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Check Out Catherine Lang-Cline’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Lang-Cline. 

Hi Catherine, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I knew very early on that I wanted to be an artist or creator of some kind. (Thank you, elementary school teachers, for labeling me an artist.) Growing up in a farming and factory community, my destiny was practically decided, so to even think about a career beyond a small town made you a very odd individual. My calling was strong, so I waited tables and worked at one of those factories during the summers to save money. I also applied for every grant, loan, and scholarship that that I could find. My hardworking and saving paid off because I did get out of my hometown and got a BFA in art and design. 

The years that followed were a strategically plotted career path to climb the corporate later, with some breaks as a freelancer, to get to that corner office. Along the way, I gathered a masters-degree level of education with Fortune 500 companies, and in 2005, the timing seemed perfect to start a business. A business that filled the gap of finding great marketing talent. 

To set the stage, I was between jobs and freelancing. I was recently divorced and lost almost everything. I was armed with a lot of knowledge in business, marketing, and finding great jobs. I was willing to not take a paycheck for 6 months and see if this idea could get some traction. It worked.

Portfolio Creative was started in my business partner’s living room. Kristen Harris and I both had that corporate education, plus a rolodex, 2 laptops, a fax machine, and two brand new Blackberries. Early on, we wrote the job descriptions for every role that we believed Portfolio Creative would need and then divided them up with each other. My strengths were in sales and marketing, her’s in recruiting and administration. It is because of this we were able to delegate the work successfully. We grew to a $1 million company within the first couple of years and grew exponentially year over year after that. We were recognized six times as a fast-growth business nationally by Inc 500/5000 as well as local organizations for a number of  years in a row. We have also been honored as a “Best Places To Work” business, a “Smart 50” business, and I have been recognized as a “Most Admired CEO” for 5-years in a row.

I am very proud of this company and what we have accomplished, considering it started from nothing. We have also weathered the storm of recession, pandemic, and inflation and are ready for yet another evolution. Along the way we have had great mentors and business partners and, of course, great clients. It is because of all of this I am active in giving back by serving on boards, by mentoring and being involved with empowering businesses. I learned that it really matters who you surround yourself with. My 10-person team at work is amazing, and my husband and daughter are my biggest personal cheerleaders. And they are all very creative people in their own right. 

Building a business like this has allowed me to keep the pulse of the creative community around me. It has also allowed me the privilege of being on the Board of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. That role got me back to the up-close and personal part of art. It was though that work that I was inspired by the artists that received grants. I was able to see my younger self with the splattered clothes and painted fingers. The one that was still there wanting to create. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
My art was on hiatus since 1988. That is when I graduated with an art degree. I did a show for graduation and simply stopped doing art. At the time, my partner and soon-to-be husband didn’t see the point of continuing it and I was able to have a lot of creativity in a marketing career. The marketing career was wildly successful, the marriage not so much. 

Even with a great career, the pitfalls are always being a bit of a nomad. This kind of life typically means, if a company is laying off, marketing goes first. It means a lot of freelance gigs that you have to find yourself and make sure that you get paid for. It means a lot of people are tearing apart your work.

Once Portfolio Creative was established, a LOT of stability was brought to my life regarding moving around. Including a new husband that believed more in me. The company challenges have also circled around the economy, a pandemic, and the occasional employee that no longer holds the same values. Every day can be a challenge but, in most cases, it is a challenge in a good way.

What has been great as of late is the escape of my art to recalibrate me. No matter what kind of day that I am having, the easel is always waiting. I will say that 34 years later, the way to sell art has changed so much, and that has been a separate challenge. It is a fun challenge as I figure out how to set up my website, thinking about selling merchandise, pricing, growing this business, and more.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work
My many years in marketing allowed for the birth of Portfolio Creative, which is a company that specializes in getting other companies amazing creative people and marketing talent. We know that it is challenging to find great talent. This we know first-hand. Our many years in marketing means that we understand the roles and the talent needed to fill them. We have a massive database and know all that talent as individuals. We know our clients because we were in their seat one time, too. Making us very unique. And I cannot express how much I appreciate our clients trusting in us for almost 18 years.

Meanwhile, my side hustle, my art, came bursting back with my first painting being a 42″ x 72″ canvas. Then 48″ x 48″. I had never worked so big before, and I definitely never worked as abstract as I am right now. Jewel tones have always talked to my soul which is why I think I work with them with such clarity and motion. The potential of this has yet to be determined, but I love it and since I have sold a few pieces others seem to love it too.

I am so proud, so moved, that people want my art. I absolutely love working with people that want to talk through what they would like first, and then I have a chance to deliver. It is less about seeing what I have that fits you but rather what can I make for your that touches you. If it is not something that I think that I can accomplish, I can definitely refer them to the many artists that I know. 

How do you define success?
Success is doing something that you love that also provides you with a great life.

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Image Credits

Big House Photography
Karianne Munstedt Photography

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