Bold entrepreneur helps companies find their digital identities


Where so many of us see roadblocks and challenges, those possessed with an entrepreneurial spirit instead see opportunity.

That was the case for Lauren Kelley, co-owner and CEO of the social media and digital marketing firm That Random Agency. Two years ago, in the early, uncertain days of the Covid-19 pandemic when millions of people across the country faced layoffs, the small start-up that Kelley had been working for let go most of its staff and she found herself out of work for the first time since college.

“I was petrified,” she says. “With the pandemic, no one knew what was happening in the world.”

So, she took on one freelance account and then another and another – and soon, That Random Agency was born. “I got my first client within a week and it snowballed from there.”

Today, That Random Agency is one of the fastest growing boutique agencies in metro Detroit with a growing list of clients – including national brands – as well as a sterling reputation for data-driven innovation and results.

Kelley launched That Random Agency to meet those needs for clients of all sizes. She and her team provide a range of services including social media strategy, response management, analytics, advertising campaigns and podcast production, including monetization support and a unique Random PodAccelerator Program designed to get a client’s podcast from idea to launch in just 60 days.

The firm also provides search engine optimization services, email marketing, eBook research and development, and a host of other communications and marketing services.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Kelley would open her own agency, given her history. She grew up with a mother who owned her own business, doing technical writing for the automotive industry with clients such as General Motors.

And Kelley already had experience as a small business owner, having launched an online shop in college. “At that time, TOMS shoes were all the rage,” Kelley says, describing the popular canvas footwear. “One day, I painted R2-D2 (the Star Wars character) on my shoes. I’d wear them around campus and people loved them. So, I decided to start an Etsy store and sell them online. It cost me 20 cents to put up a listing and by the end of the first week, I’d sold seven pairs.”

The store became so popular that Kelley was able to pay all of her college expenses and rent an apartment from its profits. She closed down the business after college to focus on her career.

By the time Kelley opened That Random Agency in 2020, she already had more than a decade of experience working with communications and marketing agencies of all sizes and specialties. In fact, she did seven different internships during and after college “to try to figure out what I liked,” she says.

One of those internships was at Team Detroit, the agency of record for Ford Motor Company. “Social media wasn’t a thing then, but I did data analytics on Facebook and Twitter,” she says. This was in 2013 and 2014 and the field was beginning to grow. Still, “my boss had to fight to establish social media as a department. It was very different back then.”

Kelley left Team Detroit and continued on to several other public relations and advertising agencies, working on accounts for smaller clients as well as national clients such as Nestle and Purina. She joined the small start-up that would eventually close in 2020, but that experience gave her a chance to learn more about podcasting, which has become a hallmark – along with social media – of That Random Agency. “It’s like social media back when I started – podcasts are the new version of that.”


Looking back, what could have been a scary leap – opening her own business in the midst of a recession and global pandemic – did not seem quite as frightening because of the experience she already had accumulated. “I think there were a lot of positive signals that I saw,” Kelley says. “And I wasn’t afraid because I thought, if things go wrong, there are other opportunities.”

And right now, she’s running with those opportunities at That Random Agency, which has seen 400 percent growth over the last year. Her client list is an extensive one, with household names such as Comerica Bank, BorgWarner and Green Giant Fresh alongside local firms such as The McLendon Law Firm and Jewish Senior Life.

Keeping that mix of large and small clients is a goal of Kelley’s, who believes that too often smaller organizations and businesses get priced out of social media and digital marketing support. “We work to keep our overhead low so that we can be affordable for businesses of all sizes,” she says.

Part of that cost benefit comes from the remote work model that Kelley has built, keeping in step with the national trend that is seeing greater flexibility – and respect -- for today’s workforce.

“Gen-Z wants remote and non-traditional work,” says Kelley. “They want to be respected, valued and they want to contribute.”

With her core team of talent and a cadre of freelancers at her disposal, Kelley is able to keep That Random Agency nimble, alert and always adaptable. She invests in the creativity of her team by challenging and supporting them in their work. “When I was at large agencies, it was really silo-ed and I always thought I could do more if given the chance. I believe that you learn by being given opportunities. You need to reward initiative when people want to try something new.”

It's that creative spirit as well as a dedication to facts and data that set That Random Agency apart from other firms. “Our approach is different,” says Kelley. “We really like to look at analytics and data because that tells us what our audiences are interested in. We bring a data-driven perspective to helps define what our client’s social presence will look like.”

With a bright future ahead, Kelley and her team will continue to focus on That Random Agency’s core values, which already have taken them so far:

Be kind and work hard.