In case you haven’t noticed, we talk about storytelling all the freaking time. It’s the philosophical cornerstone of how we create compelling assets and strategy. This storytelling focus has also proved to resonate with clients, prospects, potential hires, and the random people we corner on the street to talk about the importance of story. While our story will always be secondary to our clients’ stories, how our team got to this point after year one has become an integral part of introducing ourselves and creating connections. After delivering the SparkNotes version of the story of us numerous times, with year one in the rearview, it’s finally time to put pen to paper and tell it right.
So, how did we grow from scattered freelancers to Fort Worth’s nomadic ad agency to a killer team at home on Magnolia where each member owns a piece of the Evangalist pie? Keep reading to find out.
Our Backstory & Founding
As is the case with many great entrepreneurial stories, Evangalist started when our co-founder Joey got frustrated. He got frustrated with the way agencies are run, with how they fail to manage client expectations, and with how they routinely have no intention of keeping their word. He had enjoyed success heading up business development for multiple agencies but felt there was more that could be done to serve clients well, and to tell company stories rather than just provide a beautiful product in a vacuum. He reached out to Jon, our second co-founder who had just begun freelancing full-time, and they started discussing what a contracting relationship would look like. Jon would write content, Joey would consult on strategy, and they would partner with agencies who didn’t have an internal content development team. Proof of concept came quickly, and it became apparent that this endeavor would soon become a full-time business in and of itself. Joey, who was technically the only employee at the time, decided to call it Evangelist. This was in recognition of the fact that significant advertising doesn’t just drive revenue, it creates brand evangelists who continue to spread a brand’s story organically.
You may have noticed that Evangelist mentioned above is spelled correctly, rather than the clearly superior Evangalist spelling we have adopted. So, what’s in a name?
The story of the second A isn’t quite as interesting or intentional as you’d expect it to be, knowing us. The long and the short of it is that our designer, Sam, simply misspelled the word in the first drafts of branding and Joey & Jon liked how it looked aesthetically. The A’s are inversions of the V, creating balance, and the unique spelling afforded us many more URL opportunities than the standard spelling would have. It also helped to dissuade people from the idea that we were a religious organization or an ad agency for churches. We still get random salespeople on occasion reaching out to us asking how our ministry is going.
With a name, a brand, and a Joey, it was finally time for Jon to come on full-time and assume a co-founder role. The first official Evangalist office was modest. More specifically, it was the Swindle family kitchen at Joey’s house. Needless to say, that wasn’t a workable long-term solution. As the team grew, we needed an office to grow with it. Outside of the need for an office, the growth in team size also coincided with an expansion of our service offering. Rather than just writing content and consulting on strategy, we grew into a full service agency; providing services like branding, web design, advertising campaigns, search engine optimization, photography, and video.
The Nomadic Advertising Agency of Fort Worth
The official Evangalist Instagram page (shameless plug) is essentially a visual history of our agency during this time. While endlessly touring potential office spaces, none feeling like home, we worked anywhere and everywhere in Fort Worth, sometimes Dallas, and occasionally Denton. Squatting in restaurants, coffee shops, bars, other agency offices, and every other conceivable destination, we more or less assembled a short list of great places to visit in Fort Worth and beyond if you love coffee, food, drinks, or starting businesses. At crowded tables, narrowly avoiding spills of food and drink, we continued to knock out work and make a name for ourselves. Over time our table grew, adding Sam, Spencer, and Liz to the fold, with Shaina joining forces not long after. With a full team in place, a cornerstone of our culture was officially established: employee ownership. While Jon & Joey bear the title of co-founder, every member of the team has equity in the company. If you have the business card of any member of this family, you have the card of an owner of Evangalist. That sense of ownership (literally) is fundamental to the way we approach clients and projects.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to the lovely places that knowingly or unknowingly put up with us during our adolescence. We worked at:
Flying Saucer (2 locations)
University of North Texas (oddly enough)
We owe those establishments a debt of gratitude for their hospitality and their blazing fast wifi. With the Evangalist crew sitting comfortably at a half-dozen, we were not so comfortable with our lack of an office. Our client list expanded and the opportunity to afford the office we wanted presented itself.
Finding Our Forever Home
The About page of our website says that we are “At Home on Magnolia.” That couldn’t be more accurate. Initially not quite within our price range, our search for an office space that suited our culture was really an exercise in coming back home. Between the culture of repurposing what’s old as new, the amazing food & drink options, and the people themselves, we couldn’t have found a better landing place.
The space we chose had been in our hearts for a while. When the team consisted of Jon, Joey, and a kitchen, we took a look at the office we’d eventually call home. At that moment, on a very cold November day, the office was too large, too unfinished, too expensive, and too risky an expense for us. But we couldn’t shake how it was perfectly situated in the middle of our favorite places, and was a beautiful raw space. Many months later, as a team of six, we came back and toured it again. We reached out to the property managers, inquired about a lease, signed it, and moved in.
If only it were that easy.
Our office, while perfect, had no walls or floor, no lighting or ac, no fixtures or furniture. It is also in a historic building. All of these factors contributed to an exaggerated build-out schedule that at times felt never-ending. We had grown out of our nomadic phase and sought a foster home while construction was being completed. Our good friends at Craftwork Coffee Co stepped up and welcomed us into both their coworking space and their roastery as temporary workplaces. We paid them back by doing some creative work for them and by sharing a secret to our success: Old Fashioned Fridays.
At long last, build-out was complete. The only remaining item was laying the floor, which we’d elected to do ourselves. Many of you know where this is going.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
We’ll preface this section with two statements:
1. Never Trust a Tablesaw
2. It’s a Good Thing Joey is Right-Handed
The Evangalist team was about 4 hours into laying flooring, which proved to be a sweaty and thankless job in early August heat. While cutting some flooring down to size on a saw in the parking lot, Joey lost all four fingers and part of his thumb on his left hand. Reference statement #2, above. Being who he is, Joey had the demeanor of someone who had stubbed a toe badly and was upset with himself for it. This nonchalance turned Jon’s stomach as much as the injury itself did. An ambulance ride, helicopter flight, emergency surgery, and week-long hospital stay later, Joey was back home and still the same optimistic, positive guy that showed up that morning to put the floors down in the first place. The index finger and end of the thumb didn’t quite make it, but thankfully the doctors were able to save the other three. As he says whenever someone asks him about the accident, he insists that good things are coming out of all this. That drive and optimistic passion are what got this business off the ground in the first place.
Fast forward a month or so, and this team of driven, creative individuals is working in an office they never thought they’d be in, working for clients they never thought they would land. The office itself is totally open, just like we are. In the center of everything is our large, custom-built conference table that hosts everything from new business pitches to what have become family meals together.
Much of the decor is in black and white, but parallel to our social media approach, anything related to our clients is in vivid color. After a year, we still haven’t strayed from the foundational concepts that Jon & Joey scribbled on note cards in the Swindle kitchen. It’s still all about the clients and their stories. We still refuse to be wasteful or slow. We still keep our word, above all else. And we still check our egos at the door.
So, that’s our story so far. If you’ve been a part of it, we thank you. In this year Evangalist has grown to a team of six. We have worked with about 70 clients in various forms. The number of individuals we’ve been able to reach with our clients’ stories ranges into the millions. We’ve done everything from business cards to billboards, from naming new businesses to helping decades-old companies move into the future.
If you’ve made it this far, we sincerely hope you’ll be a part of Evangalist year two. Whether you’re looking for an agency you can trust to fight for you, or if you’re fighting for yourself in the hunt for a place to hone your craft; we’d love to hear from you.