If you pull up the Image Freedom Twitter account and you scroll – and scroll – and scroll, all the way down to the very first person I’d ever followed on Twitter, you’ll see Social Media rockstar Colleen Pence. She was the first tweep that I ever tweeted with.
On July 29th, 2009 I picked a name, I launched a website, I started Image Freedom out of the little bedroom I was renting in a house with three other guys so I could save every possible penny and re-invest it into the business. I had relocated to San Antonio from California shortly after getting divorced. It was a difficult time in my life, and I had only what I could fit in my car. I drove for 26 hours straight without sleeping because I didn’t want to spend any money on a hotel.
I was broke, and scared. I had a little cash that I made selling all my worldly possessions on Craig’s List before leaving California. We started with next to nothing. That said, I wanted to take this chance, not to rehash our story, but instead to say thanks to all the players, big and small, who played a roll in helping us build this from scratch.
Whether I had any money or not, I had friends, and I set out to meet as many people as I could, talk to as many people, God forbid LISTEN to as many people as I could. I needed to learn San Antonio, I needed to learn the non-SEO aspects of business, hell I needed to get better at SEO!
Huge Thank You to Donna Tuttle, Joe Ruiz, Andi Narvaez, Nan Palmero, Jessica Young and Sean Michael Wood for creating the Business Media Public Relations (#BMPR) luncheon networking series where I’d not only learned a ton but met a lot of people who helped us chase our dreams.
Through BMPR we met Alicia Arenas and attended her Sanera Camp Business Building Bootcamp where we also met organizer extraordinaire Michelle Poteet, and we owe much gratitude and appreciation to both of these world class women for kicking us in the backside (sometimes repeatedly.)
Twitter Tweeps like Luis Sandoval Jr., Dawn Cole, Jennifer Navarette, Derba Mills, Simon Ponder, Jennifer Hatton, Davis Staedtler, Jennifer “#EmpireBuilding” Jasiczek, Debi Pfitzenmaier, Holly Hoffman, Bernice Kearney, George Godfrey, Brenda Munoz, Ana Flores, Rene Guzman, Choco Valdez, Heather Hernandez, Elizabeth Anderson, and all the tweetbabes, who rapped with us, argued with us, cried with us, cursed with us, whatever it took to push the needle. Thank you for being such an inspired group of hustlers and innovators. You inspire me every day, 140 characters at a time.
On the SEO front, much thanks to the Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin. The SEOmoz crew that doesn’t get a lot of individual love like Sarah Bird, Jen Lopez, Jamie Steven, Ruth Burr, Aaron Wheeler and their entire Help Team, thank you SEOmoz!
Thank you to Tom Critchlow, who since taken his “solid delivery” to Google, but I stand by my belief that he is the most talented SEO I have ever met. Second to no one, Wil Reynolds who I watched on YouTube long before I could afford to attend conferences and see the master speak in person. Thank you to Distilled’s LinkLove and SEOmoz’ MozCon for introducing me to amazing SEOs and friends like Kris Roadruck, Rhea Drysdale, Laura Lippay, Dan Shure, and Lindsay Wassell. (Holy EgoBait Batman!)
Thank you to my best friend Kevin Chandler who leant me $1,300 for two weeks three years ago so I could buy our first Apple MacBook Pro while waiting for our first big check to clear. Thank you to Sherri Elsasser, bean counter extraordinaire, and her team at PermaSource Solutions who keep me organized, sane, and make sure our people get paid on time.
Thank you to John Navarette and Mark Broderick of Prologue Branding for our amazing branding materials, messaging, and the new logo. Thank you to Iris de Andrade for the logo she made for us that helped us get that far. Thank you to Juan Barrera of Blue Clover for the amazing website that we’ve been using to build our empire and to Jose Sena for his friendship and all that he taught me over the years.
To inspiring authors like Dave Ramsey, Scott Stratten, Gary Vaynerchuck and Jason Fried who wrote enough amazing down on the printed page that my ADHD self summoned enough focus to actually read a book. To the Dave Ramsey company “The Lampo Group” and their EntreLeadership team, folks like Chris LoCurto who hosts Dave’s EntreLeadership Podcast (which is the #1 Business Podcast on iTunes).
Thank you to Chris “Calisuri” Pirotta, Michael “Xoanon” Regina, and the whole TheOneRing.net crew who suffered through my teen years as we pioneered what it meant to be grass roots bloggers. To Norman Lao for his words of inspiration and support, both then and now.
To my best man, David Stinemetze and his better-half-to-be Becky Jacobs, thank you for trusting me and taking this leap with me. Thank you also for working your Widgets & Burritos magic on our site and the sites of our clients to keep the cogs spinning.
Thank you to Steven Addison, Sarah Godfrey, Dan Sealana, Stephanie Rosenbaum, Morgan Barnhart, Mark Ramos for helping us grow and learn. Extensive thanks to Michelle Garcia for all she taught me and (I’m sensing a pattern) for kicking my ass when I needed it.
Thank you to my lovely wife Sara for her support and her patience as I work the laid back schedule of 9 to 5(AM). Thank you to friends like Shawnje Williams, Gabriel San Miguel, Mike Blanton, Randall Preston, and huge thanks to “Bootstrap” Bill Turner for dragging me out of a retail job almost four years ago and telling me to cut the freelance crap and start a business full time.
Last but not least, I want to thank the best team in SEO, Laureen Kattan, Roberto Miranda, and Andrew Mitschke. Were it not for the creativity, the energy, and the hustle of these people, we’d still be building websites for gas money and sharing a desk.
I am blessed, blessed in business, blessed with the best friends and mentors and devils advocates that any man, entrepreneur or otherwise, could ever ask for.
Very happy to be celebrating our third birthday today, but we didn’t get here on our own. I built this business from a cocky dream and the lint in my pocket, but it took a village to make it real. THANK YOU!