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Meet Derek Chew of Fullmoon Digital

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Chew.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I got my first job after I graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in 2000 where I received my degree in computer science and mathematics. I started my career as a web developer for a small company in Ann Arbor, MI.

Shortly after, I started my career; the dotcom crash in 2001 left me jobless. I couldn’t find a job in my field for over six months. Web developers flooded the job market, and supply outnumbered demand. It was one of the most gut-wrenching moment for a fresh graduate. That was when I got into the world of affiliate marketing – where I could market someone else’s products and take a cut off the top (my commission).

I didn’t make money at first, but I started getting better at it after a year and fell in love with online marketing. You could say that I got introduced to the world of affiliate marketing and search engine marketing very early on in my life. While I enjoyed what I was able to do, the money wasn’t enough to support a family. So for many years after that, I worked full-time jobs to raise my family and pay the bills.

Companies I worked for included LegalZoom, Yahoo!, and Fandango. Additionally, I also managed a team responsible for 30+ fashion brands e-commerce business. As I built my professional and personal network, I was fortunate enough to land a few consulting opportunities. The more I consulted, the more I realized that I enjoy helping businesses of all sizes launch, grow, and scale their online traffic and sales.

I considered starting my own internet marketing agency but was never confident enough to go all-in. After working full-time for 17 years, I went all-in in August 2017. It took me a while, but I don’t regret taking that many years either. Over the almost two decades of working for companies, I considered those years as very well “paid internships.” Its cliché, but I definitely learned a lot of what not to do.

More importantly, I had the opportunity to use enterprise-level marketing software and sit at the negotiating table. Those experiences proved invaluable when it came time to launch Fullmoon Digital. I finally overcame my fear and turned my side-hustle into my main hustle. I was able to bring my consulting clients over to my newly formed internet marketing agency – so I was fortunate to have an existing portfolio to launch the company with.

In the first year of Fullmoon Digital’s operation, we had our fair share of ups and downs. I made some mistakes on hires, bought some software we didn’t need and didn’t pay enough attention to process. But hey, failing forward is what it’s all about right? Luckily, we’re a boutique agency, small enough that we can pivot quickly on things that didn’t work and double-downed on things that worked.

We used to take on any client when we started out. But after a short twelve months, we have narrowed our specialty to focus our marketing services to six industries – law firms, healthcare, education, fashion, e-commerce, and dental offices. We found our sweet spot.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without the support from my wife. You see, we’re a single-income family with three children. So, this is undeniably scary because entrepreneurship comes with its own set of challenges that you can only learn living it.

But I’m happy to be where we’re at today. We have a healthy list of clients and have enjoyed steady growth since we started.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As a startup, it’s unrealistic to expect anything less than chaos. Our agency goes through the regular day-to-day challenges, but there are three particular areas that we constantly strive to improve – I would like to share.

1. Finding the right people – I made this mistake really fast, probably within the first 3 months of the agency. I was desperate to get help so I could start focusing on getting new business. I was putting multiple carts before the horse.

I should have focused on improving our agency’s internal process first, then hire, then find new clients. Finding the right hires should never be out of desperation – conventional wisdom teaches us to hire slow and fire fast. But sometimes, we have to call our own shots and fail forward, learning from our mistakes.

2. Cash flow – this is not something I hear many entrepreneurs talk about; especially the self-funded startups. But it’s an interesting topic – it’s a real problem that many new business venture face.

Cash flow problems can be caused by a wide variety of reasons – one of them being late payments from clients. We’ve never had any hiccups with our clients paying invoices on time, until July 2018. As if it was orchestrated, every single client did not settle their invoices within the normal time frame.

That caused a cascading effect on our agency’s cash flow, and down to our payroll. We had to delay payroll by almost two weeks causing stress within the team. It was a scary, yet revealing time in our agency. It showed us how strong the team morale is and how committed the team is to the purpose of our agency – that a slight hiccup in payroll did not shake their resolve. As a founder, that’s an extremely heartfelt and encouraging experience.

3. New clients – the lifeline of every company. When we launched in 2017, business was slow. I didn’t expect a flood of new clients, but we had months where we would not even send one proposal out. If there’s one thing entrepreneurship taught me, is patience.

In my experience working for larger companies, leads could come in every day – at least 30-40 per day. So when I see my “leads folder” empty, it scares me. Things do get better over time as word gets out about what Fullmoon Digital can do and the results we deliver. What I have learned is that, as a startup, I cannot and should not expect a smooth ride.

It’s an adventure, and I’m going to enjoy every bump, curve, and straight road it brings.

Over on LinkedIn, I’ve been fortunate to find a community we call #LinkedInFam that is extremely supportive and provides the encouragement, motivation and positive vibes that helps me pushing ahead.

Fullmoon Digital – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Fullmoon Digital serves six industries – law firms, healthcare, education, fashion, e-commerce, and dental offices.

We specialize in pay-per-click, social media marketing, content marketing, SEO, and SEM. Many advertising agencies and internet marketing company I’ve worked at or with spend a lot of money on fancy office space, lavish parties, etc. It’s a rite of passage for agencies – they need to look sexy in everything they do.

We pride ourselves in that we’re a functional team with everyone working remotely; we have people in Chicago, Downtown Los Angeles, Reno, while I’m in Simi Valley.

Fullmoon Digital is the #unsexy agency – where we focus more on getting things done. For example, this morning, I was on a call with a prospect. I was going over how we approach personal development and social media advertising with Jennifer.

I told her that we will deliver our research in simple 3×5 grid excel documents – there’s not going to be a fancy PowerPoint presentation.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
That’s the million-dollar question. When I envisioned my own business many years ago, I viewed success as making a lot of money and living a luxurious life – being honest. At one point, I saw myself climbing the corporate ladder and eventually holding a high-paying executive role.

But after the reality of running my ad agency sunk in and my perspective took a dramatic shift on how I see the world and what success truly is – for me personally.

My definition of success boils down to two things:
Impact – how is the work we do at Fullmoon Digital impacting the brands we work with and even one step further, how can our work for our clients impact their customers.

Purpose – I want to strive to make Fullmoon Digital a purpose-driven ad agency and help our clients with their purpose. I suppose it begs an existential question of “Why are we in business?”

To me, success is helping brands leverage their purpose to make an impact. And we just happen to make money.

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