Jason Dominy is currently the Director of Social Media and Storytelling for Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta, Georgia. He’s been in marketing for almost 20 years, creating content and managing social media for brands like Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, McDonald's, UPS, Salesforce, and Chick-fil-A. He was also in the specialty coffee industry for 16 years, taking many leadership and training positions along the way. In his free time, he supports Atlanta organization The Giving Kitchen, who offers grants to those in the food and beverage industry in times of hardship; and global organization, Blood:Water, which helps fund clean water wells and HIV medication and treatment solutions for those affected by HIV in East Africa. He’s married to April for more than 15 years and has two Yorkies, Boone and Cooper.
Shantel: Hi Jason. Welcome to the Imagine More Podcast.
Jason: Hi Shantel. How are you?
Shantel: I'm wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Jason: It's my pleasure.
Shantel: We are excited to learn more about your journey in the entrepreneurial world and before that can you kick it off by telling the listeners a little bit about your story and where you're at now?
| HITTING ROCK BOTTOM |
Jason: Yeah absolutely. I was born in Florida in Panama City and lived there for my first eight years and then my parents moved to Atlanta and I lived here from the time I was eight until the time I was fifteen. I was an old school Atlanta resident and then I then my parents moved down to the coast of Georgia and lived down there and went to High School down there. While I was down there, I had a really good experience with a fellow who kind of mentored me. Who was actually a youth pastor at a church down there named Mark and he just kind of mentored me and took me in and pushed me on the road to doing something more with my life and with myself and ended enrolling in college in Tulsa at ORU. because I wanted to do for others what he had done for me. And I know they had a really good program for folks who wanted to do that. And so I decided I wanted to do that. So I went to college at ORU, which for those who don't know is Oral Roberts University. It's interesting while I was out there at school I didn't necessarily agree with or believe everything that I was being taught but I did learn a lot about myself and a lot about how to love and how to take care of people and just be an encourager. I learned a lot about just life there that I have taken with me elsewhere. I left ... I finished school ... left for my first real job, which I took in North Carolina, on the coast of North Carolina. I did that about ... a few months before having a really bad situation happen where I was doing something that was innocent enough but theologically, based on that particular church, they weren't necessarily cool with. It was something as simple as inviting their kids to a music festival that happens every year at Six Flags. I didn't know it was a big deal but some of the parents thought it was a big deal and in a few months I was jobless. So over the course of a period of about three days between a Wednesday and a Friday, I basically lost everything I had. I was engaged to a girl that I went to college with in Tulsa and it was her home church where I was at. So I lost my position. I lost the place where I was living because they had set up and arranged for me housing. My fiance broke off the wedding because she felt like she couldn't trust me because she was kind of believing one side versus the other. I also lost the vehicle that I had purchased while I was in college because I had listed my ex-fiance as a cosigner. When all of this went down I just said you take the car. I just wanted to get away. So over the course of three days I basically lost everything I had except for literally what I had with me. Was in effect homeless for a few weeks on the coast of North Carolina where I had no friends. I had no family. The only folks I knew there were people from that church and my ex-fiance's family. And I was stuck in a really hard place and I had to make some tough decisions. So, I decided I was going to try and move back to Georgia, which is where my parents were living. I took a job during the day at an insurance company doing scanning work and then at night I worked at McDonald's flipping hamburgers and I saved up enough money to move back to Georgia to a city called Augusta, which is the home of the Master's golf tournament. I just started to ... kind of regrouping and figuring out what I was going to do with my life. I took some odd jobs working in an appliance parts store. While I was there, I realized that I started hanging around with some kids that were kind of my age and I say kids because they were college students and I was not far from that age. I started hanging out with some folks that were college students and they happened to be a part of Christian Ministry and honestly I didn't want anything to do with religion at that point. I didn't want anything to do with religion and especially Christianity. I really just wanted to exist and figure out what I was going to do with my life. It turned out that I started hanging out with these folks who were a part of this specific organization on the campus there. One thing that I noticed there was one, it was a commuter school. The college there is a commuter school. There weren't dorms. So what happened is kids would go to class and then they would go home or go to work or wherever they needed to go. There really wasn't a place for them to gather and get to know each other on a deeper level outside of class. The second thing I realized is that these kids that were a part of these organizations that should have been building community, weren't really doing that. All of the events that they were doing were very cliquish. It was very much the same people every time. They would do cookouts and it would be the same people every time. I just kind of felt like, there needs to some