Yesterday we announced the launch of BlueGlass, our newest project, and the collective product of several people’s passion.
In my life I have had a few dreams:
1) To marry an amazing woman – In 2005, this dream came true when I married my wife.
2) To be an amazing father – In 2005, this dream also came true, and then again in 2008, with the births of my sons Dante and Dominick.
3) To become a professional musician – Total failure. I am pretty good on a bass guitar however.
4) Become the world’s greatest Internet Marketer
I was batting 50% until yesterday, which is pretty awesome. However, looking at things now, while I am not the world’s greatest Internet Marketer, my company is positioned to take a run at the status of the world’s greatest Internet Marketing agency.
Many people have read the history of how I got into Internet Marketing, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the history of my role in the birth of this company from the very beginning.
Search & Social Begins
In May of 2008, I was working as an in-house SEO at JRDunn.com and living with my expecting wife and son Dante in Delray Beach, FL. I had never spoken at a conference before, and had received an invite from Kevin Ryan to speak at SES Toronto on Twitter. This invite came from me pestering Kevin on Twitter, which to this day sticks with me. Most people would have told me to beat it, but Kevin gave me my first major speaking spot.
My goal was to work as an in-house SEO and grow a lead generation network in my spare time, but when you are a Dad you don’t have spare time, so I needed some help. That same month Jordan Kasteler hit me up to interview me for a post he was doing on the unsung heroes of Internet marketing. We had never met in person, but got to talking and found we had quite a few similarities:
1) We both loved The Bouncing Souls
2) We were both young and had both agency and in-house experience.
3) We were both really into tattoos
4) We both were work and studyaholics
5) We were both talented
The conversation took off from there. We decided to take a look at starting our own lead generation company. The concept was flawed however because we lacked one thing most lead gen companies have, money. So we came up with a concept for a company called Search & Social that would utilize our Internet marketing skills to help clients with their needs, and use that work to bring in capital for our lead properties.
We thought this was a pretty unique concept, where marketers would be working and learning on their own properties, and utilizing that information to aid clients. By mid June, we were a legitimate company, with zero capital, no office, a couple of hundred dollar or less domains, and a VPS. At that time Search & Social was born, and so was my son Dominick. That same month I traveled to Toronto to speak, and on my first ever panel one of the co-panelists was Internet Marketing superstar Chris Winfield.
In October of 2008, we were still trying to land our first client portfolio and build out our website network. We got lucky enough to partner up with industry leader Loren Baker on a project we were calling IMBroadcast.com. We basically wanted to see if we could do what Loren had done for SearchEngineJournal.com with video. To kick of this web property and get Search & Social some much needed marketing I came up with the idea to do an event in South Florida called Scary SEO. Jordan, being smarter than me, realized this event probably wasn’t the best idea since we had very little money coming into the company, but I could not be dissuaded. We invited our friends to come and speak, and live streamed the event. We got a ton of buzz. We also got a pretty big bill for the event. I had to sell one of my cars to actually pay for the event, a fact that not even Jordan knew until now.
As a family we were willing to put everything into my dream to be the best Internet Marketer on the planet. This is a theme that will run throughout this post.
Search & Social in Utah
In October, my wife and I also visited Utah and decided that we would take a crack at living in the state in order to grow the business. We had already invested so much, and my amazing employer, JRDunn.com, was willing to come on as a client. If we were ever going to try to make this happen it had to be now. On top of that Search & Social had its first major client ready to sign.
So off we went to Utah.
The major client fell through. It was pretty tough to look my wife in the eye for the first two months in Utah. However, Jordan and I began to get more speaking spots, and a larger and larger network. By February of 2009, we had somehow put together enough money to begin to hire some staff, and continue to scale our growth to a point we knew we could become profitable.
The one thing to remember here is that there are two little kids making these sacrifices with my wife and I, and this is something I advise any entrepeuner to think about before making major risks. Kids fuel your passion, but also increase pressure.
IM Spring Break
In the Spring of 2009, in all of our brilliance, we decided to throw another event in South Florida with the help of Loren Baker. This event was amazing, but it was also an amazing financial loss. I look back at this as money well spent now, but at the time it was tough to lose five figures on one event. We had made some amazing friends that continued to support us. Two of these people included Chris Winfield and Brent Csutoras, two of our future partners in BlueGlass.
The event is still talked about by people, and as Jordan and I boarded our plane to go home we got a call from Loren, he wanted to merge Search Engine Journal, Inc. and his consultancy with Search & Social. It was a perfect fit.
From the point we announced our merger in June of 2009, until the end of that year, we saw growth that we had not anticipated. At this point our entire lead gen network went to the backburner, we had to scale at insane rates to keep up with the demand.
Two things fueled our growth:
1) We had made a name for ourselves as the guys in the industry that you could trust and wanted to work with
2) There was an insane need for link development at that time
3) We get sick results for people. We keep things pretty close to the vest, but I am pretty proud of what we are able to do.
Due to the growth we had some major issues:
1) We were not prepared for the reporting and customer service clients expected
2) We didn’t know how to scale staff
These turned out to be amazing problems to have, because they were the catalyst for us creating the software behind Second Step Search and our current procedures that I feel are the best in link marketing. We grew our revenue by 500% from June to December.
We figured out how to turn the difficult to monetize SEO consulting model into an extremely profitable results driven machine. At the end of 2009 we launched Second Step Search to begin offering our software and resources.
A Late Night Call
In April of this year, I got a late night text from Chris Winfield asking some cryptic questions. I was intrigued and asked him to give me a call. Over the next three hours he told me about some offers he had for 10e20 that didn’t feel like a good move for him, and it had him thinking about what could be accomplished by creating a powerhouse company with intergrated service offerings. It seemed like a great idea, but how plausible was it?
My main thought, “How the hell are we going to merge all of these chiefs into one company?”
But the most amazing thing about BlueGlass so far has been our ability to create logical organizational constructs, and moving partners into logical business units. So for example, I am not running 1/7 of BlueGlass fighting over every move, instead I handle 100% of search marketing for the company. This concept, and some amazing early advisers we brought in allowed us to build a pretty impressive company in 1.5 months.
So what is BlueGlass?
1) A company with over 40 employees, several hundred contractors, and 4 offices. (We will hopefully be opening BlueGlass China in the next 12 months)
2) A company that offers a full suite of Internet marketing services and workflow solutions/software with staff members of unparalleled expertise handling campaigns
3) A company dedicated to giving back to the Internet marketing community through content and conferences
4) Likely the first of many agencies to roll up out of several successful consultancies into one powerhouse
To me it represents a little more. This is the completion of another of my dreams, and now reopens the world to me again. I am looking at everything through new eyes. How can we take something as amazing as BlueGlass and make it something even more amazing? What will the next dream that I will look to conquer?
This story should also serve to explain the road we had to take to get where we are today. It was tough, and I often wonder if we didn’t have luck to thank as much as hard work and talent. Regardless I now sit at my desk, at one of our companies four offices, and think , “is this real?” It often doesn’t seem that way to my wife and I. Two years ago we had to sell a car to pay for an event, and now we are putting on amazing events like BlueGlass LA just for marketing purposes.
Hopefully this explains to you why this is such an incredible moment in my life, and I want to thank you all for supporting me on my path to date.