Today we’d like to introduce you to Jordan and Danielle Trask.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Marketing with intention and integrity has always intrigued me. As a teenager, during the “dial-up” age, I became bothered by misleading ads and click-bait tactics. I don’t know how many times my brother clicked on website banners claiming to ship him a “free Playstation.” He never got the gift and my parents were always charged for something.
As my parents would interrogate me, I remember wondering why people invested in manipulation and how they got away with it. I sort of felt a calling. After studying the early stages of branding, I started to realize that consumers have been being told what to buy-into for a good part of the last century. So, I decided to take a mass media class in high school. Here, I was exposed to advertising lingo and the elements of “sorta true” copywriting. I started to wonder why consumers were so gullible and naive to these targeting strategies. I even took a job at a sign shop to learn more about the elements of design and print advertising.
As the internet slowly developed a sketchy reputation, I knew there had to be a better way to market and persuade. Without going into much detail, this is where I started to develop my passion for authenticity. I set a goal to eventually head the creative direction for a Super Bowl commercial. Everyone talks about Super Bowl ads and I knew this is where I could prove my ability to cater to the customer. I continued chasing my inspiration by studying Communication and Digital Media at Ball State University. After growing tired of a journalism minor, I was drawn to organizational and interpersonal communication. In 2007, my obsession with advertising ethics was finally rewarded when a professor published one of my research papers in his online journal.
After college, I wasn’t really sure what to do. My dad took a commercial construction bid in Arizona and moved the family while I was still in school. Since the job market was pretty scarce in 2009, I moved out west to work for one of his contractors. Laboring in the desert heat with a college degree wasn’t exactly the ideal situation. So, I took a job with Enterprise Rent A Car in 2010. After seeing quite a bit of growth and success, I still felt like my purpose wasn’t being satisfied. Even though I took side jobs as a freelance marketer, I knew I was becoming stagnant. The birth of my son and the demanding “fake it til you make it” routine of corporate America caused me to return to my passion, full time. My wife started a family photography business to help bridge the gap in our income.
The beginning of 2014 is where I started my start-up tour. Over the next 18 months, I was immersed in multiple aspects of online targeting. Although my first position cuts my annual income in half, I learned how to leverage online behaviors to retarget users with paid ads. Not only was I able to understand what consumers needed, but also what they appreciated most. Soon after, I took a job as an SEO manager that quickly turned into a content strategist for 17 agency clients. I was given the responsibility of researching competition and studying target audiences in order to deliver valuable content on multiple channels. I became a part of the client discovery process and started providing creative direction for video production. But, micro-management and client “budget” limitations were handicapping some of the ideas I had. The parameters of agency packages bucketed clients based on industries and I wasn’t really about that life. I wanted to help companies focus on their opportunity and not just throw them into a standardized process.
So, I transitioned again to an identity-less medical start-up closer to home. My experience was immediately put to use, but it wasn’t necessarily valued. Internal egos overshadowed the company’s best interests and my passion for brand standards were slowly silenced. The company slogan of “patient values first” wasn’t being implemented within the business and the culture suffered because of it. Although I spent countless hours developing an online presence, ad campaigns, partnerships, and marketing strategies, this was the final stop of my employee life. Not only did this experience reinforce my belief in a customer focus, it helped me realize the power of a brand culture.
After being approved for short-term leave for shoulder surgery, the company laid me and 26 other employees off via email. We had nothing to show for the last year. They refused to provide anyone with recommendation letters. We were all denied unemployment and I had to look for work while rehabilitating my dominant arm. I could have caved, but my wife and 4 kids needed me to progress. This is the part of my story where my faith in God came in handy. Unable to secure work, I was forced to start my entrepreneurial journey. Just like the banner ads my brother used to give into, businesses that don’t value their customers and employees rarely sustain. This motivated me over the next 5 months. I would turn to freelance platforms and write proposals in hopes of securing long-term clients. It was frustrating because most businesses only wanted to tell me what to do. Learning how to complete a project, even though I knew it wasn’t the best way to spend money, was hard. It also wasn’t financially rewarding. My wife and I were forced to market her photography business as much as we could. At one point, we were offering sessions for as low as $49.
