FROM $10 TO A DIGITAL AGENCY

FROM $10 TO A DIGITAL AGENCY

We really never know where things will lead in life.

When I started out in business with a $10 investment to buy a community newspaper in 2008, I had no idea that we would start six more publications and a digital agency over the next eight years.

But that’s what happened.

We’ve also become property owners. We’ve recently moved into our new office for Starnes Digital, our new digital agency, at 2712 19th Avenue South in Homewood. It’s the sister company to our publishing company which started with that initial $10 investment, Starnes Publishing. Now, our parent company is known as Starnes Media. The new office for our agency is located two doors down from our other Homewood building which houses the Starnes Publishing team and our marketing consultants. Our marketing consultants offer services from both sides of the company.

We purchased this newest building last year from Rosenberger’s Birmingham Trunk. We’ve recently renovated the building and our team is moved in. There are still a few final touches that need to be made, but we are in and the space is fully functional.

It’s an extraordinarily exciting time for us in light of what we’ve done to get to this point, and it’s a story that I love to tell.

It started, as I mentioned in 2008 when I purchased 280 Living for $10. It was the middle of the recession and I had no money, no credit, and no experience in publishing. So there I was: a newspaper publisher with no resources at all. In hindsight it was a perfect place to start because I had to learn to be resourceful. I didn’t have any money to pay employees and I didn’t have any experience to draw on. What I was fortunate to have was a small base of clients.

My philosophy in those days was that I would go to a client and whatever they asked for, the answer was yes. Once I’d agreed to fulfill whatever it was that needed to be fulfilled, I then had to go figure out how to do that.

We had to work really hard back then just to make it to the next month, just to get the next issue out. Since I didn’t have any money to pay anyone and I wasn’t much of a writer, I had to find creative ways to solve problems and do whatever it took to get the job done. I did write some even though it wasn’t a strength or a passion of mine. I also did a fair amount of editing and took a few photos.

I knew then that I couldn’t find one person to write fifteen free stories, but I could find fifteen people to write one free story. So we put the paper together over the course of about a year and a half. The business grew and we dramatically improved the paper. Then I started to have a realization: I needed more resources. I also realized that for me to have more resources, I’d need more revenue. It dawned on me that I needed another publication.

I lived in Park Lane apartments in Mountain Brook and I thought that Mountain Brook would be a great community for my model. So we started Village Living in April of 2010. It didn’t take long to know that my instincts were right.

One day after the first issue of Village Living came out, I got a call from someone in Homewood asking me to come publish a paper there. I told them that I’d need to wait until the paper I’d just started was profitable and I could figure out the needed infrastructure to open another publication, and then I’d do it.

One year later, in April of 2011, we opened The Homewood Star in Homewood.

Over the course of the next five years we opened four more publications: Hoover Sun in 2012, Vestavia Voice in 2013, Cahaba Sun in 2015, and Iron City Ink in 2016.

Our publications are very unique and I am extraordinarily proud of them. They are recognized statewide as the best in their class. We dominate our division in Alabama Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest on an annual basis. The publications fill a void in the media landscape and are a huge public service for the communities they serve. There’s a lot of community news that will not be reported if we don’t report it, and providing the service that we do means a lot to us.

Our publications have allowed our company to be recognized for its growth both locally by the Birmingham Business Journal, by my university, the University of Georgia, and nationally by the Inc. 5000 each of the last two years. We are part of a very small group of companies that have seen the rate of growth that our publishing company has seen since 2008. And our growth has been based on print revenue. As I mentioned, it’s very unique.

But we realize there’s more.

There’s more that we can do. There’s more value that we can bring to our clients and to our own company by having a digital agency.

So that’s why we started Starnes Digital in 2016. It allows us to better serve our clients with web design, SEO, social media management, digital advertising, photography, videography, reputation management, and much more. We’re very invested in our new business and really excited for the potential it offers us to serve our clients and also to enhance what we do with our publications.

It’s the latest extension of the thinking from 2010 that we need more resources. It makes us a bigger, better more vibrant company. And most importantly, it allows us to better meet the needs of our clients. It allows us to help them achieve their goals, which have become our goals.

– Dan Starnes

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