The journey to small business ownership began several years ago. In 2015, Anne Shenton and Steven Carter started Ascend Inbound Marketing, a division of Nexxtep Technology Services, located in Valdosta, Georgia. A few years later, Gretchen Elliott joined the Ascend team, and the marketing agency continued to expand its services and client base.
“We started Ascend as a little marketing agency within Nexxtep,” Shenton says. “We found that businesses don’t traditionally turn to their IT company for marketing and website design. They typically turn to a marketing agency. That’s why we decided to brand Ascend differently, to create a new culture and identity within Nexxtep.”
In July 2020, when Nexxtep was purchased by Dynamic Quest, Ascend was not part of the acquisition. Change in the corporate structure provided Shenton, Carter, and Elliott with the opportunity to purchase Ascend Inbound Marketing.
Wanting to continue providing their clients with strategies and tools to reach their growth potential, Shenton, Carter, and Elliott officially purchased Ascend on Oct. 5, 2020.
Not a decision taken lightly, Shenton says, “I wanted to continue working with Steven and Gretchen, who are both very capable, trustworthy, smart, and they let me work with them—it’s a great partnership.”
With a slight name change to Ascend Strategy and Design, the full-service marketing agency continues to offer a suite of services, including branding, website design, inbound marketing strategies, video production, and customer relationship management (CRM) services.
Now serving as Ascend’s CEO, Shenton says the name change speaks to the company’s mission to provide clients with the best strategies and tools to reach their growth potential. “We are always looking ahead and wanting to expand and serve our clients and identify the newest trends in the market.”
Moving toward a seamless transfer, she says, “We retained all of our clients and contacts and have not skipped a single beat. The only thing different is our mailing address.”
Carter, the chief creative officer, says the company’s success comes from each player’s strength. “We wouldn’t have considered this venture if the team wasn’t as strong as it is now. It extends more than just the three of us to take each project to an upper echelon of work,” referencing Ascend team members John Fuller, director of web development, and Greg Block, video producer and graphic designer.
“We are all in this together,” he says. “For me, there is confidence knowing we have this entire team together.”
As the chief experience officer, Elliott is focused on client management and moving projects forward, including businesses located throughout the U.S. and Canada. “We were fortunate while working with Nexxtep that we had the opportunity to grow the business,” she says. “We are all passionate about what we are doing, and excited to continue to grow and help our clients grow.”