Wow! This year, Gotham is celebrating a quarter-century in the marketing business. A flood of memories – good and bad – return to me as I wax nostalgic about this long journey, but the word that sums it all up for me is gratitude. First, I owe gratitude to God for blessing me with a creative gift, and to my parents, Mackie and Stewart, both artists who nurtured the creativity in me. Beyond that, I owe gratitude to too many people to name in this blog. If you have worked with the team at Gotham, thank you. If you have entrusted Gotham with marketing projects and campaigns, I am grateful.
I was 22 when I started Gotham with two partners in 1989, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But there is no better teacher than experience, and Lord knows I have had some experiences. Gotham began with a free tabloid paper called “Unusually Casual.” The paper, distributed around the greater Hickory area every two weeks, was a way to start a business with no capital.
Our initial income derived from advertising sold from a crude mockup of that first edition. My pastor at the time allowed me to use the church computer after-hours to put the first year’s issues together. I learned the advertising trade on the fly by assembling 20 “Unusually Casual” ads every two weeks. That was 1989, when there was no Internet and computer pagination was in its infancy. We cut Rubylith to separate color, pieced “Unusually Casual” together by hand, applied hot wax to articles and ads, then pasted them to a layout page. These layouts were photographed by a huge camera, then converted to a plate for printing. If it sounds archaic, that’s because it was!
After two and a half years, the economic situation surrounding the Persian Gulf War put an end to “Unusually Casual,” but, by then, we had generated enough revenue and expertise to market graphic design services under the Gotham name. And, since 1992, Gotham has done business in such far-flung locations as Irkutsk, Russia, and I have held client meetings in locations including Paris, France and Graz, Austria.
I am grateful for the two partners with whom I originally started the business. Before we parted ways in the early ‘90s, they learned and paid dues with me, and the crash course in business and suffering we received in those early years greatly benefited our experience. Because marketing constantly evolves, I have become flexible in my thinking and have committed to lifelong learning. I still get a rush from selling “mental inventory” and, to me, there is nothing better than being compensated for great ideas.
Over the years, I have worked with many creative people and vendors and been able to meld their ideas with my own to produce great results for our clients. I am grateful to all those people. Special thanks goes to my wife, Kelly, and daughters, Claire and Maggie, who have ridden the dramatic ups and downs of small business with me. They have unfailingly supported my dream of being a business owner and continue to give me the strength to carry on.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I now possess 25 years of marketing experience and that I’m surrounded by a great team of talented people who care about the Gotham story of the future.