Big Boom Design
Boomer Sassmann remembers being in social studies class in the 8th grade and talking to a girl who was discussing her screen name on AOL. “I went home and said, “Dad, we need to get on AOL.” He said no, but we’ll get the Internet.
“My dad was a techie, and he had a lot of stuff laying around the house. I was putting together computer systems when I was eight or nine years old. I also had an interest in cars. I got a job cleaning up around a car shop. The owner helped me appreciate the value of precision machining. I got into CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining about the time we were all transitioning into computer-aided manufacturing. I went to Appalachian State,but they didn’t have a CNC machining program so I got into industrial design which was basically product design. They were crafting our curriculum to get jobs at Black & Decker and DeWalt designing drills and hand tools. I got some pretty good skills from that.
“Then I saw the Internet was just gobbling up so many aspects of life. I got a job working at a web company that built little stand-alone single web pages for businesses. Then I got into Adobe Flash. I was basically jaw-dropped when I did this little Flash job, and my boss was able to sell it for $15,000. I, of course, made $700. Over time, I started doing more and more, design, training, job quotes. Everything except sales. It scared me to death to think a 20-year old could walk into a business and sell what I was building. Then it occurred to me that if the older generation, the business owners of that time, were going to take the younger generation seriously about anything it was the Internet. So I continued to work for these other web companies, and then I split off and started Big Boom Design in 2007.
“We started with basic websites and right at that time I was starting to get into content management systems. WordPress was starting to take off. I watched all these other web companies build their businesses on mystery and confusion and smoke and mirrors as far as how they conveyed stuff to their clients. With content management systems they could go in and make changes to their own data without calling me. That’s actually a very good thing for everyone.
“We build websites that are very, very transparent. You show your client everything they’re doing, and you get to make money and create a better product, and you build a better relationship. Too many web designers built their business on the principle of don’t tell the client what you’re doing. We started just building lots of websites. I started stacking up employees, and we evolved into an Internet consulting firm. We still build websites, but they’re much bigger and more impressive sites these days.
“Giving someone a full perspective of what they have right now is part of the process. A lot of time we help them through Google Analytics. We help them understand the traffic they have and what they could have. Then we do a big, full analysis of their business, in particular their web presence, and help them measure their digital fingerprint. We then offer up a plan and most of the time we get the contract to carry out that plan. Sometimes it’s just giving them the training they need. A lot of the time it’s an overhaul of their website, or just setting up some custom Google Analytic reports. We also offer hosting, because you can’t be in the web business without having a place to host.
Sassmann doesn’t think he has all the answers yet. He’s not content with his current business, just pleased. He has more dreams yet to be fulfilled.
“In 10 years I hope to still be in Asheville. I have a couple of more businesses in my head. I’d like to do more with automotive businesses. I don’t want to build the business to sell, but at the same time I want to have time to get these other businesses going.”
We asked all three of our young entrepreneurs what they had gotten from their time in the incubator:
Ragland: “Setting us up with office space, the resources, the connections outside in the community and those in the incubator. The staff or the other entrepreneurs can help us find answers to any random, little question. It is so great to spend time with these other entrepreneurs who have been here longer than we have.
“More than just that, when I first got here I was knocking on these guys’ doors. They helped me with cameras, and with our website.”
Schain: “When you’re a business owner you’re so close to it. I have four companies, but Boomer saw it a little differently. Our employees see it from the inside but the outsider point of view has been the most valuable thing I have encountered.”
Sassmann: “For me, I was working at home when I started stacking up employees. I was going from coffee shop to coffee shop to get out of the house to meet with clients. I was looking for a connection to other small business owners in the technology field. But the leads groups were way too salesy. I wanted somebody who could charge me up. I couldn’t find it. Then I came here and found they had that, plus the discounted rent. It is way more than just cheap office space. I can walk next door and say, ‘Steve, what do you think of this?’”
Schain: “Nobody is just out for themselves. Everybody is willing to help. I’ve never had anyone say I don’t have time for you. They might say let’s look at it later, but they are there for you.”
Sassmann: “We have this one common thing. We’re trying to grow. Someone may have read a good book. It crosses business genres.”
They all see themselves staying in touch. Schain sums it up best: “Ideally, I would like to have a showroom where interested people are able to see and touch a professional quality 3D printer and 3D printed products. I would like it to be in an office building with other offices, so I don’t lose the camaraderie we have here.”