way for us to help build community here on the campus here. And not just the campus but the city of Augusta. I remember when I was in college in Tulsa, a lot of the folks I went to college with and I go to this coffee shop there called Java Dave's. It was a cool kind of community coffee shop vibe. If you have ever seen the show Friends that's exactly what it was. It was like an episode of Friends where they are hanging out at the coffee shop and that was kind of my existence there when I was in college. So fast forward to moving to Augusta and seeing real need for community. I established that I was going to start and open a coffee shop on the campus of the college there, which I did. I started, open and ran this coffee shop on the college campus there. Basically what I would do start is, I would just ... I had a pickup truck and I would go to a local shop and picked up brewed coffee and some bag coffee. I had a little Krups home espresso maker and I would go buy a cooler. I bought a cooler and I would go buy milk and fill the cooler with milk. I took a boom box with some Jazz CD's and I had some crates with some board games and I would basically go set up this coffee shop in the school's cafeteria once a week. It started of kind of small. There would be twenty, thirty people and it moved on to a hundred people or more. Singer and songwriters from the region wanted to come and play. Now all of a sudden it became this idea that I had initially had and this is pre-social media so there wasn't Facebook or even MySpace back then. There literally was just people talking or figuring ways to talk. So that was so successful that I was asked to move to Athens and open up a coffee in downtown Athens, Georgia, which I did called The Beanery and it became a really successful community coffee shop. Very much the same ... along the same lines of what I had done in Augusta. And that parlayed my way into a career in the coffee industry with a focus on trying to build community and trying to connect people. I ended up being in that industry for sixteen and a half years. I would say four years ago I just decided I had reached the pinnacle of my career. I was the chair of the Barista Guild of America. I was writing, training, instruction for teaching coffee throughout the country. At the same time I was making kind of a really low salary. I was serving coffee at a digital, social media conference here in Atlanta. Back then I think it was called Digital Atlanta. I was serving coffee and I struck up a conversation with two gals just about what they were doing and what they were doing there. One of them mentioned she was a social media manager. Another of them mentioning that she was also a social media manager but for a hotel. So I was just asking them about what they did. What I realized is I was doing all of the same things that they were doing. I just said out of curiosity, what is the salary range for someone in that role? I said I don't want to know your salary but what's like the range? I think she mentioned to me somewhere around fifty to sixty grand on up to eighty grand. I remember thinking I am really doing myself a disservice by doing what I do in such a small industry because I would be doing a lot more in the more general marketing industry. So I left that role and went into the agency world. Basically what I did was, when I know I wanted to make that jump I started having coffees with people that worked at that agency or worked for an agency. I had kind of targeted one agency that I really wanted to work for which was an agency called Engauge. I really just liked what they did. I liked the work that they did. I liked their people. I knew a couple of people there. Again, I would just have coffee with these folks and say, what is it that I need to know to be able to get a position at an agency like yours. And they would tell me, you need to know the difference between paid, owned and media. I would literally write all these notes down and then I would go home at the end of that night and I would just learn as much as I could about the things that they told me to learn. So I was finally able to get an interview with them. I was able to get an interview with Engauge and I landed a role as a Senior Engagement Manager. Senior Social and Engagement Manager, basically managing social media for Chic-fil-A. Then I would go on to do work for Wells Fargo and then also for Coca-Cola brands. So that got me into the agency world and then from there that agency, which I met Joe Koufman at. Joe Koufman was one of your previous guests. That's where I met Joe Koufman at and Joe and I became good friends there. They got bought by Publicis and we're being merged with ... into another agency here in town. I decided that ... for me ... I wanted something a little smaller and so I took a role with another agency based out of Jacksonville as their social media manager. Managing all of their social media with their clients ... all of their clients based out their Atlanta office. I did that for a couple of years and then took a role with Salesforce. Saleforce is obviously one of the largest tech companies in the world but they are also one of the most admired companies to work for. I took a lessor role at Salesforce just so I could work there and just so I could be a part of that culture. I had visited with the folks at Pardot, which is one of their software lines. I had visited with the folks at years ago and had a really good experience with their people and their culture and I just said that this is something that I want to do. I was able to take that job at Salesforce. I left that role at the beginning of the year because my wife became disabled and I needed to kind of step up and take up more responsibility with more income so I could cover up the gap. So that's what I did and now I find myself as the Director of Social Media and Storytelling for Jeckyll Brewing, which is pretty good size craft beer brewery here in the Atlanta area. Yeah, that's my story as fast as I could tell it.
