The mission of Ignite Digital Strategy Group is a bit different than most other full-service digital and brand agencies. And as it turned out, that differentiator helped the company sell.
”I started Ignite because I wanted to create an agency that focused on creating high-quality brands and campaigns for purpose-driven organizations, to move the needle and create positive change in the world,” founder Jeff Rum explained in a press release.
Based in the Washington, D.C. area and founded in 2015, Ignite works with mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, foundations and associations. Clients include Operation Lifesaver, Kodiak Brown Bear Center, Washington National Cathedral, and National Gaucher Foundation, according to Ignite’s website.
After COVID-19 took hold, Ignite tripled in size to 16 employees plus contractors. By December 2021, Ignite worked with 40 customers — mostly retainer contracts with large to mid-sized nonprofits, associations and charitable foundations, plus a few corporations. During this time, revenue increased significantly, Rum told They Got Acquired, by several million each year.
Meet Ignite’s “perfect match”: CMR
Rum wasn’t looking to sell his bootstrapped agency, but when Creative Marketing Resources (CMR) approached, he was intrigued. “They had a similar mission and shared values,” he said. “I felt a connection to the leadership, their direction and the opportunities for growth. One plus one equals three.”
Since 1995, CMR has specialized in cause and behavior-change marketing for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and government agencies. The Milwaukee-based communications agency’s clients have included the Air National Guard, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and GE Healthcare, the merger announcement noted.
CMR and Ignite became CMRignite, a cross-cultural social impact and cause marketing agency, in January 2022. The terms of the deal were not released.
In a video announcement, Rum said Ignite’s mission was to leave the world better than they found it. “Wait, wait, Jeff,” Bowles quipped. “Hold on, that’s our mission.” The acquisition “is a marriage of two companies with nearly identical missions,” he said.
After the transaction, the combined team had 60 full-time employees, with Bowles as president and Rum as Chief Marketing Officer and advisor to the board of directors. CMRignite had a revenue of $40 million as of January 2022, per the merger announcement.
“It was a journey and an excellent learning experience,” Rum said.
He noted he found the buyer’s broker to be a great resource as he navigated the deal. Even though they didn’t represent Ignite, the broker led a strong process.
Rum also urged founders to do some personal introspection before embarking on a sale to ensure they’re ready. “It becomes a full-time job to go through [a deal],” he said. “Make sure you have a strong management team to steer the ship while you are in the M&A process.”