Anniversary Reflections & Observations
Anniversary Reflections & Observations: Turning Vision and Drive into 25 Years of Success
Some of the best success stories, – both in life and in business – start with an auspicious moment that signals greatness might very well be on the horizon; all it requires is that someone see its potential, make a decision to take a chance, and power forward.
In 1997, just such a moment happened to Ricardo Ortizcazarin. “I had an opportunity to have a tarot card reading,” he recalls. “I have always been one who believes that spiritual direction can come from many places, and so, I decided to open myself up to the experience.” While today he doesn’t recall all the information he was given during that fateful sit down, one prediction remains clear in his recollection. “He told me I was going to open a business, and not just somewhere down the road; very soon. In 1998,” says Ortizcazarin.
Ortizcazarin already had a solid career going as a computer programmer and enjoyed both his work, and the company he did it for. A husband and father, he felt he already had the direction of his career path well-planned, and entrepreneurship at the time wasn’t part of that map. “I had never really considered opening my own business at that time. Having a family and a mortgage and all of those responsibilities, a stable job seemed like the more sensible way forward.”
It wasn’t until Ortizcazarin read an article about what was then called “the information superhighway” that some thoughts and ideas began to coalesce. “Technological opinion leaders were saying that this was going to be big; the future of commerce. I immediately saw it as an opportunity my company needed to jump on immediately.”
Unfortunately, his boss at the time didn’t agree. “I thought it was an excellent way for us to add value to our current clients and help them get a leg up on the future, but unfortunately my boss thought it was a fad that wouldn’t end up going anywhere,” says Ortizcazarin. “I knew that was a mistake. I saw pretty clearly that just about every business was going to need to jump on this and have an online presence pretty quickly.”
When recalling his prophetic tarot card reading from the previous year, Ortizcazarin wondered if this was his opportunity. “It seemed like if I was going to take a chance, believe in myself, and move forward, this was the proverbial fork in the road.”
And so, after discussing it with his wife Mary, Cazarin Interactive was born. “I turned in my resignation on March 26th, 1998. I officially started Cazarin Interactive April 1st, 1998,” he shares. “I remember it being one of the scariest days of my life, but also one of the most hopeful.” And the door that shingle was hung outside of? Ortizcazarin chuckles as he happily recalls what came to be known as “The Bat Cave.” “The Bat Cave was my basement! We felt it was as good of a place to start as any,” he remembers. “I got two phone lines, two desks, and we were off and running!”
1998 -2001: Immediate Growth Led By a Conservative Mindset
It became clear quickly to Ortizcazarin that his gut instincts about the “information superhighway” were based in reality. “We started selling website projects right away. Fellow forward-thinking entrepreneurs and business owners immediately saw that the future was online,” he says. “We expanded to a staff of six within six months, and then expanded out of the bat cave in eighteen months.”
Renting offices in Wayzata, Minnesota, Cazarin Interactive needed to flex quickly to 16 staff members in order to accommodate the heavy demand. “It was rapid growth, because so many businesses saw this as a new stream of revenue for them,” says Ortizcazarin. One could easily think this fast moving e-commerce train was here to stay, and as we know from history, many newly minted website companies were sure that was the case.
But then, in 2001, the dot.com bubble burst. “That was a real unfortunate wake-up call for all of us.” Luckily for Ortizcazarin, he had amassed a client base that afforded other potential opportunities for digital growth.
At the time, Cazarin Interactive was solely a website design and development operation. But he had an idea.
“I thought the solution to ride out the dot.com collapse might be to identify other digital services we could provide to our existing client base.”
This pivot proved to be a lifeline. “Many of our clients needed services like logo design, collateral materials, ads, and more,” Ortizcazarin says. “To me, this really signaled how much a role branding was going to play in the future of digital marketing.”
With a broader scope of services and an eye forward, Ortizcazarin began to expand the once exclusive website development and design organization to a fully integrated digital marketing and branding agency.
2001 - 2007: Agency Expansion, E-Commerce Development
The new, broader approach to digital marketing services paid off, and kept the company firing on all cylinders while many of their initial competitors fell by the wayside. In addition to the expanded suite of marketing services, Cazarin Interactive grew their “bread and butter” website development services by learning how to create larger e-commerce sites.