Shantel: Well there is a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions. I'm excited to dive in but also Flat Six. Do you want to touch on that?
Jason: Yeah so again when I knew that I was leaving. I took a role ... I actually when I left Salesforce I took a role at an agency here in town. I was their Director of Social Media. It didn't work out. It wasn't a good fit. So I left that role after a few months. And honestly I thought it wasn't going to be that big of a deal to find another role, especially given my experience, but the job market when I needed it was not the same and honestly I was having a really hard time. And it was frustrating, and I was really discouraged, and I was battling depression and all kind of things because I have a wife to take care of, who can't work. The pressure was on me to make sure that I was doing all the things that I needed to do to be able to stay where I'm living and keep the lights on and pay for our cars and all these things. I just said, well as I needed to do. I needed to take the initiative and make it happen. In the back of my mind I had this idea for some sort of agency of sorts and for many years my friends had been telling me I needed to be do my own thing but again because of the insurance needs that I have that are very specific and very particular to my position and my wife's health. I knew that was going to be a difficult thing just because insurance on your own is very expensive. So, I was very scared to make that jump. Now I was in a positions to where I didn't really have a choice. I needed to do something and so I came up with this idea for Flat Six which is to really bring a very personalized approach to marketing in general. I have been in marketing now for almost twenty years. I've been B2B, B2C. I've been digital, social events experience. I've done it all really. I've learned a lot a long the way and so figuring out ways to leverage that for people that I know and businesses that I care about was kind of the goal behind that. I started with this thing ... this idea of Flat Six. Flat Six for those who don't know. Flat six is a motor. It's an engine that Porche uses in their Boxter which I have an older Porshe Boxter. The flat six is just to me symbolizes an engine for growth and a driver of creative ideas. So Flat Six was this thing and so what I did was started out with asking friends what do I need to know what do I need to do start this up. As soon as I posted it out that I was going to be doing my own thing and that I needed to do this. I was literally inundated with people saying, hey lets do this. I want to work together. I want to do some stuff with you. So [inaudible 00:17:42] kind of working on that stuff ever since then. I got my LLC. I got my business cards. My website is up and going but as it turns out while I've been working on this a friend told me about a brewery here in Atlanta who needed some help. So I just went to them as I wanted to earn their business as a client ... as a Flat Six client. I told him my story and the health stuff that I was going though. At the end of it he just said, Man you got all the things that I need but I just don't feel think we are meant to hire you as a contract position. I feel that we are meant to hire you full time so that we can make sure you get the things that you need to take care of your wife because I didn't know this at the time but his wife is battling cancer right now as well. So he understood exactly where I'm at. It gave me a different direction because before I was just going to be doing Flat Six full time and now he gave me this other option that I didn't know was going to be a possibility to work with them full time. Have some insurance and then also on the side do a couple of Flat Six clients. I won't have to have an arsenal of ten clients that I'm having to do every single day. I can just focus on my full time job at Jeckyll Brewing and then I could work on these clients at night. So far that's what I've been doing. We landed our first client a week ago.
Shantel: Wow. Congrats.
