The Charm School transforms everyday small business owners into marketing mavens
By Liza Long
Photography by Copper Chadwick
Meshel Miller and Chelsea Snow are two of the most interesting people you will ever meet in Boise – which is saying something. These self-described “schemers” have been close friends for 15 years, and in November 2012 they also became business partners when they launched one of the most unusual marketing companies you’ll ever encounter: The Charm School.
“We’re not trying to replace a traditional public relations or marketing firm,” says Miller, who also heads up program coordination and marketing at TRICA (Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Arts). “We don’t want to retain clients, we want to graduate them.”
The Charm School works like this: you are a small business owner, a nonprofit director, or an artist – someone who wants to change the world. But chances are that your skill set does not include knowing how to tell the world why you’re the best. So you meet Snow and Miller downtown for coffee, and you explain your passion with them. They work with you to develop a do-it-yourself comprehensive marketing action plan, and abracadabra! With a few nose twitches (and some WordPress skills), you know how to win friends and influence people, both on-ground and on the web.
“Our goal is to make marketing seem interesting, fun, important, and most of all, easy. It doesn’t have to be hard to be successful,” Snow, who also owns the eclectic Sixth Street Maker-sourced gift shop Bricolage, explains.
The Charm School “classes” cover all the basics. Clients learn about Communications, which includes a complementary marketing audit to assess their current impact. They then move on to Social Studies, a comprehensive program designed to help even a novice navigate the social media world with skill and poise. Applied Arts focuses on graphic design and branding. And finally, Field Trips covers the fun topic of strategic and high-impact event planning and execution. At the end of their courses, clients earn a Report Card and graduate with the marketing knowledge to promote their products or services.
Miller and Snow are accomplished strategic event planners, as evidenced by their popular quarterly Feast, a showcase for The Charm School’s commitment to community outreach. The Feast takes place at the Visual Arts Collective, where ten carefully vetted local presenters pitch their artistic projects to Boiseans ¬– think Ignite Boise meets on-ground Kickstarter served up with gourmet school lunch fare. At the end of the evening, guests vote for their favorite, and the presenter with the most votes wins seed money for his or her project.
“Our first Feast was a huge success,” says Miller. “We gave away $1000 to Sam Johnson for his King Dazbog life-sized dinosaur puppet.”
The Charm School’s June 12 Feast included presentations by Boise artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers, and The Basque Market catered the event’s “school lunch.” If you want to know the winner, you’ll have to check The Charm School website, where you can also sign up to be a potential presenter for the next Feast, scheduled for September 11, 2013.
“The fun thing about the Feast is that it’s Immediate,” Snow says. “It gives everyone a chance to connect and network while supporting the creative community. And our presenters get the chance to learn how to talk about their ideas.”
The Charm School’s success depends on how well its clients embrace its lessons. “We are not a nonprofit,” Miller stresses. “We are a marketing company with community outreach. The Feast gives us a chance to showcase what we do well and to support a cause that we both love.
To learn more about The Charm School and sign up for the next Feast at www.thecharmschool.org.