Tampa Bay Business Journal - After stints at the Lightning and The Heights, Eric Blankenship charts his own course with Mind Stone Marketing Group - 10-2-20
by Ashley Gurbal Kritzer, Senior Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal - Original Article
Eric Blankenship thinks the novel coronavirus pandemic has created the perfect environment to launch his own marketing firm.
Blankenship was laid off from The Heights, the mixed-use district anchored by Armature Works in downtown Tampa, in March as Covid-19 shut down restaurant and events venues across the U.S. In June, he decided to launch his own firm, Mind Stone Marketing Group. Before joining The Heights as chief marketing officer, Blankenship was vice president of marketing at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He spoke with the Tampa Bay Business Journal about the decision to go solo and why now is the perfect time for an entrepreneurial venture. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What made you decide to strike out on your own?
To be honest, after being laid off from Armature Works I started looking for the next gig, the next opportunity. I’m used to taking great opportunities regardless of where they might be located. But give the current environment, it was challenging everywhere and there weren’t as many as I would have liked.
I have some great relationships in this market, and it led me to some business owners who needed marketing support. So I believe there’s a little bit of a niche right now with businesses reopening, getting back on track and preparing for 2021, because they’re either without a marketing person or have never had one. There’s an opportunity to help stabilize but also help prepare them for 2021.
What did you learn at the Lightning that you'll apply to this new venture?
A lot of programs and initiatives I was doing at the Lightning on a much grander scale can be applied to a small business. At the Lightning, we did a significant amount in digital marketing. We knew what our target audience looked like. We’d create various campaigns to go target people that looked like that person. I can do similar things for a small restaurant that might not have had the capacity to do that or just the sheer knowledge to say, 'If this is the type of person who generally comes to my restaurant, how can I go after more people like them?
You strike me as a team player. How’s the adjustment to going solo? You know what’s been fun? I have the opportunity to, I’m going to say this bluntly, to do what I want. If I believe I can make an impact for somebody or some business, then that’s who I want to work with, rather than be told I have to do ABC regardless if there's an opportunity to do it better.
What has the pandemic taught you?
I’m a little biased because I’m a marketing person, but now more than ever, brand is paramount to everything. And the brands that are going to survive are the ones using this time to stabilize their business but also preparing for what the new normal is going to be. Anyone who thinks they can do what they did before and be successful I think might be in for a surprise because I don’t know how much of our lives is ever going to be what it was.
What’s your best networking tip?
When you reach out to people, be authentic about that opportunity you have to connect with somebody - honestly care about that person, who they are, what they’re doing today. I think that’s important. I think people need to be connected more than ever but it’s important to be authentic.
Early bird or night owl: Night owl. I go to bed every night around 2 a.m. If you text me before 2 a.m. there’s a 90 percent chance I’ll text back.
Go-to Starbucks order: Not only do I not drink coffee, I’ve never had coffee in my life. My wife tells me one day I’m going to break down because I don’t do coffee, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink.
Daily step goal: I don’t know that I have one. Is that sad?
How do you destress: I play rec league hockey on Saturday nights in Brandon.
Currently reading: I’m reading a lot of short pieces on - and this sounds somewhat lame - but on businesses adapting to this pandemic and what it’s going to be moving forward. My big focus right now is anything that has to do with how businesses are adapting and evolving into 2021.
Currently binge watching: My wife and I planned to watch "Breaking Bad" many years ago, and she started it without me. So we’re now watching it together, her second time and my first time.
Parting shot: Especially right now, the thing that sticks most with me is if you never give up, you never fail.