Jason: Thank you. There a manufacturer of coffee and tea brewers out of Los Angeles. I've been friends with their family business. I've been friends with ... I think he is the grandson, for many, many years. I remember him making the comment that I don't necessarily want to do all the social media myself but there is very few people that I would trust with our brand than you. So, that's what I'm doing.
Shantel: That's so exciting. Well the first kind of comment that I feel like I need to get out is Jason is that if we ever meet for coffee you're probably going to cringe when you see how much vanilla creamer I put in my coffee. So you may need to teach me the ropes a little bit on that. But second is that your story is fascinating and so inspiring and I'm sure for to all the listeners who are either starting something or considering starting something or have started but going through the ebbs and flows, of the ups and downs of any business owner endures. I think they can absolutely relate to different shifts and iterations of what you've done with your businesses and your life. Which congratulations, you have got lot of really cool experiences and challenges and things that I'm sure you've learned a ton from. One thing that comes up immediately, The Beanery in Athens, is that still open or how did that transition. Did you close the shop?
| COFFEE TIME |
Jason: So, the organization I partnered with to open the community coffee shop there was a Christian organization and they were from the very beginning they knew that I didn't want to make it an evangelistic kind of tool. I just wanted to make a community coffee shop. They knew that and they were okay with that but towards I guess the two-year mark. They wanted to take it into a more Evangelistic route and I didn't feel comfortable with that because a lot of the people that were supporters of the coffee shop were people like Flagpole Magazine which is the alternative weekly, there in Athens. People like REM the band and Jittery Joe's Coffee and there were all of these folks who supported it in one way or the other and I felt like it was a giant disservice to that trust that they had given me by their support. I felt uneasy with moving in that direction myself. We decided to part ways. My goal was, my intention was to ... I was going to open up another coffee shop but as it is, and there is a little more to the story because while I was there in Athens running this coffee shop, I met my now wife in a wedding. My wife was a bridesmaid. I was a groomsman in a wedding here in Georgia. She was finishing school at Appalachion State in Boone, North Carolina. We hit it off right away. When I knew I was leaving The Beanery my intention was, I'm going to move up there to where my wife is and I'm going to work on establishing things up there and I'll open up a coffee shop while I'm up there but the problem is when I got up there I realized that area wasn't really an Octane kind of an area. It was very Duncan Donuts coffee. The kind of coffee shop that I was used to doing, which is the higher end specialty coffee pour overs, things like that. It wouldn't have flown in that area. So, I said, well I have to come up with a backup plan so having been in the coffee industry for probably five years at that point. Coffee is what I knew and it was what I felt comfortable doing and it had kind of become my career. When I got out there to North Carolina, up in the Greensboro, Winston-Salem area I was actually living in High Point. In High Point for those of you who have heard of High Point, it's known as the furniture capital of the world. And that's really what's it's known for. Honestly, there is not very much else industry related in that area. I said, well what am I going to do and my father ... my soon to be father-in-law said, Well if you are going to be up here you need to be in furniture and if you are going to be in furniture you need to be in sales because that's where all the money's at. If you are going to be in furniture sales, you need to be at this one place. Furniture Land South, which is the largest furniture store in the world. I know nothing about furniture whatsoever. I've obviously sit on it. I eat on it but I knew nothing about it outside of those things So, I just studied what I needed to study to be ... to work in furniture sales. I ended up being .... I had several months were I was in the top ten out of two hundred sales people there. I was good at it because I choose a goal and I worked towards that goal and I accomplished that goal but you know wearing a shirt and tie everyday and selling table and chairs, and matching fabrics and things like that is not something I am passionate about so I was really looking for a way out that. Away was coming soon I guess you can say because I knew I wanted to leave furniture sales because I needed to find something that I was passionate about so I was passionate about cars. I have always been really interested in cars my whole life I've been kind of a car guy. I took a job with CarMax because I thought that CarMax wasn't like your traditional car salesman kind of thing. That's not what they do. Their prices are listed on the cars. You either buy them or you don't. I was like nobody will hate me. People will respect me. I won't have to pull any shenanigans or anything like that. So, I thought I would try my hand at car sales. And then just realized that wasn't really for me but shortly after that ... after taking that role a position opened up at Krispy Krème Coffee Company helping roast coffee for Krispy Kreme. Kripy Kreme had actually a separate division that roasted all of the coffee for all the Krispy Kreme stores. They're based in Winston-Salem. So I was able to take that job and get back into coffee. Did that for a couple of years before getting laid off when Krispy Kreme kind of hit some really low points in their own company history. And then I took a job in management with Caribou Coffee. Ad then Caribou Coffee parlayed into a small coffee roaster. There you go.
