Some businesses stalled under weight of pandemic. Agency Habitat emerged with new brand, new purpose

On the job at Agency Habitat

COVID-19 was devastating for many Fort Worth businesses. Some had to shut down completely. Agency Habitat emerged from the pandemic with a fresh outlook and a new address.

The marketing agency which began in 1973 had been located in the West Seventh neighborhood of Fort Worth. “West Seventh had become so saturated,” says Lindsay Hendon, the vice president of operations. “It was nice to have our own building in the Panther City District.” The agency moved its headquarters to a former industrial building at 2733 Cullen St., west of downtown, in late October 2021. At the same time, the company went through a rebranding.

“Historically, Fort Worth has never been considered a city with a large commercial arts presence” says president Neil Foster. “Agency Habitat is changing that by working with brands and recruiting creative talent at a national level. This gives us the ability to invest in local passion projects and nonprofit organizations we believe in and support.”

The agency supports clients with content as well as an online/social media presence. And after what Hendon describes as “the negativity of COVID,” Agency Habitat saw the need to give back.

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“Focusing on the Fort Worth community became key,” says Foster, a Cowtown native. “The pandemic kicked something into gear for us.”

“COVID was both a blessing and a curse,” Hendon says. “We were fully remote initially but thanks to the pandemic, we are now a hybrid [work operation] and we’ve accelerated into the digital age.”

Rebranding worked organically while the company – and the world – navigated the depths of COVID, Hendon says. “We all got used to remote work and learned to check on each other as teammates. It all translated subconsciously to a deeper drive to put ‘good’ into the world,”

When Agency Habitat considers new clients, the firm is not only looking at the business model but also at the nature of the business: Are they bringing ‘good’ into the world with their business?

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Agency Habitat partners with a blend of have and have-not clients. “We can move the needle for the bigger companies,” says Hendon. “But especially with the creative industry, we can strike a balance. The team appreciates the blend of hard-core business and the feel-good [component].”

Clients include national brands such as 7-Eleven Franchise Recruiting, a Marriott boutique hotel, Pei Wei, Mooyah and PBS Kids as well as local companies such as the nonprofit BRAVE/R Together and retailer Little Muffincakes.

Little Muffincakes made sense for Agency Habitat’s mission. It was founded in 2016 by Debra Raney, a black mother and grandmother who was looking for a way to provide products that reflected the diversity and beauty in children. Her concept was that representation matters from birth so the company offers character-based blankets, bibs, wrapping paper and other products with relatable imagery.

PBS Kids is another logical choice of a client. As Hendon explains, most of its team is made up of young parents. PBS Kids was an appealing client, whether the parents were homeschooling their children or sending them to area schools. The team could relate to the client’s mission of providing quality programming to families. PBS Kids is the brand for most of the children’s programming aired by the Public Broadcasting Service. “We can’t not do this,” says Hendon.

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BRAVE/R Together, a United Way nonprofit that supports the 76104 zip code in Fort Worth, is also a good fit. When Leah King, CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, determined that the new initiative needed creative branding and content help, she went to Foster who agreed to take them on. The two had met during the spring of 2020 when King was on a panel for Visit Fort Worth.

“Agency Habitat brings great resources to the table, including a high quality website, dedicated staff who attend community events and help tell our story,” says King, who notes that the 76104 area code has the lowest life expectancy in the state of Texas and is located ironically in Fort Worth’s famed hospital district. Shawn Lassiter leads day-to-day operation of BRAVE/R Together, which focuses on health care, affordable housing and workforce development.

“Agency Habitat helps us tell their story,” King says.

“Sometimes we don’t take on a revenue-generating account,” says Hendon. “Instead, we look to celebrate diversity. In this case, making sure the zip code is getting the resources that will support the community is key.”

Since its inception in 2021, BRAVE/R Together has offered job fairs, health clinics and affordable housing consultation. “We are trying to help the community break the cycle of inequality,” Hendon says.

Agency Habitat has close to 100 employees ranging in age from 20 to 60-somethings. “We see the different approaches of each age group, which consumers appreciate,” says Hendon. Like the company’s staff, consumers come in every size, age and race, she says. Diverse thinking adds to the team’s creativity.

Lauren Coleman is vice president of creative services at Agency Habitat. She agrees that diversity in the workplace is important. Diversity, she says “helps stretch our brains.”

“We also learn how to be creative on smaller budgets,” she says. “The best creative often comes without the benefit of an endless budget.”

Foster says the agency is fortunate to be able to pivot to the needs of its small and large accounts. “We are nimble, which allows us take on the smaller accounts,” he says.

The agency was inspired by the pandemic to initiate the Agency Habitat Giveback Program, which “we started during the holidays at the beginning of COVID,” says Foster. “Instead of having a Christmas party, we broke up into teams and gave out $10,000 cash to people most affected financially by the pandemic. It was gratifying to the recipients and employees alike and shows how we used our creativity to help others.”

“After going through COVID our team’s priorities shifted,” Hendon says. “Maybe we didn’t need to be in the office every day, as long as you put in your time. It was time to give each other a little bit of grace.”

This mentality shift, she says, aligned perfectly with the agency’s rebranding.

“If we can be better people, we can run a better company. After all the chaos thrown at us, we are stronger coming out the other side.”