7th Birthday Reflections: The Propel Story & What’s Next
In March of 2009, the world was in turmoil. Businesses were closing, the economy was in the toilet and people everywhere were losing their jobs, homes and more. After 4 years working at a job I didn’t dread each morning with a company full of people I felt fairly close to, in one fell swoop on March 15th we all learned we would be downsizing in waves and our company would be closed that summer. The first wave of layoffs would happen right away with a 2 week notice.
I was in the first wave along with about 50 of my peers and was jobless as of March 31st, 2009.
On April 1st (no joke), I woke up with a sense of freedom. I could sleep, travel, visit friends and family, or begin my search for the next thing. Within a short 2 weeks, a business was born after my parents (long-time business owners and entrepreneurs) introduced me to my first clients. They were a security company who needed help with many areas of their business. From administrative assistance and company organization, to growth strategies and executive support, I dove in head first and never looked back.
I knew branding would be important to the presentation of my company and I also knew I needed to bootstrap it. Deciding on a name and a logo was fairly easy and I didn’t waste time with a lengthy branding process because I knew it would likely change once I got some research underway, tested the waters and established a few foundational points. I used my artist signature as the logo and went with a name that wasn’t already registered with the state and which I could own the URL of. I had a graphic designer draw my logo, I built my own website and designed business cards in Vista Print and I was off.
The first year of business was a test in determining what I really enjoyed doing, what I was MOST passionate about and what the Portland business market needed. I tested the 2009 economy and had conversations with business managers and owners who were struggling and needed help. What did they need? How much could they pay? What could I do to help?
I learned a lot from that first year, too. I learned how to negotiate, how to build relationships, how to market and sell my services, and I used it all to feed my passion to support small business owners in growth and success. From the beginning I also had a hunch that I should document my processes so I could duplicate myself in the form of support staff. But I also knew I didn’t want to hire an employee right out the gate, so I found reliable associates (some friends, some family members – which isn’t the best decision 100% of the time) who I trusted and knew I could work well with and train to be contractors. I was not only helping small business owners grow, I was helping people launch businesses that could support them. Win, Win – or so I thought.
In January of 2010, it was clear to me I needed to rebrand. JJT Solutions just didn’t cut it. No one knew what I did because I was doing so many things, thus I felt the need for the “umbrella” name that would encompass it all. So, I set out to hire a brand agency (also friends of mine) who took me on an amazing journey of discovery to unearth Propel Businessworks. By April I had a new name and logo and in June of 2010 I held an awesome relaunch party at the agency’s office location where I announced the brand and my excitement for the future. I had invited over 300 guests and over 100 attended. Friends, family members, networking associates, clients, contractors, you name it, they showed up for me. What an honor.
Shortly after that, business picked up and I moved into an office off 7th and Hawthorne where I settled in and established Portland residency for the company. In early 2011, I hired a temp employee who remained with me for about 6 months until heading off to school. During that time we moved into our most recent office home with Turtledove Clemens off 1st and Jefferson in the Jefferson Street Station building downtown, the office to end all offices and the cornerstone memory we lived at for 4 1/2 years.
Hiring was a learning lesson and one I’m grateful for. Emma was a gem and she taught me a lot about being an employer, training, HR manager and more. That experience also taught me how hard it is to be an employer in general, let alone in the Portland area. Expenses, regulations and strict rules were the name of the game and I decided not to replace her when she decided to move on to her new adventure.
The contractors I have worked with over the years have been amazing assets to Propel and our client base. And I still have a few from the early days. I have hired two other times since 2011 and both were also good experiences that taught me even more about my weaknesses, my strengths and the areas where I am just not cut out for the path ahead. Overall, I have learned that my team of contractors serve me well. And I work well with them, mainly because as a responsibilitarian, working with others who are responsible to build their own businesses, stay true to their word and who perform well in their strengths gives me great satisfaction without the overhead and responsibility and risk of being “a bad guy” someone has to work for.
Propel has served clients all over the United States and continues to. However, as a native of Portland, my heart is truly for those businesses within our growing city. And knowing WHO we seek to serve really has freed me to focus and rest in who we are.
Today, we offer small to medium sized businesses branding project support, WordPress website development and design and SEO strategies, collateral design (think business cards, rack cards, letterhead, brochures, etc) and content marketing planning and management (blogging, email marketing and social media). That is who we are, what we believe in and what we do well.
The number 7 is the number of completeness or perfection. While I am far from perfect, I certainly feel that Propel has “settled in” to who we are, what we do and how we do it. The first seven years of business have been an amazing, whirlwind of an experience – and it is far from over.
One of my known MO’s is that businesses need to constantly be testing, adapting and growing with the changing times, technologies and offering better, more strategic services or products, customer service and communication, and more. We can never just “sit”. And so, with the number 7 also comes a new chapter. I write this from my newly appointed home office with a grin on my face knowing the next 7 years will be better, brighter and more seasoned.
Thank you for following along, supporting Propel and myself and for being such a great part of my journey. All of this is for you, so enjoy and let me know how I can help you when the time comes.
Beautifully written, Jamie! Your mom and dad are so proud of you!
Thank you Mama!! 🙂 xo