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Think Tank Loves Monday Mornings
Who loves Monday mornings? Noble Studios does. The reason they say is “Passion. It's more than loving what we do. It's about looking forward to a new week, working alongside people we call friends.”
This creative atmosphere, fostered by founders Season and Jarrod Lopiccolo brought this company from a small beginning to a strong, remarkable group of 38 driven, innovative minds that include entrepreneurs, strategists, creatives, developers and account managers.
The little company that started in Carson City, Nevada in 2003 as a two-person, home-based web and marketing company has become one of the region’s fastest growing tech companies. It’s grown from a small boutique digital agency to a multi-million dollar tech company with a client roster of global brands – Asics, Autodesk, Barnes & Noble, Cisco, Farmers Insurance, Ford, HTC, Wildfire by Google, Verizon and Paramount Pictures.
While still in his 20’s, Jarrod was named 2010 SBA Nevada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Now in their 30’s, Jarrod and Season together with their partner Michael Thomas straddle a generational point of view influenced by a generation where relationships and referrals were the key to success, yet evolving quickly through a vital understanding and mastery of modern technology. The partners realized that patterning their company after a traditional full service agency was not the key to their long term success. So, they created a company focused on the digital space, specializing in web, mobile and social media. One client was so happy with the Noble-created social media application that they described it as “smooth as a gravy sandwich.”
Exponential growth: Noble Studios’ growth has been phenomenal. In 2013, Inc. magazine included the firm in its annual list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. From its humble beginning as a home based business, the company expanded in 2011 to downtown Reno into an 8,650 square foot office space where they are leading the charge to position downtown as a tech hub.
Noble Studios’ revenues grew at a 50% annual clip from 2003 to 2007, 44% in 2009 and 42% in 2010. The company saw an increase in revenue from $1.6 million in 2011 to $2.6 million in 2012, $3.5 million in 2013 and expects to reach $8.9 million by 2015. In 2014, the partners plan to grow the staff by 10%. Although the company has tripled its staff size in the past three years, it continues to operate without a single investor.
Adversity: the 2007 recession dealt a death blow to many small companies. Noble Studios responded by expanding its digital marketing brand and reach to the Bay area, targeting and securing service agreements with international brands. As a result, the company not only survived, but expanded in 2008.
It’s the team: Noble Studios cares for its employees and enjoys a low turnover rate. The partners believe in hard work and big rewards. The company pays 100% for medical, dental and life insurance for employees and their dependents. In addition to paid holidays, staff receives an initial 15 days PTO which includes “family week” for all at Christmas. Budget is allocated for a healthy workplace - healthy snacks, company-branded bicycles for employee use, company field trips to a climbing wall. The company regularly hosts catered meals for the team, a monthly massage therapist, retreats, barbeques and parties to encourage team building. Continuing education is encouraged, and reimbursed to foster innovation and leading edge practice.
And staff has a voice. First Tuesdays, an extended team meeting to shares new business, reviews current projects, celebrates milestones, solves challenges and exchanges ideas. On remaining Tuesdays staff gathers for knowledge sharing and team building.
Noble Studios team is heavily invested in the community. Led by its Community Outreach Committee, in 2013, the team donated more than $102,000 in services and funds and volunteered more than 1700 hours. Launched in 2014 is a program to offer $75,000 to $110,000 of pro-bono services to Nevada nonprofits and startups.
The partners are passionate about attracting new business to Nevada. In 2013 the team developed an award-winning interactive campus tour for the local university to attract young, tech-savvy and talented high school students. The agency also built websites for three northern Nevada economic development agencies to showcase the region’s favorable business climate.
Staff is encouraged to plan an active role in the business community. Collectively, the team holds 19 active board and committee positions throughout northern Nevada. Both Jarrod and Season judged the 2013 regional collegiate business plan competition.
Noble Studios has frequently been recognized for the quality of their work. In 2013, the firm garnered 45 industry awards. They are viewed as leading edge thinkers in northern Nevada and often in demand as speakers on digital strategy, marketing and entrepreneurship. Michael Thomas was recently tapped for an interview by MSNBC’s In Business in New York.
And they’re not nearly finished. In 2014 they’re targeting large Fortune 500 brands and will continue to position the company as a leader in digital marketing.
In 1999 Joe Machin and Brian Edwards opened a mobile repair shop. They started the company out of their homes with one truck and two employees – themselves. After a year on the road they opened their first repair facility, RO Truck & Equipment. The company rapidly grew to a fleet of seven trucks and 38 employees. SBA guaranteed financing helped to achieve that growth.
