Taking risks and seeing potential in the future is part of Erin Cigich’s makeup. Behind her disarming smile is a serious drive to push boundaries and explore possibilities—not just with her company’s current partners, but also in building new relationships in the tech marketing world.
As a mom to two little girls, Erin is accustomed to juggling a variety of roles, and she manages to pull it off with agility and grace.
I understand that you’re a Florida girl.
Yes, I was born and raised in Florida, and lived here all my life. I went to school at the University of Florida, so I bleed orange and blue. I was so excited to find an opportunity to stay in Sarasota. All my professors said I’d have to be in New York or San Francisco to really make my mark, but I wanted to stay local. So I was happy to find Clickbooth. When I interviewed there were only 10 employees, but the founder was so passionate about the business model. Our model is that advertisers actually pay for leads or sales instead of impressions. It was a natural fit and made a lot of sense. I graduated in 2007, which was at the beginning of the downturn in the economy. So to find an advertising model that advertisers were shifting their budgets to because they knew exactly what they were getting seemed like a great place to be. It was certainly a leap of faith, but very exciting at the same time.
You literally made your way through the ranks.
What skills did you bring to the table? I think that probably the big thing for me was that I never felt something wasn’t in my job description. We started out small, so there was a lot of opportunity to have your opinion in all different pieces of the business. I definitely tried to learn from every single person. So I was not afraid to ask questions—I wanted to understand everything. Women are more naturally empowering leaders and co-workers. We have an inquisitive nature. We are also more likely to step back and get other people’s opinions. The environment here is very collaborative. There’s really no top-down leadership. I think the natural leadership style of a woman fit in really well with the culture we were looking to build.
Women oftentimes don’t advocate for themselves. Do you see that continuing?
Absolutely. I even have to catch myself doing it. For example, I just got back from maternity leave two months ago. And recently when I was talking to the board, they were saying that we’re seeing phenomenal growth, and things are going really well. They asked me what factors may have caused this difference. I started listing off all of the things I thought it could be. I had to push myself to say that the timing of this growth and renewed excitement dovetails with me being back in the office. It just didn’t feel natural to say that.
Do you think women here at Clickbooth see you as a role model?
We have a great team. Half of our executive team is women. Probably a little over half of our entire staff is women. It’s a great group and we build one another up. We try to keep things fun and girly, but we are also there for each other and boost each other up.
How has motherhood affected you?
I have two little girls. My 3-year-old is Charlotte and Lila is five months old. I would say that being a mother of girls has been an exciting experience for me. I was 28 when I first got pregnant. I was already the CEO of Clickbooth at that point, but in my career I hadn’t really felt that being a woman was different. But being pregnant, for the first time in my life I had to stop and take a break, I had to eat and get enough sleep. My actions weren’t just impacting me, but also the baby. You start to say…men don’t do this and have to go through this. And then experiencing maternity leave and coming back and being confident, you have to find your footing after that and strike a new balance. It’s not that feasible to work all hours of the night when you have two little ones at home. So I have to work very hard to get as much accomplished as possible during the day, go home and spend time with the girls and then log on again later. Of course, I love them to death. They’re the best thing I’ve ever done.
What helps you find balance?
My husband and I have been together for 12 years. He’s been there the entire way along my career path. I could not give him enough kudos. I would take on more at work, so he would take on more at home without skipping a beat. And he jumped into fatherhood full force with both feet. I think having girls has made him think even more about “girl power” and not playing into gender stereotypes.
What tips would have been beneficial in your career?
I think probably the most important thing is that even though it’s technology, it’s still relationship-based. Women are naturally great at relationships…building them and breaking down walls. A lot that can happen in technology is communication, which tends toward email and instant messaging—but you have to pick up the phone and see people face to face to develop a rapport. That gets a lot more done than shooting emails back and forth. Women are naturally good at that.
What do you see for yourself five years and even 10 years from now?
Five years out, I’m really excited because Clickbooth just went through this sale process. For the first time ever we have private equity backing and access to capital. The next five years are a fantastic runway to see how big we can build this. We are constantly ranked #1 in our industry and we’ve got a really great brand. Are we going to move through acquisitions? Are we going to grow organically here in Sarasota? What new technologies do we want to launch? That’s the next five years—how big can we get this, and how big can we grow while maintaining our culture and our core? For the longer term, I love Clickbooth so I could see myself spending my whole career here, but down the road I could also see myself getting into teaching, maybe going back to the University of Florida. When I was in school no one talked about digital advertising or online advertising, and I think that would be so valuable for kids to learn.
What do you see as the future of media in general?
Our business model where you just pay for actions is really only about 15 years old—so it’s still in its infancy and there’s a lot of upside to be had. There are a lot of major brands still not tapping into this. As we continue to evolve, offer great technology, take that next step as an industry and mature, we’ll see bigger and bigger brands moving to this model because it just makes sense. I think the cool thing is that since it’s performance based, it levels the playing field—everybody can compete. An entrepreneur with a new idea and great product can now afford to purchase that space. It’s really exciting to see what can happen with online media.
Do you have a favorite quote to share?
“Run the mile that you’re in.” I see that especially with a newborn at home. I’m trying to focus on the mile that I’m in…to execute the present and not worry too much about what’s down the road.