May 13, 2022

Episode #36: Jay Bilunas – Angry Ape Creative

Jay Bilunas was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, but his family moved around a lot when he was younger. They eventually made their way back to Valparaiso. A graduate of Purdue University with a BS in Visual Communication Design, Jay has worked for a variety of larger companies such as Guideposts Magazine, USA Gymnastics, CP Morgan and the Finish Line. He started his business, Angry Ape Creative, in 2010.

Jay works with mostly small businesses, but has a few medium and larger businesses as clients. He provides graphic design, web design and marketing services for companies. A few companies rely on Angry Ape Creative to be their marketing/design departments. Jay provides a multitude of services for his clients and they appreciate the one stop shop approach. He can get the job done or find someone who can.


hello this is coach tim campsall and i’m your host for the self-made is a myth make a difference together show where we’re talking with successful business owners about the stories of their journey to building their business and because we know that success doesn’t happen on our own we recognize the folks who have come alongside us and helped us to excel i’m excited to have a fellow business owner from indiana with us today my guest was part of a science olympiad in eighth grade and his freshman year and is a two-time state champion in astronomy we will want to hear a little bit more about that in a minute one of his favorite things to do is tailgate at the indy 500 where he spends almost a week hanging out with his friends and again we’re going to want to hear some more details about that and he is proud of being able to give back uh by sharing his experience and helping students learn where he is teaches at ivy tech both in design and marketing it’s my pleasure to welcome jay to the show today hello jay hey tim how you doing i’m awesome well hey let’s start with having you introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live and family and hobbies and all that fun stuff okay um so actually i was born in indiana i was born in in in valparaiso indiana but my parents lived in crown point but we moved when i was three months old moved to alabama then we moved to pennsylvania then texas then pennsylvania um and then back to indiana back actually back to valparaiso so my dad worked for u.s steel and just got transferred a lot so but we moved back to eventually came back to indiana when i was in seventh grade so i’ve been here ever since except i did a like a two and a half year stint in north carolina working for a home builder that was based in indiana but had a position out there so moved around a lot but i’m mostly mostly a hoosier

but yeah so um i went to school at purdue university or college of purdue university i’ve got my degree in visual communication design so basically graphic design so i guess i’m one of the few people who was actually doing what they went to school for

but let’s see hobbies i work a lot i don’t know that i have much many a whole lot of hobbies anymore um well tell us about the uh the tailgating yeah the indy 500 that’s probably my only i guess true hobby so we we uh i have a friend from college uh there was a fraternity brother in college um and he and his dad have been going to the 500 forever and his dad had this gigantic rv and they parked at the american legion lot there which is nice gets fenced off because if you’ve never been to the 500 it can be a little crazy out there and um so i don’t know it was 12 or 13 years ago he said hey you should come out to 500 and i went out there and then it just kept growing and growing so now we get three rv spots uh we have a a trailer that we converted to a food and drink trailer has a little window that flips open um we get a bunch of people of sponsors and we actually um i know it’s probably about the third year we started getting sponsors we ended up donating um a portion of money that we collected because we put on such a a good show uh people would donate money so we started donating uh portions of the money to a veterans organization so this year we’re donating to the indie honor flight um but um yeah it’s a pretty good time to go out there start usually on wednesday with set up stay out there and sleep in various places from rvs to uh we bought a 10 person tent um that i think has only had a couple people sleep in it um but now jay would you say that you put on a show what what does that mean well just we we invite anybo anybody who stops by is welcome to come and uh well i guess i’m not putting it out there but like people stop by we um we invite people from our fraternity to alumni from our fraternity my friend’s dad owns uh come well he and his brothers own a company overton tool and die and so they bring their customers out there and then a lot of our sponsors will come and invite their clients and customers and um so we just have a whole bunch of people out there and uh we have food drink games uh there’s a there’s a game up that these guys from detroit invented called foley which is a cross between football and bowling um which is pretty pretty fun they do whole thing out in the co clock but we’re on the other end of the track um but so yeah it’s pretty pretty fun that’s awesome so jay tell us um about how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business um so the bus i was working at the finish line at the time so i worked for i’ve worked for a variety of like larger businesses um i actually went through a series of layoffs um and i felt like i could never get like get in and and move up i was always the newest guy there so newest guy there’s always the first one laid off and um so i went through the the working for cp morgan was your homebuilder um housing market crashed got laid off moved back to indy got a job at the finish line um was working there and then they were doing um layoffs i think they somebody came to me and said hey i think they’re gonna let go of like 25 30 people today you don’t think it’ll be us do you she was a writer and i was like she got hired the same day i did and i was like it’s like no no we’ll be fine thinking that she would be fine but i was pretty sure i was going because i was was part of their catalog design team and there were three of us on the team um so i was almost positive i was gonna i was gonna go home that day and um but i had started kind of working on my logo and coming up with a business name even before that um i was going to start freelancing on the side and um so that day i ended up getting laid off but it wasn’t one of those things where you’d go home right away um it was you know here’s two weeks and then you’re done so i was trying to cram everything into that day because i when i heard that morning they were letting people go i was trying to get everything done it wouldn’t leave anybody with any kind of hanging things right so so i had two weeks of kind of sitting around figuring out what i was going to do um but i was part of an adobe user group where we met once a month and we did training on different adobe techniques and products and stuff and somebody in that group had approached me about doing a website and a logo for a small restaurant and then roughly that same probably week two week period um a guy named nick carter came and spoke at our adobe user group and he’s in indianapolis he’s basically a serial entrepreneur um and he was talking about starting your own business stuff and so all these things kind of clicked then somebody else introduced me to a networking group called rainmakers so all those things kind of happen at the same time so i guess i didn’t i didn’t really i wasn’t really thinking about it um my intention was to find another full-time job but i hated looking for jobs because i’ve done it so much um so i just kind of rolled into um starting starting my own business uh by getting those few clients but i did have a guy asked me one time he’s like it’s like how are you how are you affording this and i got a pretty good severance from the finish line that helped support me um while i was kind of getting things started so awesome um so jay tell us a little bit more about the company what do you guys do how do you help folks and um how can folks find out more about you if they want to reach out to you yeah so my company is called angry ape creative um see the angry ape right there and um so i do a lot i work with mostly small businesses but i have some medium and larger size businesses as well do a lot of logo branding website design um i have

