In a market driven strongly by authenticity and relationships, how you connect with your clients and audience as a woman business owner matters.
Malee Ojua, founder and CEO of Portland-based digital marketing agency Sacred Fire Creative, has made it her mission to help women and members of traditionally marginalized groups build meaningful and authentic connections through marketing.
“I have always been passionate about building bridges between people,” Malee shares.
Although that passion has always been there, Malee only realized the truth of it while working for a government contractor as part of an experimental group of young aerospace engineers marketing multi-million-dollar satellite systems to military leaders.
The opportunity for Malee to pursue this passion for creating connections came during a personal break when she had to take care of her mom, who had been diagnosed with cancer at the time. During her free time, Malee began taking web design classes. This led to a degree in web development on top of her aerospace engineering degrees from MIT.
“Life is too short not to do what you’re meant to do,” Malee says. With that in mind, she started what was at first a side business. And so, Sacred Fire Creative (SFC) was born.
Today, SFC has evolved into a multi-awarded digital marketing agency powered mostly by women creatives. The company focuses on serving the needs of women business owners belonging to traditionally marginalized groups. By combining proven solutions with the latest trends (and Malee’s own rocket-scientist attention to detail), SFC seeks to help women business owners build a powerful digital presence and authentic relationships with clients and other stakeholders.
But Malee’s passion for creating connections doesn’t end there. Recently, she launched the podcast “Marketing from the Outside In.” Through it, she has conversations with successful women founders and business owners to share their stories, challenges and insights. The podcast is designed to inspire new and emerging women business owners and help them see what’s possible with their businesses.
The podcast itself was the product of Malee winning a pitch competition through the NAWBO Institute’s Established and Ready to Grow program. The win earned her a free booth at the National Women’s Business Conference in Kentucky.
Malee is also working to build the Okina Community, a safe space where women business owners from minority groups can discover and exercise their voice, as well as find support and resources for their businesses. The word “Okina” itself has different meanings—in Polynesian, it means “from the throat” or “to give voice,” while in Japanese, it’s the name of a prosperity dance.
A founder and past-president of NAWBO Oregon, Malee has always been passionate about helping people build meaningful and authentic connections. Through her rocket science background and marketing know-how, she gets to transform that passion into a reality.
Malee’s advice for WBOs who might feel intimidated by technology:
“New tech may feel scary at first. But used in the right way, it can help your business grow exponentially. Just keep an open mind and try to learn what it’s all about. Seek help if you need to. If you think it works for your business, go ahead and embrace it and use it to evolve.”
More about Malee
Her Happy Place: She’s happiest at home with her husband and cat.
Her Favorite Things to Do: Snowboarding! Also, traveling and being with friends.
One Word for 2023: Innovation. “Learning how to serve your clients best is a never-ending process,” she says. “You have to keep innovating your products and services to keep your clients’ loyalty amid their ever-changing needs and expectations.”