While speaking with SmartBiz customer Brennen Bliss, he received exciting news. The business he founded as a middle school student, PixelCutLabs, reached a huge milestone. The award-winning SEO agency based in Austin, Texas had exceeded last year’s revenue as of August 2019.
With an 83% client retention rate, PixelCutLabs has no plans to slow down. Here’s how Brennen is working to build his business and his plans for the future.
Brennen’s entrepreneurial journey started early. While still in middle school, he built a website for his mom’s speech pathology practice. He was self-taught, without any formal web design training and moved on to building websites for her friend’s small businesses too. Although he was successful, he thought, “why am I doing web design when I can help businesses in other ways?”
Throughout high school, he honed his skills and evolved into a full-service marketing firm for small businesses handling paid advertising, social media, and other growth strategies. However, Brennen soon narrowed his focus.
“I came across SEO as a way businesses could get their name out there.” SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. It’s no secret that website ranking can make or break a company. “I help small businesses reach larger audiences, particularly e-commerce businesses with 1-3 million dollars in annual revenue."
"We offer white-glove, full-service SEO services, and individual SEO services like link building. We've experienced first-hand how being the top search result can dramatically change a company,” says Brennen.
“It certainly changed ours! Being the top search result is why we've been growing for the past 5 years, why UpCity listed us as one of the top 10 SEO agencies in the United States, and why we drive new business to our site every single day.”
In the summer of Brennen’s junior year of high school, he hired his first W2 employee. “Aki is amazing. She’s a big picture person while I’m more of a visionary. She gets stuff done and acts as the point of contact for clients.” Brennen continued to run PixelCutLabs while attending the University of Texas.
However, after 2 semesters, he knew he wanted to get back to business full time. “I made sure my parents were OK with it before I left school,” he says. Brennen reports that his parents are extremely supportive of his venture. “They knew my business is more than a job-it’s a career.”
With the rapid growth his agency was experiencing, Brennen considered low-cost funds to cover a few months of slow cashflow. He found SmartBiz online and started an application for an SBA loan but hadn’t been profitable quite long enough to qualify.
He liked what he saw so as soon as he was eligible, he returned to SmartBiz.
“I couldn’t have done it without the SmartBiz dashboard,” he says. “It’s great.” Although Brennen prefers not to borrow money, he had high interest loans that were crippling his cash flow. “We’re using the funds for debt consolidation. My advice is that if you can reduce your interest rates considerably, just do it. This loan is allowing us to stay alive and keep growing.”
PixelCutLabs now has 5 remote employees on staff.
Ken, a SmartBiz Compliance Analyst, worked with Brennan throughout the application process.
“It's not often we get younger business owners applying through SmartBiz,” he says. “It was really interesting to see how Brennen was able to balance going to school and scaling his business-and the tenacity needed for both was obvious throughout the application process.”
Brennen talks about the difficulties of being a business owner. “At first, the problem was that no one would take me seriously because of my age. Thankfully, that’s not an issue anymore. It can be lonely because you’re working all the time. But I’ve found my tribe.” He reports that the best thing about being an entrepreneur is that there are no limits to anything. “I follow the philosophy of The One Thing book. My goals are extremely specific and mapped out day-to-day.” He’s very optimistic about the future. “We want to be the absolute best and have the capacity to handle the best clients. I am practical, however. It can be dangerous to be too optimistic.”
We wish Brennan and his team the best of luck! Continue to meet those milestones!