How does one go from small town in Pennsylvania to running a successful digital media agency in a thriving southern market?
You might want to ask Jake Kurtz.
Not only is he the owner of Tampa-based Brick Media, but he also wrote the article that appears as the #1 Google Search result for “leaving your hometown” inspired by his move from Pennsylvania to Florida.
He traded the snow and corporate structure for sunshine and a flexible schedule.
Sounds like a dream come true, but it wasn’t easy by any means. It has been quite the journey for the past six years.
While working full-time at an advertising firm, Kurtz began to understand how agencies priced their services, how the agency/client relationship worked, and saw an opportunity for himself, wondering what was stopping him from offering marketing services on his own.
After ramping up his side hustle, he managed to pull in 50-60% of his salary… outside of his 9 to 5 job. That was when, in August of 2018, after 3 solid years of treating Brick Media as a side project, he had the lightbulb moment that he needed to stop debating it, and just take action.
An hour of nervously pacing around his apartment complex. Racing thoughts of indecisiveness and self-doubt. Heartbeat going crazy. It was time to officially drop the 9-5 and focus on Brick Media full-time.
“I called my boss and put in my two weeks, freaked out for a few minutes, then said ‘alright, time to get to work and find more clients.’” It was like an immediate shift of energy from “extreme worry” to “it’s Go Time” – hard to explain – other than feeling like you’ve been thrown into deep water and need to figure out how to swim as quickly as possible.
What happened next
The next day, by the grace of God, and perhaps some luck, I closed a $1,000/month client straight from an Instagram direct message,” says Kurtz, who now runs a rapidly growing media agency with clients in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California.
Since then, Kurtz and the small Brick Media team has closed more and more client work, with most of them being in the Tampa Bay area but also some in other states.
Kurtz says 80% of his clients find out about Brick through referrals and existing clients. The other 20% are from lucky direct messages that happen at the right time, Instagram Ads, Facebook Ads, and Jake’s personal social media content.
Content has been a big help. Jake regularly offers entrepreneurial insights, marketing advice, and business thoughts.
Brick Media isn’t all rainbows and butterflies though. It’s very tough at times. While Kurtz has the ability to control his schedule and pick his clients, the behind-the-scenes consists of many 12-hour days and bringing his office with him, everywhere. Even on vacations and trips.
Brick has gained multiple clients but has also lost a few. It’s just the nature of the business. Sometimes it’s not a great fit. Sometimes the client has too small of a budget to truly make an impact on digital platforms. Sometimes the client has internal struggles and needs to focus more on getting themselves organized before they invest in things like social media.
Kurtz says, “It’s different when your company loses a client when you’re an employee. As the owner, it’s a whole different feeling and it directly affects your monthly take-home pay. If I lose a $2,000 per month client, I am losing $2,000 per month. My paycheck doesn’t stay the same.”
Kurtz says the most important things he’s learned from this experience are learning to manage time effectively, keeping himself sharp and energized, and meeting with clients in person to really build that relationship.
All in all, things are in a great place.
Brick Media’s revenue is growing month over month – and Kurtz says he’s stable financially, doing better than he’s ever previously done at any full-time job. “It’s addicting – the harder you work, the more you make. The more you make, the more ability you have to invest back into the company, hire help, and create a better business.”
The next question you may have, though, is why Brick?
Why hire Brick Media over another similar marketing company?
It’s easy to see that the traditional media mindset is fading into a memory for many ad agencies and internal marketing departments. Trading billboards and TV commercials for social media and search engine marketing has shown to have a larger impact with a smaller budget, especially for smaller, and more localized businesses.
It’s not the services that Brick offers that sets them apart from others.
The main thing to think about is – what kind of digital marketing agency is the most likely to drive the best results? It’s obvious; you want someone who has worked in the digital and social space since day one. A company with a hyper-targeted focus because it’s all they know.
“I was always a heavy personal social media user and I always loved technology. My job is the perfect mix of the two,” explains Kurtz. “At Brick, we’re all in our 20s and 30s, meaning we natively understand how people act online, what content they like, and what they respond to. We’ve lived it, and that makes it easier to apply to businesses.”
Yes, being young is a big advantage in the social media game, but before Brick Media was started, Jake worked for six years with Fortune 500 companies, large brands, and managed millions of dollars in media budget. His task was always to drive results, understand why things happened, and make recommendations. At one of his roles, his direct boss was the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) which helped him understand the pressures that marketing executives have on a regular basis.
This is the experience he applies that to all of Brick Media’s clients. “All I care about is what we spend, in both time and money, and what we get in return.” he says. “We don’t care about anything except business results. I’m not selling fluff.”
Brick Media’s services are specifically focused on digital media and places emphasis on results. The financial knowledge he gained while working for a large advertising agency pushes him to provide fair pricing to clients while still delivering the same level of service that they would receive from a larger agency.
A lot of Brick’s ability to charge competitive rates comes from working virtually without a physical office space (no rent or utilities) and scaling using a trusted network of part-time contractors and freelancers that Jake has built relationships with over the years. The lack of overhead at Brick allows for a very fairly priced investment, with the potential for much higher ROI.
“With Brick, you pay for what your marketing services. You’re not paying for our electric bill, pool table, ping pong room, or company happy hours,” Kurtz justifies. “You will always get fast replies. We’re always transparent. We’re going to keep it real with you. I’ve seen a lot of the good and the bad, after working in both agencies and internal marketing departments. I’ve seen a lot of inefficiencies, as well as a lot of ways the corporate structure can get in the way of business, so with Brick Media I wanted to leave those things behind and just focus on the work.”
Advice to Aspiring Marketing Entrepreneurs
Jake’s advice to people who want to leave their 9 to 5 job and run their own thing is to start slowly building something now – something they are passionate about. “Sometimes that is directly tied to your existing job, sometimes it’s not”, he clarifies.
“You just need to start doing something and making money because it’s way less risky that way, knowing that you have some income to fall back on. Also, if you’re already making money, that’s proof that your idea has the potential to take off, especially if you’re only doing it 10-15 hours per week on the side. Imagine what you can do in 40-50 hours.”
If you’re looking for some sound evidence to back up Kurtz’s lofty pursuits, look no further than the “Work” page on the Brick Media website. There, you will find 20+ clients that Brick Media has worked with in the past couple of years.
How to Get in Touch
To get to know Jake, you can follow him on Instagram @iamjakekurtz and connect with him on LinkedIn. You can expect new content every single day, with a personal mix on Instagram and all business on LinkedIn.
A quick note from Jake:
“I am all about meeting in person. I usually like to meet up for coffee or lunch to talk more in detail, so feel free to reach out and we can set something up locally in the Tampa Bay area. Even if you don’t have a budget or have any need for marketing, I don’t care. I don’t consider myself a sales person. I’m a people person, and I just want to help. I am always down to meet, give advice, and share ideas.”