I recently had the opportunity to sit down with fellow business entrepreneur Alex Membrillo, co-founder of Cardinal Web Solutions, an Interactive marketing and Atlanta SEO Company, for an Interview.
Alex: I was born in San Antonio, TX. As the son of a travel agency owner I had the good fortune of living abroad in Spain and Cyprus before returning to the United States in 1990. I grew up in Johns Creek, GA, a northern suburb of Atlanta, where I attended elementary through high school. I’m a 2008 graduate of Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business where, after putting myself through college, I earned a B.B.A. in Managerial Sciences, with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship.
Q: What services does Cardinal Web Solutions (CWS) offer businesses?
Alex: We offer a full slew of interactive marketing solutions including search engine optimization, pay per click management, social media marketing, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, and web design & development.
Q: With earning over $700,000 in sales from shortly over one year of operation, did you know your business would be a huge success so quickly?
Alex: Absolutely not! In the beginning, there were many more days when I was scared than when I was confident. But I’d build on the little things, like small sales and gains in industry knowledge. Eventually, smaller clients led to larger clients and big things began to happen. Two things for sure, I had confidence in what I could accomplish and I never gave up on my focus.
Q: What types of challenges did you first face after launching CWS?
Alex: For me the biggest challenge was I had just become a father. There were a lot of new responsibilities, expenses, and a ton of medical bills to deal with. Between 14 hour work days and about two hours of sleep each night due to a colicky baby, I was definitely tired. The challenges of the new work/personal schedule made me that much tougher though. It prepared me for the difficult days ahead and made becoming successful that much sweeter. Looking back, I would not have changed a thing.
Q: How did you develop the idea to launch Cardinal Web Solutions last year?
Alex: After finding a void in the market, my business partner and I developed Cardinal Web Solutions in spring of 2009. One of the main issues that gave us the imperative to start Cardinal was that clients weren’t being educated on their agency’s processes and activities. Furthermore, transparency from Internet marketing agencies did not exist - Internet marketing companies were not being held accountable for providing results to their clients. We knew that we could set the cardinal standard for ethical search engine optimization and all Interactive marketing practices, and so Cardinal Web Solutions was born.
Q: What led you to strike out on your own?
Alex: First, it was the desire to work as hard as I wanted and get a return for that effort. I believe that as an entrepreneur the harder you work the more likely you are to succeed, provided that the business plan is solid.
Second, owning my own business gives me the freedom to make creative decisions. At the end of the day I really enjoy being my own boss and having the opportunity to grow my company through my hard work and determination. It is truly inspiring to watch my colleagues take what we do to the next level and bring a great deal of value to our clients.
Q: How, amidst one of the most difficult economic climates in history and with outside funding, were you able to start a company that has quickly become one of the most successful Interactive Marketing agencies in Atlanta, GA and the southeast?
Alex: Times were definitely tough when we launched Cardinal Web Solutions. As a result of the economic recession, I lost my job when the company I had previously worked for went under. It was also about two months before the birth of my first child. With unemployment on the rise things were definitely unstable and I was down to my last unemployment insurance check.
But I knew that there was a need for what Cardinal Web Solutions was designed to offer. So with a $750 personal investment, Cardinal Web Solutions opened a home office in my business partner’s small living room where we spent our day’s cold calling companies and taking meetings in Starbucks.
Our success has come from paying attention to industry best practices and always keeping the customer’s needs close to our hearts. We have always paid close attention to our client’s needs and we strive to pin point their core competencies. I’ve found you learn more from identifying problems than focusing your attention on one’s successes.
Q: At 25 years old, have you found there are additional challenges to being a young entrepreneur?
Alex: Yes, to begin with you typically don’t have the experience of having worked in a corporate world or managing employees. You are forced to develop your own concepts of how a company should be run and how those that work for it should be treated which can be a wonderful thing. I also believe that when you are young you have to prove yourself a bit more to potential clients. No one wants to partner with a potential fly-by-night company so there some definite hurdles in that area. I found it helped quite a bit to let your confidence in your product/service shine. Customers find it refreshing when someone really believes in what they are doing.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the types of clients your company currently works with?
Alex: We service all industries and work with all types of businesses. Clients range from local doctors and lawyers to national hotel chains including Hilton, Holiday Inn Express, and Sheraton brand properties throughout the southeast. We are also pleased to have recently taken on our first international client earlier this year.
Q: What are some advantages CWS clients gain over your competition?
Alex: At Cardinal Web Solutions we believe in complete transparency with our clients. We only operate with ethical and “white hat” internet marketing practices. Our clients are given access to the same reporting and analytics tools we use when measuring their online presence. Much of our competition relies on shady business practices which can severely endanger a client’s Internet presence. Cardinal was founded with the belief that business owners deserve to know and understand each and every internet marketing project that we engage in.
CWS is a full service, turnkey business. This means our clients can be as involved or uninvolved as they wish to be. Furthermore, our clients also have direct access to the principals of the agency which helps to allay many fears of dealing with a marketing agency. This attention to customer service has given Cardinal Web Solutions a 99% client retention rate.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to leveraging their online presence?
Alex: Well, by not using their online presence properly companies don’t leverage it at all. Finding prospects through online search means you’ve found them at the end of the sales cycle. These are qualified leads that are actively searching for what your company offers. For those reasons I feel that maximizing your marketing and advertising opportunities online is crucial.
Another mistake some businesses make is to put too much focus on Internet marketing and ignore the other effective forms of marketing. All marketing efforts, from print to Internet, should be integrated together. Engaging customers at every step of the buying cycle is crucial today – a business has to stay front of mind with its customers at all times.
At Cardinal Web Solutions, not only do we understand Interactive marketing, but we can advise on the client’s overall marketing strategy. In addition to offering customized Interactive marketing plans, we have the in-house resources and collaborative business partnerships in place to assist with all aspects of a company’s marketing campaign. Our work processes are seamless and provide complete ease for our clients.
Alex: I always remembered that even if my idea was crazy, there have been much crazier ideas that have succeeded. There are definitely times when you wonder if the risk you have undertaken is worthwhile, however, you have to remember why you started the company and keep your eye on the future. If you need a parachute than I would recommend setting a definitive timeline of what your measure of success is and when you would walk away if you don’t achieve that. At the same time, don’t let people scare you off and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do what you know you can accomplish.
For young entrepreneurs, now is the time to try something “crazy”. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.
Q: Where do you see Cardinal Web Solutions going in the future?
Alex: I see Cardinal Web Solutions evolving into a full service advertising agency including print, TV, radio, and Interactive marketing services. Our focus will be on new and emerging trends in interactive media. It is our thirst for knowledge that will push us to stay ahead of our competition and develop innovative solutions to the market’s needs. While we have made $700,000 in sales in about a year, I would like for that to be a monthly sales achievement.
Interview by Media Contact:
ALR Marketing Solutions
Premier Atlanta Marketing Agency