By Burton Speakman
A township company hopes to start the way many tech companies have evolved — from an idea that begins in someone’s home, dorm or garage into something much larger.
Nate Dukes left his job at a marketing company in Kent to start IdentityBlend in February. Megan Roberts joined the team a few months later, and Dukes’ girlfriend, Katie Burns, keeps an eye on the company’s finances. The most recent addition, Nick Demarinis, is in charge of sales.
IdentityBlend’s goal is to help small business develop and maintain a social-media presence. The business and its four employees occupy a loft area in the apartment Dukes and Burns share.
Dukes said the idea for the company came from talking with a co-worker in Kent who had suggested they go out on their own.
“I realized there was a niche in catering to smaller business,” he said. “Most media companies go after midsized businesses that have thousands of dollars to spend on social-media marketing. We cater our products to companies with smaller budgets.”
These small businesses realize they need a social-media presence, but a lot of them consider it just another way to advertise, Dukes said. IdentityBlend also is willing to create a plan around what a company can afford to spend.
“We have to educate them,” Dukes added. “The companies that do the best job on social media aren’t the ones that just give their specials every day, but the ones who generate a conversation with their friends [online].”
The group does things such as writing Facebook, Twitter or blog posts for their clients, Burns said. She is the company’s primary writer. They also monitor comments about their clients on sites such as Google or Yelp, and will respond to negative comments.
“We take a proactive approach to our client’s reputations,” Dukes said. “There are a lot of businesses that have been around in the [Mahoning] Valley for a long time and have older owners. Those are typically the businesses that could use the most help with social media.”
Younger customers in particular are more likely to rely on a company’s Web presence and not consider a company with a bad social media or a website, he said.
Potential clients have been positive so far, Demarinis said.
“These companies need to be doing these things, but they don’t know how,” he said.
Burns said in her job writing for the company’s clients, one of the most important things about writing posts for a client is to sit down with them, get to know their business and understand what they like and dislike.
“The clients don’t proof every one of my posts, but I have a really good sense of what they’re into and would support,” she said.
The key is using good sense with posts and making sure not to cross any lines, she added.
One of the more interesting clients is a father-and-son business where the son is taking over, Burns said. The father is an “old-school” businessman, while the son has a better understanding of social media, she said.
“I tell the son what the social-media plan for the company is, and then he explains it to his father,” she said.
There has been a lot of new business over the past couple of weeks, and the hope is that the expansion will continue, Dukes said.
The goal over the next couple of years is to open at least two locations with one in the Youngstown area and another somewhere such as Cleveland or Columbus, Dukes said.
“We’re all from this area, and it’s important to us that we stay here. We’ve developed a speciality niche that I think really works for us,” he said.
Despite what happens with the business, leaving his previous job has been a great decision, Dukes said.
Owning your own business creates adversity, but any success you achieve is something that you created, he added.
“I have had some great jobs in the past and worked with a lot of great people, but I don’t think I could go back to working for someone else after having my own business,” Dukes said.
Being part of a small startup is “equal parts exhilarating and terrifying,” Burns said.
The weight of the company’s success or failure is “completely on our shoulders,” she said.
For information about the company, go to its website at http://identityblend.com/.