Downtown Fort Wayne’s Business Spotlight: Meet Creative Cat!
By Molly Conner
Creative Cat is a small, energetic marketing agency nestled in the Macedonian Tribune building on Wayne Street. Even though their space is tucked away, it’s full of color and character (and a speakeasy-style bar), and it echoes their small-but-mighty attitude.
Much like a cat, their team is spunky, charismatic, and concentrated. Nicole Hayden and Dustin Keeslar — the people behind the Cat — create a partnership that’s equal parts imaginative and pragmatic. While Nicole is more visionary and Dustin is grounded, they share the same zest for creative projects, and they have their sights on growing.
I sat down with founder Nicole Hayden to learn more about Creative Cat and the unique duo who make it all happen.
Tell me about the beginning of Creative Cat: how did you come to be?
I started the company almost freelancer-style about eight years ago, and then brought Dustin on in 2018. Our different wiring makes for a perfect agency balance and made Creative Cat what it is today.
I tend to be the creative visionary, and Dustin is the guy who comes in and says, “That’s great, but we’re going to need a system in place to make that a reality.” And that dynamic carries into our client partnerships, so we tend to work with companies for a long time, because making big-time visions a reality takes a while.
You’re a “boutique” agency. Can you elaborate on that? How does a boutique marketing agency operate, and how does it set you apart?
For us, being a boutique agency is about intentionally maintaining our bandwidth so that we can work closely with a set amount of clients long-term.
It’s also about leading with our strengths rather than attempting to do everything. We’re focused on strategy first and foremost, and we also do killer creative work. When a client’s needs require something outside our wheelhouse, we source and direct to ensure everything is marching to the same strategic beat.
You’re a small team. Can you tell more about what it’s like being a small, but mighty duo?
Yes, we’re a two-cat team currently, with a close network of contractors. For the first several years, our focus was solely on the clients and our service, more so than developing internal systems and culture. Our systems and culture sort of evolved naturally as we went along – and eventually, we just figured it out!
Ultimately, we hope to grow the team, but first we’re working on getting intentional about our leadership style, culture, office space, and systems and structures, so that anyone coming in here will not only have a great time, but also be set up for success and growth.
What’s the culture like at Creative Cat, and how do you foster it?
There’s an equal mix of extreme focus and quirky fun in here. Dustin, the other half of Creative Cat, and I have an almost comical dynamic that ends up working.
Honestly, we’re polar opposites, but we share two major common characteristics: one, we’re obsessed with marketing and what we do here, and two, we’re respectful of others and to each other, and we truly care about anyone we work with.
You’ve rebranded recently, with a new look! It’s playful and energetic. Can you talk about the inspiration behind your rebrand?
Thank you! Yes, the playful energy stems from our dynamic, not just internally but with clients. We actually hired some friends in the industry to help us define our brand, because we wanted a truly unbiased take on Creative Cat.
The end result was a needed shift from solely highlighting our creative talent to leading with our commitment to strategy. Even with that shift from design to strategy, we’re never going to be stuffy here, so it was important for the fun energy to remain.
Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.