Fort Worth firm hatches affordable web designs

After years of consulting and providing technical support for small companies, entrepreneur Geof Bowie found a technologically underserved market for his second business, Fort Worth-based Iron Egg Web Design.

Iron Egg creates affordable, entry-level websites for small businesses on a limited budget. In today’s competitive marketplace, small companies need to have a professional web presence but many cannot afford the average $10,000 it costs to build a website, Bowie said. Iron Egg serves up designs at a fraction of that, namely in the $2,000-$4,500 range.

“The SWOT analysis [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats] told me that our biggest challenge was that those clients often are the ones that take up more time than, say, a $1,500 budget would allow,” Bowie said. “Everyone told me I was crazy to deal with this market and that’s why websites cost $10,000 or more.”

Bowie says that Iron Egg, begun in 2013, balances out his other company, Think Fixed LLC, a boutique business consulting and tech support company aimed at businesses in the Fort Worth-Dallas area that use Apple technology to be productive. The company focuses on implementing strategies to make a Macintosh and Mac network run smoothly, with services including backup strategy, education on basic support tools and how to use them, computer repair and Mac OS X server setups.

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Iron Egg offers, in addition to website design, hosting, updates and development; search engine optimization (SEO); and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

“I wanted something more transactional,” Bowie said of Iron Egg. “I came to this idea that there is an underserved market of people who are tired of either using the free web builder or maybe aren’t doing as good a job with an internal resource anymore, but they aren’t at the size or stage where they actually have a line item for a website. So they typically either get a fly-by-night option of someone who is looking to grow their portfolio and get larger, which results often in a loss of website info, password or hosting; or they spend more than they should.”

Bowie, a 45-year-old Fort Worth native, has enjoyed a career in technology space, blending IT know-how and problem-solving with art. He left his hometown in the 1990s for New York City to work on a master’s degree in fine arts at Parsons School of Design. Being an artist didn’t get the bills paid so Bowie started Think Fixed in 1999.

“It started simply because I was good at troubleshooting, had always used Mac and well, it was NYC in the ‘90s and there were tons of people launching new businesses,” said Bowie, who refers to himself as a digital space entrepreneur.

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As technology evolved, so did Bowie’s business plan. Think Fixed moved from being an hourly, as-needed service to a full outsourced managed service provider. The company’s niche is businesses in the 10-100 employee range who not only run on Mac but also see the value in being supported before problems occur.

“Think Fixed got its name from the ad campaign Apple ran in the ‘90s,” said Bowie. “ ‘Think Different’ was a sort of rallying cry to those of us who chose to use the Mac platform. Remember that back then Apple was tiny by comparison and any thought it would outpace Microsoft was laughable.”

THINKING DIFFERENTLY

Many clients come to Iron Egg with horror stories about previous web designers, according to John Hill, a partner and director of business development at Iron Egg as well as a partner with Think Fixed.

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Hill, 35, grew up in Crowley and served as a U.S. Army reservist before working as a senior financial sales adviser and a personal banker in the banking industry. He and Bowie met several years ago studying martial arts together. Over time, they became friends.

“The majority of people I’ve spoken to have had a horrible experience – they didn’t get what they wanted, or they never got their phone calls returned, or the guy took their money, or they got locked into some multi-year contract to where they don’t own their domain or the content on their sites,” Hill said.

“We just want to build websites. That’s all we do. Our goal is not branding or marketing. It’s helping smaller companies have a transactional approach to building a website. There are many people out there needing this kind of help,” Hill said. “We offer help when you need it but you’re not beholden to us.”

Common mistakes people make when contracting with web designers, according to Hill and Bowie, are not taking time to figure out what the website does for their company and why; not interviewing several website designers, with a checklist in hand, to assess the value of the relationship; and insisting on a bid process. Bowie said that above $10,000, a bid might make sense but for small sites, companies going for the lowest price generally sacrifice a lot for a little difference in cost.

“Distrust. There’s a ton of this out there, and justifiably, since so many in our industry don’t stick around,” Bowie added. “That short interview process really helps. We find we are therapists as much as sales people when discussing new projects. It’s hard to get over but pick your team and trust them. Also hold them accountable.”

At Iron Egg, all sites are built on WordPress so that when once designed, the websites will be edited and maintained by their owners. This keeps sites cost-effective and lets the customer stay in control.

“That’s what differentiates us from competitors,” Bowie said. “We want to do the little sites. We are profitable on the little sites. We don’t want to become a full-service agency, so we will be around when that company needs a refresh and they don’t have to deal with increased costs or a lost contact.”

Among local businesses for which Iron Egg has hatched new websites are Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, Righteous Foods, Poser Kids Yoga and Northern Realty Group.

Bowie said partner relationships are where Iron Egg gets most of its clients and the company continues building partner relationships with other agencies that either don’t offer the same kinds of services or don’t want to handle small business sites.

Networking is a strong catalyst for establishing those partner relationships. Bowie and Hill both run Leads Groups via the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Bowie’s Funkytown Force meets on Mondays at BBVA Compass Bank, 9100 Benbrook Blvd., while Hill’s group, Panther City Leads, gathers at IDEA Works, 600 E. Rosedale St., on Fridays.

“I built the business not on the idea that we were going to deliver unique, creative and ground-breaking websites to people on a budget, but that we would discuss honestly with each client, up front, what kinds of things they can and can’t get for their budget and what of those had the most impact,” Bowie said. “If it’s not a win-win for both parties, we often refer them over to partners who may be better at what they need.”

IRON EGG WEB DESIGN AND THINK FIXED LLC

http://ironegg.com