Featured Member: Jim Robinson

Jim RobinsonJim Robinson has entrepreneurship in his blood. He’s full of ideas, is restless, driven, and insatiably curious.  Given all that, he’s also surprisingly mild-mannered and, well, nice.  His most recent entrepreneurial endeavor is “ClickSeed”, an SEO & digital marketing agency based in Frederick, Maryland.  But we’ll get to that. Let’s start at the beginning.

Jim grew up in Frederick County and attended Linganore High School, until a move took him to Montgomery County his senior year. “I was a terrible student”, Jim noted.  Good enough to be enrolled in advanced-placement classes, but, according to Jim, he lacked direction, lacked focus. He was restless.

He joined the Navy and found himself in the role of Yeomen. During his four-year stint, Jim performed administrative and clerical work. He dealt with protocol, naval instructions, officer fitness reports, visitors, phone calls and mail. He wrote business and social letters, directives, and reports. He did all this for 3-Star Admiral, while also running his enlisted staff. And, he learned a lot. He developed management skills. He polished his communication skills. He excelled. “The military is good at breaking goals into smaller pieces and awarding at each achievement. I built a new reputation – a strong one – and wanted to keep it.”

So, he earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at Tennessee Tech. As a child, Jim liked to take toys apart – especially electrical toys – and figure out how they work. Better yet, was taking parts from different toys to create a new toy of his own design. Creativity is in Jim’s blood, too.

Ever looking for more, he began building websites while still in college. “This was back in the mid-90’s, when the Internet was mostly for fun. I saw it as a business opportunity”. He cultivated a business around selling used text books and other things he picked up at pawnshops on ebay. He sold luggage for his roommate’s dad. He eventually built his own website, BagsForMe.com, and migrated his business to it.  By the time he graduated with his B.S. in Electrical Engineering, he was enjoying and making enough money with BagsForMe.com that he decided to skip a career as an engineer and continue his own pursuits.

In 2001 he founded WhirledView Company, an ecommerce and affiliate marketing firm. Over the course of five years, Jim brought on five employees and grew BagsForMe.com to sell 25 brands to tens of thousands of customers across the U.S. He did a lot of this by leveraging Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Jim was a pioneer, creating websites, testing SEO methods and analyzing the results, then using what he learned to drive traffic. In 2005, Jim sold BagsForMe.com, wanting to start something new.

That something new was leveraging the rather substantial expertise he had accumulated and take his career to the next level. He took a job at NASDAQ, where he became the Director for Product Development for NASDAQ.com. In that role he was doing much more than SEO, which Jim notes is appropriate. “SEO can’t be done properly in a vacuum. It has to be part of a broader inbound marketing and audience development plan.” Between 2007 and 2012, Jim grew NASDAQ’s Twitter followers to over 200,000, established an online NASDAQ Community with over 120,000 members and increased NASDAQ’s search hits by over 300%. NASDAQ was so impressed; they enrolled him in a “high potential program”. He was on an executive track. But, having put his five years in at NASDAQ (my words, noticing a pattern, not his), it was, again, time for something new.

Jim’s school and work had taken him away from Frederick and, now, married and ready to start a family, he wanted to come back. “That was always part of my overall life plan”, Jim explained. He reached out to an old friend, Jennifer Gerlock who invited him to an AAF (American Advertising Federation) meeting. There he met Glen and Julia Ferguson and a number of members of Cowork Frederick and other creative people. Jim sensed that Frederick had a burgeoning tech scene. The time was definitely right to make his move. “I wanted to get back to my entrepreneurial roots and I wanted to focus on what I really enjoy –leveraging the web to grow business.” Jim describes himself as “an SEO geek with business savvy; I make the web into a profit center for your company.”

ClickseedIn 2012 he launched Clickseed “on paper”, as he described it. “As the name implies, ClickSeed is about planting the seeds of growth for your business. It’s a great metaphor for my process because the time, attention, and expertise needed to produce an abundant harvest has many parallels with my inbound marketing process.”

Work with NASDAQ continued, now as an independent consultant, and he took on other clients including Wenner Media, the publisher of Rolling Stone, US Weekly, and Men’s Journal. He joined Cowork Frederick as a full-time member and made that his home base. “Cowork Frederick was key to getting Clickseed started. I knew I needed to build and leverage a network of amazing people if I really wanted to take things to the next level.” Jim met and almost immediately began teaming up with Cowork Frederick member and Search Engine Marketing specialist, Heather Stang, and others. He taught one of our most popular Lunch & Learns on SEO, volunteering his time and making even more connections with folks in the audience.

What has he learned along the way? “Do it yourself. Don’t wait on others. Surround yourself with experts. Identify the right people and remove obstacles so they can do their best.”

This year, he is taking the next step in getting his own office and readying Clickseed for new employees, new partnerships, and real growth. Jim sees Clickseed as a boutique agency with a small, very capable team of 8-10 people. He himself plans to remain hands-on, working directly with customers. How will he achieve this next level of growth? Why, with online marketing of course, along with more presentations and more networking. Jim will continue to be a member of Cowork Frederick and a number of other organizations.

Five years from now? Who knows? Jim simply said, “I thrive on new ideas.”