Ability to Engage Profile

Ability to Engage logo.

Ability to Engage (A2E) is a marketing consulting company that helps businesses develop impactful and effective branding strategies. 

Founder(s): Ida Abdalkhani

Industry: Education

Founded in: 2012

Location: Ohio

Interview With Ida Abdalkhani

Describe your product or service:

“A2E helps people feel understood by unearthing deep human motivations and creating brand strategy and innovation that cut through the clutter.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“A2E’s mission is to uncover deeper truths through a curiosity-seeking mindset that results in unique, human-centered ideas. Our values: accountability, collaboration, integrity, and creative risk-taking.”

How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.


How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)

“We are a small and might team comprised of expert insights, brand and innovation strategists on the US team plus partners globally to meet the needs of our clients for research, brand, and innovation around the world.”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“While backpacking around the world, I was fascinated with how consumers in different countries interacted with and evaluated marketing and products. I observed that the methods for choosing marketing and products were very similar, demonstrating that we are more alike than different. This led to me learning more about motivational desires and starting to think about how I could help companies unearth understanding that was focused on a deeper motivation — and using that to connect in a unique way — vs. focusing on finding a niche differentiator.”

How did you come up with your startup’s name? Did you have other names you considered?

“I wanted a brand name that could have an acronym for shorthand yet broad enough to encompass our three focus areas (consumer understanding, brand strategy, and innovation). Once I came up with a few ideas, I went with the one that started with an ‘A’ as it felt fitting (my last name also starts with an ‘A’).”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“I have been an entrepreneur since I was a child, selling homemade jewelry door-to-door in my red wagon. I also created a free newspaper with a friend called ‘The 4th Grade Times.’ However, I went into corporate America after getting my MBA. I didn’t realize that I wanted to start my own business until I took time off to focus on self-discovery.”

Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?

“Our first roadblock was that clients didn’t know us well enough to hire us for all three services we provided. They would hire us for one service, such as consumer research. It took us about two years until we built credibility with clients to trust us with all three services. It was a unique proposition as many firms specialize in only one or two of the services we offer.”

Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?

“Fortune 1000 companies as our methodologies are focused on solving large scale and complex consumer target, brand architecture and innovation questions.”

What’s your marketing strategy?

“The best strategy is having a quality product that your customer will tell other people about.”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“Personal Network led to the first clients, and then referrals/ word-of-mouth led to subsequent clients.”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

“Customer satisfaction, revenue growth by industry, revenue growth by client, and net margin”

What’s your favorite startup book and podcast?

“Book: ‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. Podcasts I listen to are more about leadership and/or personal and professional growth: Learnings from Leaders P&G Alumni Network (disclaimer: I’m also a co-host of the podcast)”

What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?

“Anything with a high-energy beat!”

Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?

“Time Doctor — it helps our team track how many hours we spend on various tasks and projects.”

What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“I have been pleasantly surprised by those that have offered support and likewise been challenged by those that I thought may help that didn’t.”

How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?

“1) AM meetings do not start until after my workouts, and 2) we cluster meetings on certain days of the week to allow other days to be free as thinking and work days.”

What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?

“Use a timer for tasks and break things into mini ‘sprints.’”

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?

“Finding structure was key. As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find a routine, but I have found it is critical to productivity.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

“I worked at a library while in high school, and it taught me the importance of scheduling and balance. I was in school taking AP classes and had many extracurricular activities while sometimes working up to 20 hours per week.”

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