Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A. ARK Innovative is a digital media agency based out of the Rochester, New York area with clients located throughout North America.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A. Since I was a young man I was always enjoyed the satisfaction of helping people solve their problems and the happiness it would bring them. While attending college towards a degree in criminal justice I took a job with an alarm company as a dispatcher. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to move into the sales side to help solve peoples security concerns. After working in the sales department I would place advertising and marketing at my own expense to help build my income. While I was employed by a company, I worked on commission so I realized I am essentially my own company and need to take initiative.
After a few years the company I worked for was purchased by another company and the new company wanted the existing accounts only and closed down the sales team. I was left to figure out what the next stage would be in my career and based on the tremendous results I received from my marketing efforts I decided I wanted to share what I had learned first hand and help other businesses get similar results. The year was 2000 and I started a print marketing company called ARK Publishing. We primarily created advertising magazines that would be mailed out to homes in a certain geographic area. My customers got great results and the business continued to grow over the years.
I have always been a little bit of a tech geek and would run a majority of my business from a palm pilot. A digital device that was a precursor to the smartphone that ran apps for calendar and other business related processes. Then in January of 2009 Steve Jobs announced the upcoming release of the iPhone. I can still remember the day. My life, and pretty much everyone else in the world was about to change. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas Day counting down the 6 months until it was available for purchase. Fast forward a few years and I learned how to create business related apps and offered the apps to restaurants so customers could order food, earn loyalty points and so on. This new technology was being embraced but I kept hearing over and over again “do you do websites too”? Eventually I heard this enough that I figured I needed to learn websites for my customers. I teamed up with some partners that know the insides and out of building websites and proceeded from there. Of course what good is a website if no-one can find it when doing a search? So once again I found the right people to help optimize our websites to make them able to convert viewers to buyers. Now in 2021 Websites, Apps, and SEO make up the majority of our business.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. Don’t give up. If you have a real solution you believe in, don’t let naysayers dissuade you from fulfilling your dream. There will be ups and downs, but it will pay off in the end
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Especially from other entrepreneurs that have done it all before and can give you the best advice from experience.
Treat everyone you come into contact with with respect. You never know who might become your customer, or be able to refer you to a customer. Act like someone is always watching you. When I worked in the alarm dispatching company I worked the overnight shift. I can still remember to this day the number of store managers I had to wake at 1am because their alarm had triggered and had some colorful language aimed at me because I woke them up, which is what their company presidents pay us to do. Needless to say, I was in no rush to shop his store when it was my day off.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. You need to be outgoing and able to talk to people/strangers about yourself and business You need to have and exude confidence in what you are doing.
You need to truly want to help people solve their problem. If you’re in it just to get their money they will smell it on you. If you help your customers get what they want/need the rewards will come naturally.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
A. My ability to talk to people and offer solutions that put them in a better place.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A. I would have to say my network and referrals have been the best for of marketing for new business
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. I was able to start my business without taking any loans or help from anyone. It took a lot of sweat and time to get where I am. I learned how much I needed to produce my product and went out and made sure I sold enough to cover that expense. Everything above that amount was my profit.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. Over the next 5 – 10 years my plan is to continue building my business the way I have been the last 5 – 10 years. I am a boutique agency. All my clients I consider friends. I am not looking to dominate the world. I want to remain small enough that I can continue to give the best possible attention and service to my clients. When you get too big often times clients become just another number. I don’t like it when I am a number and I won’t let that happen to my customers.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A. I love the freedom it gives me to help my clients and not have to follow some corporate rules. If it makes sense to me, I love thinking outside the box for a customer. I also adore the freedom it gives me to do more with my family.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A. I feel entrepreneurs are able to take more charge for their life and success, while working for someone else can be a safer path, someone else is steering your career.
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A. Our culture is laid back and as stress free as possible. We don’t like to sweat the small things and our philosophy working with clients is based on the golden rule: Do unto others as you would like done unto you. Treat people like you want to be treated.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A. It has given me the time to be there more for important things where I wouldn’t be available if I was tied down to a someone else’s agenda.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
A. It’s not far from where I grew up and where I met my wife and started a family.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. Spending time with my family. Going to baseball games with my son. Listening to music. Playing guitar. Getting frustrated by the Cleveland Indians
Q. What makes you happy?
A. My wife, son, dogs and extended family