Former Cossette colleagues start a Wildfire

Bianca Knop and Kelly Thorpe open boutique agency in Vancouver

Brenda Bouw February 10, 2015

Former Cossette colleagues Bianca Knop and Kelly Thorpe are opening their own agency in Vancouver specializing in events, sponsorship and brand activation.

The new company, called Wildfire Experiential and Events, bills itself as a boutique agency with a nimble two-person staff that provides both strategic planning and hands-on execution producing events.

Wildfire’s prospective clients include mostly consumer brands looking for new campaigns, sponsorships or other marketing services.

The duo is also targeting other agencies looking for extra marketing muscle.

“We would act as a snap on to provide strategic counsel,” says Knop.

The duo won’t reveal their client list just yet, but say it includes a telecom company, a non-profit organization, and other agencies.

The Wildfire founders say they’re not intimidated by the challenges many Vancouver-based marketing firms face with some big-name clients taking their budgets to Central Canada.

“One of the differentiators for us is being small and nimble,” says Thorpe.

She also says they have strong relationships with big brands, and experience working on a number of high-profile events including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and the Honda Celebration of Light.

“We think the real strength for us is being small and being able to pull in expertise with other partners in the business,” says Thorpe.

Knop and Thorpe met while working at Cossette in Vancouver eight years ago, including sponsor-related content for a handful of clients during one of the biggest brand campaigns in Canadian history – the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“You don’t have a much bigger stage than the Olympics to put forward your best work,” says Knop. “It was a great opportunity for us to collaborate and to get to know each other.”

Even after they branched off to work at different agencies and companies, Knop and Thorpe kept in touch. Eventually, they started to talk about starting their own agency. They finally decided to take the plunge in 2015.

Thorpe left her job as sponsorship manager at Bell Canada, while Knop resigned from her account director job at McLaren McCann.

The pair say the timing was right to go out on their own, each with about 15 years of experience under their belt, and given how the industry is rapidly expanding beyond traditional marketing.

“Consumers are looking for a more genuine experience with brands. We are seeing that will continue to grow and that there’s lots of opportunity there,” says Thorpe.

Knop and Thorpe have worked in the past with clients such as Canada Post, Honda, General Motors, The Gap and Nintendo of Canada.

“We’ve worked on projects as part of an agency, on the brand side, and from the non-profit and property-driven angles. It’s given us good perspective so we understand how to be strategic from every viewpoint,” adds Thorpe.

“Our goal is to drive business results by delivering exceptional experiences, for clients, partners, suppliers … and consumers.”