Hallie Bram Kogelschatz is no stranger to seeing the abilities of a troubled economy.

Bram Kogelschatz and her husband, Eric Kogelschatz, worked at a marketing firm in Boston that largely focused on the automotive industry. When the last recession hit and the automotive industry was dealt a fatal blow, Bram Kogelschatz and her husband learned a vital lesson.

When they came to Cleveland in 2013 and started their own strategy and design consulting agency, shark&minnow at Shaker Square in Cleveland, they vowed their firm wouldn’t pigeonhole one industry or business.

That lesson is the reason shark&minnow stands today after its business-to-consumer sector – meaning anyone dealing directly with the public, such as retail – suffered a substantial impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bram Kogelschatz, who is CEO.

“We just said from the get-go, ‘We have to make sure that we have expertise in various sectors, and that we’re thinking about a new business strategy that allows for us to go after businesses in different areas,’” said Bram Kogelschatz, a resident of Shaker Heights and member of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Heights. “You live and you learn, but that’s definitely a big part of why we’re still on solid ground after having essentially weathered the storm in the last quarter. Because we have so much business-to-business work in the firm, that has really kept us going.”

One of the biggest changes shark&minnow has seen is the type of work it’s creating for clients.

The firm, consisting of 10 full-time employees temporarily working remotely, is doing more long-term projects ranging from strategic, organizational change to marketing to help clients think about how they ran their businesses pre-pandemic, and how they could best operate in the “new normal,” Bram Kogelschatz said.

Clients have also taken advantage of the slow past few months to complete large tactical projects they’d been putting off, in collaboration with shark&minnow, like redesigning their websites.

“(The pandemic has) not necessarily changed the quantity of work, but the type of work,” Bram Kogelschatz said. “It’s really giving space for these bigger picture and larger tactical projects that our clients have the time for and want to be focusing on right now.”

shark&minnow’s emphasis on creative collaboration is what makes its projects distinct and successful, but the adjustment to a virtual format proved to be a hurdle for brainstorming sessions at first, she said.

“It forced us to think differently about how we get the work done, and I’m really proud of the resulting work,” Bram Kogelschatz said. “I think that will be something that we carry with us when we go back to the office: to always be thinking about how to do divergent work that really performs for clients. We’ve worked on some really exciting campaigns during this time, just forcing ourselves to think within the box – in addition to out of the box.”

Bram Kogelschatz is optimistic that with shark&minnow’s diverse expertise, strong relationships with clients, sustainable methods to devise creative collaborative projects and ability to complete new projects, the firm will remain on solid ground into the future.

“We’re excited about having had this moment to take a step back and really think about our business,” Bram Kogelschatz said. “This has really forced a number of issues to the surface for us to work on as far as how we do work and the types of clients we can really help. We have a lot of new business things in the mix as well.

“We always say that the reason we exist is to do great work with great people, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. As soon as we can be back in the office safely, we’ll do it there. Until then, we’re very fortunate that we can do it off site.”

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