Recently I had the opportunity to interview Coronado entrepreneur Jacques Spitzer, and I felt so inspired by him that I decided when I come back in my next life, I’d like to be just like him! He radiates a genuine sincerity and zest for his life’s work.
Obviously plenty of people in Coronado have their own success stories, so what makes Jacques Spitzer’s story stand out? Spitzer found success in the profession he originally chose, but wasn’t wholly satisfied with his career path, and forged a new one that even he never foresaw. Because he followed his gut, he is where he is today, the Founder of Raindrop Marketing as well as the Head of Client Relations.
Spitzer was born in Walnut Creek, California, and at three years of age moved to the San Diego area, moving to Coronado when he was in middle school. After graduating from Coronado High School in 2004, Spitzer studied at UCSD, where in 2008 he earned a degree in Communications with an emphasis on “a video and visual story-telling background” with a minor in urban studies and planning.
Spitzer was hired by NBC, where he worked as a Broadcast Writer and Digital Reporter. “It was just over a year of my life, but it was one of the most pivotal years of my life,” he explains. “Two things happened for me there. The most important thing is I met my wife (Tiffany) when I was working there. What more can you get out of a job?” he asks as his face lights up with a huge smile. “The second part of that was my whole life up until that point I think I had sort of a naive view of what I wanted to do. I always felt that I would thrive at and enjoy being either a news anchor or potentially doing the soft news in the morning.” He says he envisioned covering “the fun stuff” such as beer festivals or events at local elementary schools.
“When I transitioned to the web team (at NBC), they had me reporting on the fun stuff,” Spitzer says, adding, “and what I found really quickly was that for the first three months it was really fun. It was sexy.” He recalls the excitement he and his friends felt the first time he was on TV. Even though he was exactly where he envisioned himself, he realized he wasn’t living up to his own potential and wasn’t maximizing all of his skills. He remembers thinking, “Although I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I enjoy my coworkers, I don’t feel challenged by this, and I know that the end for me (of this profession) is coming sooner rather than later. This isn’t going to be my lifelong career path.”
It is here that Spitzer’s bravery led him to a new chapter of his life’s story. Many people, just happy to have a job that pays the bills, would be content to stay put in a job that was coveted by others, but Spitzer knew he had to feed his inner determination to forge a new career path.
While still working at NBC, Spitzer says he “weaseled (his) way into the marketing department part-time, which was very interesting because they were on a different floor.” Spitzer credits Sean Monzet of NBC for getting him involved in marketing. Even though Monzet was only a few years older than him, Spitzer recalls thinking, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” It was Monzet’s “energy” and the fact that he was on “the cutting edge” of what he was doing that inspired Spitzer to pursue marketing.
Spitzer recalls doing a lot of “soul searching toward my career” during this time period. He knew he was “blessed” to have his job at NBC, especially since NBC at that time started outsourcing most of their promotions department, even Emmy Award-winning employees, because of “the economic downturn.” Of that day in late 2008 when he learned that he still had his job while others had lost theirs, Spitzer remembers thinking, “I’ve hit a dead end here. There’s nothing for me here.”
Even though his job was indeed fun, (Who wouldn’t love getting to cover local beer festivals and reporting on which San Diego restaurants served the best breakfast?) Spitzer knew he needed to make a change. “I knew I couldn’t do this for another three decades,” he says. “I’m the kind of person that once I reach that point, why waste time? Let’s start something!” He knew “so many people would give their right arm” to have his position at NBC, but he couldn’t let that lingering guilt stop him from making a change.
With a new vision for his life’s work, Spitzer got his first freelance marketing client outside of the work he was doing at NBC. As he changed career directions, he consulted with several people, including his future-wife Tiffany, his parents, and even Mayor Casey Tanaka, who was his high school history teacher. “I hadn’t seen him (Tanaka) since high school, but I sat down with him for coffee, and said, ‘You’re someone I really respect.'” Again and again Spitzer was given the same “obnoxious advice” from everyone he sought guidance from as they told him, “You’ll know when you know.” No one was going to make it easy for Spitzer and give him the answers or permission he sought. It would be up to Spitzer alone to figure out whether he was making the right choice to leave his job at NBC.
Spitzer began applying for marketing-type positions, but he didn’t get any offers because he was “highly unqualified” for those jobs at the time. His singular client began “seeing success” though, and “other people began noticing” so Spitzer made the leap, leaving his job at NBC.
“I started Raindrop Marketing officially in February of 2009, and I didn’t leave NBC until February of 2010,” Spitzer says. “For about a year I was working part-time here (Raindrop Marketing) and part-time there (NBC).”
