May 7, 2024

Episode #141: Jack Shepler – Ayokay

Jack Shepler is the founder of Ayokay, a marketing and web design agency located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since its inception in 2011, Jack has led Ayokay with a commitment to not just building brands and boosting e-commerce sales but also supporting the vital work of public health and nonprofit organizations. His expertise in the digital arena is not only applied in his leadership but also shared with a broader audience through insightful posts on the Ayokay blog, aiming to demystify the complexities of digital marketing for businesses and organizations.

Recognized for his innovative contributions to the field, Jack was named to the Forbes Next 1000 in 2021, a testament to his and his team’s dedication to excellence. Ayokay stands as a testament to Jack’s vision of a marketing agency that does more than serve its clients; it also makes a positive impact on the community. With a focus on delivering practical, user-friendly, and impactful solutions, Jack has ensured that Ayokay caters to a diverse clientele, helping them navigate the challenges of the digital world successfully.

Under Jack’s guidance, Ayokay has become more than a business; it’s a crucial partner for organizations looking to make a significant difference through digital innovation.

Jack is married to his partner of 11 years, Benjamin Ochs, and resides in Indianapolis. He volunteers for the Damien Center board of directors, Indy Pride as its annual Festival Entertainment Director, and Entrepeneurs Organization, of which he recently joined the board as Marketing Director.

Jack has a long history in the music world, more recently DJing once a month at Greg’s Our Place in downtown Indianapolis, as well as various other DJ gigs at festivals and corporate events.

n his free time, he enjoys playing video games and spending time outside playing golf or enjoying the pool.

In honor of the fellow business owners in your life that had an impact on you
becoming the person you are today, let’s celebrate them. Click this link to apply to be on our podcast to recognize those people: https://www.BeMADTogether.com

Transcript

Intro: You’re listening to the Self-Made is a Myth, Make a Difference Together Show with your host Coach Tim Campsall where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their journeys in building their successful businesses. And more importantly, we recognize the folks who helped them excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our own.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hello everyone. This is Coach Tim Campsall, and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today. What’s really unique about my guest is that he was named a Forbes next 1000, and he’s a serial board member. We’ll get him to tell us a little bit more about that. In his downtime, he enjoys DJing and collecting vinyl and bourbon and playing video games.

And he’s most proud of the team that he’s built and the accomplishments that I already referenced in terms of the next 1000. It’s my pleasure to welcome Jack to the show today. Hello, Jack.

Jack Shepler: Hi, Tim. Thanks for having me on your show.

Coach Tim Campsall: Absolutely. Hey, let’s start with having you introduce yourself.

Tell us your, obviously first and last name, but more importantly, a little bit of your personal story, like where you were born and live and about your family and hobbies.

Jack Shepler: Sure. Sure. Hey, I’m Jack Shepler. I run a web agency here in Indianapolis called Ayokay. I actually grew up in Ohio and moved here to Indianapolis.

It was a divorce situation. I moved from where I grew up to here in Indianapolis and really loved it. I really fell in love with kind of the small big city vibe that we have here in Indy. Went to Ball State for video production, obsessed with web design all through high school, all through college.

And so after college, I actually during college and in high school, I got super involved in the music scene. I used to be a photographer at big music festivals and concerts Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Coachella, all the big concerts. I met someone here in Indianapolis, Jeb Banner, who was starting a web shop at the time.

I became his first W2 employee right out of college and five years later with his encouragement started in my own agency Ayokay. So that’s a little bit of background for you.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic and Hobbies, what do you like to do in your downtime?

Jack Shepler: Sure, so I feel, if you look at all the things I’m involved in, it looks like I don’t have a lot of time, but to me, that is I love being involved.

I’m involved with Indie Pride Festival as their entertainment director. I am on the board of the Damien Center. I help with their annual event, Grand Masquerade, as well. I DJ. I’ve been DJing since I was 21. So for about 20 years now, I’ve been DJing at clubs and whatnot. I have a monthly residency at Greg Zauer Place here in Indy playing house music.

It’s just something I love. Just, my music background never went away. Just, the web design and marketing part grew and the other part stuck around. But when I do have actual downtime I play video games. It’s my kind of escape most nights I go home and I play, Elder Scrolls online, or I’ll play Fortnite with my friends and my nieces and nephews and that sort of thing.