a lot of people more people asking me for social media and overall marketing i do have a client that i just manage all her marketing and design work so she pays me a retainer to just handle everything for her so i do update her website um manage a blog writer update her social media and all that kind of stuff but um most most people come to me they need a website um and a logo they’re just starting out um but i do have some clients that are larger so there’s one company called amerifab they produce equipment for steel mills um so they’re a large company they originally hired me to photograph their equipment so when they finish a piece they wanted it photographed before it went out and then i’ve since done their website a bunch of ads trade show displays and things like that so i just did a whole bunch of banners from over the weekend he’s going to he’s going to mexico he needed them monday morning so i worked over the weekend to get them printed and delivered to him so people can go to my website um although i was i was realizing i need to update my own website i tend to put my own my own marketing yeah the toddler shoes right right so um yeah so as soon as i get i get done with uh classes um the classes i teach at ivy tech we’ll finish up next week that i’m going to try to focus on revamping that site because it’s it’s woefully outdated well jay share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it um and even though you might not have thought you could and the impact that they had on you okay um so i was really trying to think about that and i think it’s a lot of little things and um what came to mind first was i mean

it was my my mom your mom always says you do the best stuff right she always likes everything you do but she she had i taken photographs of something and she said you know you’re really a really good photographer and you know i always thought i you know could take photographs but i never really thought of you know offering that as a um solution for for clients and she said that i was like okay maybe i am and so then i started offering and i started shooting a lot more stuff

and so that kind of um kind of made me realize you know as long as you know more than the average person you’re the expert and i find that i find that a lot is that i know i know a lot of different things and so um i know more than the average person or most people don’t like to deal with the marketing and design and so um stuff that i kind of tend to to think of as just you know average everyday stuff is is more scarier or more compelling to them so all right that kind of was a trigger in my head that oh yeah i can i do have skills that maybe i take for granted that can that i can apply and create business from awesome so what’s been your biggest learning as a business owner i would say

well i guess there’s there’s a couple one is um have a contract i’ve been

screwed over a couple times early on in in the career where people didn’t pay me um because i was i mean it was in my my first you know year or even maybe six months and uh doing big projects they needed right away and didn’t have a contract or any way to ensure they were going to pay me and they didn’t um but probably the other one is not

not not putting all your eggs in one basket so not focusing on one client to support all of your income so if it starts getting too heavily focused on one client you know you have to think about that and then start trying to find other other clients that can balance that out yeah i love that principle i we we have something that we call the 50 50 rule which is you know 50 of our time should be focused on business development and 50 on taking care of our clients and um usually what happens is right we we do good with the with the business development we bring on some clients and then um we focus all of our attention over there and then we forget the market and item clients aren’t forever right and we you know when we when we uh lose a couple we don’t have the pipeline full and now we’ve got a little bit of a dry spell same idea to what you’re saying is hey don’t you know make sure that it’s you’re not all with one client because again clients don’t necessarily have projects that go forever so if we lose a a big client and we don’t have others to to backfill then you know we’re left in a a bad situation right yeah yeah yeah i’m going through that right now i just had a couple clients that are they’re web clients and um there’s not they don’t have a ton of changes and things but i i manage their hosting and they’re shutting down their businesses just because they’re they’re older clients and or they’re moving on to do something else and i had probably two or three of them that happened last month i’m like oh wow i gotta find more to fill that void yeah yes so the the phrase that uh that i always use is we have to always be marketing right so regardless of what else is going on we’ve got to keep that funnel full so that we always have the opportunity to to backfill when needed so jay we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us about one of your biggest challenges during the years and a fellow business owner who helped you get through that

