It Was the Plus Symbol that Sucked Me In

It seems like yesterday that I made the decision to flip the switch, to finally fulfill that childhood dream of having my own ad agency. It was a chilly January day in 2005 when that dream became a reality. You see, we really have to go back to 1987 to find where this story begins. As a high school sophomore in Canby, Oregon, a small suburb town about 20 minutes south of Portland, I found my calling for advertising and marketing.

Have you ever heard of the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy?  Yeah, most people outside of the ad agency world haven’t. But you’ve heard of one of their biggest clients – Nike. They really helped put each other on the map. Nike hired Wieden + Kennedy as their ad agency. W+K created amazing branding, creative and advertising and quickly Nike became a brand everyone was talking about. There’s a point to this, I promise. You see, I had the privilege of visiting Wieden + Kennedy’s offices as a sophomore in high school as part of an art class field trip. As I walked through the halls of W+K that day, I said to myself, “Someday, I am going to have my own place.”  

I went home that day and even penciled out my logo for my very own ad agency. I called it Earnhart + Friends. Yeah, so I kinda stole the plus symbol idea from Wieden + Kennedy. It’s not like they had it trademarked or anything.

So when the switch flipped in January 2005, I opened Earnhart + Friends Advertising in Bowling Green, KY. My first two employees were Stephen Ogden, a young highly talented graphic designer, and Becky Dobbins, our first account executive. It was simple, small, and off and running.

Four individuals believed in me, and in my agency, to become our first clients in the spring of 2005. I can’t tell you how much each of them mean to me. Joe Natcher, Fred Higgins, Jim Hizer, and Dr. Wood Selig. They represented Southern Foods, Minit Mart, Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, and Western Kentucky University Athletics respectively. If it hadn’t been for them E+F would have never gotten off the ground.

Over the next 4 years growth happened. Number of staff and clients grew. Beyond the borders of Kentucky, in fact. We acquired a Nashville based marketing firm in October 2009 and emerged as Werkshop Branding in January 2010 (that story is for another blog post). In December 2010, we assumed the PR division from Cabedge, a Nashville based web dev agency. I had a new business partner in Holly Grenvicz, and we were literally the Brady Bunch. Staff was being added regularly and we hit our peak in late 2011.

I can certainly say this – what I am doing is not work to me. I’m so passionate about what I do that it feels like “play time” all the time. I’ve been blessed with some amazing coworkers over the 12+ years we’ve been open for business. Some have moved on to bigger and better things. Some even opened their own businesses. I’m proud of all of them.

It’s been an amazing ride. An fulfilling ride. For a young impressionable kid from Oregon, I fulfilled my dream. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve. I love what I do. I do what I love.

I’ll leave you with this, if you’re not extremely passionate about what you are doing…..QUIT…..and go do something that you can be passionate about. Life’s too short to spend as much time as we do in a career that isn’t fulfilling or enjoyable.

Written by:  Tim Earnhart / Founder & CEO