Blue Compass Turns 10: A (Funny & Nostalgic) Trip Down Memory Lane
Can you believe Blue Compass has been around for 10 years? Since 2007 we have had countless team lunches, website launches, client meetings, nerf gun wars, new offices, and inside jokes. While we are really looking forward to our anniversary party, we were also excited to take a trip down memory lane and remember some of our favorite milestones from the past 10 years.
Don’t worry, we did not forget how to count - we know 2005 is more than 10 years ago, but to understand how we got where we are today, we need to properly set the scene. Our President, Drew Harden, and CEO, Cary Coppola, met 12 years ago when they both worked for a different organization. At the time, Cary was managing the web department and Drew primarily focused on video production. Over the next two years, Drew and Cary began working on more projects together and began designing websites on a regular basis.
You will frequently hear our team say, “We only do digital, because digital is what we do best.” In 2007, Drew and Cary saw an opportunity for a company that focused all it’s time and energy on just one channel: the web.
We found that our industry was full of agency-minded companies, who provided 'everything' for their customers, but none that stood out as experts in pure digital-minded solutions. Our passion for the web supported our creation of a digital company that focused on true and measurable results for our clients. - Cary Coppola, CEO & Co-Founder
The rest, as they say, is history. On September 28, 2007 Cary and Drew started Blue Compass with no investors, funding, clients… or common sense. Just kidding, but a lot of people thought they were crazy. Both of them were leaving great jobs while their wives were expecting.
The first project we completed as a company was a website design. We were paid $1,000 and used it to buy our current domain from the travel agency who owned bluecompass.com. We love reminiscing on the work of our early days and reflecting on how much the industry has changed.
We had a lot of “firsts” during our second year in business. We hired our first team member, began working on our first, custom, content management system and moved into our first official office (which was roughly 600 square feet, had two offices and one small conference room). We even had our first big feature; the Business Record interviewed Cary and Drew about the potential of “the web for marketing” and highlighted us in an article. We may have looked like teenagers, but we felt like rockstars!
The early days of Blue Compass were an exciting time filled with a few struggles and some amazing opportunities. We worked long hours and barely took any vacation, but our excitement and passion made this little more than an inconvenience. In the first year, we took any project we could get. While we wanted to focus only on the web, we designed business cards and print ads. Then, in late 2008, I remember doing well enough that we finally decided to be more selective and only accept digital projects. - Drew Harden, President & Co-Founder
We were also fortunate to land two, well-known clients, Spalding Equipment and Ruan Transportation. Each account provided our team with unique challenges and growth opportunities. We are proud to say that both brands are still partners with us to this day.
In 2009, we continued hiring and moved into our second office. The new office was over 2,000 square feet and contained six offices, a large conference room and a large common area that was perfect for client meetings, Fun Friday’s and the occasional Wii Baseball game...
Every time I walked into the office after lunch I could tell that Drew and Cary were happy with this new office. The large conference room gave them the added space they needed to swing their arms for Wii Baseball. - Jeff, Development Director
While the new office was a major highlight of 2009, one of our favorite accomplishments that year was winning the Adobe Showcase, Featured Website Award, for Spalding Equipment. And of course, we celebrated with our office’s favorite beverage at the time, Four Loko.
January of 2010 is a memorable month because Jeff Schumann officially joined the Blue Compass team. Jeff freelanced for our team in 2009 and had previously worked with Cary and Drew before they started Blue Compass. In addition to his Wii Baseball skills, Jeff also added invaluable back-end development experience. With his help we were able to launch the first version of our content management system (CMS).
In May of 2010, we launched the first website integrated with our custom CMS for Iowa Health Des Moines. This holds a special place in our company’s story as it set the foundation for launching hundreds of websites and building our reputation as experts in our industry.
In June, Jeff’s partner in crime, Laura Jackovin joined the team. Now our VP of Operations, Laura started as a Project Manager, and even though we would never admit it to her, she has helped sculpt our culture and organization into the Blue Compass we know today.
I was enjoying my role as a stay-at-home mom when I learned about an opening at Blue Compass. I heard about the talented team, the strong leadership of Cary and Drew and that Blue Compass was the best place to work. I went into my first interview with every intention to continue staying at home. 7.5 years later, I am beyond grateful to be working at Blue Compass and am thankful Drew and Cary "took a chance on Tara's sister." - Laura Jackovin, Vice President of Operations
From the beginning, culture has been a very important component of Blue Compass. Cary and Drew wanted the team to enjoy coming to work every day and found countless ways to ensure that happened (and still happens to this day). Some of the most popular shenanigans include pulling harmless pranks, Drew’s famous games and Cary’s personal favorite, scaring each other. “Scary Cary” continues to make regular appearances in the office to this day.
We had previously dabbled in SEO, but in 2011 we officially introduced Digital Marketing as a service line. We loved launching websites, but we also saw the need to continually enhance and grow our client’s online presence.
Our first digital marketing package really showed how much opportunity is out there for us to help improve client websites, even if we didn’t build them. We streamlined several aspects of their HTML and CSS to be more responsive (mobile-friendly) as well as make recommendations to the client on what they could improve. -Ben, Senior Front-End Developer
Our team began attending conferences to continue our commitment to digital marketing and SEO improvement for our clients. With the desire to learn from the experts firsthand, we primarily attended conferences where the presenters were from Google, Bing, Facebook, etc. so we could ask them questions in person.
