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Telling the story of Allendale Columbia

Courtney Dixon sees no limits when it comes to her career.

This mentality has helped her rise up the ranks and bring out-of-the-box thinking to her role as director of marketing and communications at Allendale Columbia School.

“I was brought up on a philosophy of there’s no such thing as no. There’s just another way,” Dixon says. “And many times there’s a better way, and so you just have to be creative and think outside the box and figure it out. There’s no harm in asking, and the worst thing is you’re at the same place that you started before you asked.”

Dixon has been director of marketing and communications for Allendale Columbia since 2014. She also has been an adjunct professor for undergraduate and graduate students in advertising at Roberts Wesleyan College since 2012.

Dixon, 33, grew up in Canandaigua and moved to Boston to attend Emerson College in 2001 before changing course and attending Syracuse University.

She graduated from Syracuse in 2005 with a degree in psychology and minors in communications and nutrition. She also has a master’s degree in strategic marketing from Roberts Wesleyan, which she earned in 2011.

While at Syracuse she interned on a TV program, helping to plan content and segments geared toward a female audience. She also interned for the radio station 98PXY while in college.

After school, Dixon moved back to the area and worked for Clear Channel Communications as a sales coordinator. She also briefly cohosted on-air for radio station 106.7.

She joined her parents’ firm, Dixon Schwabl Inc., in account service in the summer of 2006. Dixon grew up watching her mother’s dreams in marketing and advertising come to fruition.

She remembers when Dixon Schwabl, as Lauren Dixon Advertising, started out of her brother’s bedroom. She and her brother helped their mother with the company at a young age, Dixon says.

“I always tell people I kind of started working in marketing and communications at 5 years old when my mom opened Lauren Dixon Advertising,” she says. “She had no employees, and on Saturdays we would go to the office and she would sit us in front of the TV and say, ‘Here’s a stack of direct mail, here’s a stack of stamps—you just stick these stamps and labels on these direct mail pieces and you get paid in trips to KB Toys.’

“And we’re like, ‘This is a great job,’” she recalls.

Working with her family was a decision Dixon did not make lightly. She had other options in other cities but found her niche in Rochester.

“I remember talking to one of my mom’s managing partners and I said, ‘What should I do? Should I go back to Boston—love the city—or should I stay here?’ And he said, ‘You know, Courtney, you have this opportunity,’” Dixon says. “And I’m, like, ‘But it’s also working for my mom, and I don’t want to be the child that was handed this job.’”

The partner agreed it wouldn’t be easy but urged her to consider it. So Dixon started at Dixon Schwabl in an entry-level position.

Dixon also worked with her two brothers at Dixon Schwabl.

“There’s four kids in our family—the company has always been, I call it, my fifth sibling because it is such a part of our lives and a good part of our lives,” Dixon says. “And the great part about being at Dixon Schwabl is I got to work with my family, and a lot of people don’t get that opportunity.  My mom (was) my boss and also the person who I got to learn from and be mentored by, which was really helpful.

“I hear her in my head constantly, even in my role now,” she adds.

After nearly a decade at the agency, she decided to see what the client side of advertising was like. Through her work, Dixon maintains a relationship with Dixon Schwabl on a project basis.

“I never thought I would leave DS, to be honest,” Dixon says. “I also wanted to be able to see this side because I had only been on the ad agency and business side. I have zero regrets. (Being) on this side gave me a new appreciation for the people that I had worked with at Dixon Schwabl on the client side.”

Allendale Columbia is an independent, co-ed school with 421 students in nursery to 12th grade. Its culture mirrors that of Dixon Schwabl: Ideas can come from any level and any age, she says.

“When I was at DS, I remember, you have an idea and people glom onto it and let you run with it and support you,” Dixon says. “Here, you have an idea, and you’re a child and you are like, ‘What if?’ And you ask this question and all of a sudden a teacher is allowing this child to take it to the next level before they have to go to college and grad school and six years of internships. You finally get to see an idea come to fruition.”

Dixon is responsible for internal and external communications, planning and executing brand management, public relations and special events for the school.

“I have never been bored, not one day,” Dixon says.

Dixon worked with the school’s advancement and development personnel to launch the Make Your Mark Gala to celebrate the school’s 125th anniversary. It raised $265,000 and drew 457 attendees. Dixon also helped to coordinate the school’s new website launch in September 2014 and created a family fun run. Enrollment at the school has increased by over 25 percent during Dixon’s tenure.

“The other part that I really love that’s very different than anywhere else in my career so far are the kids; it’s very hard to have a bad day here,” Dixon says.

The next few years have a direction and strategic plan. The focus continues to be on the students and their future, she says.

“I think now that the school has a vision and a direction to move in for the next three to five years, it’s just now a matter of making it happen,” she says. “We’re in the business of making a positive impact on these lives.”

#TeamPXY with Carter and Corey on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 6 to 10 a.m. for their interview with Courtney Dixon.

9/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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