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Meet Our Industrious Neighbor: Stoke Studio

Launch DFW has officially settled at our new headquarters at Industrious Dallas, and are excited to introduce you to some of the innovative entrepreneurs that share our space. Each month, we will be featuring some of our neighbors, and this month, we are thrilled to introduce you to Stoke Studio.

Meet Stoke Studio

  • Founding date/year: March 2016
  • Founders: Kevin Wade and Dustin Lancaster

Company mission

Empowering businesses to take their success to the next level—through innovative yet practical branding, design, and online experiences.

Photo courtesy: Industrious Dallas

Some words from the founders

What was the inspiration to start Stoke Studio?

I (Kevin) always knew I wanted to be in business for myself—I just didn’t know where or how that would begin. Dustin and I both have entrepreneur fathers who run/ran their own businesses, so it’s kind of in our blood.

Dustin, a designer with experience across large brands and organizations, and myself, a software developer with experience building and marketing products for millions of users, had completed a few projects together in our free-time over the years leading up to Stoke Studio. Friends who knew we had design and dev skill sets had approached us about various website projects. Dustin is a phenomenal designer, and I focus my dev talents in the front-end space—everything you see and experience in a web browser. So that made us a perfect fit for launching not-your-run-of-the-mill website projects.

When we each became unfulfilled in our previous jobs at nearly the exact same time, we knew the universe was giving us the final shove to make this happen.

How has Stoke Studio evolved since its founding?

When we started Stoke Studio, we thought we were just going to build upon our previous spare-time work and create beautiful websites for people. LESSON 1: What you expect your business to be on Day 1 will, and should, evolve.

We worked with mostly small businesses at first—still our specialty today—and you wouldn’t be surprised to find out their marketing needs extended beyond just websites. Early on, customers sought our advice and expertise on not just how they appeared online, but on their company image as a whole. We quickly extended our service offerings—into branding, messaging, web, online advertising, and both digital and print collateral—to better serve our clients.

What makes Stoke Studio an innovative offering in the digital agency space?

Being a bootstrapped, boutique agency, our success and livelihood depends upon the success of our clients. This uniquely positions us to focus on what will be best for them long-term, which will in-turn, be best for us.

This has led to a few attributes that make us unique:

  1. We only develop websites on retainer. Websites are still a core ingredient of our business. Many agency models revolve around a large, upfront initial website build cost and then (sometimes unknown) site update fees following that. We start on retainer from the get-go. This helps our clients frame site updates to be as important as the initial build. It also helps keep the initial costs lower—which is great for small businesses. We don’t place a limit on updates, number of pages, or anything like that. We’re here for what they need. Our website retainers have been so successful for both our clients and our business that we’re now looking into more ways to integrate the retainer model across our service lines.
  2. We’re a true extension of our customers’ teams. We’re all-in with our customers. On a daily and weekly basis, you’ll find us meeting clients in-person and online talking about their business strategy, problems, and desires. We believe that marketing is really just a layer on top of these root aspects. We seek to build resonating marketing strategies on top of these foundational truths.
  3. We bring large-scale methods to small-scale businesses. With our experience across large organizations and large-footprint products, we bring services and strategies to small businesses that are often only accessible to companies of a larger scale.
Tell us about some of the clients/projects you’ve worked on.

We’ve helped a start-up real estate company combine online and offline campaigns to attract customers in a highly-competitive space. We’ve helped an established construction company in a who-you-know business highlight their deep industry roots and newer-to-the-game benefits. We’ve helped healthcare startups message and launch brand new ideas into a tired space. We’ve helped a veteran matchmaker close more clients than ever.

Our clients are so happy with their results that they often refer us out to their network of colleagues and friends. We’re lucky enough to operate purely on referrals.

What can we expect to see from Stoke Studio in the next 24 months?

Controlled, steady growth. We’re not looking to be the biggest agency or have unparalleled expansion. We’re not in this for the exit. Our boutique and bootstrapped origins allow for the personal attention to detail we bring to each client and project. We’re extremely happy with our progress and success thus far, so we’re simply looking to continue that—increasing our customer base and growing our team over time.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

First – Pay off debt. Maybe you’re looking to start something and you’re still honing in on exactly what that thing is. One way to get started today is to get control of your money situation by owing others less. With more financial freedom, comes more flexibility for launching your ideas.

Second – Always be willing to reinvent your business. Don’t get stuck. Charge forward with your initial ideas, and then keep iterating from there. You will almost never get it right the first time. We started with just websites under one pricing model, but today we offer a suite of services that work together under a completely different pricing model.

How has being an Industrious member changed your business?

Industrious came at the exact right time for us. Dustin and I worked from home for as long as possible. We hit a point at which meeting clients became more difficult, not having an office setting was wearing on the psyche, and a meowing cat in the background of conference calls wasn’t very professional. We moved into Industrious Dallas the month it opened, and it had an instant, positive effect on us and our business. We quickly made full use of the the space to meet client after client and prospect after prospect. Telling your clients they may “valet around the fountains” and are welcome to grab coffee, snacks, or happy hour when they visit, really sets the mood and elevates your image.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know about your biz?

We’re loving the journey. Just as our initial website-oriented business has evolved into a full-fledged agency, we’re looking forward to the next evolution of the company. We have a few ideas of what that could be, and we’re excited to see where things progress from here.

Learn more about Industrious Dallas

Industrious Dallas is located at One Arts Plaza on 1722 Routh St., located just minutes away from Uptown, Deep Ellum or the rest of Downtown Dallas. The Dallas office includes amenities such as conference rooms, free printing, phone rooms, private offices, common areas and relaxation rooms. Fill out this form to learn more information.

Editor at Launch DFW | SMU senior studying journalism, creative computing and computer science graduating in May '18 | Twitter: @jacquieeli | LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jacquelynrelias