That’s why my downtime is definitely video games. Also I love playing golf. I love sweat, going to the pool, all that kind of stuff.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic. Hey, Jack, is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today?

Jack Shepler: So that’s a funny one.

It was hard to think of a story I could share. Those are the best ones. One that my mom loves to share is when I was young, I was pretty studious. I would say I was. I didn’t get, I got good grades, maybe not the best, but I she reminded me of I guess that I liked to I, how do I put this?

She likes to tell the story of how I once found something factually incorrect in my elementary school book, in my class book. And I took it to the teacher and the teacher didn’t really care. And then I took it to the principal. I guess I was, I really wanted to make sure that this textbook was corrected which I thought was funny.

And I think that might be why growing up, they told me that I would be a lawyer when I get older. I don’t know. She, I don’t even remember this, but she loves to tell that story.

Coach Tim Campsall: Thanks for sharing. Hey, Jack, how’d the business come about and tell us a little bit of the backstory there. And at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business?

Jack Shepler: Sure. Actually, it all started in high school. I moved to Indianapolis right after freshman year college and dove right into my, first school year here in Indy, I joined the video production class and that first semester, I remember there were like eight of us in the class, right?

It was a two hour class and During fall break, right at the beginning of the year, they installed TVs in every room. And they professionalized it, right? They bought all these new modern digital cameras and all that kind of stuff. We created the kind of morning announcements show.

I remember I was actually the one that picked the name for it. We called it wctv for warren central television and after that first semester just everyone wanted to be in it, but I designed a website for them, right? Like when I was young, I designed websites for my mom’s or my parents newspaper.

I designed my own music website. I just became obsessed with web design growing up. So even through video production and spending half of my senior year in high school in the video production room and going to Ball State and all of that. Web design was, was what I was really passionate about.

Can you remind me the question again?

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah, that’s fine. So how did the business come about then. So you have the confidence that you could run your own business.

Jack Shepler: So I made these websites for fun, right? I didn’t get paid for any of those sites I just said, although I did make a little money from my own music website.

And that was really what got me into the photography. I was this high schooler applying for photo passes with warp tour and getting them back then wasn’t, the whole blogging thing was new. Anyway fast forward, I go to college for video production. I end up adding web programming on because I knew that was what I really wanted to do.

I started as the web developer for Newslink Indiana at Ball State for two and a half years. I worked on some other local things, like I did the road site for the local rotary club, that sort of thing. I just freelanced and I did it way too cheap. Let me tell you, way too cheap, but I got really good experience.

And then as I mentioned earlier Jeb Banner was starting a web design company. And he and I crossed paths because of the music stuff I was doing, the music stuff he was doing. In fact, we both were taking part in Midwest Music Summit here in, in Indianapolis, which was organized by Josh Baker back then.

And Yeah. So he reached out and he was like, Hey, I saw you graduating, I’m starting web company want to come work for me? So I first freelanced for him for a few months and then eventually, became the first w2 employee, right? There were a couple of owners before me, but then after five or so years he, the company had grown at that point to 15, 17 people, something like that.

and they were moving in a direction not towards what I was doing there. And he encouraged me to start my own business. So I did.

Coach Tim Campsall: Oh, nice.

Jack Shepler: Yeah.

Coach Tim Campsall: See, yeah. So tell us more about the company. Tell us the name again. What do you guys do? How do you help people?

Jack Shepler: Sure. My company is Ayokay. We, there are really three main things that we do, like big buckets.

It started as web design and development. That’s my background. When I was at small box, I was a web developer. I designed some sites. I’ve done a lot of other design work over the years, like concert posters and that sort of thing. So that’s the OG, and then marketing came eventually.

I was previously marketing chair for a few organizations and became really good at social media and that sort of thing. And yeah, marketing, including social media content, writing, SEO advertising we’ve been doing a lot of I’ll get into the kind of the niche stuff in a minute.

The third thing is custom apps. So custom app development. We have a few interesting niches. In particular, we work with public health organizations. We do a lot of like health campaigns. So you’ll see campaigns around the state of Indiana, for example, for hepatitis C, for I’m not sure if you’ve seen the connect to cure stuff around the state billboards and whatnot.

That was us. We also worked on the MPOCS campaign monkey pox. There’s some other health campaigns we’ve worked on. And actually I’m writing a book right now about public health marketing. So I’m pretty excited about that. And then we also work with a lot of kind of bigger corporations on custom apps.

