Sheri Walsh has had a lot of dreams.
As a young adult, Walsh wanted to be a lawyer. Her husband said sure.
After a couple of internships, when she figured out she did not in fact want to be a lawyer, her husband said fine, even though he’d reenlisted in the U.S. Army so she could go to school.
“The plan was, I was going to be the primary income winner,” Walsh says.
From the time they were in high school, Sheri Walsh’s husband, Chris, was right beside her to nurture her dreams. He worked for the Springfield Police Department.
Chris Walsh was working for the Springfield police when the couple started concepting a new marketing company and were putting the finishing touches on a nursery for their planned adopted child. Then came March 15, 2020. Chris Walsh was killed in the line of duty when a gunman opened fire at a gas station on Chestnut Expressway, killing four people. Two others were injured before the assailant fatally turned the gun on himself.
What followed was nearly overwhelming for Sheri Walsh – the grief, the outpouring of community support, being in the public spotlight. Then came the arrival of COVID-19 and the shutdown that followed.
But Walsh knew she had to press forward, if nothing else for the sake of their daughter, Morgan, now almost 12. But how?
Walsh says a few weeks after her husband’s death, she finally made herself open the door to her home office, which he’d finished redecorating shortly before his death.
“I had this brand-new office that was a giant ‘I love you’ from my husband, and I couldn’t go in there,” Walsh says. “Finally, I needed something and looked at my goals board while feeling pretty sorry for myself.”
She started removing stickies – “family vacation,” “adopt a baby” – and throwing them away.
“Then I saw two that were more personal to me: starting a business and getting a master’s [degree]. I looked at those and thought, huh, there’s no reason I can’t do these goals,” she recalls. “I needed to do it, but it was also carrying on with the set plan we had for our life.”
Investing in herself
Prior to her husband’s death, Walsh had presented her idea for a marketing company to two women with whom she already enjoyed a close working relationship: Frances Stallcup and Bethany Dean.
“I asked them to lunch,” Walsh says. “‘Hey, ladies, I know it’s kind of crazy, I know we don’t have the clients or the money right now,’ but they agreed. Everyone started getting training. Bethany got into graphic design. We were all trying to collect skills, thinking it would be five years, minimum.”
Stallcup says she was thinking more like a decade, but she loved the idea. Walsh knew it was time to press play on the plan.
Walsh says the community donated about $100,000 when Chris died, and other organizations donated more.
“I had a huge insurance payment, and it felt gross. I didn’t want it,” she says, recalling how financial planners were showing her she was going to retire as a millionaire. “I didn’t care. They asked, ‘Why aren’t you more excited?’”
She says the answer was because she would be investing in other people’s dreams, not her own.
She decided to act on Hiveminded, a concept she and Chris had hatched over beers on their back porch.
Walsh says despite the uncertainties of a future without Chris and the pressing pandemic, opening a new business felt like one thing she could control.
“And this made me feel more connected to Chris,” she says.
Dean says she was surprised but honored that Walsh asked her to join the business. Still, Dean was scared: “I was in the middle of buying a house and getting married – I had a lot going on. But I thought, ‘Well, let’s do it. I’m young.’”
By May 2020, the women were all in and Hiveminded Marketing LLC was organized by summer. They landed their first contract in late fall.
Nurturing the dream
Walsh says the company’s name is entwined in its mission, recalling that day she and Chris were watching bees flit everywhere in the yard.
“It occurred to me that when we think of bees, we think of pollination. I thought about the fact that bees are known and valued most for the thing they’re not intended to do. … The bees are just trying to make honey to keep their colonies alive. What if while we do that, our work grows and enhances the community we live in?” she says.
Now on the eve of its second anniversary, Hiveminded has grown into a full-service marketing agency that specializes in helping the mom-and-pop shops like the ones that supported Walsh’s family in their time of tragedy. Services range from branding and creative design to social media campaigns and web development.
Stallcup, president of client relations, says it’s important for small businesses to have access to a full suite of services even if their budget is modest. Walsh says small projects are as welcome as yearlong contracts.
Hiveminded has already outgrown a downtown location and expanded to seven employees. Dean says Hiveminded has about 20 clients now, ranging from startup to 10 employees.
“What we’re really most interested in is finding the right client, someone who is interested in growing,” Dean says.
Declining to disclose annual revenues, Walsh says she has yet to fully recoup her investment. She’s optimistic they’ll hit the financial benchmarks set for the year.
She looks forward to building on the dream that began on her back porch.
“I want Chris’ legacy to live on through Hiveminded. It’s not lost on me that he died for the community. The money received because of that sacrifice, I want it to feed his family, but I also want it to go back into the community,” she says.
Read the profiles of this year's honorees.