um biggest challenges so

i guess this was a more this was he this guy brought the client but um it was somebody i partnered with on a website so it was a website that was much bigger than anything i’d done before um and um having that person there to to bounce questions off of and and ask for advice or how to do things um was really helpful um he had more experience on hiring like contractors and programmers so he kind of handled that that portion but kind of gave me some insight on how that uh that should work so that that was really helpful um being able to you know not have to you know attack that website all by myself and be able to rely on him for advice or questions or just to troubleshoot things um so it’s something that we still work on this this and another project together um so it’s been a pretty good relationship awesome and what’s his name uh dan dan crawford with sovereign systems yeah so you mentioned just being able to bounce ideas off of and so it something i hear a lot is it can be lonely at the top right where you know where we don’t necessarily have people that we can we can ask questions to or or get some feedback and get some advice so so for everyone listening if you don’t have somebody in your life that you can bounce ideas off of and get a second opinion you want to make sure that you you find that person because as jay just shared it can be invaluable in terms of you know helping accelerate that learning curve and and uh you know if go faster at delivering the the needs of your customers or your clients when you’ve got somebody else and it’s not even it’s not always that it’s new learning it’s just having somebody to validate the learning that you already have or the the thought that you already have you know just having another person say yeah that that that sounds like the right way to go i can help you speed up instead of you know wrestling over am i making the right decision or not yeah and i i guess just tag onto that so i like to um whenever i think of a new idea or i’m always thinking of new businesses new things to start new whatever i always like to um pitch it to my dad because he usually shoots everything down

and so if i come up with an idea and i’m like okay i should tell my tell my dad about this and see how he’s going to tell me everything that that i that is wrong with that or i shouldn’t do not that he’s negative but um he’s pretty good at pointing out the things that i’m i’m maybe getting over excited about and um not looking at the practical aspects of it so um that’s on the yeah on the opposite end that’s that’s helpful yeah um i see this a lot is that there are people who are more ideas folks and then there’s people who are more the on the operation side or the execution side and so it is helpful to be able to you know have have those big ideas brought down to the ground and and think through all the you know nitty-gritty of is this is this going to work or is it not and and and if it’s going to work how is it going to work what are all the variables that we’re going to need to be thinking about and then you know practically how do we actually execute this idea so that’s awesome that you’ve got your dad to be able to to help you to think through that yeah yeah so jay if i ask you to pick three people in your business owner journey that you’re most grateful for being there uh to help with your business growth who are those three people and how they help you so so one of them is my dad who helps control that the wild thinking um and what’s your dad’s name uh tom tom balloonis um and then another person is and i haven’t really talked to him for a while but chris reed um he when i first started um my business and networking to rarity makers i met chris freed and he had a business called creed improvements and then he moved into a business um called cast bigger net so he was doing marketing and things um but he kind of became a mentor to me um and now he’s actually back doing creed improvements so he’s doing kind of handyman general contracting work um but he always had a lot of like a lot of ideas he’s a really big networker and he kind of kind of led me through that whole process of networking and figuring out so i i would say i probably owe a lot to him in that that beginning stage um i was trying to think of a third person other than i was gonna so my mom my mom and my dad are kind of like yin and yang so my mom she likes everything i do it’s more listening so she’ll sometimes just listen to ideas i haven’t been like yeah that sounds great um my dad’s kind of opposite so um yeah that respect but then i have a client friend who actually does the indy 500 with us uh matt matt weidman um who i just um so i do his website and some of his marketing but he’s always feeding me like every chance he gets he feeds me um new clients um and so sometimes i’ll just bounce ideas off of him and see what he thinks or he’ll come up with something that he’s trying to do and so um i guess that’s awesome great to have um different people in our network and i like the yin and yang so mom’s more the cheerleader you you’ve got this you can do it and that’s more the digi but did you think about this and that and and what about and so that’s awesome to be able to have you know both of the that perspective as you’re thinking through new ideas so jay as you think about the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges that you see that you’ll face in reaching your goals and who are the types of people that you’re going to need in your life to help you get through those challenges

