I grew up in a world without computers and smart phones.

As a kid, I was always drawing, painting or writing. As a young man I began my college career in Fine Arts.

But in my 2nd year at Kent State, I discovered Graphic Design and I really took to it, because I loved that it was a problem-solving form of art.

GD was a really tough major at Kent and really time consuming in the pre-computer days of design.

Kent’s Art Dept. actually got computerized the year after I graduated – 1989.

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During those college yrs, to pay my rent and buy groceries, I got a job waiting tables on weekends at the brand new Chi Chis in Mentor. This was 1985.

I had a lot of fun during that time and made a lot of friends. One guy that really stood out was a bartender named Mark Tennant.

Mark was one of those super nice guys that everyone liked. We became very good friends. But as life goes, we changed jobs and lost touch.

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After college, I got a job at a small design agency. And, as hard as I worked in college – this is where my real learning began. I had to learn about print production and ad production (the old fashion way) while the boss talked about how we needed to learn how to do page layouts on this little, tiny Macintosh at one end of the office that everyone was afraid of.

I’d never touched a computer to this point, but I knew if I figured out this miracle of engineering, I’d make myself more valuable.

So, I took the manuals home and read them at night.

Next thing I know, I’m doing the design on that little tiny Mac – eventually, teaching others how to do it. I became the creative director in just a couple years. This is about 1993.

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In 1995, I began teaching computer design classes at Lakeland Community College. I also quit my job and went out on my own this year.

The core of my business was designing magazine ads, brochures, annual reports, logos, etc.

I did pretty well through the next 10 years…

BUT THEN… 2007-2008 happened. The Great Recession. My world changed.

I never saw it coming, I lost most of my clients seemingly overnight. Everyone re-structured and brought their work in-house.

To adapt to my changing field, I had to become a “website designer”.
Once again, I had to self-educate myself. This internet stuff was completely different.

But, by 2012 or so, designing websites was becoming a commodity. Now, I knew I had to add the marketing component to my services.

I landed a client who had me create some e-commerce sites for him — It requires knowledge about a lot of different things — SEO, social media, content creation, blogging strategies, email campaigns… its endless.

I continued to learn, but all this felt like trying to catch a train that was going faster and faster.
My career was no longer fun.

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I go to the Little Italy Feast every year… early, before it gets crowded.

At the 2013 Feast, I ran into Mark Tennant — my old friend, the bartender from Chi-Chi’s back in 1985.

He told me how he’s the IT (computer guy) for Case. I told him about my business.

Mark lit up like a light bulb. Turns out, his passion is online marketing! And he’s a wealth of ideas and passionate about everything online. He excitedly says, “We really gotta partner on some stuff!”

Fueled by his enthusiasm, we began our own weekly video blog about how to market yourself online. It was directed at our target market, business owners and developers.

It was a ton of work – It was a fast and furious, but fun way to become an expert in your field quickly… while you’re promoting yourself.

We landed several small clients right away. And our videos were a step ladder to gaining better clients.

Then, last year, we had a plastic surgeon’s marketing rep reach out to us.

They had a decent online presence that brought in about 3 or 4 leads/week, but they were looking to do better.

We landed the job and I spent the next 6 months redesigning the huge 460 page site,
and Mark developed a content marketing plan for their blog and social media.

We finally relaunched it in July.

We tripled their leads immediately. I figure, conservatively, that we’re bringing in an additional $450K/year.

It’s a great success story. And its already helped us land several other lead generation clients.

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Back to that man trying to find himself in an every-changing world…

My life has been an unexpected journey of chasing technology as its my medium for creating design and marketing today.

I was fortunate enough to run into an old friend that loves doing just that.

Through a lot of hard work and this partnership, It feels like I’ve actually caught up to that train I’ve been chasing!

 

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As Captain Picard says, "Engage!"