At just 25, Kathleen Perley founded Decode Digital, a digital marketing agency dedicated to continual evolution within the industry. Three years later, the 28-year-old Houstonian heads the agency of 15 employees, and it’s already earned 15 Crystal Awards from the American Marketing Association of Houston.
With projected annual revenues of $3 million, it’s safe to say that Perley and Decode Digital are here to stay.
In her free time, Perley promotes the advancement of young women in the corporate world through partnering with a number of organizations including her alma mater, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston. She’s also actively participated with the Houston chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Mutton Bustin’ Committee of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
We caught up with Perley to learn more about what makes her tick.
CultureMap: What inspires you to do what you do?
Kathleen Perley: I’ve always enjoyed logic problems, and marketing is like a huge logic problem. Testing concepts, merging technologies, using data, and innovating are just a few components I like to use to solve the problem.
Digital marketing is constantly changing, and I like to be challenged. With a wide range of clients, I get to learn a lot about a number of industries, which is great because I really am a closet nerd at heart. In fact, I listen to TED Talks as part of my bedtime routine.
CM: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other Texans trying to make a difference by innovating?
KP: Fail first. When I initially made the decision to go out and start a business on my own, many people told me that I should have taken a safer career path and that I would fail.
But if you really throw yourself into things and know that, yes, you will fail — potentially multiple times — be the first to fail at it and then adapt. The result will be a tenacity and fortitude to be successful in whatever life brings.
CM: Sum up Texas in three words.
KP: Badass. No need for two others!
CM: What’s one thing that people might not know about you?
KP: After I returned to the United States from a Fulbright Research grant in Madrid, I had plans to get a Ph.D. on a full scholarship for linguistics and speech pathology. The program wasn’t going to begin for a while, so in the meantime, I decided to get a minimum-wage job at a startup automotive digital agency.
That’s when I fell in love with marketing, especially the data and analytics. I ended up declining the full ride and dream of being the cool professor with my own research to pursue this new accidental career path that I love.
CM: Finish this sentence: “It’s a good day when ... ”
KP: I’m not needed in the business, allowing me to work on the business. This means I’ve been able to surround myself with incredibly smart people to whom I’ve been able to provide the tools and instill the confidence in themselves to make things happen.
Editor’s note: This is the inaugural year for CultureMap’s Top Texans Under 30, a program that celebrates the twentysomething power players making a difference in their industries and communities across the Lone Star State — and, in some cases, the world. The full list is here. For now, read all about Kathleen Perley.