It all started in 1997… I (Zach Jones, founder and president/owner) was in seventh grade and received a new computer with internet access for Christmas. I was instantly hooked. A natural desire to learn how things work propelled me to begin building basic websites, primarily for sharing with friends. In high school, I turned this hobby into a job, helping small businesses grow with the power of the web. I completed dozens of jobs on Elance for businesses around the world–all from my bedroom.
At the end of my first year at Birmingham-Southern College, I wasn’t crazy about my choice of major, and the demand for web design was only growing. So, I decided to quit college and focus full-time on my business. I continued to gain new Clients, and referrals started to increase. Starting a business is tough, as many of you know, and cash flow can be absolutely impossible to manage during this phase. I had no capital—I was only 19. To earn extra cash, I awoke at dawn three mornings a week, walked to the neighboring golf course, and waded into streams and ponds for golf balls. High quality Titleist Pro-V1 balls were as good as gold on eBay, and thanks to the affinity for this ball by golfers with less than remarkable handicaps, I was able to earn several hundred dollars per month. This helped me pay the bills, learn new skills, and of course have money for dates. This labor-intensive, dirty job was made more efficient once my border collie, Cosmo, learned the ropes and began assisting with searching and retrieving. Everyone thinks I’m joking, but in all seriousness: Cosmo learned how to prowl along creeks, spot golf balls, and bring them straight to me.
Cosmo fresh from a hunt. Yep, it’s a Titleist.
New projects continued to come in, and eventually I had an attractive office, followed my multiple employees. This company grew into one of the region’s leading marketing companies, offering web marketing services, graphic/print design, and even printing services. By 2013, we were busier than I wanted to be at too many things, so we rebranded ourselves as Ascend and chose to return to our roots and focus only on web marketing services. There are a lot of companies today that call themselves “creative” or “branding” agencies, that offer all of these services (and more). Having “been there, done that,” I feel you get better work by dividing your marketing into multiple providers, letting each do what they do best.
Also in 2013, I decided to move (my family and Ascend) from my hometown of Fort Payne, Ala. to Vestavia Hills. We couldn’t be happier here, and we’ve loved working with so many great Birmingham businesses. I’ve learned so much along the way, and I truly enjoy sharing this knowledge and experience with fellow business owners.
I hope we can be a part of your story as you work to grow your own business!