The Seven Year Itch

by Mike

In the beginning

It was late into 2004. Josh Taylor and I had been sitting in our accountants office house signing the papers that would make things official. We were starting a web design company.

On December 15th, 2004 we were notified that MJ Media, LLC was now a registered organization in the great state of Michigan (bonus points if you read that like Mason).

First gigs

Our first few projects came in from family and friends. Eventually, after a quick email to The Bay City Times, we scored a short bio and color photo in the “New Business” section. We quickly picked up 3 or 4 very low budget websites. A few of those brave souls remain with us today.

It wasn’t all lollipops and gumdrops though. There was one early client that ended up disappointed when we were unable to deliver what they expected for the price that we had agreed to. I blame this on their unrealistic expectations combined with our unrealistic confidence. It’s a shame too, because I still think about how cool it would be to really help this company out.

Somewhere in the middle

After those first few gigs, we started meeting the people that would really help to shape and mold our beliefs. Some of the people that were instrumental to our success are Shawn MacDonald of 989 Design, Ron Acker and Chris Gruber of F.P. Horak, Francis Soehnel of Looks Unlimited, and the many other clients we worked with early on. They were passionate people, that enjoyed putting out the best work possible, even when less expensive options exist.

Things were still just puttering along though. Josh and I both had full time jobs, and the company became nothing more than a weekend hobby.

Hey dad, I quit.”

At the time I was working for my father at Pyramid Paving. I was working very hard, and making pretty good money. I knew that I liked working there, but I felt I needed to give MJ Media the shot it deserved. After a being laid off for the winter, I began seeking higher profile clients. We scored big when Kate Cardinali of IMD brought us in to help with an E-commerce website for Franks Great Outdoors. I estimated it to take the rest of the summer, and decided not to return to Pyramid for the upcoming season.

Things seemed to be going well, until they didn’t. The old site was being bombarded by hackers on a daily basis. We were forced to make emergency patches just to keep it running long enough to develop a replacement. For one reason or another, we also went through a couple of server moves at this time.  One of our moves was interrupted by a tornado that touched down dangerously close to the server building and caused what I seem to remember as a few days’ worth of downtime. Eventually, the old website was so far gone, that we decided to launch the new site, untested and unfinished.

It was a bad idea. Development came down to a punch list, and because our contract was pretty vague, the client had a different punch list than we did. Upon completion of our list, the client declined to pay the final invoice.

I was heartbroken. I didn’t want this project to fail.

Seven months into a five month project, I was broke. And to make matters worse, we were so busy trying to launch this site, that we hadn’t been seeking other work. Things were rough, and my personal credit cards started taking a beating.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Let me make one thing clear; most of our clients are bad-ass! I have met some very interesting small business owners since we started this company, and helped them to begin their foray into the digital world. While I always have a sore spot for the failures of yesterday, I remember most projects as successes.

I still enjoy doing what I do. I feel that we stack up closely with the best in the business. Even more than that, I still enjoy learning what I do not yet know. It’s such a fast paced field to be in, that you are able to see the landscape change before your eyes.

So what’s the point?

There is one, I promise.

Nearly seven years into this magical trip, my partner, Josh Taylor has chosen to leave MJ Media. I’ve heard some of his plans for the future, and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him. I’m going to miss him as a partner.

So, it’s with mixed emotions that I wish Josh a fond farewell. Please feel free to wish him good luck in the comments below!

(photo by bengrey)

About Mike


Construction worker turned snow plower turned web professional; Mike offers an interesting blend marketing savvy, business sense, and technological geekiness. With more than 10 years of experience developing websites, and expertise with the most modern standards and technologies, Mike creates breathtaking web projects that result in increased sales for clients. Mike lives with his wife and two Labrador Retrievers in Essexville, Michigan.

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