Marilyn working out of her home office in the 1990s.

Marilyn Trent founded Trent Creative in 1992 armed with a degree in art, a passion for good design and the unique ability to get to the core of complex information. Over the past 25 years, she and her team have built an innovative branding, marketing and design firm on a solid foundation of customer care and satisfaction.

 A community leader and recipient of many design awards, Marilyn was AWC Detroit’s 2015 Headliner. In commemoration of her company’s 25th anniversary, we asked her a few questions about being an entrepreneur.

When did you know you wanted to have your own business?

I knew that I wanted to start my own business after working in an ad agency in Ann Arbor and thinking that ‘I can do this.’ Coming from the creative side, I wanted to integrate the creative process more with the marketing and brand strategy that I saw as lacking.

Why did you risk adding a Detroit office in 2011 when the economy had not recovered and the city was at a low point?

I had been working in Detroit as a designer since 1999. I loved Detroit and if I ever got the chance, I wanted to be a part of the revitalization. I saw that begin to happen in 2011 and I told a long-time client, Sue Mosey, Executive Director of Midtown Detroit Inc., that I was interested in opening a second office in Detroit. Sue told me that she had the perfect place at 71 Garfield that had recently been renovated. I signed a lease and never looked back. At the time, I was one of two design agencies making the move from Oakland County to Detroit. Many in Oakland County thought I didn’t know what I was doing and now they think of me as a visionary. I have found that you should follow your gut instincts and your dreams where ever they take you.

How does community involvement fit into your business plan?

I didn’t want to be a business owner who only saw the bottom line as a way to measure success. I based my philosophy on Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream which was Corporate Social Responsibility combined with Corporate Kindness. I treat my employees, my vendors and my clients with kindness and respect. It’s like a three-legged stool—you need all three legs to hold the stool up.

For Corporate Social Responsibility, I believe in giving back to the community. I have been involved as a board member of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority for over 13 years, am currently the Treasurer of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and serve on the National Entrepreneurs Association Board as well. I am also partner agency with Impact Squared that donates to Detroit non-profits annually with an application and juried process.

What sets Trent Creative apart from other design firms?

A business will contract with us to increase awareness or increase sales and for a non-profit organization, they typically want to increase donations, memberships and attendance to events. We know that design without strategy will work, but statistically it is much more effective with a strategy in place. A solid strategy and well executed design are essential components of effective communications.

Our clients’ success is proof that the right message and design delivered to the right target audience is needed to get results that go from “that worked well,” to “that was amazing and helped us achieve our goals.” What sets us apart is that we focus on everything from the font, design and color choices to the message, the audience and the strategy that ultimately leads to our clients’ success. That is why I believe Trent Creative is still in business after 25 wonderful years.

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Marilyn Trent can be reached at or 248.652.8307. Visit her website here.  Also check out her Insights Blog that includes lessons learned from 25 years in business.

 Trent Creative is included in the AWC Detroit Business Directory, along with companies of other entrepreneur members offering creative services, PR, marketing, digital and print communications, writing and publishing.