Hi, I’m Andrew Aebersold and I started Mediaura in 2003, the same year I met my wife Amy. Prior to launching Mediaura as a business, I ran a semi-successful record label and offered consulting services for local businesses such as Brown-Forman and Creative Alliance. That year I knew I wanted to dive into the budding world of digital marketing, but like many entrepreneurs I was nervous. I didn’t know if I was good enough, if I would make enough money, if there was a demand for my services, and if the industry would crash again like it did a few years prior with the dot-com bubble.
We were just dating at the time, but Amy saw the potential in what I was doing and gave me the words of encouragement I needed to give Mediaura a go. At the time I was still straddling the fence with my record label and Mediaura, but we started actually making money. We worked on some very big clients thanks to the opportunities presented to me by Creative Alliance. They too had been burned by the dot-com bubble and were reluctant to staff a full-time department for interactive media, or what we today refer to as digital media or digital marketing. For the next 4 years I personally serviced every digital request for the agency through a blossoming Mediaura.
Initially I performed all of the work myself, but after the work continued to pile up I needed to start hiring a team. The first generation of Mediaura employees, excluding myself and Amy, were actually contract workers that I interacted with purely online. Some of them were located in the United States and others were located overseas. As a result of this change, I started spending my days doing account service and my nights programming or managing programmers.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally had the opportunity to invest in a formal office for Mediaura and hire our first full-time employee. Prior to this I was operating out of my home and whatever spare office space was available in the old Creative Alliance building. If you didn’t figure it out by now, while I like to think I really helped them out by performing cutting edge services for the time at a very affordable rate, Rick and Debbie really helped me out by giving me a chance, offering me a place to operate, and even accepted me into the Creative Alliance family when I wasn’t even an employee.
So in 2007 I leased an office on the third floor of the Kentucky Home Life building. I wanted to be close enough to Creative Alliance so that I was not “out of sight / out of mind” but I also needed some space. They were starting to grow their own internal digital agency and I knew that my days as the sole provider were limited. To make the most of our space I invited Chip Swetnam to set up shop in our offices free of charge and introduced him to Creative Alliance. Together we worked on the first of what would be many Humana video shoots that would become a regular client for what eventually became known as Big Sky Digital Media. Chip provided us professional video services so that I could focus on other areas of the business. It was a great relationship that lasted for many years. However, after the first few months the business took off and we hired additional employees. Eventually we ran out of space and had to reclaim the complementary offices for our own team members. After three years in the Home Life building we had fulfilled our lease obligations but also had people sitting back to back in a small three room office. Our bookkeeper had to sit at a desk in my office and our meetings took place on the floor around a coffee table in the common room. This is what bootstrapping a business looks like.
One time an employee thought it would be a good idea to take on the print job of stuffing a pocket folder with brochure cards to save a few bucks and offered to do it for the extra money. Reluctantly, I agreed. Guess what? The 5,000 folders were taking a lot longer than she anticipated and the entire team spent two days sitting around stuffing brochures to meet the client’s deadline. Lesson learned!
So we were out of space. Our relationship with Creative Alliance was still strong, but we had grown our book of business to include numerous large clients on our own. We couldn’t come to terms with the landlord at the current building so we negotiated a deal for a better office in the Starks Building. We got the best office in the building, taking up the 4th Street Live portion of the 8th floor and part of the 9th floor at one point. Our office was custom built to our specifications by the building owner, Mendel Hertz. He really helped us grow into the business we would eventually become. If we had a really rough month, Mendel would offer to defer a bill. If we had a problem with the office his team would fix it right away. It was a night and day difference from our first commercial landlord-tenant relationship and it meant a lot to us. It reminded me of an important lesson to treat others how you want to be treated, a common theme in how we try to do business at Mediaura.