Bravery and tenacity will only get you so far in life, but it is his wife Tiffany who Spitzer credits with truly making his business thrive. “A big part of the success that Raindrop has been, in the background, is my wife’s input. There are a lot of reasons.” Tiffany, who he says is “absolutely foundational to the success” of Raindrop Marketing, is a five-time Emmy Award-winning producer herself, and was an executive producer at NBC for about fifteen years. With over a decade of leadership experience, “when it comes to getting some really sound input about how to lead people, she’s been a big part of all of that,” Spitzer explains. With unfiltered sincerity he compliments Tiffany saying, “I don’t even know where I would be without her wisdom. I always say, ‘She’s the wisest person I’ve ever met.'”
Raindrop Marketing has fifteen employees, known as “Raindroppers,” including Spitzer himself. “When you start a business, it’s about being good at your craft, period. As you grow, it’s about being good at your craft and finding and maintaining the right people,” he says. When he talks about his staff, it is apparent that he not only respects his employees but genuinely likes them as well.
Spitzer is complimentary of his staff, who are touted as being “professional storytellers” on the company’s website. Art Director Yena Lee has been with Raindrop for six of the company’s seven years. Spitzer praises her and says, “She’s really created a foundation for the expectations that people have of our artwork.” Adam Wagner, Business Partner and Head of Strategy, has been with the company for four years, and his experience with “big brands and big agencies” has been an asset to Raindrop Marketing. “He brings a strategic mindset to our business that has created incredible results for our clients, which has really helped Raindrop to continue to grow,” Spitzer says.
Raindrop Marketing’s belief is that “Every business has a story that needs to be told.” Clients can choose from multiple forms of marketing, including video production, print collateral, and website design.
Spitzer offers passionate reasons as to why clients should consider video production. “Video has always been a big part of what we do, but it is an increasing part of what we do. The first reason is that video is by far the most powerful. There’s written content and photographs, but while a picture says a thousand words, a video speaks volumes. You can move people to tears. You can move them to action. You can do things through video that you just can’t do with anything else. Video is a big part of communication, not just marketing.”
Spitzer continues, “The other thing I would say is we live in a world where the thing that all brands are fighting for is focused attention from the consumer. A video is something where people will remember your face, will remember how you made them feel, and they will remember things about the video, which is why video is a growing part of what we do.”
“Content marketing is a broader term for what we do,” says Spitzer, whose company “provides context and insights as it sheds value” onto its clients’ businesses. Raindrop Marketing isn’t about simply trying to get consumers to buy products, but its goal instead is to show consumers what Raindrop’s clients “offer the world.”
Raindrop Marketing is actually in the process of transitioning its name to Raindrop Branding and Advertising. Video production, print collateral, and website design are, according to Spitzer, “all tools for building a brand. The thing that I’m most passionate about is branding. Branding to me simply means being able to accurately not only communicate who you are today, but who you want to become and want to be. I think some of the best things I hear clients say is when we create shoes that are just a little bit bigger than they’re ready to fill, and then they’re able to grow into those shoes.”
Who are Raindrop Marketing’s clients? Spitzer is proud of the fact that over the past seven years Raindrop Marketing has worked with over twenty-five businesses from Coronado. Even if you had never heard of Raindrop Marketing prior to reading this article, chances are when you look at the clients listed on the company’s website, you will recognize numerous Coronado companies that Raindrop Marketing has helped brand.
One client whose success Spitzer speaks of is one of its earliest clients, Mission Healthcare, which has grown basically 3,000 percent. Another client is the San Diego Symphony. “We’re really making an impact with them to bring a new audience that’s never been there. Numbers that have been flat for years or downtrending are going up dramatically. We’re breaking almost all records! Last summer we broke their sales record for the summer. This year we still have fourteen concerts left, and they’ve already sold more tickets than all of last year for their Masterworks season, which is their most heavily classical season. They started a new jazz series, and they’re going to reach 150 percent of their goal. Being able to say, ‘We’re making an impact on the way people feel about your company not just the way they buy,’ is what we like doing.”
The most challenging part of the branding business is that Raindrop Marketing “has doubled every year in terms of gross revenue.” How is that a challenge? “Every year the challenge has been more around making sure that we have the systems in place that we don’t lose the Raindrop magic. In seven years we’ve never had a client leave to work with another agency, and in seven years we’ve only had one person start working at Raindrop and decide to leave,” explains Spitzer. (That one person has only been in the last two weeks, and he is leaving to start his own videography business.)
Spitzer continues, “In an agency world where relationships last as long as a campaign, and it’s churn and burn, work people to death, and everyone is just a cog and is replacable, that agency mindset has been the antithesis of what we want to do. We try to have a healthier balance, and are really careful about who we bring into our team and our culture, and that stability has been a big part of our success for our clients. We had a client come in yesterday who I haven’t seen in four years, and he knew half the team. He was going around saying hi to everyone.”
