Where do I start … The last 10 years have been a serious journey and completely unexpected in so many ways.
For those of you who are interested, I’ll give a briefing on how this whole agency thing started. As a kid, I always considered myself an artist, with a natural knack for drawing. It seemed only natural to go to school for Graphic Design. I spent my first two years of college at The University of Tampa and then Florida State University. However, I eventually moved back to Houston (my hometown) and graduated from The Art Institute of Houston with a Bachelor’s in Interactive Media Design. **Fun Fact - I was the first graduate of Ai with this degree.**
During my final semester at The Art Institute I took a paid internship at a company that ran a resort and condominium complex, Las Terrazas, in Belize (but based out of Houston). I was the primary web developer and graphic designer for this company for the remainder of my schooling. After graduation, I decided to leave and move forward with my career.
However, at this time I still managed to do consulting work for the resort and my name was passed around for web dev and design work. I had no intention of starting a company but eventually I formed a DBA mainly because I was making enough money freelancing that I thought I should for tax purposes. I had a very close friend from high school who brainstormed names with me and we came up with Prolink Media. I was pretty pumped. This was the start of a journey that was never intended. And I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Working With Others
I struggled to keep consistent work for the first couple years. I remember more than a few times where I would get a last-minute web job just in time to pay rent. It was pretty much a 15-hour work day every day, with very few weekends off or free time. I would talk to every person I ran into about possible consulting opportunities and even did some door-to-door and cold-calling at times. After a couple years, I was luckily making enough money to take care of myself and turned Prolink Media into an LLC to separate the business and myself legally.
At this point, I needed help to properly service all of Prolink Media’s clients so I started thinking about whom I could partner with. I immediately thought of my friend Robert who was in some of my classes at Ai. He wanted to try to grow things as well and we started working together. It sort of was like starting all over again. The struggle came back and growing pains kicked in.
After a couple more years of working together we started smoothing things out a little. I looked to hire some more help. At this time, our office was my townhouse master bedroom. So it was pretty hard to find anyone that wanted to come work for us -- out of my bedroom. However, I was able to hire part-time a graphic designer and programmer to work with us not too long after at a pay rate we could afford.
We quickly realized we really didn't have enough work and I needed to start acquiring new clients. This became a pretty constant struggle in figuring out the balance between the amount of clients we could service and the right contractors. Naturally, not all contractors worked out and this lead to me having to remove people from jobs and was the first time I felt the downside of having to let good people go for basic business reasons.
After a little while I had built some solid industry relationships and came across an SEO specialist in Tampa that had many mutual clients of Prolink Media. Her name was Nichole, and we decided to try and work together to add SEO as a service to Prolink Media. Our plan was to add value to existing Prolink Media clients and provide web dev and design services to her SEO clients.
Around this time we also found a fantastic writer named Lauren and had a solid remote team that worked with the same energy and drive for success. At the same time a decision to change the name from Prolink Media to Inturact came into play. It represented the transition from freelance and coming together as a team to build something special. The new name aligned the team and the business was changed to Inturact.
Losing A Partner
After a long ride of about 4 years, a time came to part ways with Rob. He was about 5 years older than me and his life was moving faster than mine. He just had his first child with his wonderful wife Jen and needed the stability of a 9-5.
This was a huge divide in my mind and business, and I often thought about doing the same thing. My competitive drive, however, pushed me not to give up and to look at everything that had been accomplished so far.
Losing Rob made things difficult for a while, but the team pushed forward. Nichole and Lauren always were big motivators and helped during the transition. Around this time my younger brother, Grant, was graduating college from Full Sail University with a degree in 3D animation. He has always been a great artist and wanted to do something with his God-given abilities just the same as I did.
He decided to come work with me at Prolink Media once he graduated. The plan was to offer an additional service of 3D animation while I taught him how to also do web development so we could integrate the two services. We immediately got some high-end 3D animation with web integration jobs that turned out to be great. However, over time we realized that web development was simply more lucrative and decided to ditch the 3D aspect of the company.
Around the same time, and actually a year before my brother joined Inturact, I was re-introduced to a girl I knew in high school named Christina and we started dating. She had also just graduated with a degree in Small Business Entrepreneurship with a minor in Accounting and was looking to get into the workforce. As our relationship developed, she started working with me and helped organize much of the team and processes, while I also taught her some basic web design and development.
Trying to figure out how to run a business is hard enough, but figuring it out with your brother and girlfriend include some other serious challenges. After a year or two, I actually let my brother go for a short period of time, and at the same time I helped Christina start her own web development business. Later, as it turns out, we were able to align our goals and both Grant and Christina, who is now my wife, would later be hired again by Inturact and help turn Inturact into the business it is today.
There were many ups and downs similar to this, but no bridges were ever broken. All of the team was young and had never run a business before. There was so much learning involved in the operations, processes, taxes, etc; and I felt all of us were simply learning the business side together.
In the beginning years Inturact was doubling its revenue every year. And still to today it has not had a year it has not increased its revenue. For five or six years, all Inturact provided was web development and SEO, and a little 3D animation. Then, we saw an opportunity in a shift in a movement towards SaaS as the business progressed and times changed.
For the last few years Inturact has completely shifted to a SaaS marketing agency and built a tremendous service offering and team that consists of eight full-time employees and multiple contractors around the world. Inturact now has such a dynamic team of SaaS marketing enthusiasts and I’m extremely proud of each of them.
We are looking forward to the future and really kicking some SaaS!
- Roger & Gayle Hatfield – For being my parents, giving me the opportunity to start a business, and supporting me in every way possible.
- Alan Clemens – For being a vital part of all business decisions and investing time and money into helping build Inturact into the best SaaS Marketing Agency possible. Can't ask for a better partner.
- Las Terrazas & Journey’s End Resort – Giving me my internship and becoming my first client.
- Tammy Levent – One of the first people that trusted my work and got my feet off the ground.
- Nichole Elizabeth Demere – A true friend and teammate since the day we started working together.
- Lauren VanMullen – One of the most trustworthy people and hardest workers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.
- Robert Kontominas – Brothers for life, a true soldier and helping start the business off on the right foot.
- Derek Clark – Helping out in some times that really pushed our SEO services further.
- Christina Clemens – For believing in me and helping in every way possible.
- Grant Hatfield – For sticking through hard times and giving your all in figuring out this journey together.
- Stefan Spath – For being a great friend, and coming up with ideas together in the beginning days.
- Katy Katz – For stepping up to the plate and taking on whatever needs done.
- Yasmine Sedky – One of the best team players I’ve worked with.
- Samantha Cuellar – Being a truly hard worker.
- Emily Mouton – Taking on strategy where needed and just knocking out work.
- To all Prolink Media / Inturact’s Clients over the years - For taking a leap of faith to work with our agency.