Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Citing better business climate, Maryland ad agency opens Sarasota office

A rebrand and a new office in Sarasota — while not totally ditching the Old Line State — provides an ad agency a nice boost.


Shawn Nortel founded Lquified Agency in 2006; Caitlin Wiggins is director of marketing.
Shawn Nortel founded Lquified Agency in 2006; Caitlin Wiggins is director of marketing.
Photo by Lori Sax
  • Manatee-Sarasota
  • Share

Liquified Agency had reached a point when it was time to expand. The full-service advertising and strategic communications firm had been based in Annapolis, Maryland, since 2006, working with both business and nonprofit clients and garnering Telly and Communicator Awards and other accolades along the way.

When it came time to choose a spot for a second company location, Florida proved a no-brainer. 

“We knew we wanted to be in a business climate that was going to be positioned for growth,” says Caitlin Wiggins, director of marketing for Liquified Agency. “So we said who has the typical reputation of being a business-friendly state? Florida.”

The firm opened a second office in Sarasota in early 2023. Palm Beach had been a possibility, but Sarasota won out for its nonprofit and arts communities and the fact it was home to businesses in many of the industry verticals Liquified Agency services, like health care, real estate and finance.

“It coincided with our core beliefs,” says Shawn Noratel, Liquified Agency’s founder and creative director. “We heavily believe in giving back to our local community, because if you’re not growing that community and nurturing that community, it doesn’t make it a very good climate for businesses. In Sarasota, I’ve seen a significant polar difference in how businesses and organizations see nonprofits and how they engage with nonprofits. It’s intentional.”

The opening of a second outpost coincided with a rebranding of the company. Originally called Liquified Creative, the firm transitioned to Liquified Agency to better reflect all that it offers clients. It was a move inspired by both the pandemic and the changes Noratel has seen in the advertising agency business over the course of his career.

Shawn Noratel and Caitlin Wiggins say the Sarasota business and nonprofit community has embraced them and Liquified Agency.
Photo by Lori Sax

He wasn’t a fan of the fact that a lot of other agencies were outsourcing everything from creative to web development. “You lost the overarching quality control of the messaging and the overarching brand and intentionality of what you were doing,” he says.

Since starting his own firm, he’s focused on creating a full-service agency where everything is done in-house. The pandemic helped reinforce why that was a smart strategy.

“The pandemic really shifted the way we did things,” says Noratel, 46. “We were already very adaptable; we were able to flex and change the way we did business. But unlike other ad agencies that were, I’d say, very limited on how they were doing things because they were sourcing items out, we were able to really service and cater to the immediacy of the needs [of clients].

The agency’s leadership team is based in Sarasota now, and about 10 employees remain in the Annapolis office. Currently operating out of a coworking space in Sarasota, the company hopes to have its own office downtown in the next few months and plans to focus on growing its staff in Florida. “The intention is to expand here because of the talent pool here,” says Wiggins, 32.

Maryland will also remain part of the company’s focus. “That’s the community that raised us,” says Wiggins. “We’ll always have loyalties to that community; we’ll always have dedication to it, as well as to the people that we employ who are up there.”

But Liquified Agency has found the differences in business regulation between the two states “eye opening,” and isn’t a fan of proposed legislation in Maryland that would expand the application of the state sales tax to categories of services that aren’t currently taxed, including advertising, public relations and printing. “We’re seeing how some of the incentives out of Florida can really not just be advantageous to the business but alter how we can give back to our staff in terms of raises or how we can invest back into the company,” says Wiggins.

Pre-pandemic the company saw 12% annual growth and was able to break even and keep its staff employed during the toughest days of the pandemic. The agency saw 15% growth over the last year and expects to keep increasing that growth year to year. Officials declines to disclose specific revenue data. 

“We’re really excited to be part of this community,” Wiggins says. “We want to start involving ourselves in a way that shows we’re thankful for this community allowing us to be here and do business here. We’re excited to embark on this next chapter. And the hype was real about why you should come down to Florida and open your business here. It’s been a great experience.”

This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Shawn Noratel.

 

author

Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, FamilyVacationist.com and SmarterTravel.com. Learn more about her at BethLuberecki.com.

Latest News

×

Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.