ScaleUp Success: Allison Chaney of Bare Knuckle Digital

Launching a business provides a level of control. Control of the direction of the business, how hard you work and the income you can make. Giving up or shifting control is something most business owners cannot even imagine. Yet, that is exactly what Allison Chaney, founder of Bare Knuckle Digital (BKD) did in 2014 when she merged her organization with Red212, a Cincinnati-based brand agency.

Bare Knuckle Digital is a digital marketing agency also based in Cincinnati. BKD has been helping increase client’s digital marketing ROI by customizing integrated digital strategies fueled by search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content and social media.

Chaney founded Bare Knuckle Digital in 2010. Frustrated by disengaged clients that expected great results, Chaney remarked to a co-worker, “I wish our clients would ‘knuckle up’ and get serious about their marketing! They would be a lot more successful!”

From there, the foundation of the brand was built.bareknuckle2

The opportunity to merge with Red212 came after Chaney accepted an opportunity to teach a digital marketing class at the University of Cincinnati. The professor was so impressed that he recommended BKD to Red212 who was seeking a digital marketing partner.

“Never turn down an opportunity because you never know where it’s going to lead you,” Chaney says.

Over the three-month negotiation period with Red212, this opportunity led Chaney into diligent research. She assessed the business impact of being an in-house agency and sought the advice of her bankers, attorney and advisors. This helped her negotiate a deal that put her in a good position and benefited others.

“I got my head aligned with my goals, with what I should be doing and where I wanted to go with my business,” Chaney says. “For me, owning my business was not my end game. There was always a step ahead of that. So I kept my mind open for the possibilities.”

In the end, Chaney felt she could finally return to her passion – digital marketing. So in 2014, BKD merged with Red212.

bareknuckle3Yet, the transition was not without its bumps. Chaney felt she had lost control because she no longer owned the business.

“I almost stepped back too much without helping to drive the direction of the organization,” Chaney says. “I wasn’t sure how to navigate.”

The opportunity to join ScaleUp America came at the right time.

As a result of working with the business coach, attending classes and hearing insight from business experts who shared similar experiences, Chaney reassessed the fee structure which led to a more established client base. Profitability increased and BKD was able to provide a better product. Chaney is now using what she learned in the ScaleUp program to assist with efforts to scale the entire company.

“I’m excited and enthusiastic to go into work,” Chaney says. “I regained a different kind of control, control of my own destiny. I’m contributing to the greater good of the organization. I wake up knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and it’s greater than I could have anticipated.”

For more information about Bare Knuckle Digital, visit

To take the next step in scaling up your business, visit to apply and learn more about the Entrepreneur Exchange Program.

The Entrepreneur Exchange™ Program is a nine-month program fully funded by the Small Business Administration’s ScaleUp America initiative. Any Ohio small business with $150,000 – $750,000 in gross revenues and at least two years in business can apply. However, each year only 30 Ohio small business owners are selected.