By Kelly Parsons
Long before a viral video about pajamas put Greenroom Communications on the map, Kim Holderness and Sharon Delaney McCloud found themselves at a dining room table, facing a life-altering decision.
It was 2008, and both had recently made the decision to leave television journalism; Holderness spent time as a correspondent for Inside Edition in New York, and McCloud anchored telecasts for WNCN, the Triangle’s then-NBC affiliate news station. But that year, they left behind the security of the familiar, starting Greenroom Communications to fill what they believed was a void in North Carolina for professional executive media training services.
The evolution of Greenroom, though, didn’t stop there.
“Very quickly after we helped people get better on camera they would say, ‘Okay, now can you make a video for us?’” McCloud said. “And we’d say, ‘Well that’s a no-brainer, we both spent 20 years as television journalists.”
More recently, the need for professional videos then transitioned to website development, too, an area in which Holderness and McCloud were less experienced. Much to Holderness and McCloud’s delight, that’s when Brian Onorio came on the scene.
Onorio is founder and CEO of Walk West, formerly O3, a Raleigh-based company that specialized in website development and design. Soon the two companies started working together on projects, McCloud said, providing clients with everything they could dream of from a marketing and web-presence perspective. It didn’t take long for the business owners to start thinking more long term about their mutually beneficial relationship.
They first discussed officially merging in 2015, but it took months, Onorio said, to discuss the details. Finally, right before Christmas in 2016, they signed papers to officially merge under the name Walk West.
“We didn’t want to jump too far into something without having the ‘why’ down … the more we thought about it, the more they ‘why’ made sense,” said Onorio, who founded Walk West in 2007 as a 24-year-old. “What we put together now is a real full service digital agency that’s pretty capable of handling almost anything that happens online.”
Prior to the merge, Greenroom Communications saw its own surge in business in 2013, when Kim Holderness’ husband Penn, then an evening anchor at WNCN in Raleigh, decided to quit his job and join Greenroom. The Holdernesses announced the big news in their video Christmas card that year, on which they danced in “Christmas Jammies” and rapped their family updates.
Within days, it was an internet sensation, garnering 10 million YouTube views in the first week and attracting streams of business to Greenroom.
“We hoped people in Raleigh and the Triangle would say, ‘Oh, those crazy people, let’s have them do a video for us,’” Kim Holderness said. “We didn’t expect the reach, how far it would go, and the kind of work we got to do because of it.”
O3, which was rebranded as Walk West in 2016, experienced quick growth, too, increasing its staff size from just two people 24 months ago, to more than 30 in December when the merge was complete.
Both companies entered into the partnership with extensive lists of former clients, including UNC Hospitals, H&R Block, Target and N.C. State. McCloud now serves as Vice President of Professional Development, while Penn and Kim Holderness will be involved with Walk West as creative consultants.
And though the business she started with McCloud in their own homes may look immensely different nearly a decade later, Kim Holderness can’t wait to watch the community reap the benefits she’s sure the merge will bring.
“Sharon and I have to pinch ourselves sometimes, that this company started on a dining room table … has turned into something that’s created such amazing, thoughtful work,” she said. “Honestly, I can’t wait to see now that we’re officially married to Walk West, where we go from here.”