Shantel: So interesting. I mean only ... we only have a couple of minutes left. What has been the biggest thing that you have learned in these career paths that you have taken to Flat Six when you have started the company? Is there one kind of mantra or really big lesson that you've learned that you want to shape the business?
| THE BULLDOG TENACITY |
Jason: Honestly I would say just don't give up. I mean there have been a lot of times that in my career and even some of the stories that I have told you about just a second ago where I could have given up or I could've ended up at a different path but honestly, with bulldog tenacity just stayed at it and I knew that I was going to end up back in coffee and somehow I was going to end up in doing these sort of things, which is ironic because I actually left coffee about four years ago and I actually just started this position at Jekyll Brewing and they just bought a coffee roaster so they are actually getting ready to roasting coffee as well. I left coffee and coffee actually caught back up with me. And so having that tenacity to just say, I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep moving on no matter what. I mean when I was homeless, I was not hopeless. Even when I was homeless, I still knew that somehow I am going figure out a way out of this and I just pushed on and pushed forward. That is what I would say ... That's the thing that has served me without question well every single time. It is just not give up.
Shantel: I love that, the homeless but not hopeless. Do you think that perseverance is maybe your top strength and that's how you've continued to grow and learn or what would you say is your top strength if not that?
Jason: I would say perseverance and just outright stubbornness because I don't ... I'm very rebellious by nature and that rebelliousness means that when cards don't really look good I'm still going to try to figure out a way to win with them because I'm stubborn and just because I don't really give up. I think that although those things work together and I think you've got to have that scrappy mentality as a start up, as an entrepreneur, any of those things because the reality is that the adversity will come and you have to be able to find a way around it to be successful because I can look back at the start ups that have been most successful and the challenges that they have had and honestly they have all come to points just like I came to on my own career where they could have given up or where they were beat down and they plowed through it somehow and they figured out ... and they crawled out and figured out a way to walk. That's what you have to have be successful.
Shantel: I'm glad you shared that I think those are true values and qualities of an entrepreneur and I'm so excited to see where Flat Six goes and be a big cheerleader and congrats again on the clients ... multiple clients, plural. What is the best way to get in touch with you Jason if people want to learn more about your story or work with you in your business?
Jason: You can reach out to me either on Facebook or on Twitter. It's Jason Dominy and obviously they will have the spelling of it for here but you can reach out to me on social media. Obviously I'm very active ... that's my position. My Twitter handle is @Jasondominy and Facebook I'm found the same. One of the things that we didn't really get to talk about but I'm more than happy to do is, I started to do these things a few years ago called the 2D to 3D project where I would basically invite people that I don't know or have not met. That are followers of mine on Twitter, I just invite them to coffee or lunch and just to hear their story. Just to connect. So if anybody would like to have coffee or lunch I would be more than happy to do that. Honestly, it was only awkward the first couple of times that I did it. I've made a lot of really, really good friends and I've been able to help a lot of people thought those 2D to 3D experiences in lunches. I'm happy to do that.
Shantel: Well I Jason would love to take you up on that and meet you face to face and hear more about the concept behind the 2D to 3D. I think that's really neat.
Jason: Yeah. I would love that. Just let me know.
Shantel: Yeah. Absolutely. Well thanks again for being on the show. So appreciative of your time.
Jason: Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day.
Shantel: You too. Alright