The company was focused around truck repair for the construction industry and in the aftermath of September 11 as construction slowed, business declined and revenues dropped. The partners responded by moving to a smaller location, reducing staff and overhead.
Then they refocused their efforts, diversifying the company while staying true to their core business. Brian and Joe found working on a bus is similar to truck repair and as they marketed to this new industry with its fleets of buses and limousines, their client base expanded. In response to repeated requests from their new customer base, they became a full-line bus and limousine dealership and the company continued to grow. In 2008, with an SBA 504 loan, they purchased a building and yard to house further expansion with a new paint and fabrication shop.
When they economy turned again in 2009 and with new vehicle purchase declining , Brian and Joe found that companies were now looking to keep their existing fleets on the road. Operating budgets were intact while capital budgets were nonexistent, so RO refocused on long term maintenance, service and repair. As they realized they were the only company in Nevada specializing in buses, they shifted the business exclusively to buses, adding municipality and government agency fleets.
The company has grown from a two man operation to three distinct divisions with 21 full time employees and 11 million in revenue.
Worldwide web meets worldwide wool.
Who is Jimmy?
Jimmy is actually Laura. She and her husband Doug started Jimmy Beans in May 2002. The nickname 'Jimmy' came from a song called 'Doublewide Blues'. The song talks about a neighbor Jimmy that's so cool because he's got a blue plastic pool on the deck in front of his house. They started saying 'cool like Jimmy' and it turned into Laura’s nickname! While thinking of a name for their new business, her nickname came up and they added 'Beans' since they originally had a coffee shop inside the yarn shop. The yarn overran the store and the coffee was gone, but the name stuck!
Jimmy Beans Wool is both a bricks and mortar and an internet superstore, offering knitters worldwide a comprehensive selection of the finest yarns and knitting supplies.
In 2002, after 2 years of marriage and a life-changing move from San Francisco to Truckee, Laura and Doug emptied their savings account and opened Jimmy Beans Wool. Both had worked as software engineers during the early dot com era, but when the bottom started to fall, they opted to turn their Tahoe vacation home into their permanent home.
Laura had learned to knit just 6 months prior and was obsessed! While figuring out how to make a living in their new hometown, she picked up a job creating a website for a nearby hand-dyed yarn company. The owner of the company convinced Laura to follow her newfound passion for knitting and to create a yarn shop that could become a successful business. The rest is history…!
Laura contacted SCORE when Jimmy Beans was growing so fast that they needed to change the company structure, manage a growing staff and strengthen inventory control. SCORE mentored Laura through the changes, helped with projections and strategy and provided business coaching for the fledgling company. SCORE also put Laura in touch with local resources to help the company with its new growth demands. What started as 500 square feet in Truckee has expanded to international internet sales and a thriving local yarn shop. With SCORE’s advice, the company’s growth has been well planned and solid.
Giving swag to celebrities at the Emmys
Laura is constantly on the look-out for new marketing opportunities. One of her best ideas was to provide gift bags at the Emmy Awards in the ‘celebrity swag suite’. She organized a knitting circle where actors were invited to knit one row of a scarf that was auctioned for charity. Even the male actors stepped up!
"We already had customers from all over the world who ordered from our Web site," Laura said. "But having celebrities photographed with our gift bag featured in national consumer media was advertising we can't pay for."
Jimmy Beans Wool has been featured on CNN Money, in Fortune Small Business Magazine, and in Forbes as one of “Million=Dollar Businesses You’ve Never Heard Of’. In 2009 Laura and Doug started their ‘Beans for Brains’ scholarship program and awarded four $500 scholarships to applicants (knitters or not) in any accredited undergrad, graduate or professional program in the first year. The scholarship program has continued to grow.
Inc. Magazine named Jimmy Beans as one of the 5000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S. for 2009 and 2010 and again for 2011! Jimmy Beans Wool, ranked at #1379 and 207% growth, bettered their 2010 rank #1525 and 189% growth). This ranking makes them one of the 100 fastest growing privately-owned Retail companies in the country.
In 2010 Dell Computers named Jimmy Beans as one of 5 retail trailblazers. In 2011, JimmyBeansWool.com once again found itself among such internet retailing giants as Zappos, Bed Bath and Beyond, Clinique, and ThinkGeek.com.
For the 3rd year in a row, Jimmy Beans Wool has received the BizRate "Circle Excellence" award, an annual recognition of online businesses that provide exemplary customer service. This annual award recognizes those online retailers that have provided outstanding online customer experiences as rated by their own customers. This year, only 84 online retailers received this award, representing 1.7% of all online retailers within the Bizrate Insights North American Retailer Network.
It’s no wonder Jimmy Bean’s tag line is