Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Chris Williams, founder and owner of Aginto, first moved to Florida during the real estate boom of 2005. Before the bubble burst, he spent a few years in banking and flipping houses on the side. After a two year return to Cincinnati, Williams returned to Florida, this time in Sarasota, and partnered with a few friends on a tech startup to help mom and pop pizza shops improve their online ordering capabilities. The platform was designed to allow small pizzerias to compete with the larger chains. After 18 months, Williams was ready to move on to his next adventure.
“I recognized an opportunity, based on supply and demand, to provide businesses with better quality websites,” he said. “I didn’t have much at the time. In fact, I was living in a hotel and only had access to an old laptop. However, I had experience working with businesses and I always had an interest in technology. I knew I could create and sell websites. That’s pretty much how I got started.”
For the first year in business, Williams lived and worked out of his hotel room. To make ends meet, he worked the night shift at Goodwill. He eventually caught a bit of break when he met a real estate developer that offered a small office space in his building, in exchange for being there to sign for packages.
For the first three years in business, Williams was the sole employee. Along the way, he learned a lot about digital marketing techniques and slowly expanded his services. Williams shared how a roadside incident helped to evolve the business into what it is today.
“I was driving on the highway in an old beat-up car,” he said. “I was on the phone with a client and I couldn’t hear him very well. I pulled over and stopped in front of a library. I got out of the car and, without even thinking, shut the door and locked myself out. I used my phone to search for a locksmith. I found one with good reviews, but his website was horrible. Nevertheless, he came out and did a great job. From that moment on, I realized that having a nice website is important, but what’s even more important, is getting the phone to ring. That’s been our focus for our clients ever since.”
With a staff of seven full-time employees, including three writers, a videographer, a photographer and social media experts, Williams and his team are able to deliver an array of services all designed to do one thing – increase business for their clients. By “charging a grand and delivering three grand worth of value”, Aginto has seen tremendous growth since first launching in 2010. Williams shared what he enjoys most about the industry and how Aginto differentiates itself from other digital marketing agencies.
“For me, the satisfaction of being able to deliver results is what I enjoy most,” he said. “Even though we operate in a crowded space, we’ve been doing digital marketing for nine years. That gives us a longer track record than most agencies. We also don’t do à la carte services, which is somewhat unique. We deal with larger companies that have big visions and budgets to put together a well-rounded marketing plan. These companies expect a lot of us, but that’s what we thrive on.”
Looking ahead, Williams prefers to set goals on yearly basis. He’s focused on growth and delivering exceptional results for his clients. He’s also committed to maintaining consistency when it comes to company core values. As a group, Aginto employees volunteer with the Salvation Army and serve meals to the less fortunate in Manatee County. As Chairman of the Board for the Manatee County Salvation Army and a Board Member for Parenting Matters, Williams personally contributes in a number of ways, including feeding hundreds of people each year for Thanksgiving. This year he plans to feed 650 people.
As you might expect, Williams shared some excellent advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and for those who may be facing financial or other types of hardship. “The journey I took is not what I would recommend,” he said. “It’s cliché to say, ‘just get out there and do it’. If I could do it all over again, and I knew what I was doing, I’d want to go into it with some savings. When you’re worried about having money for dinner, your business decisions suffer. If you know your time is worth $500, but you’re offered $200, you’re going to take it. Another piece of advice is to learn how to lean into failure. During my first year in business, I would experience failures and I’d be devastated. I would beat myself up over them. Now if I fail, I just accept it, learn from it and move on. Those early hours spent discouraged could have been better utilized. For those facing hardships, the trick is to be motivated by fear and the exuberance of winning. Stay hungry and hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. Lastly, make sure you give back. When I did, things really took off.”