After nine years of hiding behind the curtain and letting his employees shine, we finally snagged some time to learn more about the man who started it all – our CEO and Founder, Essa Naser. Since the beginning, this self-made, self-taught entrepreneur has grounded his career in the world of design, development, user experience and digital marketing. He started out freelancing as a graphic designer and eventually became a web developer with a local agency, specializing in branding, motion graphics and UI/UX design.
“Working there was quite the experience and really a stepping stone for my career, but for the seven years that I worked there, I didn’t have a single portfolio piece that I was proud of because I was never able to work directly with our clients. When the owner decided to move away and let me basically run his company for him, I finally had the chance to work closely with clients and get all of the information that I was missing. The first two projects after this transition were immediate successes, giving me just the push I needed to quit my job and focus all of my efforts on starting my own agency.”
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced when first starting eMedia?
I had no idea what I needed to do to run my own business or manage client projects effectively. I didn’t know how to write a proposal, manage projects, or send an invoice and get paid for the work. It’s funny now to think back to all the late nights where I would sit at my desk in my apartment and research “How to write a proposal” or “How to send an invoice.” Back then, online accounting software wasn’t a thing! All in all, figuring out everything I would need to start and successfully operate my business was the most significant challenge.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned over the years that has changed how you think about or conduct business?
I realized that it’s more important to focus our services on specific and measurable business goals and then use that data to track whether or not those goals are being met. From what I’ve noticed in the market, other agencies treat projects as commodity items, letting their clients self-diagnose what they think they need. There are so many times we hear “we need a new website design” or “we need to be on social media and put ads on Google.” Given the vast number of channels and methods available to get traffic to your website and generate new business, it can be a costly and painful lesson to throw money at something with no measurable results.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the 9 years since starting eMedia?
The industry landscape has evolved dramatically over the last nine years. When I started eMedia, there weren’t many other companies around like ours, specifically that offered branding, web, online marketing, and SEO services, under one roof. Yes, there were freelancers, but not actual agencies specializing in the digital space. There were advertising agencies that hired freelancers and branding firms that tried to do digital and social, but no companies were dedicated to branding with a focus on user experience and user interface design. Today, you can throw a rock and hit another web or digital marketing agency. Agencies come and go, but the market has become extremely flooded, requiring us to position ourselves differently than the rest.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Being the visionary for eMedia is my favorite part of the job. It requires learning something new every single day and allows me the opportunity to try out the ideas that pop into my head. Part of my role at eMedia is to come up with at least 20 ideas a week, develop experiments to test them, and decide whether they were a success or not. Plus, when I’m able to get back into branding, designing a user experience or even some video production, it’s icing on the cake. My job is basically a playground – who wouldn’t love that?!?
eMedia turns 10 next year! How are you looking to really shake things up and do things differently in the years ahead?
Without giving away our secret sauce 😉, I’m currently working on creating new services with an emphasis on solving common business problems. We’ve always been a full-service agency, and that is what has set us apart – the ability to give unmatched results and meet the needs of clients within the same four walls. In the future, I see our firm becoming the go-to for growth strategy solutions and solving major business problems through branding, technology, digital strategy and experiential marketing.
You fill a big role at eMedia, but what do you do outside of work (if that’s possible)?
I love hanging out with my wife and 5-year-old daughter. Aside from that, I enjoy going to the gym, playing the occasional recreational sport, heading out west to snowboard in the winters, and family vacations at the beach in the summer. Every so often, I get the chance to have dinner and drinks with close friends and DJ at our office as a creative reset.
GNARLY FACTS ABOUT ESSA
- I used to DJ on a radio station (93 Dance) when I lived in Florida after graduating school.
- I think of my best ideas in the shower…and I have no idea why.
- I opened the first ever internet café in downtown Cincinnati with my dad and sister in Tower Place Mall (when it was still around). It was called @TheKafé and was the first of it’s kind in the city, with Mac computers people could use for free with any purchase. We had the BEST chicken panini sandwiches in the city, hands down. We also had the first ever animated menu on a 50″ Plasma screen TV.