We enjoyed working together and decided to include her photography experience as a package deal. I attempted to persuade businesses to improve their presentation by investing in original copy and imagery. I understood the value in previewing the customer experience, but most of them didn’t. We’d get compared to cheaper photographers, stock photos, and other copywriting services. I was driven to be more than an option and slowly started building a business model at the beginning of 2017. I had to do a better job of presenting the value of authenticity. I knew there was a disconnect in branding and marketing based on my agency experience. I knew that most companies weren’t speaking to their customers. I knew that companies were wasting money on avenues that didn’t make sense. Based on my last job, I knew how valuable a culture and standards were. I knew if I helped them build a brand identity on the front end, clarity would follow.
Since I couldn’t persuade them to invest more in this, I had to show them for free. After more work for less pay, some of my clients started to experience the value. This is when PreFocus was born.
For the last 6 months, I’ve shifted my focus from “et al” to purpose-driven. I’ve developed a process that helps my clients “prefocus” on their identity so they can stop wasting money on basic initiatives. Moreover, I help them understand who their customers are so they can speak to them accordingly. Everything I do is geared towards my client’s overall brand promise and ideal customer loyalty. No matter if I’m helping them revise their website or my wife and I are capturing media. Although I’m still underpaid for the work I’m doing, my clients are coming back. I’m looking to sign new clients for the entire brand development process so I can streamline all of their marketing efforts moving forward. But, one step at a time.
Has it been a smooth road?
Well, getting started without a head start was a challenge in itself. I always knew I’d eventually own my own business, but starting from scratch without any income was trying. The hardest challenge has definitely been the hole we’ve been forced to continue to climb out of with zero working capital.
Another challenge was getting potential clients to trust me. So many businesses have been burned in the past by agencies and buying into a solopreneur isn’t on their to-do list. Having to do tedious tasks and take orders from people with less experience was humbling.
The whole financial experience actually took a toll on our marriage. There are over 2000 verses in the Bible about money and I’m sure we’ve read them all. But, challenges make people stronger and persevering together actually strengthened our marriage. (James 1:2-4) Efficient communication between the two of us fixed a lot of the issues we were having.
Since I work out of a home office, it was very hard to initially establish a work schedule. I have 4 kids and they all wanted to come in whenever they pleased. At the same time, I struggled with saying no to my 4 and 1-year-olds. I wanted to spend time with them but had to learn how to discipline myself. We ended up having family meetings every Sunday to set expectations and speak openly about family matters and the “why’s” behind things. Since we’ve been more intentional with family times and a “no work on Sunday” rule.
A challenge that I still deal with today is outsourcing tasks to free up my time. Although I recently started working with FreeeUp, it’s still hard for me to hand off what I’ve built. Learning to trust other people to uphold my standards is a work in progress.
When you’re not making much money, it’s easy to get down on yourself. At times, I started to feel like a failure and struggled emotionally. Even though some things weren’t necessarily my fault, my confidence took a hit when I wasn’t able to provide the way my family needed me to. But, surrounding myself with the right people really helped me keep my head off out the sand.
If I were to give any advice to future business owners, it would be to prepare for the unexpected. There were plenty of things that happened in everyday life that we weren’t ready for. We were challenged by 3 flat tires, a car repair, a broken sliding door and a few rounds of family sickness. Not having a contingency sucked.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I specialize in helping my clients build a brand identity so they can market accordingly. Too many marketers are spending their client’s dollars on lackadaisical understanding. It may not be costing them much money, but it’s costing the businesses revenue in the long run.
I take pride in providing honest feedback and creative direction that’s in the best interest of the business. I’m not necessarily focused on telling my clients what to do, rather helping them understand where their opportunity lies. Solidifying who they are, why they are and what they do really well allows us to target ideal customers that value them.
Being purposeful with marketing drives brand recognition, credibility, and trust. I’m not in the business of “likes,” “shares” and views – I’m in the business of loyalty. It’s very fulfilling when a client learns how to streamline their marketing efforts and build a culture that people know and want to be a part of.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love it in Phoenix. I think it’s slowly developing its own aura and love the creative variation. The restaurant industry is on the rise and there’s always something to do. Some people are annoyed by the summer heat, but I ride a motorcycle year round. If you were a business in my industry, I’d recommend having a unique value proposition before settling in. There are plenty of smaller agencies here and the tech realm is growing. Do something really well and you’ll fit in nicely.
Surprise, Arizona is one of the fastest growing cities in the entire U.S. The lack of creative options makes it a perfect place for us to call home. I look forward to growing with the city.
- Website: www.prefocus.solutions
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/theprefocus
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/prefocus.solutions
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/jordanttrask
- Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/prefocus-solutions-surprise
- Other: www.youtube.com/channel/UCunFY0uUQG-74lJ1Yup_DGQ