Innovative; progressive; beautiful; full of talent; home. To April Schroeder, founder and president of marketing and advertising agency Liquid Creative, these words describe Gainesville to a tee.
“The vibrancy of the people, the innovation of the businesses and educational institutions, as well as the respect and commitment to our natural resources, just keep pushing the whole north central Florida region to new heights,” says Schroeder. “It’s such an exciting time for Gainesville and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Her passion for Gainesville has not only helped April achieve success in business, it has also played a role in how she pays it forward in her day-to-day life.
As owner of three Gainesville businesses, April is a constant fixture in the business community and is on the boards of multiple community-based nonprofits.
Sitting in a local eatery, after a morning spent preparing for a new employee starting the following week, meeting with the city regarding planned renovations on South Main Street where her office is located, putting together a bid for a large potential new client, as well as prepping her agenda for an upcoming non-profit board meeting, April commented, “I honestly never started out saying I’m going to be an entrepreneur and own a business. It just happened.”
Born and raised just outside of Gainesville on Hampton Lake in Bradford county, it’s no surprise April was a girl scout growing up and spent many summers just southeast of Gainesville at Camp Kateri. After receiving her degree in Graphic Design from Santa Fe Community College in 1999, April worked as a Graphic Designer and eventually decided to continue her education at the University of Florida.
In the meantime, Marketing Mud was founded. A provider of promotional items for local and regional businesses, Marketing Mud was a part-time venture launched to earn a little extra cash while April finished her schooling at UF. But then it took off!
“Graduating from the University of Florida was very important to me,” says April. But with a new baby in 2008 with her husband, Scott, a booming business, and being six months away from finishing her degree, April admits she reconsidered the value of earning that piece of paper.
“I really considered stopping with all that I had going on. But I was taught by my grandmother that your education is the most valuable thing you can have and something no one can ever take away from you,” she concluded. So, in the Spring of 2009, April finished and received her bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Florida.
As Marketing Mud continued to grow, so did additional requests from customers for graphic design work and advertising campaigns, website development, and eventually full brand awareness and strategic marketing plans.
“By 2010 it became obvious that we needed to launch a second company and that’s when Liquid Creative was born,” says April.
Today Liquid Creative is a dynamic, full-service marketing and strategic development company with an extensive list of clients throughout the region, including RTI Surgical, GRU, Haven, Santa Fe College, the University of Florida, and many more. April and Scott lead an organization of 10 full-time employees under the Marketing Mud and Liquid Creative umbrellas.
“Not only can I understand the challenges of a new and growing business, but I know Gainesville. I grew up in this area, went to school here, my family is still here and we are committed to Gainesville’s growth,” says April.
And it’s not only business growth that April is committed to; she’s dedicated to the growth of the community as a whole.
2017 marks April’s tenth year as an active member of the Junior League of Gainesville, an organization committed to improving communities through action that specializes largely in the needs of women and children. April has held leadership roles for nine out of the ten years she’s been involved, including two years as a board member.
April notes, “Through the Junior League’s Thrift Store and events like Miracle on Main Street, it is rewarding to see the impact we are making in our community. And it’s a great way to make friendships with like-minded women.”
In addition to the Junior League, April is also a three-year member of the Leadership Council for the University of Florida Performing Arts. But perhaps her greatest passion stems from April’s early lesson on the value of education.
Recently completing a two-year stint as Board President for the Education Foundation of Alachua County, April has dedicated the last eight years to improving educational opportunities for area youth.
Serving as mentor with the Take Stock in Children (TSIC) program, April has met weekly with a young Gainesville student since the seventh grade and is proud to see her mentee’s success over the past 5 years. TSIC is a scholarship and mentoring program that focuses on low-income, at-risk youth to support and encourage them to reach their educational goals.
April’s mentee will be a high school senior this fall. She maintains excellent grades and plans to study social work as a college student.
“It’s a privilege to pass on my experiences and passions with another person. And to help a young woman achieve her full potential? It is one of the most rewarding things I take part in,” says April.
Even when expanding her company offices, April worked to involve and promote the community.
“Scott and I were visiting St. Petersburg and fell in love with the art district and how vibrant it made the downtown area,” she explained.
Therefore, when looking to expand offices from a historic home off 2nd and Main, Scott and April found a warehouse on South Main Street near the site of the new Cade Museum and Depot Park. Around the same time, they crossed paths with Karen Koegel, President of the Gainesville Fine Arts Association (GFAA). The 92-year-old organization is dedicated to the promotion of visual arts, but throughout its existence the organization had lacked a permanent art gallery and home.
April immediately saw the creative and cultural fit of an ad agency and an art gallery sharing a space, so she and Scott made it happen.
In early 2016, April’s companies found a new home at 1314 S. Main Street and April and Scott now donate a portion of their building space to the GFAA art gallery. Open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, the art gallery features work from local artists that are available to view and purchase.
“Gainesville’s calculated growth has been so important, so vital,” says April. “There are still many hidden gems, not just from a business standpoint, but from the perspective of lifestyle and natural surroundings here in mid Florida, as well.”
When asked what challenge she feels Gainesville is facing as it grows, April responds frankly.
“As a business owner, the challenge is definitely keeping talent in Gainesville. The area has so much to offer professionally and personally for all ages, but we are too often losing talent to larger cities.” She continues, “We have to bridge the gap between entry level talent to the 5 to 8-year, experienced, more seasoned talent. We need a way to show this talent that Gainesville is the right place to stay and to live.”
The solution the entrepreneur offers? “A branding and marketing campaign for our city, of course.”
By Kathryn Pizzurro