Officially 1 Year Since Launching Story Mark Studios

Story Mark Studios one year difference team photo

Exactly one year ago today we launched Story Mark Studios. 

I wouldn’t say it was out of desperation, but that isn’t far off. GGMM was clearly in decline:

  • Opportunities had fallen through with some larger companies
  • Our revenue was going in the wrong direction
  • We were offering too many services as a small company
  • We lacked focus and direction 

It was either time to make a change or shut it down. I didn’t want to shut it down: I had clients I really enjoyed working with, I loved our small team, and my significant other, Bre, had recently come on.

It was time for a change. 

We signed a lease for a unit with no walls in Walker’s Point – which we would then build our new studio in – and, as a team, we decided to rename the company Story Mark Studios. 

We got to work and over a few months we re-branded the entire company and the podcast, built out a content studio in Walker’s Point and, on this day last year, we announced the launch of Story Mark Studios. 

Last year wasn’t easy, it was a true rebuild, a take-a-step back to (hopefully) get several steps forward kind of situation. 

A lot of good things came out of last year. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and thankful to all of our clients and everyone who has supported us through the transition. Here’s a highlight from each month.

May: Launching a Video for an Amazing Org that Helps Vets & First Responders

Matt Mcdonnell, founder of Next18, reached out to me on LinkedIn interested about the new company we were launching and needing a video for their big annual golf outing to raise funds for his organization. He was the first person to go through our new storytelling framework for a project. What I didn’t know is that this would be one of the most impactful projects I’ve been a part of. Next18 helps Veterans and First Responders by putting on free golf camps that integrate mental health exercises and training. They also provide ongoing support to Vets and First Responders after the camp. It was inspiring spending time with Matt, and the campers, and getting to share their stories. 

PS: Next18 has grown significantly since this time last year, expanded camps and now has partnerships with some major brands and organizations. We are honored to play a very small part in their story 🙂 

Check out the video here.

June: Launching Milwaukee Uncut w/ Central Standard Distillery 

After about 200 episodes, we shut down “The GoGedders” podcast and relaunched it as “Milwaukee Uncut” in June. Episodes include Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Steven Novak & Travis Deiner, and YouTuber Tommy G. It was important to change the brand and narrow the focus to entertaining and inspiring untold stories from Milwaukeeans. Another thing that was exciting to me was landing our first title sponsor, Central Standard Distillery (we never had one with the GoGedders). I’m a fan of their product and they’ve been a great fit for the show. 

The show got off to a slower start than anticipated, and we ended up having to take a break from August – December, but since relaunching it in December the video content has really taken off – generating hundreds of thousands of views per month and thousands of hours of watch time on Milwaukee-based content.

July: Launching a Top Ranked Podcast for Johnson Financial’s “Your Money. Your Mission.”

We started working with JFG in early 2023 on a podcast that would serve as a new communication channel not only to their thousands of customers but also to a mass audience to help turn complex financial situations into actionable advice. 

After helping bring the new show to life and implementing a launch strategy the show climbed up the US Apple Charts hitting #53 in Business (a giant category) and #15 in Investing (right ahead of Jim Kramer’s Mad Money and several Ramsey Network shows). 

August: Bre’s One Year Anniversary with Story Mark

In August of 2022 my Director of Operations, who did a great job, put in her two weeks after four years. I am a terrible operator and didn’t know what to do. Bre had been helping behind the scenes for years and was interested in making a leap to a new opportunity.

I called my Dad (who loves Bre) and let him know the situation, here’s how the call went: 

“I might hire Bre” 

“You know the odds are against you right” 

I didn’t think I’d ever run a business with my significant other, now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. As someone who has never had business partners it’s been rewarding building something with someone I care deeply for. 

PS: It does help that Bre is very kind, very patient and we have complete opposite skill sets. Still would not recommend this for all couples.

September: The Oliver Open 

Oliver Construction is an awesome Design-Build company out of Oconomowoc with a very rich history that we’ve got to lead marketing for the last couple years. 

One of their yearly highlights is the Oliver Open which has been raising money for local causes for the last 34 years. 

PS: If you have a commercial construction project coming up (large or small) check them (and the website we built) out, they do amazing work for a wide range of companies.

Lyndsey, Richie, and Bre at ProBrew

October: Oktoberfest with ProBrew

We initially started working with ProBrew earlier in the year on a case study video for the new equipment they installed at Wisconsin Brewing Company Park for…. Wisconsin Brewing Company.  This led to a few more projects including another case study video we did for their ProFillV machine at City Lights and a video for their annual Oktoberfest event where customers and prospects come in from all over the country. 

These projects were special to me, not just because we got to have some really good beer during most of them I also got to work with my Uncle Derek who founded the company in 2008. It’s been cool watching the company’s growth from the outside over the years and seeing them get acquired by ProMach in 2002 and to finally getting to do some work for them.

PS: Shoutout to Evan who leads their marketing and was great to work with 

Check out our Dockhounds video here.

