule to get my master’s degree.

How I plan to grow the business: Results and case studies.

Biggest plus of business ownership: Education and personal growth. The business of business is almost more fun than the business of advertising.

Biggest drawback: Anxiety.

Biggest business strength: People.

Biggest business weakness: There are 40 agencies in town, which creates lots of competition. At any point, a key decision-maker comes in and can make sweeping changes.

Biggest risk: Having key employees leave.

Smartest business decision: Joining the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Biggest business mistake: Hiring against my gut instinct.

Toughest career decision: To pull the plug or not , I didn’t.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Walking away from business that didn’t fit our profile.

The most important part of my business: People.

My business works best when: We enjoy what we do and who we work with.

Best way to stay competitive: Results coupled with great working relationships. Competition can never duplicate it.

How I measure success: Achieving client goals and having long-term client retention and repeat business.


Goals yet to be achieved: Landing the General Mills account.

My five-year business plan: Making the cover of Adweek as the next company to watch.

I would sell my business only if: It was the right thing to do at the time Only if it worked for the clients, the team and the shareholder.

Guiding principles I will continue to follow: Innovation, passion and dependability.


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