Story by Hannah Gatens
If there is something that relates all of us together, we’re willing to bet that is has something to do with a good story.
Stories have the power to change the world. Literally. And that’s exactly what Steph and Rudy Heinatz have set out to do — change the world one story at a time.
Using my journalism training from Christopher Newport University (where Steph and Rudy also did their undergraduate work) I took on the Consociate story using the 5 Ws and H – WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY, WHERE and HOW.
This is Consociate, in my words.
To best understand Consociate, and to get an idea why Steph often posts on Facebook how much she loves the team that’s come together, you have to meet the team.
Steph Heinatz — The woman behind the operation and the one who dreamed about connecting people one story at a time.
Steph is a creative and kind-hearted storyteller who grew up an Army brat (homes only in Germany and Gloucester, Virginia), graduated from Christopher Newport University, spent time reporting for the Daily Press and other papers (including time in the Middle East) and built Consociate from the ground up.
Ask her and she’ll tell you it started with pillow talk with Rudy. Dreaming of taking her training as a writer for newspapers – narrative, non-fiction storytelling – and applying it to businesses.
Nowadays? She’s watching her design launch into a full-fledged media company. Momma to one of the littlest Consociate “interns,” Will, Steph found it hard to imagine herself with the skill-set to dream, build and connect a company when she was Will’s age, but singlehandedly pursued it.
Steph’s true passion lies in storytelling.
Rudy Heinatz — This is a guy who believes in small businesses, and in Steph. He supported her idea full throttle. He knows all-things technology (well…he’s sort of the IT guy in the Consociate offices by default…but we love him for it), all-things number-crunching, and managed to completely paint (one of his least favorite things) Consociate’s new office space with a smile. Rudy actually quit his job as a healthcare executive to put his effort full-time into Consociate (again…believed in the company and the dream with everything he had). Another graduate of Christopher Newport University, Rudy continued on to earn his Masters in Business Administration from William & Mary. Rudy’s true passion is complimentary to Steph’s, but also completely opposite — Rudy loves the analytical and logistical side to the company, creating an excellent partnership, especially paired with Steph and her creative side.
Kelly Marderosian — A lover of life, writing, running, and two more of Consociate’s littlest interns, Carter and Peyton, Kelly works as a Communications Associate and Social Media Director at Consociate. What exactly does this mean? Well, Kelly is the brains behind much of the social media, blogging and photography at Consociate — all completed while listening to Jack Johnson’s Pandora station. Seriously. We share an office and music most days of the week! Kelly and Steph go back further than Steph and Rudy. They worked on their high school newspaper together, went to prom together and while drifted apart for a short time after college are back at it again! By the way…did I mention her photography. She has an incredible eye and passion for it.
Michele Harrison — Because she draws inspiration from “everything,” you can only imagine how extraordinary her designs are. Michele is Consociate’s Creative Director, graphically bringing stories to life. The logo? Michele did that (with Mark…more on him next). Business cards? Michele, too. She does the designing for clients to make sure their branding represents their story. Certainly, Michele’s inspiration derives from another “little intern,” her daughter, Olivia. Michele also founded and runs an apparel line for humans, but inspired by dogs called “Funny Little Dog.”
Mark Harris — Mark put down the microphone from his days in a high school rock band (we like to bring that up whenever we can!) to become the Web Director for Consociate. Mark has had a knack for art his entire life and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Communication Arts. When he’s not working, you may catch him at Happy Hour cheering on the Chicago Cubs or Washington Redskins. This year, 2014, don’t talk too much about the Redskins, though. They haven’t had their best season. Mark and Steph also went to high school together. Pretty sure she told me he took her to the homecoming dance their sophomore year.
Hannah Gatens — That’s me…and I’m switching to third person here.
A recent graduate of Christopher Newport University, Hannah joins Kelly as a Communications Associate for Consociate — blogging, press releases, feature writing. Hailing from Roanoke, Va., she’s recently nestled into Williamsburg to pursue her career at Consociate. Hannah loves all-things writing, cats and beach.
It’s best to use Steph’s words here. No one tells it like she does.
“Storytelling. It’s an age-old tradition. It’s how we connect to one another. How we teach each other. How we live. And today, it’s also how we do business. Through a blend of marketing, media and management techniques, Consociate uses the rich traditions of storytelling and modern communications to help market businesses.”
You could say that Consociate really started its launch process in 1998 when Steph and Rudy met and fell in love as Wal-Mart employees. True story. Steph was a cashier and Rudy was the manager of cashiers (he eventually stepped down to work in the Lawn and Garden department because they hit it off quickly). But it wasn’t until recent years that Consociate really took off. Steph officially founded the company in 2011. By 2012 she had left her full time job to invest in the company and the clients who trust her to tell their stories. In 2013, Rudy left his position with a healthcare company and later that same year Kelly came on to the team. By 2014, Hannah (that’s me) joined the team, Michele started out freelancing with Consociate (and is now full time designing) and Mark came on officially.
They don’t call it “the land of the life worth living” for nothin’. Gloucester, partly credited with developing the passions that Steph and Rudy share, has created an easy community to love, an environment fit for storytelling and a company that wants to do just that—to tell your story.
Plus, as I mentioned above, Steph, Rudy, Michele, Kelly and Mark were all high school classmates at Gloucester High School, so needless to say, Gloucester holds a special place in each of their hearts.
Consociate’s first office space was, well, Steph and Rudy’s dining room table. It eventually moved into a one-room office just off of Gloucester’s Main Street in the home of one of the town’s newspaper founders, the Glo-Quips. This summer, 2014, it transitioned into what Steph calls the grown up office. On 6553 Main Street, Consociate’s 1800-square-foot office space overlooks Main Street and is a creative space we all love to vibe in.
The other WHERE that’s important to mention here is WHERE the Consociate clients are. And that’s everywhere. Today, clients stretch from New York City to Washington DC, Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, and Richmond to, you guessed it, Gloucester.
Why does Consociate tell stories? It’s because stories can change the world. Think about it. If a customer connects to a story and patrons a business, that business can do better. Better business means more jobs. More jobs mean healthier families. Healthier communities. A healthier world. And if you ask Steph she’ll tell you she’s seen change happen in real time.
“I’ve watched as people we work for have a really great month in business and turn around and give back in meaningful ways to the community. What’s meaningful? Thousand dollar donations to food pantries. Donating a fully catered dinner as a fundraiser for a free clinic. Meaningful.”
In the Consociate office, the talents and passions of the Consociate team are colliding to create something awesome. Looking forward, Consociate is working to become a full-fledged agency. And here’s our short answer as to how we think this can happen: we think that building and strengthening our team and continuing to do great work across a marketing, media and management platform will put us there. The opportunity to tell somebody’s story is privilege.
However, full-fledged storytelling takes some strategy — when you mix the perfect amount of graphic design, web content, relationships, and experiences, it can garner extraordinary stories…and results.
Consociate’s hope is that stories move people to action — to enact change — whether it’s in the White House or your own house, the highlands of Ethiopia, or your own backyard.