Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography and Hillary Ehlen
ABOVO: A BRIEF BIO
Abovo is a team of seven that got its start as the marketing team for Fargo-based Hatch Realty. The 27-year-old Young, who served as Hatch’s marketing director for a little more than a year following a stint in New Zealand as a TEDx organizer, was preparing to leave Hatch to start his own marketing agency when founder Erik Hatch came to him with an idea.
“Erik said, ‘Why doesn’t our marketing team here just become Abovo and you can continue to service Hatch Realty and have those resources for other clients as well?’ Young recalls. “And it just made sense.”
Officially launching in January of this year, Abovo has all the capabilities of a traditional agency—creative services, web design, business cards—while also specializing in planning and coordinating high-engagement, off-site events for their clients. Young says the agency thinks of itself as an expert in relational, as opposed to sales, marketing.
1. The disruptive nature of Millennials across a variety of industries is well documented. How are they affecting the marketing space?
Andrew Young: “I always use the example of a bank. As a Millennial, why would I ever need to go into a bank? I don’t like that interaction, I don’t have time, I can deposit my check with an app and almost all banks will waive my ATM fees if I need cash. So how does a bank—knowing that Millennials are brand-loyal customers—create relationships with this next generation? We believe the answer is through events.
“Millennials don’t want to be sold to . . . ever. That includes events. They don’t want to be invited to an event at your bank because they don’t want to have the perception that you’re going to sell something to them. There’s already a barrier.
“Your staff have to act a certain way because they’re at work—even if they’re not on the clock they’re at work. And your clients act a certain way because they feel like they’re at your business. Think about a house party and the camaraderie and relationships that are built from simply making someone feel comfortable—like they’re at home—and removing barriers.”
2. What are some other ways you’re helping your clients engage Millennials?
Young: “We work with a lot of our clients on providing before asking. I’ll use our company as an example.
“One of the things we’re very passionate about is gratitude, especially as a small business. One thing we do is keep a stack of thank-you cards at our desks. They’re just a simple reminder for any time you’re working with a client or anyone who deserves a thank-you card.
“We actually launched a platform on our site that allows you to go in and design your own thank-you cards. You can bring in text, upload logos, do anything really. It’s an illustration of a way we create engagement and interaction online—a way for somebody to come to a site and be given something and interact with a site or a digital space and then receive something physical in the mail. It’s about connecting those two worlds together.
“It’s very easy for us, as companies, to focus on creating engaging digital spaces, but are there ways to connect physical and digital spaces?
“As another example, with Hatch Realty, we started a program where an agent can go in, type in the information of a client they worked with, give us their closing date and we actually have a gift—wrapped in a beautiful craft box—ready and waiting for them on their closing day.
“And while it’s simple, it’s a substantial, heavy gift that they can give to their client. And burned on the bottom, we have Hatch Realty’s logo and information. It’s not meant to be a branding piece, but it’s a piece that anybody can display around their home, and it’s something that’s engaging beyond the relationship.”
3. A passion for small business is one of the things you say motivates you in your own business. Why is that?
Young: “My parents own a pharmacy in small town North Dakota, and I started my first business at age 14. I’m very, very passionate about small business. I think it’s the foundation of our country and for sure our state.
“Right now, I would say we only represent small businesses, and a lot of what we do is work with them to make things more affordable and realistic.
“We have a lot of examples of how we’ve done that. Whether it’s billing over a year or trading or whatever it is, as a small business, you can have everything that a big business can have, and it can be affordable.
“And of course we want to deliver the highest quality we can, but their expectations are a little bit—I wouldn’t say they’re lower—but they don’t need as much.”
4. The company’s name, Abovo, has an interesting backstory. Can you tell readers about that?
Young: “When our team was initially having conversations about the name, we were throwing out a lot of things and nothing was sticking.
“So I called my friend, who’s the smartest guy I know. He’s studying Latin and the classics, he can speak Chinese and Spanish, and he’s a big Harry Potter fan. I asked him, ‘If there were a shop in Diagon Alley that just sold everything creative—maybe an art gallery or some kind of art store—what would it be called?’
“And he said, ‘Well it’s a good question. I don’t know what it would be called, but it would probably come from the phrase ‘ab ovo usque ad mala.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean? Is there one word in there that would kind of illustrate the whole phrase?’
“And he said, ‘Well, I know that, for an artist, it’s all about the beginning until the end, and ‘ab ovo usque ad mala’ is something that means from beginning to the end, the whole process of something.’ That’s when I said, ‘Okay, tell me more.’
“And he said, ‘Well, it would start at a dinner table. The Romans would host a dinner, and they would begin a meal with an egg, and they would end a meal with dessert, apple slices. And they would say ‘ab ovo usque ad mala” as a toast—from eggs to apples. ‘We’re going to be together tonight. We’re going to enjoy each other’s company.’
“And so Abovo made sense to us. It’s this idea of the start of life, the start of an idea (and seeing it through to the end).”
5. You’re someone who’s traveled and lived all over the world. Why did you decide on Fargo as a good home base for your company?
Young: “In Fargo, when you combine community with accessibility and affordability—especially from a business standpoint—why not start a business here?
“There’s nothing you can’t do, and there’s nowhere you can’t be—even if you can’t physically be there. We have a client in California, we have a client in New York City, we have a client in Salt Lake City. And all of them would give us rave reviews, even though I’ve never been to Utah to see that client. I’ve not been to California, and yet here we are with Kevin Blain, the biggest realtor in the state of California, who signed with us.
“I can’t think of many businesses that require you to be in a physical location. And I think the way the world is trending and the way our generation is moving around, it’s going to be a disservice to our future as companies to build a business based on location. So find a place where you’re passionate, where you have family, where you can call home, and for me, that’s Fargo.”