We continued hiring in 2010 and 2011, so much so, that by 2012 we had yet again, outgrown our space, so we built our third office. During the build out, we all worked remotely and regularly met at Drew’s house to touch base on projects, responsibilities and timelines. When we moved into the third office we had even more room for nerf gun wars (by this time we had moved on from Wii Baseball) and had plenty of room to grow and add new team members.
When I started at Blue Compass, we were in our third office with a lot of extra desks and plenty of space. Digital Marketing had been gaining traction as one of our main specialties, not as a service on the side. So much has changed since 2012, but every year I see Blue Compass grow in success, numbers, capabilities and expertise. I'm thrilled to say we're the best we've ever been. - Kayla Davison, Designer
During 2013 we saw exponential growth when we landed our largest account yet. It’s fair to say we felt a little intimidated during this pitch, as our team of 9 was up against an out of state firm with over 1,000 employees. Winning this client’s business was confirmation that we were on the right track, and needless to say, the Fun Friday after we won this account was one of our best yet.
As our reputation spread, our client portfolio continued to grow. While we were excited about working with new companies, we also wanted to continue providing exceptional service to our current clients, so we introduced our Client Support Department. This team continually helps clients get the most out of their CMS and website through answering day to day questions, performing development updates, trainings and so much more - they are always just a support ticket away.
As our client portfolio grew, so did opportunities for professional growth. Our digital marketing team tripled in size, we hired more developers and account executives, and welcomed new interns. By the end of the year, our team grew from 9 to 18 employees, and I had transitioned from Office Manager to Account Executive, which led into my role today. It was a whirlwind year for all of us, and one I’ll never forget! - Steph Campbell, Client Support Manager
What stands out to me about 2014 was the growth of our team. Myself and a few other started just the year before and now we were all hitting our stride inside Blue Compass. BC was not only gaining team members, but we were growing in expertise too; we were continually pushing each other to learn more. Not to mention, our frequent team lunches helped us become a tight knit team. - David Wanat, Back-End Developer
With our bigger-and-better-than-ever team, we managed to launch an entire website in a day. While it normally takes months to strategize, plan and develop a full website, we did everything from content architecture, design, development, content writing and more in 24 hours. We walked the line between intensity and insanity that day, but we emerged realizing that our team culture was powerful, and that together we could accomplish more than we thought possible.
We also teamed up for the first time with Rebuild Together of Greater Des Moines to help fix up local homes for families in need. We have since turned this into an annual event for our team to come together and serve our local community. Each year we have countless laughs and find new hidden talents in team members, including some surprisingly good (and bad) axe throwing skills and David’s knack for spotting poison ivy...or not spotting it!
In 2015 we decided to redesign our content management system. While the development team lead the charge on this initiative each team played an important part in the process. Our Account Executive and Client Support teams knew what features, custom apps and user experience elements our client’s wanted built into the new tool and the Digital Marketing team had a wish list of SEO and social media features to enhance the marketing capabilities.
I started as an intern in 2013 and my main job was working in the CMS, so I became very familiar with it. When we started redesigning the CMS, in 2015, I had a unique perspective on enhancements and usability within the CMS. Working closely with the DM team, we were able to integrate a lot of advanced SEO and social capabilities into the CMS. While our old CMS is still a great tool, it is very satisfying to see how much the new CMS has grown and improved. - Brooke, Back-End Developer
Even though we were busy we continued to take time on a regular basis for Fun Fridays and team lunches. These events have turned into something the entire team looks forward to. Whether we are playing one of Drew’s games, celebrating birthday’s and work anniversaries or just playing a quick game of hide and seek we recognize the importance of setting aside time to spend together.
2016 was a big year for Software as a Service (Saas) at Blue Compass! We officially launched our new CMS, which we fondly refer to as Batman internally, and we added custom Intranet development to our regular service offerings. Both of these softwares have strengthened our custom development offerings and kept our team busy.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, we found time to remodel and move into our newest office. With over 10,000 square feet, 3 conference rooms, multiple community workplaces, treadmill desks and a beer fridge, the team was excited for the move. As we settled in, we each have our favorite part of the new office but the team as a whole would agree the best part of the new space is the additional potential for pranks, Cary scares and nerf gun wars.
Work Hard, Play Hard is a phrase that applies at Blue Compass. We have a lot of knowledgeable experts on our team continually coming up with innovative solutions but we also take time to have fun. Whether that is a game of flippy cup on a Friday or a 10 A.M. nerf gun war, our team appreciates the hard work and effort that Cary and Megan put into customizing our new office for our team’s needs. It is perfect for team members like me who have a short attention span. We have a variety of places throughout the office when we want a change of scenery including a bike desk and treadmill desks! - Katrina Reger, Digital Marketing Strategist
After 10 years we managed to have another “first” - we acquired our first business in July of 2017. The acquisition increased our client base by about 35% and added two additional developers, to our team.
The best part of the acquisition, in my opinion, is that we were able to bring over developers from their team. Charles and Sara have been a welcome addition to the Blue Compass team and have tackled any challenge put in front of them. I’m very proud to have been called upon to manage the acquisition and have greatly enjoyed getting to know our two newest developers in the process! - Nathan Phillips, Account Executive
Including these new developers, we have added 7 new team members to our Blue Compass family so far this year. The new faces, ideas, talents and personalities have transformed our team and helped us continue to grow. Each and every person brought a new perspective and level of expertise to our brand.
While the past 10 years have been memorable, we know that the best is yet to come. Between the knowledge and expertise of our team and the dedicated leadership of Cary and Drew, we know that the next 10 years will be just as exciting, rewarding and fulfilling as the last.
Happy 10th Anniversary Blue Compass!