“A lot of the website companies that had popped up at the turn of the century saw the potential that existed in static websites, but didn’t see how those initial sites were going to need to expand and adapt to the rapid changes in consumerism,” offers Ortizcazarin. “We did. We knew that the web was going to become the new way people shopped and did business, and so we learned how to make that a reality for our B2C clients quickly.”
A move to their own purchased office space in Maple Grove in 2003 also helped to solidify the growth and expansion. “Being nimble has always been a key part of any digital marketing agency’s survival. It still is today, but it was especially true in the first ten years of the 21st century,” Ortizcazarin says. “These were all moves that kept us afloat.”
2008: The White Knuckle Year
Looking back on 2008 now, Ortizcazarin can find a glimmer of humor. “One would think that getting through the dotcom bust was the only “trial by fire” we would have to endure,” he chuckles. “I certainly hoped so, at least. And then, 2008 happened. To everyone!”
WIth banks, lending companies, and investment firms that had been in business for over fifty years closing their doors during the mortgage crisis, small to mid-sized businesses didn’t look like they would stand a chance. “The bottom was really falling out everywhere,” offers Ortizcazarin. “And when you’re in the agency business and your success is predicated somewhat on the success of your clients’ business, it can be a very shaky time.”
As many of their clients decided it was better to shut their doors than try to weather the storm, Ortizcazarin admits he too had his moments of doubt. “Things definitely looked their bleakest then, that’s for certain. But I had learned a lot from what happened in 2001,” Ortizcazarin says. “And I decided that just like a pivot to offering other services was the right move then, it might be the right move now, too.”
2011 - 2016: The Birth of Marketing Fusion and Benchmark Clients
The move forward became clear to Ortizcazarin: you need to build on the ashes of other failures. “Larger businesses were looking for ways to cut the fat in order to survive. I noticed that one of the first departments that always seemed to be on the chopping block was marketing,” says Ortizcazarin. “It made sense from a cash flow perspective; marketing is a cost center for most businesses, and when times are tough, you’re going to cut your departments that are almost strictly “money out the door.”
And while that seemed intuitive, Ortizcazarin saw the writing on the wall. “It doesn’t mean you don’t still need marketing; in fact it can easily be argued that the lean times are when you need marketing the most. But these were companies that were fighting for their survival, and couldn’t afford to have a large, in-house marketing department,” says Ortizcazarin. “So, I knew it was time to create a solution.”
And thus, Cazarin Interactive’s Marketing Fusion solution was born. Offered as a comprehensive way that businesses who were stripping down their in-house marketing departments could still compete, Cazarin Interactive offered their clients a suite of marketing services that could either compliment their existing marketing department, or if need be, completely replace them.
“We were able to step in, help them fill marketing gaps where needed, and yet not be a cost center where they were paying large salaries, benefits, etc.” says Ortizcazarin. “It ended up a lifeline for us and for our clients, and had the added benefit of really expanding us to a top-level, full service digital business partner.”
Today, Cazarin Interactive’s Marketing Fusion is still one of the top services provided. “We love that we are able to bring fresh, creative ideas to our clients, and work with their marketing teams to create a truly cohesive brand that fully represents their place in the e-commerce world.”
2018 - Today: Full Service Digital Agency
Today, Cazarin Interactive provides one of the most expansive marketing service menus available at a global level. Companies looking for creative and technological solutions that will catapult their brand turn to Cazarin Interactive to provide the right magical marketing recipe for their success.
But Cazarin is quick to point out that, throughout the inflection points of survival and innovation, pivots and expansions, his goal for the business remains the same. “Our mission remains as it has always been; to be the premier marketing agency known for our loyalty, results, and culture,” says Ortizcazarin. “We want to set ourselves apart by our commitment to relationships, both internal and external. We have clients that started their business with us and have now become major national and international brands.” Benchmark clients like Cameron’s Coffee, Boker’s, NCI, and Spartan-Nash have been with us for many, many years because they see how deeply rooted our commitment to relationship building truly is.”
What does the future hold for Cazarin Interactive? According to Ortizcazarin, he hopes a lot more of the same, and that even includes the most challenging moments.
“Anyone who becomes an entrepreneur and hopes to never have any bumps in the road is not being realistic,” says Oritz-Cazarin. “As is true of so many things in life, what matters most is how you react to those challenges. If you keep yourself open to them, they can end up presenting you with excellent opportunities for innovation and growth,” he offers.
Here’s to the next 25 Years of insight, innovation, and impact at Cazarin Interactive!