“I had never really thought of it,” the 60-year-old says. “I had been at a point in other businesses where I was really comfortable being a vice president.” For one thing, she didn’t see many examples of female-led ad agencies, though there was Jane Meyer, who co-owned Meyer Communications with her husband. Moreover, Smith had already been successful by many counts, pitching and winning the business of Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co. while at Young & Company and becoming partner at Taylor Palmisano & Smith. But her life partner, David Doran, kept encouraging her to branch out on her own. So, she exited her partnership, taking with her the 12 clients she had brought to Taylor Palmisano & Smith and a part-time bookkeeper.
“I ended up starting ADsmith because I felt that there was a better way to market,” Smith says. Managing the Coca-Cola account at Young & Company taught her the importance of research, packaging, buying and analyzing media and many professional skills. “That was a total game changer,” she says. “From that point, I just fell in love with it and wanted to do everything for every locally based client the way a big company, international company like Coca-Cola, does it for their brands.” This comprehensive strategy, in addition to Smith’s constant eye on the future of the market and adding the right people at the right time, has led to success. Like any business owner, Smith has also weathered challenges. “Particularly in the early days, a lot of my clients expected me as the owner of the business to do certain tasks that they never would have asked a male owner to do, more clerical tasks,” she says. “There’s less of that these days.” That’s thanks, she says, to societal shifts toward equality and her own growth and experience.