So we’ve built a lot of payment portals and we’ve built custom CRMs, custom intranets, like from the ground up, fully custom applications. And that also has some news. We’re launching a new brand for that. It’s called app ventures. Still part of Ayokay. Still part of our process that we have here at Ayokay.

But we found that especially in larger corporations marketing and custom apps are two different departments, right? That’s the marketing team and the it team. So we separated that for brand reasons. Makes sense.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. Hey, Jack, share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it, even though maybe you didn’t think that you could and the impact that had on you.

Jack Shepler: I’m sorry. Say it again.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. A story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it, even though maybe, you didn’t think that you could and the impact of that person had on you.

Jack Shepler: Sure. I would say Probably Jeff Banner. I mentioned him before. He was my first boss out of college and he saw the entrepreneurial spirit in me, right?

I was, at that time I was promoting events and nightclubs and whatnot, booking DJs, super involved with IndiePride. I’m, my involvement with IndiePride predates me starting my company. So yeah he was he definitely encouraged me and was, yeah, he’s just, he’s a great coach.

He’s a great a great leader.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic. And what’s been your biggest learning as a business owner?

Jack Shepler: My biggest learning? Is that right? Oh, yeah. There’s, I have a few where do I start? First I would say going have you are you familiar with the book, The E Myth? Yes, I’m sure you are. I’m sure a lot of people listening are So that book really changed my mindset a lot.

And that’s really what honestly got me to look into having a mentor or a coach. I realized okay, I fully understand what’s going on and why I’m not growing. It’s the whole like entrepreneur manager. What’s the third one? The person doing the work. But anyway, yeah.

That really pushed me to rethink things. And honestly the biggest thing was learning to let go. It’s, I can’t be, I know how to, I’ve custom-coded plenty of apps. I’ve designed plenty of websites. In order to grow an agency, though, I can’t be doing those things.

So I had to go through the mindset shift of building a team, delegating trusting. Trust but verifies is something that we say a lot here. Just building up those processes and letting go. Letting go is a big part of that.

Coach Tim Campsall: It’s huge. And I, going from, an employee mindset, to a business owner or entrepreneur mindset. It’s significant. Change and evolution. And, for those who have us, who have created a business and it becomes our baby, it’s hard to let go and write and trust that somebody else is going to take care of it as well as us.

But as you mentioned, the email that talks about the fact that. Business owners become their own bottleneck to be able to grow and scale the business. That typically what happens is, a successful business owner will see this significant growth and then the business plateaus, because.

It’s reached the capacity of the business owner and there’s no more there. There’s nothing else it can do until Till people let go, right? Delegate, bring on other folks and get out of the day to day and become a true manager and then ultimately a true business owner or entrepreneur and have a team that can do the day to day.

Jack Shepler: And I feel like there’s like levels that you reach to where. Like we went through rapid growth and then a pause and it’s wait, what am I, how, and at that pause, you have that realization wait, I’m the bottleneck and then you figure that out and then you grow and then you pause.

And yes, that’s just what it feels like.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. And it’s true. That’s, we actually teach that, and there’s two things that happen. So you grow and then it plateaus out. There’s a pause. Two things are going on. Typically one is. The owners become the bottleneck. But the other is that the mindset needs to catch up to the new level of growth, right?

So we can get caught in our own head of Wow, right? The company’s at this level, but I’m still thinking of myself and my capabilities down here, right? And I need to elevate my own mindset and my thought processes to become, the next version of myself so that I can scale the business to the next level and the next level and so on and so forth.

Intro: We

Coach Tim Campsall: know that business success it doesn’t happen in isolation. So tell us what’s been one of your biggest challenges as a business owner and maybe somebody who came alongside you and helped you to get through that.

Jack Shepler: Sure. So I would say certainly what I was just talking about was a big challenge, right?

Delegation that, I would say that the someone that I would mention is Brent Weaver. So he runs a program called You Gurus. It’s a coaching program specifically for agencies, but he was, he’s my mentor and he has been for about five years. And right out of the gate, you do a 10 week program or something and just so much learning and just wow, there’s just so many changes I need to make so many mindset shifts I need to make to actually grow this company.

And at that time it was just me and a freelancer.

