Rich Haik has turned a high school hobby in social media into a booming business.
As a senior at Glendale High School, Haik and a friend started The Flock, a student fan section at athletic games, by setting up a variety of social media accounts. When doing a fundraiser for the family of a student who had died, Haik really gained an interest in doing social media long term.
“We sold 300 T-shirts in 15 minutes, which was all through promoting it through social media,” he says. “That was when I learned about the power that social media had in selling things and how quickly it can move things along.”
Haik attended college for business administration but switched to entrepreneurship and graduated from Missouri State University.
Afterward, Haik took on social media clients, starting with his father Richard’s business, Fabric Town Inc., a Springfield clothing store branded as Krickets Clothing Co. Alpha Social Media LLC officially launched in 2019, and since then the recurring client count has grown to roughly 40 today.
“It just made sense to do things that I was passionate about for money,” Haik says, noting that coming from a family of business owners steered him down the same path. “The thing that really made me believe that this could be a big business was a stat I read in 2019, that 80% of the Fortune 500 companies spend 60% of their marketing budget on social media. This is when I realized that this could be a viable business.”
When Haik started Alpha Social Media, he was operating out of a bedroom. That quickly changed when he needed to hire some help. In mid-2020, Haik hired Courtney Gerwig, who today is a 5% co-owner.
Alpha first moved to an 1,100-square-foot office and now occupies 3,700 square feet in an office/industrial area in northwest Springfield.
“It’s embarrassing and kind of cool all at the same time,” Haik says of starting out in a bedroom.
Alpha also has evolved to operate with multiple branches: Omega Digital Media, to build websites, and Omega Weddings, to handle videos and photography.
While Haik specializes in social media and web development, Gerwig brings freelance experience in wedding videography. The owners have invested over $100,000 in video and photo equipment, and in the last 18 months, Haik says the company has booked roughly 50-60 weddings.
On the commercial side, Alpha has done work for Elliott Lodging, Brown Derby and Palen Music Center, and the company has filmed segments for TV shopping networks QVC and HSN.
Haik says services can range $300-$3,000 a month, depending on the clients’ needs and budget. Usually, the end goal is reaching potential customers where they’re spending time online – through Facebook, Google Ads and Instagram, as well as TikTok and Twitter.
Drew Beaty, sales manager at Cronkhite Homes LLC, says the development company within the last month has hired Alpha to manage some of its social media.
“It’s critical in this day and age to have a voice online and to have your brand projected through the social media platforms,” he says. “It is a cost-effective option for us, and it helps us create more content without having to have more headcount,” he says.
Beaty says Cronkhite currently spends $15,000-$20,000 on marketing and advertising each quarter.
Interior designer Chelsee Sowder says Alpha manages her company’s social media and Google advertising, built ChelseeSowder.com and handles videography and photo shoots of her team’s design work.
Sowder says each month Alpha provides a report with statistics on the services performed. In the last 90 days, Sowder says her company received 27 leads – a high number considering the number of regular clients.
On social media alone, Sowder says she spends about 60%-70% of her advertising budget.
“That’s where everybody is every day, and that is the most current way to reach people,” she says.
Haik says about 60% of his client base come from previous or existing relationships.
“Referrals are huge for us,” he says. “But we also do our own marketing campaigns, so sometimes (clients) just find us through Google.”
With 2020 sales of $275,000, he says this year’s revenue is on target to triple. He credits finding the right fit for each client and building those intimate business relationships.
“There’s no cookie-cutter package for a business,” he says. “We really sit on the same side of the table of the client and ask what they need and what they want. It’s not the same for everybody. We’re not trying to sell anybody the whole farm, but are giving them exactly what they need.”
Read the profiles of this year's honorees.