Owen Hannay founded Slingshot in 1995 with the belief that clients and agencies were missing out on opportunities enabled by the exploding media landscape and digital environment. Prior to that, he spent seven years running businesses as diverse as Tom-Thumb Grocery Stores, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Pergo Flooring at The Richards Group. Owen started his career planning media for brands owned by Nestlé and Anheuser Busch for what is now known as Publicis Mid-America. One of Owen’s first loves was architecture, which was his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia. Later Owen would return to his hometown of Dallas where he would earn his MBA at SMU. And while he’s worn many hats throughout his career, his favorite two are those of husband and dad.
Q: Did you write a business plan?
A: No. In fact I really didn’t want to be in the agency business at all. I started a golf company and started just writing marketing plans on the side for people just to make ends meet while we started the golf company. I met a guy who was leaving Southwest Airlines and he hired me to do a marketing plan for him. I made the recommendation that they start advertising online, they asked me if I would do it. I said “of course”. From there the agency business just started growing organically. The internet was the engine for our growth; we were very early. We didn’t really know what we were doing so we were just figuring it out as we went; it was a great time, a really fun time to do business.
Q: Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
A: Always. My wife and I took a three week vacation to Nepal and I really got away and started to reflect a little bit and I came to the conclusion that although I had always thought starting something on my own was a fairly risky proposition that for me the bigger risk was never trying, that I would wake up at age 65 and look back at my life and just absolutely hate myself if I hadn’t tried. I could handle failing, but I couldn’t handle not trying.
Q: What advice would you give to any young entrepreneur?
A: Get a job first in the area that you want to start a business in. Learn that area before you go out and try to do it on your own. When I came out of the Richards Group I had all these resources and a much bigger base of knowledge, which allowed me to really get going on something.
Q: How long before you saw growth?
A: It was about two years. We really poured money into digital and saw major growth. We went from 4 people to about 65 in three years.
Q: What do you think are the necessary qualities for an entrepreneur to possess?
A: Perseverance is probably the biggest one. There will be negative things that happen and you have to be able to continue to push on, and with that you have to flexible enough to move a little bit and not assume your business plan will actually happen that way. So be both committed and flexible.
Q: How have you seen the advertising industry change?
A: We talk about two changes: one is the fragmentation of the media that is available, and that is understood pretty well. What is less understood and more important are the changes in the consumers. Consumers have changed the way we get information and shop and even what the definition of a friend is.
Q: How do you see it changing in the future?
A: The digitization of media will continue. There will be a blend of digital and traditional media. Traditional media will become digital.
Interviewer: Jacob Stoner, Junior Advertising Major at SMU