In honor of the launch of the Arizona Advertising Guild, we’re sharing how Fingerpaint Scottsdale came to be. It’s fair to say it started about 27 years ago, when Michelle Olson, head of Fingerpaint Scottsdale, followed her curiosity to the high desert of Arizona, making the geographically desirable move from the cold Midwest. For Michelle and her husband, it was love at first sight, and her hometown of Minneapolis stayed firmly in the rearview mirror.
Olson easily adapted to public relations from a background in journalism. Her love for writing led her to journalism in high school, adorning her letterman jacket with letters acquired from being a sports reporter and then editor of the school’s newspaper. Olson’s high school counselor then introduced her to public relations and told her the best part: She could continue writing and likely make a better living than in a career as a reporter.
“It gave me all of the things I was craving, like storytelling and persuasion and helping companies solve problems,” Olson said.
Her first job in Phoenix was at BJ Communications, which allowed Olson to integrate into the community. She spent eight years there before moving on to Lavidge Co., where she worked as director of public relations until the 9/11 terrorist attacks abruptly shifted her focus.
“I was so impacted by those moments,” she said, particularly because of her two sons, who were only seven years old at the time. “I needed to work my life around my boys.”
Her renewed focus on family served as the catalyst to a decision that would impact Olson’s entire career. Less than two months later, she left Lavidge and opened her own firm, Olson Communications. Olson ran the firm out of her home for the first eight months with a small team, working long hours after her sons went to sleep.
The company flourished, landing such notable clients as the Phoenix Coyotes and Glendale Arena in the company’s formative years. In 2014, Ed Mitzen, founder of Saratoga Springs–based Fingerpaint Marketing, reached out to acquire Olson Communications and its 13 employees.
Although Olson admitted she was nervous to sell her company, her excitement for “all of the tools that go along with that, the assets and the digital presence, giving us a national stage locally,” eased her nerves.
Ed Mitzen, Fingerpaint’s founder, had his reasons for choosing Arizona to expand.
“As we grew, we started to gain more and more clients on the West Coast, so logistically speaking it made sense to expand out west. We chose the Phoenix/Scottsdale area because, for the sake of our employees, we knew they could offer a much higher quality of life and cost of living than cities like San Francisco could,” Mitzen said. “We could not be happier with our decision.”
The merger was ideal for Olson to expand on the work her firm was doing at the time, encompassing all areas of the communications field. Fingerpaint is now incredibly well-diversified, with 37 different clients on its roster and nearly 200 employees across four offices. And this growth is continuing in 2018, as Fingerpaint is currently forecasting to reach nearly $50 million in annual revenue, up from $32 million in 2017. The Fingerpaint Scottsdale office houses public relations, film, brand journalism, and advertising teams and is planning to move to a larger office space in mid-2018.