This is the last in a three-part series during Women in Small Business Month.
LEWESSON — The glitz and glamour of Madison Avenue still excites Laura Link, and you can hear it in her voice.
However, when she and her husband, Peter Link, decided to start their own advertising agency, New York City and even Portland lost their allure to Lewiston, despite their strong bond. His father was, as she described it, “a ‘madman,’ who was on Madison Avenue,” referring to the advertising world centered on the iconic Manhattan streets.
Before diving into entrepreneurship, Laura Link taught at Montero Elementary School for eight years before moving to Turner, where she taught gifted and talented students.
Although three-quarters of teachers in U.S. public schools are women — a statistic that hasn’t changed much since the early 1900s — Link said she encountered a male-dominated situation in Montero, but did not Not intimidated.
Nothing frightens the president of Rinck Advertising, who describes her teaching style as unconventional, creating her own curriculum and teaching only textbook math.
“I try not to teach the same class twice,” she said. “Being the president of an advertising agency is the same job. You create an intellectually challenging yet psychologically safe space for geniuses to inspire their courage and Unleash their power and see what happens next.”
The early days of RINCK advertising
Getting there isn’t easy. She first reached out to the advertising world when she was asked to shoot an ad for a health insurance company with her two children, recounting her experience with cancer. She said she loved the experience, even though director Peter Link made her cry while filming.
Beset by advertising problems, and her trademark low threshold for boredom, she sought an internship in her 30s in the creative department of Garrand & Company, a Lewiston advertising agency that produced ads for insurance companies. She never went back to teach, but instead worked full-time as a writer.
Fast forward to 2001, and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the country in recession, Laura and Peter Link decide to create their own agency. They finally decided to stay in Lewiston for the sake of their children. “We are partners in life, we become partners in business.”
They started the company in a bad economy, with no client list and no office. However, she said, there is hope. “Lewiston was very receptive and they embraced us. We had free office space available to us.”
Rinck’s first customer wasn’t a paying customer – L/A Arts. So they built on this pro bono work, winning the first of many awards for their work.
As the agency has grown and succeeded, Rinck said each year has been challenging, but now the company is its own entity. She said it wasn’t just Laura and Peter Link. “It’s full of dynamic, very bright talent here. It’s fantastic for me.”
Working in a male-dominated industry
Laura Rinck said that when she started her business, she didn’t expect advertising to be a male-dominated industry. But it does exist and has a reputation for misogyny and sexism, perhaps most famously portrayed on the award-winning TV show “Mad Men.” Set in the 1960s, the critically acclaimed show portrays an industry rife with smoking, alcoholism, sexism, adultery, homophobia, feminism and racism.
Women have made strides in the industry over time, but remain a minority as of 2021, according to employment data processed by business data site statista.com. It cites that 42% of workers in the advertising and promotion industry are women, while 57% are men.
In 2016, a female executive at J. Walter Thompson (probably America’s oldest and most recognized advertising agency of the 20th century) filed a lawsuit against the company’s CEO, accusing him of sexism and racism. The executive resigned within a week.
Link said she was lucky to have never experienced the sexism and misogyny that many other women in advertising have had to deal with.
“The great thing about having your own agency is being able to choose the type of clients you want to partner with,” she explains, which means working with people who share the same values.
At Rinck Advertising, women outnumber men by 3 to 1, and 8 out of 10 executives on the team are also women.
“We don’t recruit women, we recruit the best human beings,” Link said sharply.
Have a checklist – do they align with the institution’s core values? Are they strategic and smart, are they creative, are they innovative, are they geniuses?
“That’s what I’m looking for — leaders, can I empower leadership within them? So it’s no surprise that eight out of 10 are women, but they’re the best people for the job,” she said. Say.
Link’s advice to women who want to be entrepreneurs, leaders and even executives reflects on her career.
“Be brave in your choices, be creative in your vision, and aim for happiness,” she said. “Let integrity guide your mindset. Respect yourself and those who come into your life to teach…know that you are allowed and encouraged to change your course and change yours at any point along your path idea.”
Do more for women’s rights
Link was more concerned when asked about pay equity and gender equality.
“It’s unacceptable that there are thousands of women without bodily autonomy,” Link said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this year to overturn a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. “So, when we’re talking about things like pay autonomy, how can we do that when we’re facing the battle we’re facing?”
The statistics of women in business over the past 50 years have undoubtedly shown progress in owning a business and achieving pay equity, and Link hasn’t forgotten that, but it’s important to note.
“We’ve (come a long way), but we still have a long way to go,” she said. “We simply can’t rest. We fight every day, and not only that, we stand up and speak out. See What’s going on in Iran,” she suggested. “Women’s rights are human rights, and we don’t all have the same rights. I feel strongly about that.”
Link also believes there is a childcare crisis in the country. She said people need to remember that with the midterm elections approaching, every vote counts and women need to know where each candidate stands on women’s issues and women’s rights, such as child care and health care. Her advice to women struggling with the challenges of today’s women is simple.
“Take advantage of education — especially community colleges in Maine — that many courses are free,” she said. “Having a growth mindset is a willingness to learn. It can definitely improve your life,” she says. “We’re fortunate to be in a state with our first female governor, Janet Mills, and I think what she’s doing with community college and tuition will lift young women and young men.”
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