November: Hansen Reynolds Site Launch

Last summer we got to start working with Hansen Reynolds, a boutique litigation firm in the Third Ward. We got to run them through our Story Mark framework to help clarify their messaging and value propositions and got to redo their site which was launched last year. We also got to revive their “At the Bar” (get it) podcast. 

Partners/Founders Tim and Toby and Marissa who leads marketing have been great to work with and it’s been fun seeing their continued growth and expansion into new offerings.

You can visit their website here

December: A Video Project with The University of Notre Dame 

One of the first non-Disney movies I remember watching with my Dad several times was Rudy. At one point when I was eight, we were playing catch in the living room and when I laid out to catch a pass, my head caught a table leg. I still have a slight bump on my head to this day. My Mom wasn’t happy. 

Anyways, I was very excited to start working with The University of Notre Dame’s Higher Powered Learning Team on a series of new videos that we got to film at Blessed Sacrament here in Milwaukee who uses their technology. 

Lewis, Father Nate (Chaplain of the Football Team) and Megan were great to work with and we’re excited to see the growth of their Higher Powered Learning offering. 

PS: A big congrats to Father Nate who was on the sidelines for Notre Dame’s Sun Bowl Win this year. Joining the legendary Sean Cullen as a Sun Bowl Champion two decades later.

Screenshots of Richie, Bre, and Oakley visiting Nicolet Law and of Milverine video going viral

January: Milwaukee Uncut Goes Viral & Strikes Partnership with Nicolet Law

In January I was in California, I hit publish on an Instagram video on how far the Milverine walks per day. Five minutes later I hit refresh, the notifications kept coming in. The video eventually reached 241,000 views and has been shared over 4,000 times. 

A few weeks later Russell from Nicolet Law reached out and we got a deal done pretty quickly to add another sponsor to the show with Central Standard. 

We really appreciate Nicolet’s support of the show and everyone who watches or listens. The show has continued to grow and generate hundreds of thousands of views per month and has some awesome new things in the works for this summer. 

PS: Bre and I got to stop in Hudson, WI, while coming back from Minneapolis last week to visit Russell and Cassie (who runs marketing). Highly recommend the back patio at The Smiling Moose in Hudson. 

Richie and Bre at Podfest and a social media post with Richie and Rayshawn

February: BBBS & Speaking at PodFest 

This one is more personal. 

I got to start with Big Brothers/Big Sisters this February. I was looking for a way to get more involved in the community and heard great things from a couple of my friends in the program regarding the impact you can make on a kid’s life. 

I got paired with Rayshawn, an energetic 6 year old: Highlights have included Dave & Busters, the beach last weekend (I think I still have sand in my ear), and roller skating – where I use one of those trainers that looks like a walker with the other 6 year olds since I can’t skate. 

PS: If anyone wants to get involved/has questions feel free to reach out, I know they could use more mentors and I’d be happy to talk. 

In February, I also got to speak at PodFest in Orlando. I’ve been open on this newsletter about my anxiety issues especially when it comes to flying and traveling so this was a good test for me. It may not seem like a lot but in the past year Bre and I got to travel to Maine, St Croix, California and Orlando. None of those trips have been easy for me but it’s something I’ll keep doing and hopefully progressing with. 

Mikayla first day photo and screenshot of Shorewest campaign

March: Shorewest Campaign Launch & Mikayla Starting 

In March, we got to start working with Shorewest on a digital campaign (Facebook & Instagram) targeted at first and second time home buyers. We created a series of podcast style clips, as well as some in the field reels of realtors and used some graphics as well. 

Proud to say the campaign is going strong and the content is significantly outperformed the market on social. 

Another big thing that happened in March was hiring Mikayla in a lead strategist role. She’s been doing great work the first few months on the job and we couldn’t be more excited to have her on the team.

April: A Family Affair

A Bold Plan for America is a project that we’d been working on behind the scenes for a while for JB (my Dad, John Burke) and got to officially launch it in April. 

JB is on a mission to educate America on the facts and A Bold Plan for America is a book and a content platform that solves America’s biggest problems and presents nonpartisan solutions to help better our country.

You can check out the website we built and download his book for free.

We’ve also got to work with my sister Courtney on her new clothing line CB Santa Barbara and have been running her digital ads. We were happy to see a large increase in purchases and ROAS on Meta ads last month, she’s got some great stuff you can check out here.

May: That brings us to today

We have a ways to go but I’m proud of how far we’ve come over the last year. 

A big thank you to everyone who has supported us and our additional clients who did not get mentioned in this short email that we are very excited to be working with: First Federal Bank, Coakley Brothers, Westbury Bank, Ellsworth Adhesives, BiKASE, and Charlee Bear (Oakley is very excited). 

Also, if you live in Milwaukee we are Vagabond’s small business of the month and have our own taco and marg you can order from there.

If you’re interested in working with us don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly