YE Interview Series: Gabriel Shaoolian of Blue Fountain Media
If you’re hungry for a great entrepreneurial success story – someone who has built a business from scratch, with no outside funding or unusual legs up and has built that business to the top of its market – you’ll love today’s interview! Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and CEO of Blue Fountain Media, has done what every entrepreneur dreams of doing. He’s made his vision a reality. And today he’s talking about how he did it, and what he’s learned along the way.
Enjoy the interview, and be sure to weigh in on Gabriel’s insights in the comment section below!
37 Year Old Entrepreneur
Founder of Blue Fountain Media
You built Blue Fountain Media from the ground up, and now you cater to the needs of some of the biggest companies and organizations in the world, like Procter & Gamble, Harper Collins, and even the United Nations. Was that the vision you had from the beginning? How did you break into such a competitive space in such a huge way?
I didn’t have a vision for what my company would become. Instead, I had a philosophy: My time is very valuable and when I put my time into something, I want to see something great come out of it. This is what I preach to my team.
When I work with somebody, I treat their business as my own.
Very early on in my career a potential client asked me, “Why should I go with you?”
I gave him a brief answer. “Because I care. I care about the results I bring to my clients.”
What that means is I care about every client I take on. I care about the excellence of the work I produce. Most importantly I care that my clients succeed in their businesses.
When you deliver the kind of results I’ve been able to deliver, word gets around.
Our biggest competitive edge came with our online marketing and search engine optimization. When people Google “website design company” and see that we come up first organically, they can see we know what we’re doing. Some of our biggest clients came to us because of our Google results.
It also helps that we have established ourselves as experts in our field through speaking engagements, articles we’ve written for our website and guest blogs. It doesn’t hurt that we have caught the attention of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, either.
Was Blue Fountain your first entrepreneurial venture, or had you started other businesses before?
I began as a freelance web designer and that became the foundation for Blue Fountain Media. I also worked on an animation project for children called Biowars. It is an interactive program that teaches children about health in a fun manner. I hope to launch that in a year or so. That project taught me a lot about web design and development.
What really prepared me for what I’m doing now is that fact that I worked in so many jobs. I worked in sales at an electronics store. I was a DJ. I worked in many companies in differing roles. It helps you learn how companies work: good and bad.
I understand you did not use any outside funding to start your company. What are some of the challenges you faced funding yourself, and what lessons did you learn? Anything you would have done differently?
The first few years were very challenging. I didn’t have a lot of money. I was living month to month. Sometimes you knew if you didn’t get a new project in, you wouldn’t be able to pay your rent or have food to eat. That caused a lot of stress. It is also a great motivator.
What would I have done differently? I should have had more money in the bank before I started this, but I dived right in. It is always good to have a financial cushion when you start a business.
What three pieces of advice can you offer to a young entrepreneur hoping to launch an internet startup?
1. Know that you are in for a big sacrifice. You are going to live it. You are going to breathe it. I don’t know what the word “vacation” means for other people, but when I’m on vacation I’m always thinking about work… but I love it. Don’t just do it for the money. Do it for the joy of building something of quality.
2. Any company you are looking to work with, demand to see results they’ve produced for other clients. Not just promises- results. And get them to put real assurances on paper. Price should not be the primary factor. Whether you are hiring a PR company, a web company, a marketing company, no matter who you are working with, always demand to see the results they’ve produced.
3. Have a backup plan. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
How do you define success?
- Achieving your goals. But I don’t mean that in the traditional sense. For me, it means waking up every day and loving what you are doing.
- Working with people you respect and like
- Oh yeah, a mansion on Maui wouldn’t be too bad.