And now we’re at 10 plus, 10 full time plus like 15 or 20 contractors. Yeah, Brent Weaver, big time. Processes, systems hiring a great team. Those are all the sorts of kind of mindset shifts that I’ve taken over the years.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. Congratulations on investing yourself. That’s awesome. Thank you. Gonna put you on the spot here and ask you to pick three people. In your journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help with your business’s growth So who are those three people and how they help you?

Jack Shepler:  I’m gonna say five So i’ll say Jeb and Jeb Banner, Brent Reid who I’ve already talked about.

Sure Jason Grizzell and Jeremy Turner. They’re both. I’m going to talk about both of them at the same time. They both have like amazing hearts of gold. They’re very dedicated to what they do. And we work with them, they, through public health and that sort of thing, and just their dedication to the cause is just unbelievable

And they’ve had such just a great impact on everyone in Indiana. And, I just want to mention that because they probably don’t hear that enough. And then fifth, of course, I’ll mention my husband. It’s not easy being, the partner of someone who is running a business, going to conferences constantly, always, Taking that weekend call and it’s not easy.

So that’s certainly my husband.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah, fantastic. And what’s his name?

Jack Shepler: Benjamin Oakes.

Coach Tim Campsall: Awesome. Yes. It’s so true that, the being a business owner, especially in the early years can take a lot out of us, right? In terms of time and energy it’s positive to have that support at home and have somebody who’s, understands and supports it and encourages us and motivates us and right.

And in some cases, right there for me, at least in my case to have a shoulder to cry on when I was frustrated or discouraged. And it’s a big deal. And I don’t think everybody necessarily understands, the rollercoaster ride that business owners can go on and having that support at home is key.

Jack Shepler: Absolutely.

Coach Tim Campsall: So congrats. I’m glad that you’ve, you have that that rock to be able to rely on. That’s awesome. Hey, Jack, as you think about the next one to three years, what’s your number one priority or the number one challenge that you’re know that you’re going to need to overcome in order to achieve your goals.

Jack Shepler: I would say that there’s a couple of things. I’m really learning how to focus better. When it comes to agencies in particular, it could be very easy to market to everyone. And so we’ve been really honing in on our core strengths, right? We’re very good at public health marketing.

We’re very good at e commerce and e commerce marketing. That’s that’s actually how we started. When I, that’s what I was doing at my last agency was e commerce web development and that sort of thing. And then and then of course I mentioned custom apps. We’ve I’ve really been focusing on honing those those things.

That’s why I’m working on a book about public health marketing. I’ve, we’ve had so much experience in it now. I have a lot of things to say about it. I’ve got a history in, The world of fake news. I wasn’t creating fake news, but I was reporting on it. I grew up around a newspaper. I ran a website called real or satire for many years.

And so the, this book is the culmination of that, like what I’ve learned through public health marketing in a world of fake news. Yeah. And then the the adventures thing I mentioned earlier. So really just honing in on the things that we do really well and focusing on those.

Coach Tim Campsall: Last question, Jack we’ve probably all heard of Jim Rohn. He’s a busy, awesome business guru. One of his famous quotes is we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with. So as you think about that quote, what advice would you have for, Other business owners who are trying to do it on their own.

Jack Shepler: A couple of things. One, I highly recommend getting a mentor or a coach. That’s I’m sure that you like hearing that as his action coach. But I highly recommend it. It really changed my outlook and everything. The other thing is Find a community, right? For me, I have a few communities, right?

I’m very involved in the LGBT community here, but also I recommend communities like Entrepreneurs Organization, EO. It’s really great to be able to connect with other business owners and talk to each other about what’s going on in your world. Including topics that are difficult to talk about.

Maybe difficult to talk about at the office, difficult to talk about with friends because they can’t relate on those kinds of topics. So definitely community and mentor. Are the two things that I would say

Coach Tim Campsall: It can be very lonely at the top, there’s the one thing that comes to mind for me and a lot of owners I’ve talked to reference it is, hey I might not be able to make payroll this week and I certainly can’t tell my employees that right and I’m juggling with this stress and this burden and, being able to be around other people.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Self Made is a Myth show. Please help spread this movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and LinkedIn. To join our movement, go to BeMadTogether. com. Okay folks, that’s a wrap. Please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the Self Made is a Myth podcast.