The Wonder Jam helps build brands by design, photography, consulting, community and classes.
I learned of The Wonder Jam through Kelly Rauch, my first interviewee (we actually may be creating a network here, people, and I am excited). So what did I do? Emailed the owners, Allie and Adam, referenced Kelly, explained my blog and asked if they'd like to be a part of it, or in this stage, help me out. See, all you have to do is ask. After only spending 10 minutes roaming around The Wonder Jam's website, I already felt more inspired, like I had just spent two hours in a consulting session with them. I can't imagine what I'd feel like as one of their clients. I'm so impressed and cannot wait for you to read their interview below.
The Reference Club: Tell us about The Wonder Jam and how long ago you started.
Allie and Adam: The Wonder Jam has evolved over the years, but right now we’re really honing in on branding, design, photography and websites. Lately we’ve been venturing into more and more coaching, consulting and workshops. Ultimately, we just get the biggest kick out of working together and taking care of other tiny businesses and making fun stuff.
Back in 2012, we started to chat about working together. Allie had her freelance business rolling (she did very well when she was working alone) and Adam routinely worked with her on projects. We both worked from home, so collaborating was unavoidable.
TRC: What influenced you to want to start your own business?
A & A: On the surface, we cared a lot about how we did our work and who we did our work for. Working in other environments frustrated us as we itched to tackle problems in the way we wanted. And working hard to make other people money frustrated us.
Adam had a lot of great mentors in his previous jobs. Generous business owners who treated him well and taught him a lot about business and marketing served as inspiration and guides moving forward.
Allie had a lot of support both locally and online as her freelance design business grew. More and more folks supported her and invited her to create for them.
And deep down, our families. Both of our grandparents (on both sides) were very entrepreneurial. Adam was raised working on his Father’s family farm, his Uncle’s restaurant, and his Grandpa’s factory. And as a kid, Allie used to play by running a pretend dry cleaning business or fake library.
TRC: I love the teamwork and collaboration vibe I'm getting here so far. What were the first couple of steps (or hurdles) you took to turning your ideas into action?
A & A: We started to have conversations with Allie’s freelance clients about what Adam would bring to the table and to see if they’d be interested in working together more. We didn’t just jump into the void and hope clients showed up! Since we’re self-funded, we had to plan and be smart. We also took a lot of steps to support other small businesses. Building good karma is a useful thing for a business and we’re living proof.
TRC: How did you find your first client? Was it tough not having much experience to show? What advice would you give to people who are just starting out when it comes to building credibility to get clients? (I asked one and needed to know the others!)
A & A: We had credibility since Adam had worked for 3 agencies and Allie had been a freelance designer for 3 years before we joined forces. Adam built his first website for a friend for free and charged the next “client” $100. Allie had been designing logos for $25 in college and slowly increased her rates ever since. Getting started is how you get started.
TRC: "Getting started is how you get started." I need that quote written in fancy calligraphy framed on my wall. There are a ton of small marketing agencies in Columbus. What makes The Wonder Jam different?
A & A: We’re built for tiny businesses. We do creative for gigantic companies, but our business model is really built best for small businesses. Our whiteboard in the office isn’t filled with plans for how to charge $16,000 for a website, it’s built with how do we continue to help the tiny businesses where we can make a massive difference. Allie’s design and Adam’s approach are philosophically and aesthetically different than how others approach their work. (And that’s good for them. They shouldn’t be us!)
We’re really good at being ourselves and really bad at being like other people. And we’re OK with that.
TRC: Did I already mention I felt inspired by you guys? Describe your last accomplishment.
A & A: We don’t submit for awards, so we don’t win them. Did you know that the businesses who win “Top 50 Companies in _______” have to pay money to be considered? Those awards definitely help you win over big clients (and capture the eyes of creative directors of larger firms), but don’t help us take care of our clients.
One of the most rewarding projects we worked on was with Primally Pure, an organic skincare line. We worked on their rebrand a little over a year ago and - at the time - founder Bethany was just hustling out of her home with one part-time contractor to help with shipping. This fall we were able to visit her new office/warehouse in California. We photographed three of her team members and saw how her operation grew. There’s nothing better in our work than being able to help people upgrade the work they’re passionate about.
TRC: How do you handle shortcomings or stress?
A & A: Be honest with ourselves. We routinely say “I feel stressed” or “I need a break” or “I need some self-care time” or “I screwed that thing up.”
To be honest with others, you have to be honest with yourself.
TRC: If you knew what you know now when you first started The Wonder Jam, would you change anything?
A & A: We’ve learned a lot and a lot of those challenges and as my coaching business has grown, those challenges have proven very valuable for my clients as they can learn from my mistakes.
TRC: Adam, what’s the best part about being a co-founder with Allie?
Adam: I’ve never worked with someone so effortlessly, consistently, and prolifically brilliant. Allie’s gut reaction is smarter than my hours of brainstorming. She’s smart and strong. If we weren’t lovers, I’d STILL choose her as a co-founder over anyone else.
Also, the sexual tension is a fun. :)
TRC: Allie, what’s the best part about being a co-founder with Adam?
Allie: He encourages me more than I thought possible with a business partner. When there's that type of trust and support, the business doesn't feel like a business. It feels like a place where I can try new, creative things every day.