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From Web development to full-service, Garner grows

Flowood — Joe Garner left a technical job with the federal government seven years ago to start his own Web development business. Over the years, he’s watched other Web development companies buckle under the pressure of a high-risk, fast-changing business while he stayed afloat.

His secret? Garner’s company, Garner Media, has evolved over the years into a full-service marketing firm, even going so far as to provide a full-service print shop.

“It typically takes four or five companies to fulfill the needs that we supply for our clients,” said Garner.
Garner employs 10 full-time employees and plans to open satellite sales offices around the Southeast in the near future. Besides Web site design, development and hosting, the agency produces billboards ads, TV and radio commercials in house or on site, print ads and provides the photography. The company also creates and maintains online retail shops for clients like Maison Weiss, Mean Mallard and Hearth and Home.

A Morton native and longtime Jackson resident, Garner was a one-man operation when he started Garner Media. A risky venture, yes, but Garner liked the idea of working in the private sector and being his own boss. He spent the first year or two designing and developing Web sites for clients. Things started changing when customers told him they liked the look and feel of the Web sites he created better than the other marketing materials they were using.

“They asked if we could apply that look to their other materials, and that’s what put us in the position we’re in today,” said Garner.

Ellison Belt, the firm’s vice president of production, was running his own software company when he joined Garner and one other employee. Belt was there when the firm began what he calls a deliberate and gradual expansion from Web development. He believes it’s been a good move for Garner Media’s clients, who enjoy a one-stop shop, and for the firm’s employees, who work really well together.

“We have fun, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s important,” he said.

Garner Media now serves an impressive array of clients, from construction companies to clothiers to non-profits. The firm has certain vertical markets that are a natural fit, such as real estate companies, law firms, physicians and surgeons, but the client diversity comes from the custom design work the firm does for its clients, said Garner.

When he and his staff begin working for a new client, they come up with a creative concept — a business image for the company or product — and apply the client’s creative concept to all of the client’s marketing materials Being able to carry the concept from a Web site to a brochure to a print advertisement saves the client money because they don’t have to start from scratch each time, said Belt.

Printing their materials inhouse is another money saver, adds Garner.

“They come in and leave with the product,” he said. “We’re able to save them money on the printing side, which gives them more to put into the marketing side.”

Looking back, Garner said he is glad for the foresight to expand his original business into what it has become today.

“The changes in the Web development industry have been so dramatic that if you just relied on Web development for your service, I think you’d be out of business today,” he said.

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

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