Knocking down walls

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October 9, 2013
By: Laura Marrinan // Murphy News Service
Laura Marrinan // Murphy News Service

Lili Hall, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based branding and advertising agency KNOCK, Inc., was presented with the 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year–WBE Success award from the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) on Sept. 26 in Chicago. 

The national award is presented annually to a woman business owner who achieved significant economic growth and plays a noteworthy role in community development.

Hall launched KNOCK in 2001 and has since founded two sister companies, Treat and Company, a trend-inspired product development company in 2006, and Neighbor, a 3D motion and animation content developer in 2012.

For the third year in a row, KNOCK has made Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies.  The company’s revenues jumped from $11.6 million in 2009 to $20.6 million in 2012, putting them at number 69 of 100 in Minnesota and number 3,732 in the country.

“Lili Hall encompasses the definition of the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Emilia DiMenco, WBDC president and CEO, in a statement. “She clearly recognized the value of her WBE status and has used it effectively as a vehicle for business growth.”

KNOCK has gained quite a bit of attention for its quick growth and high profile clients such as Target Corp., New Balance, and Levis.

KNOCK’s largest client, Target, recently launched its newest designer collaboration with Phillip Lim. KNOCK developed the packaging and signage for the collection, as well as the Prabal Guring collaboration at the beginning of this year.

Since retail is such a fast pace industry, Hall said the work KNOCK does with Target and other large retailers is done about three times faster than anything else they work on.

She emphasized that the constant motto when the company is developing work for a retailer is that “it should have been done yesterday.”

In 2009 the company received its Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, which has helped with larger-scale brands, but has also increased opportunities with smaller start-up businesses.

“The greatest thing about start-ups and entrepreneurs is that we essentially become their marketing department,” Hall added.  “It’s much more hands on and a little more personal.”

Hall and the KNOCK team also do a significant amount of pro bono work for nonprofit organizations. Hall said they especially try and focus on helping minority and immigrant entrepreneurs develop their brands. The team also focuses on brands with a social or educational emphasis and on different areas within the arts.

“This town has been very generous to us, and we really want to give back,” Hall said of the company’s volunteer work.

In 2010, Hall received the Entrepreneurial Winning Women award from Ernst & Young LLP. She is an active member of the Women Presidents’ Association and serves on the boards of the  Children’s Theatre Company and The Italian Cultural Center.

“As I’m been more active and gotten more exposed to more of these groups I see people thinking on a smaller scale,” Hall added. “We need to push each other, mentor each other, and challenge each other in that smaller thinking.”

Hall recently finished up an International Masters of Practicing Management degree at McGill University in Montreal. She studied at management schools in five countries — Canada, China, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The program emphasized that the business ideas and frameworks learned during the two-year program need to be infused into the company so the whole company is changing and learning.

She encourages up-and-coming entrepreneurs to think bigger and just go for it. “People have this idea that you need to have things figured out before you launch,” Hall said. “You’re waiting for everything to be figured out, and I still don’t have it figured out.”

Laura Marrinan is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota. To learn about the Murphy News Service, go to www.murphynewsservice.org.