The first time Lili Vianello worked for a marketing agency was the day she co-founded Visionworks. Now, 20 years later, as Visionworks Marketing Group’s “top dog,” Vianello and her team are taking Columbia’s marketing industry by storm.

Visionworks is a full-service agency, providing everything from radio to TV to search engine optimization and Web presence services to its clients. They are an award-winning agency, with multiple honors from the MarCom Awards, the American Graphic Design Awards and the Davey Awards, to name a few. The team works in an expansive office in south Columbia, where Vianello’s dogs have free reign. The location is complete with a studio downstairs to produce radio ads and is one of only a handful of agencies in Columbia to have an onsite production area.


From humble beginnings

Visionworks has come a long way in the past two decades, so it’s hard to imagine it all started in Vianello’s basement with just her and her co-founder, a graphic designer. It was 1995: vianello was working full time as the director of communications for a local McDonald’s franchise, and Visionworks was just a side project. However, a year later, Vianello decided to leave McDonald’s and go to Visionworks full time, keeping McDonald’s as a client. The agency remained in her basement for several more years, even after her partner left the company, and Vianello became the sole proprietor. Four years later, after years of longing to move out of her basement, Vianello decided it was time to move her team to a more permanent location, and the Visionworks office moved to its current home on Peach Way.

Visionworks has been in business longer than most of the agencies in Columbia, and Vianello believes this staying power speaks volumes. “It’s a mix of dedication, determination and listening to our customers,” she says. “It’s either all of that or being too stupid to know when you have failed.” She adds that she was raised with the idea that failure is not a viable option, and therefore she’s worked as hard as she can to stay in the game.

Nick Allen of Manor Roofing & Restoration has been a Visionworks client for three years. He says Visionworks’ ability to find the genuine message of a company is what has made the business so successful with its clients.

“They really dug deep to learn who we were as a company,” Allen says, adding that Manor Roofing & Restoration has seen 20 percent annual growth since it started working with Visionworks.


Don’t sweat the small stuff

When Vianello gives advice to new entrepreneurs, a task she’s often asked to do, she always says the same thing: Don’t do it. although she’s mostly joking, she says a lot of young entrepreneurs have an idealistic view of what owning a business will be like.

“I always tell them, ‘Make sure your company will answer a consumer-driven need and isn’t just something you think will be cool,’” she says.

Now that Visonworks’ eight-person team has made it to the 20-year mark, they have plenty of lessons to look back on.

“I would not have survived if I hadn’t learned not to sweat the little stuff,” Vianello says. “It’s all about how you navigate what comes your way.” Looking to the future, she hopes she and her team can continue providing quality services for their clients and driving Columbia’s marketing industry forward.

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