Rodney Hess is vice president of Rally Marketing alongside his wife of 11 years, Laurel, who is president. Rally Marketing is one of the partners for Innovate South, a conference on startups and entrepreneurship Nov. 13-15 in downtown Lafayette.
Growing up was a rollercoaster ride, which I assume is the norm when your dad was an alcoholic and drug addict. Despite that, he was one of my biggest influences. He had a sixth-grade education and a rough life but was the hardest worker I know. He was a small business owner and worked his ass off — as did my mom — so that my sisters and me could have a pretty privileged life, all things considered. I can attribute a lot of my successes (and shortcomings) to him.
I changed majors so many times in college that I could have been a doctor with how long it took me. No matter what, I knew I wanted to be in some kind of creative major and just resigned myself to the fact that I would never use my degree.
I moved to New Orleans with my wife, Laurel, when she landed a job doing sales and marketing for the Superdome. I found a work-from-home job that sounded like a scam because what the hell is SEO? I got into the industry at the right time and developed some valuable skill sets that put me on the path to full-service digital marketing.
Rally Marketing didn’t start like most agencies. It was the child of two web development companies, Comit Developers and Wide Web Marketing. Laurel was hired to run the agency and a month later I got fired from my position as an online marketing director. I went from fired to hired in 24 hours where I began working side-by-side with my best friend. That was three years ago, and we’ve been growing stronger as a company and a couple ever since.
Innovate South is a three-day, cross-industry conference where all creatives, visionaries, forward-thinkers and entrepreneurs can come together to learn from some of the top experts in the country. It is the product of Opportunity Machine’s Innovation Conference, Cox Business’ Get Started Medical Pitch Competition and Rally Marketing’s Social Media Day, which was started by myself and the team at BBR Creative while I was working there. We’ve been mentors and supporters of the Opportunity Machine for years, so the evolution of Social Media Day into Digital Marketing Day under the Innovate South umbrella was a natural one.
I love working with startups. We have such a diverse range of clients at Rally — from some of the largest employers in the area to brand new businesses just starting out. But helping new startups is one of the things that gets me most excited. It is incredibly fulfilling to help them develop their brand, voice and strategies and see the direct impact it can have in the growth of these companies. Even if they don’t have the budget to use our services just yet, it is just as fulfilling to give them the knowledge and skills needed to do it themselves. As long as I’m positively impacting the local businesses and leaders of Acadiana, I feel like I’m serving my purpose here.
My personal goal with Innovate South is to continue to spread value and knowledge to those who crave it. I majored in education for a minute, but that passion is still there for me. I truly believe that I uplift myself through uplifting others, and Innovate South, along with the monthly Social Media Breakfast and Buzzed Words events we organize, I feel is the greatest opportunity to accomplish this. I’m honored that myself and the Rally team are helping bring this amazing event to Acadiana, and I’m so excited to see it grow each year and eventually become the must-attend conference in the Gulf South.