We had the good fortune of connecting with Aimee Woodall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aimee, how does your business help the community?
We activate people around things that matter. For more than a decade, we’ve been working with impact-driven brands, organizations and people dedicated to social change. Our work spans across industries, but always connects to one bottom line: a cause-driven mission and a strong sense of purpose. On any given day, we’re working to help improve public health, to increase access to parks and green spaces for all, to save children in the foster system, to transform communities. Our jobs keep us learning about the most pressing issues in our community, across the country and around the world, and then we unite to use our talents to address those issues. There is nothing more fulfilling! Our work is responsive to the greatest needs in the world, and we’re always working in partnership with disruptive, determined people who have a strong story and mission. This keeps us learning and pushing, using our creative talents in better and smarter ways every day.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I founded The Black Sheep Agency 11 years ago. And I could try and weave it into something bigger than it was at the time, but that would be inaccurate. The short of it? I was frustrated and felt like I could run an agency, on my own terms. I wanted the work to be strong, sure, but beyond that I wanted the work to mean something. I wanted it to be helping organizations whose reach depended upon this type of work. Work that really grabbed you by the collar and demanded that you pay attention. Work that could be described as rebellious and critical. One of think the biggest challenges was holding onto that—because there were many opportunities along the way that would have made sense for the agency financially but taken us away from our mission. But when we get to focus on celebrating these unsung, more-than-deserving stories? It’s dynamic and thrilling and makes the late nights and seemingly endless meetings fade away. Which brings me to the second challenge: this work is emotionally exhausting. The journey to change a mindset, shift behavior and accelerate impact is long. The finish line is always moving. You have to find a way to celebrate the milestones and recharge as you go. Luckily, the meaning in the work has a way of inspiring those moments. A key lesson? Hire people who are as passionate as you are. They will be your North Star when the horizon looks cloudy or you’re unsure about where to turn next. The people who work at The Black Sheep Agency are phenomenally talented, smart, capable people—but I love them most for how much they give a damn about the work we do.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, I’m assuming this is a post-COVID world and I can take someone out for a cocktail to help shake off the jet-lag. We live in The Heights, which is also home to the Black Sheep office, so we’d start there—Salty Cats at Better Luck Tomorrow and maybe taking a long walk down Heights Boulevard to take in some good people watching. If we’re leaving the neighborhood, my next stop would be Montrose and the Museum District. The Menil always leaves me feeling recharged and inspired, while the MFAH gives me a chance to reflect and marvel at art over the ages. (And they’ve had some incredible social justice/human rights exhibits—available digitally during the pandemic, which really fires me up.) I’d have to treat this out-of-town guest to a chance at one of Chris Shepherd’s restaurants (UB Preserv being a personal favorite), though you could just as easily eat your way down Westheimer, from State of Grace to Paulie’s to Traveler’s Table. I think Houston gets a bad rap for being a concrete jungle but my family recently joined the Houston Arboretum and we’re constantly out making use of our park trails—I’d want to share that slice of Houston, too. It doesn’t fail to impress me that in a city of six million people, I can still spend my morning watching the mist break over the bayou as egrets and pelicans perch nearby.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Man, where to even start. I would be remiss in not first celebrating my mother, Marlene. Everything I know about being strong, determined and generous of my time and energy, I know because of her. We have this philosophy at Black Sheep that “Figure It Out people” are the best kind of people (inspired by another mentor of mine, Angela Blanchard). That’s the number one quality we’re looking for when we interview. I’d say my mom was the first Figure It Outer I knew. She’s pragmatic and direct, but also finds a way with nearly impossible situations and people. She’s the matriarch to our extended family and takes everyone under her wing, always putting others first. That spirit came with me as I built this business and shaped our culture. Others first. I believe it’s why Black Sheep makes the Best Places to Work list year after year. We’re a family, working in a way where we put each other and our community before anything else. I’m sure a lot of people have their mom to thank—so secondarily I’d say the League of Women Voter’s of Houston. While the organization is more recent addition to my advocacy work, joining the board 4 years ago really helped cement my commitment to making Houston a better place to live and, of course, vote. The League celebrated their 100 year anniversary this year (tied to the ratification of the 19th Amendment) and it’s so rewarding to be a small part of this next century of voter advocacy. The League here in Houston is dedicated, year-in and year-out, to making sure Houstonians are prepared with as much information as possible to cast their ballot on the candidates and issues accordingly. We’re so lucky to have this organization around, especially now, during this election cycle.
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Todd Spoth (first image—not the others)