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Past Winners



Located in Roanoke, Va., Access is a full-service advertising agency with a roster of more than 50 clients, from North Carolina State University and Roanoke College to Advance Auto. Access considers itself a different kind of advertising agency, focusing on the creative product by minimizing the number of account managers (they have just one) and allowing clients to work directly with creative staff.

Access cofounders Todd Marcum and Tony Pearman had enjoyed working together in the past at different agencies and had tossed around the idea of starting their own business. In 1996, they decided to make that idea a reality. They haven’t had a slow day since.

Starting with only a small business loan, the partners initially saw the New Century Venture Center (NCVC) in Roanoke as a way to save costs on setting up an office infrastructure while polishing their outward appearance. They quickly found that they would benefit from far more. Marcum, Access president, says the incubator’s business plan and mentoring assistance was instrumental in the company’s success. "We knew advertising, but we didn’t know business," Marcum says. "The incubator was a great place to start. It was good to have someone asking us the hard questions like ’why are your financials low this month?’ It really held us accountable."

Marcum says that the incubator staff went above and beyond the call of duty for them and that Lisa Ison, NCVC president, even helped with accounting tasks when Access was short on staff. Ison attributes Access’ success to the drive of Marcum and Pearman, "They were a model client," she says. "They did everything they were supposed to and always went that extra mile for us and our clients."

Success has been a way of life for Access. It has been recognized for creative excellence more times than any other advertising agency in Virginia, receiving more than 100 awards — including 18 Addy Awards two months after opening and 34 this year. "They built such an incredible reputation in a short period of time," Ison says. Starting with just Marcum and Pearman, Access now employs eight full-time employees and one part-time employee. It has the region’s largest creative staff and had 2001 revenues of $779,850, compared to $17,908 in its first year. Marcum says that he and Pearman are proud of their success: "It shows that we are true to what we started out wanting to be — a great creative shop that has transformed into a real business."

Since its graduation in 1999, Access has continued to be involved at the incubator. Staff speak at incubator functions, advise current clients, serve on the board and even have designed the incubator’s brochures. Access helps the community as well, contributing more than $100,000 annually in pro bono work and discounted service to organizations including the Child Healthcare Investment Partnership and the National D-Day Foundation. Additionally, Ison says that the company’s reputation has brought recognition back to the incubator. "Access winning all these awards has really given [NCVC] recognition. I can’t think of enough good things to say about them."

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