Kurt Theobald never wanted to start what is today known as Classy Llama Studios LLC.
“It was actually the tenth in a series of startups that failed,” he said. “Except this one didn’t.”
Theobald picked up some work from a web agency on the side out of desperation.
“He was offering us paid work, and there was no money coming from anywhere,” he recalled.
The company operated as a subcontractor for web-based services out of a garage transformed into an office. In 2009, as Theobald became the company’s full-time CEO, Classy Llama lost a contract that represented 80 percent of its business.
He said leadership could either cut their losses or shift the business model to provide e-commerce services directly to consumers.
He said being a serial entrepreneur with a laundry list of failed businesses and personal lows, including filing for bankruptcy at 21 years old, gave him a “certain degree of immunity in the face of failure.”
“What have we got to lose?” he said he asked the team.
It worked. Theobald said Classy Llama quickly was inundated with jobs and “within a month, we knew we were going to be OK.”
From that garage office, Classy Llama has grown into a company with $8 million in annual revenue, and it recently moved into a 34,000-square-foot headquarters in Chesterfield Village. The company provides e-commerce website development, marketing and digital consulting services.
For Theobald, embracing his leadership role took personal growth.
He said from the age of 19, he felt God tell him he was meant to be an entrepreneur. That meant if he failed at one business, he should move to the next.
“It made it impossible to stop,” he said. “At some point the chemistry gets right and you get the chemical reaction you’re looking for.”
Even as the company grew, Theobald admitted he didn’t feel connected to e-commerce. In 2011, something shifted.
“I was expressing myself to God and I was telling him, ‘I hate this. I want to sell’” he said. The response he heard: “You’ll never get another team to play at an Olympic level because you didn’t get this team to play an Olympic level.”
“How do I argue with that?”
Theobald said he now views Classy Llama as a foundation.
Among his 60 employees, Theobald focuses on developing leaders rather than results – and that’s where company growth comes. Although there isn’t a hard target, he anticipates the company will grow 100 employees with annual revenue of $15-$20 million in the next three years.
“Most leaders focus on producing results,” Theobald said. “Llama leaders focus on teams that produce results.”
The first of SBJ's forums detailing Economic Growth Survey results is held.
Scott Shotts, partner with Missouri Spirits, says when they started in 2011 there were approximately 300 distilleries in the U.S. and now there are more than 3,000 so competition has grown significantly. Diversification of their business model has helped them succeed.
Matthew Blystone of Theta Float Spa had the financial means to start the unique business, but used crowdsourcing for pre-orders to determine market interest in addition to gathering a nice cash reserve before opening.
Avery Parrish with the Springfield Regional Arts Council explains how businesses can display local art in their spaces for a fraction of the price of investing in a permanent collection. The corporate partnership program allows a business to select from a customized portfolio of local artists' work curated based on the company's mission and aesthetic that can be switched out every six or 12 months.
After a year of experiential market research, Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, found three ways they plan to expand. Some were anticipated and others were not expected until they …
Inspirational speaker Chad Porter shares his story of turning a tragic accident that took him to the darkest depths into a rewarding career as a motivational speaker and business coach.
"For me success is...a little bit fleeting. Today's success and goal achieved only lasts about that long," says Curtis Millsap, owner of Millsap Farms. Look beyond the day-to-day financial achievements to the long-term victories.
Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, took his experience as an expedition manager for National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World in Ecuador to start his Ozarks based outdoor activity company. Since launching the company, he has relied on post-trip evaluations and prospective customer input to guide the course.
Jennifer Rothschild, author and speaker, says, "With the blessing of the success that we've experienced came something I did not expect, which was the need to lead. And, I am a reluctant leader." She realized that her ministry was managed very well, but the ministry's most valuable asset, the people, were not being led well. She gives you three choices she had to make as a reluctant leader. Jennifer Rothschild was one of nine leaders who presented at the 2018 Springfield Business Journal's 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes.
Miles Boyer, Office Manager for the Southern Region of the Builders’ Association, recognizes they are competing for their members' time. That means doing new and different thing are of value to guarantee that their members will participate in classes and events.
Ömer Önder, owner of Springfield Diner, learns the results of a customer survey conducted by Longitude LLC. Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells, owners of the branding agency, inform Ömer that his customers are looking for a shift in his menu offerings. Made to Order is an ongoing sbjLive documentary series in collaboration with Springfield Business Journal tracking the rebranding of a local restaurant. See ongoing coverage at: sbj.net/madetoorder