Founded in 2016 by Mike Spadier, Heart of the Sun is a full-service Austin-based marketing agency specializing in brand building, e-commerce, customer acquisition, and market research. Serving both B2C and B2B clients across the US mainly in the e-commerce, Spirits, and consumer packed goods (CPG) industries, the agency offers full-funnel marketing tactics and services including creative production and branding, digital marketing, social media management, web design and more. With a recurring revenue model, the depth and range of the team’s experience, the results they provide, and their expansive creativity, Heart of the Sun is truly a one-stop-shop for their client’s marketing needs.

Two Principals with Different Plans

Mike and Tim loved building Heart of the Sun together, but they were starting to want different things in their work. Mike, the majority owner, got offered the CMO role at their largest client, so he was ready to exit the business and move onto the next phase of his career. Tim was excited to stay on with the new owner, and they both wanted to make sure Heart of the Sun found an aligned, synergistic partner who could provide the agency with access to additional expertise and resources for their clients and team. 

They reached out to us at Barney to try to find a buyer who would be able to support Heart of the Sun in its next phase of growth. The agency – and its team – was too valuable to sell it to just any buyer. They needed a great fit and a shared vision.

Heart of the Sun Case Study

A One-Stop-Shop Powerhouse in the Heart of the Lone Star State

Businesses often hire multiple specialized agencies to manage their marketing and creative needs,and usually end up spending more time managing the agencies than they do on their own work. Heart of the Sun brings together an integrated group of strategic and creative professionals to streamline the experience and give brands back the time they need to focus on their business with holistic research-informed strategies which produce compelling creative towards client goals. They’ve been helping brands they love become more awesome since 2016, and clearly they were on to something.

There’s so much to love about Heart of the Sun. Their excellent client management skills (and the results they get for those clients) lead to high recurring revenue with monthly retainer contracts averaging over $13k. They’ve developed a lucrative e-commerce B2C niche, establishing themselves as a leader in the space while also not limiting themselves to the sector. With their solid word-of-mouth referral business and organic pipeline, they regularly bring in qualified leads to grow the business. And their culture? Best of the best, centered around transparency, creativity, responsiveness, reliability, daring, and continuous learning with a focus on work-life balance and building an inclusive workplace.

We fell in love with this one-stop-shop powerhouse business in the heart of the Lone Star state and could see its massive potential. After several years of the founders building a roadmap for significant growth, Heart of the Sun was ripe to scale. They had opportunities to expand within the e-commerce sector where they had established a strong client base, formalize business development efforts, get more intentional about what clients they go after and why, and specialize roles within the agency so business development isn’t one of the many things the owners do but is someone’s explicit focus.

Heart of the Sun Case Study

Ensuring a Smooth Transition with the Owner’s Different Roles

Heart of the Sun was valuable and ready to scale, and the owners knew it. Tim and Mike wanted to find a buyer who could lead the agency towards greater opportunities, with a renewed vision and sense of innovation, while giving them the payday they deserved for the powerhouse they’d built. 

The owners had clearly defined roles focusing on creative efforts, client services, and digital performance, and wanted to make sure the business could run smoothly without Mike. Tim, a big idea guy and lover of ambitious plans who makes sure the agency’s partners get what they want and need, was excited to stay on at the helm along with their senior directors – a cohesive collection of experienced, competent industry leaders. 

As head of client services and COO, Tim focused on overseeing the day-to-day running of the agency and managed all client relationships except one. He planned to keep his role as Mike exited. Mike, the CEO and chief creative officer, was ready to leave the business in the hands of Tim and the new owner, but wanted to ensure a smooth transition to help Heart of the Sun retain his client.

Heart of the Sun Case Study

Ensuring a Perfect Fit Across Strategic, Cultural, and Financial Lines

At Barney, we help entrepreneurs buy and sell amazing businesses. Since 2015, we’ve guided over 150 media, marketing, and tech companies through acquisitions to dream buyers,and we were excited to add Heart of the Sun to the list. 

With our finger on the pulse of the agency market, we started by calculating a valuation to see what the agency was worth to buyers in the current market. We crafted amazing marketing materials to share all the key details about Heart of the Sun with potential buyers, and reached out to share them with targeted strategic, financial and entrepreneurial buyers in our huge network. Mike and Tim met potential buyers over Zoom to ensure a perfect fit across strategic, cultural, and financial lines. 

Landing on their Perfect Fit

The president of The Engine is Red, a Santa Rosa-based agency, was impressed with the Heart of the Sun team from the very first meeting and could see them delivering real value to their clients. He flew to Austin to meet Mike and Tim, and found that they all deeply believed in the synergies between the two agencies. 

Obsessed with inviting clients into the creative process and being an agency that clients want to work with again and again, the team at The Engine is Read worked in much the same way as Heart of the Sun: rooted in values, oriented towards results, and focused on being a true transparent partner for clients.

Heart of the Sun Case Study

“Heart of the Sun and The Engine is Red are a perfect match. From service offerings, client profiles, management style, and quality of products, to core values, these two agencies will create the best synergies for their clients and teams. I am super happy that Mike is now able to exit to focus on his new role, knowing that their clients and employees are in good hands. I am also excited for Tim to continue as Principal who will take HOTS to the next level.”

Esther Townell, Senior Acquisition Manager at Barney

Heart of the Sun Case Study

Helping Brands They Believe In Do Great Work

Everyone happily signed on the dotted line and together, Heart of the Sun and The Engine is Red are set to keep helping the brands they believe in do great work for a long time to come. Tim stayed on to support the next iteration of Heart of the Sun, and Mike bowed out to move on to the next phase of his career. 

At Barney, we do great things for the agencies we love – and we’d love to for you too.