Scottsville native returns to invest in community
When Ada Oliver left for Georgetown College shortly after graduating from Allen County-Scottsville High School in 2005, it felt like an ending to her life in Scottsville. The opportunities for an advertising creative like herself weren’t available in her hometown, and Nashville seemed like a better fit.
But a bad economy and fate brought Oliver to work as a designer at advertising agencies in nearby Bowling Green in 2012. At these companies, she honed her skills in branding, web design, and app and game design with some big-name clients, including Billy Crystal, the NBA and the actor, Tom Hanks. “I helped build his typewriter app,” says Oliver, explaining that Hanks is an avid collector of vintage typewriters. “So, we created an app for him that would allow your keyboard to type in the different fonts from his collection.”
Ten years after starting her career, Oliver quit her job and started her own advertising and branding business from her home in Bowling Green. And on March 13, 2020, she decided to open up Oliver Creative just off the Square in downtown Scottsville.
She describes Oliver Creative as a brand strategy and design company. They offer everything from logo creation to website design, helping with marketing strategies and other problem solving ideas. “I never really intended to be back in Scottsville,” Oliver says. “But there was an opportunity to lease a building here. It was in my price range, and it gave me the ability to operate this agency I’d started right in my hometown.”
She wanted a few things from the business, she says. First, she hoped to invest in the city that gave her so much and also be part of the rebirth of the historic Scottsville Square. “Every time I was in town, I’d look out and think, ‘If we don’t do something now, will these buildings be here in 50 years? We need to take care of them now. We need to maintain the integrity of our own downtown.”
She also wanted a little more freedom to serve her clients on her own terms. “I work for long hours, but I also love to talk to people,” Oliver says. “I love to be outdoors, and this has provided me flexibility and a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy some of the passions I have outside the office.”
Building her own business also gave her the opportunity to do things in a more personal, less superficial way. “I like to have meaning behind what I do,” Oliver says. “I like to talk to my clients and find out what drives them, why they do the things they do. It serves them better. It brings more meaning to whatever they offer, and it connects their customers to them.”
She describes how one famous brand does this. “Oftentimes, we look at branding as the logo, like the Nike swoosh,” she says. “But really, it’s the gut feeling that you get when you think about Nike. It’s the urge to run or to accomplish something.”
Braving the pandemic
When she signed her first lease on March 13, 2020, it turned out to be a bigger day than Oliver imagined. That same day, the president declared a national emergency for the COVID-19 outbreak. “It was the day the world shut down,” Oliver says. “Everybody else was going home to work, and I was doing the opposite.”
Her largest client at the time stopped its marketing functions, which left Oliver scrambling. For the first few weeks, she sold Scottsville T-shirts to make ends meet. But soon, she gained more local clients, including restaurants looking for new ways to reach customers during a time of shutdowns. Soon, however, businesses sought her out to rebrand themselves or make changes they’d been too busy to implement before the pandemic. “I think people realized they were going to have to get creative with their businesses and how they reached people,” she says.
Oliver Creative’s fiber internet connection with NCTC helped in a big way, she says. While other towns and cities across the country were struggling to meet the increased demands of bandwidth, Scottsville wasn’t. “I started in an older building with older wiring, but NCTC came and got me set up on fiber broadband,” Oliver says. “I work with a lot of large files and graphics that I have to not only build but send back and forth to clients. I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do in Scottsville if it wasn’t for NCTC’s fiber internet. The efficiency of the internet here is a huge, essential part of this business.”
Soon, Oliver outgrew the space and found a new building directly on the Square. She’s gained even more clients, some of which are outside the region. She’s also helped smaller businesses with branding on a pro bono basis. She calls it the branding fairy, and it’s her way of giving back to her community. “It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding,” she says. “I love being part of all this.”