What’s the most rewarding part about being the Founder of Raindrop and serving as the Head of Client Relations for Jacques Spitzer? “I’ve always thought of Raindrop as sort of a vehicle on the employee side for people to live out their passions and dreams. We don’t want people working here who just want a paycheck. We pay people well here, above industry average, but that’s not the point. The point is we want to give people an opportunity to do what they love, and it makes me feel so good to see people grow. I think because of the intimacy of not only our team but also our interactions with clients, people grow faster in one year here than they did in five years somewhere else,” Spitzer says. Spitzer loves watching employees maximize their potential, and believes “when people are given more responsibility, more hands-on interaction, and the work has real impact, not in just billing hours” people thrive.
Spitzer continues, “On the client side, the list of clients we have impacted has too many for me to count. When you do stuff where you know that what you did makes a huge impact, it feels really good.”
One of Raindrop Marketing’s clients includes the Coronado Tourism Improvement District. I asked Spitzer how he felt about some people’s comments on local social media pages that Coronado needs to stop advertising to tourists because there are “too many tourists” who visit. Spitzer responds, “I think everyone is going to approach their views of Coronado differently just based on their own mindsets and interactions. To me the beauty of Coronado is the fact that it’s a tourist town, but it’s one of the few places you can live, where you can literally be out on a week day, week night, or a weekend, and think, ‘I feel like I’m on vacation even though I live here.’ I figured out that the reason for that is there’s an energy around tourism and the tourists being here.”
Spitzer goes on to explain, “What people aren’t necessarily thinking about is the type of businesses that can exist because of tourism, such as small restaurants. There are so many businesses that we as residents take for granted, businesses that wouldn’t exist without the support of tourism. We have such a thriving community, and tourism is such a big part of that.”
When people have negative reactions, Spitzer is mindful to mention that Coronado businesses and hoteliers have to think about the whole financial year, not just the three or four months of the summer tourist season. “Residents may want the rest of the year to themselves,” but, Spitzer adds, “the businesses need people year round.” He reminds people that businesses cannot sustain themselves on patronage from residents alone because “residents don’t spend like tourists do.” He says, “When you’re on vacation, you will make decisions for purchases that you will just not make on a day-to-day basis.”
Spitzer adds that the Coronado Tourism Improvement District is truly targeting bringing in corporate groups. They’ve shifted their focus primarily away from the “day-tripper.” “There’s just sort of a reality that we absolutely love all of the things that we have because of tourism, but we don’t want the tourists.” Spitzer acknowledges that along with tourists comes parking frustrations at times, but the fact that the city has a “surplus of budget revenue” is directly because of tourism. “As a member of the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, I know the impact that tourism has on our economy,” he says. “A lot of our local businesses are owned by local people, and tourism has helped them grow and spread their wings to achieve their dreams.” He equates tourism to the weather, saying, “There are a couple of days when it’s just unbearable, but for the most part it’s not really that bad, and the positive way outweigh the negative.”
Of his journey Spitzer says, “It’s wild. Coronado is such a unique and special community. I think that is a big reason why we have so many clients there. I think we understand that, and we understand how to market a business by fostering a relationship both with the base of the residents but also reach out to those tourists that come through on a frequent basis. There’s also a support network of countless people who along the way have made a big difference on our business, whether it’s referrals or giving us opportunities.” Spitzer goes on to list some Coronado residents who he calls “instrumental in the early days” of Raindrop Marketing, including Steve Johnson, Dr. Jeff Felix, Steve Baker, and Coronado Schools Foundation’s CEO Patty Cowan. He thanks them for giving “us an opportunity to make such an impact.”
One of the aspects about Jacques Spitzer’s leadership that is so refreshing and inspiring is his use of the word “we” over and over again. It is evident that the firm’s Raindroppers are truly a team. “The reason that we’re successful is because of our team,” he says. Speaking about Raindrop Marketing’s new office location in Little Italy, where the company relocated a month ago, and how the company continues to grow, Spitzer asks himself, “How did we get here?” He answers, “We got here because I was able to find the right people. We are so lucky because we have such incredible people. We have created a culture where when people (employees) come in, they feel welcome, and the result is great results for our clients. The last thing I do is take it for granted. I feel like that is so rare in an agency world to have such consistency of both quality output but also consistency of your interactions and character of the team.” Raindrop Marketing is projected to double again this year, and with leadership like that, it’s no wonder!
In 2012 Jacques Spitzer helped to produce “Wampler’s Ascent” about Stephen Wampler’s climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The full length feature documentary won over 40 awards at film festivals around the world, and qualified for the Academy Awards in 2014.