In the fall of 2011 I set out to try something different here in Athens, Georgia. For the past 10 years I had been managing the website design and development projects for a Seattle-based branding firm. It was a great gig with a great group of folks, and I couldn’t complain much at all. Nonethelsess, I was anxious to strike out on my own.
The competitive climate at the time was such that there were several respectable website shops in town, and many strong graphic designers. There were some digital marketing agencies, and there were some national advertising firms. What did not seem to exist was a void that I intended to fill: A firm that put a strong emphasis on branding while providing the full suite of design and marketing services that one might expect from a large agency, delivered at price affordable by clients in the mid-size market that Athens certainly was – and still is.
And so without even a name to operate under I began pitching my services around town. As luck would have it I was connected to Irving Alhadeff, the icon owner of Athens’ equally iconic Masada Leather & Outdoor. Soon I had my first client. But I needed a name to put on that first invoice.
‘Captivate: To attract and hold the interest and attention of; To charm.’ That word certainly implied what I hoped to offer my clients. Of course I certainly wasn’t the first to try and tie that word to a service industry. So how to make it different? Spelling is one way, so I tried a ‘K – Kaptivate’. That was interesting. But not that interesting. Of course ‘Ate’ sounds like ‘8’…. and if you rotate an 8, well that’s a symbol for ‘infinity’. ‘Kaptiv8 – Attracting and holding the interest of your clients, forever!’ Now that had some legs. And I liked the idea of the word ‘Kaptiv’ in there on its own. ‘We’ll help you take your audience captive!’ Who can’t get on board with that?
With a working name, and the first website project online, it was time to find a wider audience. Referrals are a wonderful thing, and soon I was connected to a new client: IsoAge Technologies was a startup food technology company – formed by well-respected industry veterans – that needed a strong brand to reflect its all-natural approach. We developed a logo, brand story, tagline, identity system, and website. It was all very well received, and it helped me to realize two things: There really was a market for these services, and I had the skills and experience to deliver.
Throughout the winter and spring of 2011 I built a website for Kaptiv8 and began to market my services to my professional network and beyond. Word spread and new and exciting clients and projects flowed in. Soon I realized that I’d need some help to keep up. And anyway, my vision for Kaptiv8 always extended beyond being another free-lancer operating under a clever name. If I’d learned anything in my decade-plus of project management, it was that it’s better to try and find real specialists than to try and specialize in everything. Print designers, web developers, writer, account managers. All became essential, and I tapped the best talent around. Kaptiv8 began to appreciate modest, yet exciting growth. It was really happening for us.