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Five Questions for the ‘Head Honeybadger’

Everybody dreams, but not everybody dreams of staying local and helping others promote their businesses successfully.

As founder of Dream Local Digital, Shannon Kinney is doing exactly what she set out to do. The Maine native grew up in Spruce Head, graduated from Georges Valley High School, and earned a degree in journalism and advertising from the University of Maine at Orono.

Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham

During her high school and college years, Kinney honed her business experience while working at both The Courier-Gazette and Bangor Daily News, and, after college, working for five years for Courier Publications prior to leaving the Midcoast.

From Bar Harbor to Portland to Chicago to the Silicon Valley, the experience Kinney gained as she progressed in social media and online marketing gave her the fortitude to come back home and solidify her roots in Maine.

Dream Local Digital has gained thousands of clients throughout the United States and Canada since its inception in 2009 in Kinney’s garage. Since then, she has moved the business from the Thorndike building to its new home in the original Courier-Gazette building on Main Street.

Kinney took time out of her recruiting, presenting, blogging and parenting roles to answer these five questions:

What made you think of Dream Local as a business investment?

“I started Dream Local Digital for a few reasons. First, I had been helping large companies like Google and Microsoft develop revenue streams with my consulting business here and I wanted to get back to helping smaller businesses again. Online marketing provides huge opportunities for businesses. I’ve been working in social media and online marketing for years, and wanted to bring those skills to local businesses.

The other reason I started the company was my daughter Rachel – I wanted to build more roots here in the Midcoast near my family. So, I had a baby and a company at the same time, both of them came in 2009. And, by the way, having a startup business and baby at the same time is not for the faint of heart!”

How do you find the diverse group of employees you have?

“We are constantly recruiting and we are looking for people with heart and passion for what they do. If Dream Local Digital were located in Silicon Valley, or even Boston, there would be large pools of potential employees that would have online marketing backgrounds. In Maine, that’s not the case. So we recruit from diverse backgrounds but with marketing experience, and then train them how to do what we do. We have people from the legal, banking, hospitality, real estate, marine industries and more. It helps us relate to our wide variety of clients and their needs, and it keeps things interesting at the office!”

How did you come up with “honeybadgers” as a collective name?

“Because our team has such diverse backgrounds, and also because I wanted to develop a strong culture of passion and drive in the company, I needed to find a unifying theme for everyone. Something that we could all identify with, that would personify our willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done for our clients. I chose” honeybadgers” because of their tenacity, drive, fearlessness. We show all new team members the funny YouTube video, and we all bond together and are proud to be a honeybadger.”

What is your biggest success in life?

“There are so many things for me to be grateful for. I’d say my largest successes are threefold – that over my career I’ve been able to build a strong network in the media industry of colleagues and partners, all over the world. That I’ve been able to work with such an incredible team at Dream Local that all believe in the same dream I do – that small businesses need resources to grow with online marketing. In fact, in 2010 Google wanted to purchase the company, but it wouldn’t have been at the point of the dream we are working towards. And finally, my largest true success is being Rachel’s mama. She is incredible, and by far the best present I’ve ever received.”

What keeps you here in Maine … Rockland?

“In all the places I’ve lived, this has always been my home. When I had the opportunity to start my own business and have Rachel, I wanted our roots to be here for both. I feel so grateful to be here. We’re also lucky that Dream Local Digital’s investors and board of directors all support us staying in Maine. We chose our building in Rockland based on our proximity to fast fiber, and it has had a huge impact on our business and productivity, because everything we do is online. Maine may have made it harder, but being in such a beautiful place — I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere.”

As featured on Village Soup, by Beth A. Birmingham

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