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Pittsburgh creative agency opens St. Petersburg office

Margie Manning

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A team photo from Top Hat

Top Hat, a marketing and design agency based in Pittsburgh, will open a St. Petersburg office next week.

Ben Butler, founder, Top Hat

It’s the first office outside Pittsburgh for the creative agency, which was drawn to St. Pete in part because the workers it wanted to hire are here and in part because of the business atmosphere, said Ben Butler, founder and client services director.

“We did some market research  and everything checked out. It looks like a market and an area that is well suited to us, and also a place where we do well at, in terms of the business types and the vibe,” Butler said.

The seven-year-old agency, launched by Butler during his senior year in college, has a full complement of skills in packaging, branding, website design and development, photography, content and marketing. “We’re very disruptive in the way that we think and we’re very ambitious in the way that we try to grow our company and how we go about doing so,” he said.

While Top Hat serves a wide range of market sectors — it has worked with companies in more than 50 different industries —  it  made a name for itself in the beer industry about three years ago in its “Will Work for Beer” campaign, offering to work for one winner in exchange for beer. The campaign was a success. Top Hat went to work for Lord Hobo Brewing Co. in Boston, which is now an established craft brewery.  Since then, Top Hat’s design work has included more than 150 unique beers across 300 SKUs [stock-keeping units].

The company recently entered two new sectors, coffee and CBD.

Butler had wanted to open a second office for Top Hat, but it had to make sense for the company. Pittsburgh is only a short flight away from cities where it has clients, such as New York and Boston, so a second office in the northeast U.S. didn’t make sense.

“But we’ve had a lot of confidential prospective interest from some pretty big clients and have entered into some large RFP processes, specifically in Florida. That’s a very unique market,” Butler said.

Then three new job positions opened up at Top Hat, and two applicants were from St. Pete. “So we committed and we hired them both full-time and decided to open a physical office, which we hope to grow over time,” Butler said.

He expects to announce the new employees next week.

The new office is at Station House Arcade at 689 Central Ave. and will open in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything just takes a little bit longer to get off the ground, so we were sure to give ourselves plenty of runway. I was most worried about finding space, but Station House was responsive, extremely accommodating to our needs, and made sure we could open our doors by June 1,” he said.

Long-term, Top Hat is looking for a permanent site.

“In the coming months when things begin to open up and it’s safe to do so, we will look at permanent space we buy or rent,” Butler said. “We’re really excited to come into the market and commit to the community. When you open an office somewhere, you really need people from there, who understand the market and can contribute back to the economy. We’re committed, we’re excited, and we’re going to go all in.”

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