No, this isn’t about that one. It’s about our one. Every company has a creation story and it turns out they’re pretty important to the customers. They’re closer to folklore; the two Steves building the first Apple computer in a garage, Jeff Bezos writing his business plan in the back seat of the car as his wife drove them to California, Colonel Sanders sold his first KFC at 60. Every great business has a creation story and it is imperative to share it with your customers, clients and fans. This is our creation story.
Our launch party in 2013. I love this picture. Taken by my (at the time)11-year-old niece because no one thought to get a photographer.
I never thought I’d actually start my own business. I talked about doing it ‘one day’ but deep down I never really believed I would. Then, two things happened. First, I changed jobs from one ad agency to a slightly larger ad agency. It was the same. Worse, actually. It was safe to assume the next place wouldn’t be much better. Second, my wife got pregnant, which was awesome. Now, I had a house, a wife, a baby on the way, and was making good money. It wasn’t a bad thing, but for the first time my life seemed to be happening to me instead of by me.
3 MONTHS PREGNANT
It’s been called an “entrepreneurial seizure,” the unexplainable moment when a person decides to disrupt everything and risk it all to start a business. That is a fair assessment of how it happened. It was my third day at my new job. At lunch, the company took us to hear a speaker. As he talked about how he started his company, I looked at my new agency owner, and looked at my previous agency owner who was also in attendance, and thought, “I can do that.” And, that, as they say, was that.
I came home and told Piper very plainly I am going to start my own agency. She said, “that’s great, babe.” But, she didn’t really believe me. I have made false declarations before, “I’m cutting out dairy” or “I’m going to run a half marathon.”
That baby inside of Piper was the final countdown. I knew that neither of us had any idea how that baby was going change our lives. We were still blissfully ignorant and selfish twenty somethings. I needed to do it before that reality and responsibility set in. I felt like once that baby came and we felt that weight of responsibility we’d never be bold enough to do it. I also had to tell Jeff.
6 MONTHS PREGNANT
Jeff is my buddy. We worked at both agencies together. He is a great designer and a great friend. We could and can give each other creative criticism without the other feeling a shred of sensitivity or insecurity. It is a rare and invaluable element of a creative relationship, and one we still hold. I didn’t want to leave him behind, but I didn’t have much choice. This was my thing and I couldn’t count on anyone but myself. We were having beers after work one day when I finally worked up the courage to tell him, “I’m going to start my own agency.” Without pause or second thought, he nodded and said, “Let’s do it.” Um, maybe he didn’t hear me correctly. This was awkward. What do you do if you were me? Well, I did what any uncomfortable human would do, smile and nod back while getting all warm inside.
Jeff and Adam putting a GoPro on a bike for a project that never happened.
Jeff knew something I did not. I needed him; I needed a partner. This was going to be tougher than I thought. Because, he had already thought about it himself for years too. And, he ended up being absolutely right. That first year would have been impossible without him. We talked every single day for hours just sharing our anxiety, excitement and overall overwhelmeness.
9 MONTHS PREGNANT
Jeff quit a week before the baby was due. I was going to quit the week after. Piper still didn’t really believe me. Then, Poppy arrived. It wasn’t like people say when your baby is born. At least, not for me. I didn’t instantly feel an overwhelming bond and intense love like people said I would. And, I’m a pretty emotional dude. It took time (now my bond with Poppy is stronger than steel), and I was confused and a little disappointed I didn’t have this instant and otherworldly emotion. Piper did. Piper and Poppy were perfect together. When Poppy was about three days old and sleeping on her momma’s chest, I said, “Piper, I’m going to quit on Monday.” Piper just kind of smiled, nodded and calmly said, “Ok.”
Now, in retrospect, Piper was on some pretty serious pain medication and has zero recollection of this moment. Like all creation stories, I reserve the right for creative license. But, that’s how I remember it and it’s how I am going to tell it for the rest of my life.
So, I quit on Monday. They asked me to leave after just a few days (I was not a star employee). According to what I wrote on Facebook five years ago, we started in February of 2013 (Poppy’s birthday is February 6th). For the next six months, I worked out of our kitchen with Piper and Poppy also home with me. I had a half-completed business plan, exactly two months salary saved, and not one retainer client. And, most alarming, no fall back plan. I could not fail.
And, we didn’t. I’m not ready to say we have succeeded, but we did something. Something Jeff and Piper and me and a bunch of other fabulous folks are quite proud of. We built 5 + 8. Oh, and for anyone who doesn’t know where the name came from, I guess that’s a good close to this creation story.
I always loved numbers. Not like an actuary loves numbers. I love the shape of them. I love the way we identify with them. The way an athlete feels connect with his number. I can still tell you the number of just about any teammate I’ve ever had. Five is my number. Eight is Piper’s number. 5 + 8 = 13, and 2013 was the year we started and the year Poppy was born.
That is how 5 + 8 was created.