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Teen entrepreneurs help businesses market themselves in social media

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David Bell (right) and Christian Lunny formed Dash Agency while still in high school. They now have a total of 10 employees.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

David Bell (right) and Christian Lunny formed Dash Agency while still in high school. They now have a total of 10 employees. Photo Store

This is not your father's advertising and marketing strategy.

Dash Agency, a company formed 18 months ago by high school friends Christian Lunny and David Bell, are carving out a niche in an area many in their industry are still struggling to understand -- social media.

The two teens -- Lunny is 19 while Bell is a year younger -- help companies tailor their message to clients through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.

And contrary to the belief of some, their clients aren't fresh-faced and still learning how to shave. They're presently working with well-established companies such as the Boyd Group, Recycle Everywhere and Aveda Canada, a manufacturer and distributor of cosmetics.

'The world is on social media. It's not just 16- to 22-year-olds'

"Social media has become embedded in society. We've been able to prove that social media can be an effective tool for marketing and advertising for large brands. The world is on social media. It's not just 16- to 22-year-olds. There are 45-year-olds and 60-year-olds on Facebook," Lunny said.

Dash will tailor the creation of social-media platforms to each client, create the content and manage them to help businesses increase their top-line revenue and market share.

The management includes responding to posts from a consumer or potential consumer on behalf of the company.

"Our manager will know (the company's) voice," Bell said.

They are particularly proud of the campaign they orchestrated for Kawaii Crepe, prior to the launch of its second location in St. Vital. Before swinging open the doors on its first day, there were 300 people lined up around the block waiting to get in.

Dash's goal is to hive off pieces of companies' traditional marketing budgets. They're optimistic about their chances because they can show a vast array of metrics for social-media marketing, such as age, gender, interests and positive or negative sentiments of the people clicking on them, that can't be measured from a radio spot.

"We can show you how many people have viewed it, how many likes it has, the comments and how many people have clicked through to your website. Digital advertising is more measurable (than traditional media)," said Bell, who received his high school diploma last week.

The two managing partners are also two of the youngest tenants in the Exchange District. They took over 2,000 square feet of space on McDermot Avenue six months ago and now have a total of 10 employees.

Scott MacAulay, a Red River College business instructor focused on innovation, said Bell and Lunny are part of the rare one per cent of entrepreneurs who "get it" and don't need outside help or structure to get up and running and, more importantly, succeed.

"Most people can't do it on their own. These guys are one per centers. They figured it out for themselves at 16," he said.

MacAulay said he regularly takes Red River students on tours of businesses in the Exchange District's Innovation Alley. Dash regularly generates the most buzz.

"My students are 22 years old and they think they can't start a business. Then they get slapped in the face by what they see at Dash. It's very empowering for them to see these young guys doing so well with the message, 'You can do it,' " he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2014 B3

History

Updated on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 8:28 AM CDT: Changes headline

5:13 PM: Clarifies list of business partners.

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