After years navigating the corporate world as a marketing professional for corporations like AT&T and Petsmart, Chris Hofstetter was ready for reinvention.
Looking to start "act two" of his career, Hofstetter moved to Chicago with his husband and dog, a Shih Tzu rescue named Louie, to start his own digital marketing company. Louie Inc., named after the dog, launched on Nov. 7, 2017. Since then, Hofstetter has found a new sense of purpose as someone who can serve the LGBTQ and small-business communities.
"I never thought I'd like what I'm doing for work in my life," Hofstetter said. "I'm so grateful to find a spot in this world where I feel comfortable to be me and have the knowledge to help people."
Some of Louie Inc.'s services include improving businesses' online presence, website design, email campaigns and brand or logo development. Hofstetter said the agency differentiates itself from others by offering "remarkable" customer service that draws on his experiences in the corporate world.
"I've managed agencies for years in all those corporate jobs, so I learned all of the things things I won't repeat that I didn't like as a customer," Hofstetter said.
Hofstetter said most of Louie Inc.'s clients are small- to medium-sized businesses seeking help with social media management, websites, search engine optimization and email marketing campaigns. He offers these services at affordable prices so he can help the businesses grow.
"It's critical for small businesses to be able to compete at the level of corporations that have money for the best websites, social media or advertising," Hofstetter said. "I'm trying to take my clients to that level, and I'm excited to help them grow because I know the pain."
Hofstetter said he grew up in Middlefield, Ohio, a small town about 45 miles east of Cleveland. His parents owned five different jewelry stores in the neighboring small towns, so he grew up in a small-business world. He combines this experience with the knowledge he learned in the corporate world to run Louie Inc.
Hofstetter said he plans to expand Louie Inc. in its second year by recruiting a few corporations as clients and hiring more employees. Right now, he oversees a team of one part-time and one full-time employee, as well as various contracted developers and designers.
In the long-term, Hofstetter plans to grow Louie Inc. into a "comfortable, medium-sized business" that's respected nationwide, he said.
"I don't know that I'm pulling to be some extra-large company, because the last thing I want is to find myself in a position where I'm removed and can do nothing but run the business," Hofstetter said. "I always want to be on the ground, working with clients directly."
The agency is also in the process of receiving its National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Certification, Hofstetter said.
"We are an LGBT-owned and operated business and are committed to practicing diversity forever," Hofstetter said. "That informs the company culture, too. I want my employees to work in a flexible environment where they can be themselves and be happy."
According to Hofstetter, one of his main goals as CEO is to give back to the LGBTQ community. He's a member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, where he's volunteering his time to work on its website and database. He also plans to take on more LGBTQ-owned small business clients to help them prosper into larger companies.
"As someone who grew up gay in a small town where there were no gay people I knew of, I'm grateful to finally be free to be who I am and give back," Hofstetter said. "I didn't start out with a focus on the LGBT community, but it's the direction I want to go."
Louie Inc.'s website is at www.louieinc.com/ .