What do you do for a living?
I am the Founder and CEO of BLKBOXLabs.
How would you describe what your company does?
We are a full service creative studio. We build websites, mobile applications, marketing strategies and campaigns, and much more. Much like a black box in an airplane fully understanding the process of a flight, we great effort and intention into fully understanding and taking part in the events, iterations and decisions that ultimately define our partners and their products. We do this by actively serving as a creative partner in thinking not simply about today but the future. By understanding the big picture, goals and aspirations of our partners, we are able to effectively take part in the process by which our partners and their products evolve.
What is unique about what your company does?
We are very intentional about being a close partner with the organizations that we work with. While we have services that are similar to other creative agencies, our greatest skills are utilized when we are able to apply our creativity to business models, revenue channels, and work closesly with our partners to identify places for improvement, growth, experimentation, etc, all while integrating that into the design of their physical and digital presences.
What does your work at BLKBOXLabs entail?
A little bit or a lot a bit of everything. Because we are so early on, everyone is responsible for picking up wherever needed. Everyday I take part in administrative, finances, business development, design, development, strategy and more. We are a small team and everyone has their strengths, but as CEO I have to be aware and knowledgeable of everything we are doing, setting out to do, and how that impacts our business.
I absolutely love making and creating something from scratch. It is truly amazing what can happen when you start with one idea and through time and execution, that idea evolves into something much more complete and fulfilling than you could have ever imagined.
We feel strongly that how we start this thing will be reflective down the road in our culture and in our success. We are doing a lot of things today that you would not ordinarily see a 9 week company do, but it is because we are surrounded by great, successful mentors who have taught us a lot and have helped prepare us to build and grow a meaningful company.
How did your company get started?
My partner and I (Joey Nelson) were at a place in our careers where it was time to really test our skillsets outside the walls of the successful companies we were previously at. Both being entrepreneurial, we explored how that might happen for quite some time. A couple of clients asked if either of us had time to do some work for them, timing made sense, and from day one we were busy at work.
What do you like about owning/being part of a startup?
I absolutely love making and creating something from scratch. It is truly amazing what can happen when you start with one idea and through time and execution, that idea evolves into something much more complete and fulfilling than you could have ever imagined. That aside, my favorite part of it is building the team, providing jobs and experiences, teaching, all while learning and growing alongside people who have chosen to build something great and meaningful with our company. That is my favorite part. With the amazing team we have and are building, it is also an amazing feeling and experience to be able to be so integral in helping to impact or shape someone’s startup, small business, or big corporation through our client relationships.
What do you dislike?
This is the hardest question on here. I am a strong beleiver in doing what you love. I am currently doing everything that I love.
How does your company make money?
We make money usually one of three ways:
1. Through an hourly fee for any number of our services.
2. Through a bid, where we anticipate the amount of hours it takes to complete the task at hand.
3. Through a retainer, where our clients pay us a set amount of money, for a set amount of hours over the course of at least 6 months.
What are your company gross revenues?
We are only 9 weeks into BLKBOXLabs so our gross revenue can only be reflected in our first two months of operation.
How have you funded the company?
From day one, we were profitable. Because of this, there has been no reason to take on any debt or investment. Our company has grown naturally and we add to the team as we can and as makes the most sense.
Is there any specific education you received or skills you have that have helped you?
Every day of our lives provides an opportunity to learn, to be educated, to gain skills. Whether its through a traditional means such as university or through trial and error or simple observation, I think that each of these experiences are crucial and are easily applied to every day company operations. I have been blessed with a great some amazing opportunities and experiences. I do beleive though, that you have to work really hard to gain those opportunities and experiences, but those opportunities and experiences are what teach you everything that you could never read in a book or learn from a teacher.
What is the most challenging thing facing your company?
What is your opinion on the startup community and the business climate in NWA?
I have been very, very involved in the startup community for the last three years and its growth since when I first entered it is mind blowing. While I am not as exposed to all its activity at the time (I have been head down trying to build BLKBOXLabs) I hear a lot about what is going on from time to time and it is simply amazing. I am very proud to be a part of the community here and am excited about all of the people and organizations who are stepping up to support young entrepreneurs trying to build their future. It is simply amazing and truly is reflective of the entrepreneurial history of Northwest Arkansas.
Currently, I try to make time to mentor and advise a small number of entrepreneurs regularly, as well as serve as a mentor for the ARK Challenge Accelerator and the Seed Hatchery Accelerator.
What advice would you offer someone considering starting a business?
Do what you love. If you do what you love, your passion will allow you to do and experience things as well as open opportunities that you could never predict or expect.
How much time off do you get/take?
You get to take time off? Ha, everyone at BLKBOXLabs has the same vacation/time off policy. Dont abuse it and you can take whatever you need, whenever you need it.
What is a common misconception people have about what you or your company do?
That we just build websites or mobile applications.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I have a thing that I tell people: “Don’t predetermine your future.” I have a lot of goals and dreams, but I have found that when you set milestones and say I want to be something or go somewhere by this time, a couple things happen: you acheive it and set more or you fail and let it go, but either way, you are likely in tunnel vision to acheive those goals, missing exciting experiences or opportunities along the way, because you were so focused on that dream or goal.
I have no idea where I will be in 4 years. 4 years ago, I was working at an architecture firm about to graduate college. What I do know is that we are building an amazing team behind a meaningful company and that is all I could ask for and am very proud of that.
What else would you like people to know about your company?
We are a group of young, cross disciplinary, creatives, doing what we love, and caring as much as we can for our partners/clients and our team, trying to build something meaningful for both our team and our partners/clients. I couldn’t do this without the amazing team we have at BLKBOXLabs: Joey Nelson, Tarah Hill, Bridget Arrington, Mike Green, Jeremy Teff, Chase Hundley, Mac Wiley, Michael Mahler, and Sheriden Foster. They are amazing people with extraordinary talents that allow us to do amazing things for amazing partners and clients.