so i think um like one i being able to manage people so if i’m going to bring i’m going to hire anybody i’ve had a couple interns in the past and i think i was spoiled with my very first intern because she was really good and she just kind of understood my brain and um i didn’t have to say much since then i’ve i’ve struggled a little bit with some of my my interns um communicating to them or or getting them to to follow through i mean some of them have been great but um i’ve struggled a little bit and being able to keep them busy enough um so to have to say okay do this okay now do this um so managing people is an area where i know i struggle um i like to do things all myself and i have to let go of that a little bit um so that that’s probably that’s probably i think my biggest challenge um if i’m going to grow because i um i actually just did talk to a girl that interned with me um last summer and she ended up being my student in a marketing class this semester um but i um

a friend who’s a printer and he was looking for help and so i gave him her introduced them but i said hey if that doesn’t work out i might have some contract work for you yeah um so that’s some that’s definitely something i got to work on but yeah and that’s a common challenge so as we as business owners once we figure out how to be successful and get the business growing it it becomes harder to let go right of all that expertise that we figured out and and take the time to to teach and coach and train someone else because a perspective i hear a lot is well it’s just easier for me to do it myself and and short term that’s true but long term it’s it’s definitely not and um one of the biggest things that hold businesses back from getting to the next level is that the business can’t grow beyond the owner’s capacity because they haven’t you know brought on people to to delegate to and and uh and train them to be able to you know do the things as well as the owner does so it’s definitely a a pro a process it doesn’t just happen overnight um but it’s great that you’ve identified that and and understand that that’s the you know the next area of of your business growth yeah i think what i need to do is start writing down like the the processes and the procedures um to so i can just bringing somebody in back all right here’s what you do follow these rules and then figure out from that yeah much easier for um for somebody to go back to a document and say okay i forgot all the things that jay told me i remembered step one and two but then i can’t remember and you know so be able to go to the document go oh yeah that’s right that’s what step three and four was because if to your point if we don’t have it written out then they have to come back to us and then yeah it becomes more trouble because we keep then get interrupted in terms of answering their questions versus if they’ve got a video or a a manual that they can go and refer to with all the information that they need to do it makes it uh easier from both sides yeah actually we’re actually doing that with the clients that dan and i are working with is we’re gonna create some videos for them so that when they have small updates they don’t need to come to us to update it they can just do it themselves so i’m gonna create some training videos for them yeah awesome um so you mentioned chris um earlier and and the importance of networking so one of my favorite authors jim rohn says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that quote is that something you find exciting or something that makes you nervous from a business standpoint um i think it’s it’s exciting um like i tend to

like when i first started i was networking all the time like probably when i first started half my job was networking because i had more time than the business and it’s kind of slowed down a little bit but

i think i definitely think getting involved getting involved with the right people is really important um

and now that things are opening up again i’m getting back out networking there’s a um i guess it’s an organization or company in indiana called indiana owned um mel mcmahon um runs that and um so we just i just went to a meeting they had a little gathering at the children’s museum and that was good to see see the um see her and her husband um and um get that positive energy and it kind of

you know you can feed off of what other people are doing and it kind of gets you excited so yes yes yeah isn’t it amazing that we could we can be feeling maybe a little discouraged or demotivated and then we go to a an event like that and see other business owners who are you know doing you know working and and networking and striving to grow their business it can it can pull everybody’s spirits up in terms of well you know what if they can do it i can do it too and let let’s get in and and it becomes contagious that positive energy yeah yeah i ran into um someone i had seen for a really long time her name was nancy sunshine but she ended up just buying rainmakers so um so you know tony tony sold it to nikki and then i guess just sold it to nancy so she’s excited about getting that running and very cool so yeah that’s awesome so jay just wrapping up here if there was something catastrophic that happened in the business who’s the first person you’d call and what would that conversation

be so i guess this would depend on what what happened but um something like happened to me where i wasn’t like if i was sick or something like that i would would call my some of my family so my mom dad my brother and make sure they could access all my passwords so and so they could then communicate out to my they could access all the you know every website or i don’t know if they would know how to do it but they would at least have the access um to be able to get that stuff i’ve been trying to um

figure out who’s who’s going to be so i’m a one-man show um but trying to think i’ve been thinking a lot about all right what what happens if something does happen to me um who’s going to take care of my clients so i’m trying to line up different people uh for those different aspects so like dan crawford i could say hey you know you can handle these websites maybe you don’t handle all these smaller clients but can you at least assist them to get access to their sites because some of my clients don’t you know they have the ability to log into their sites but they don’t and they forget what that information is um yeah so i think for me i’m always nervous about getting getting my clients um the information they need so they can move on and move on after like so if i hit by a bus tomorrow right because they it doesn’t affect their business so yeah i love that contingency planning so um jay it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some incredible people who have helped you on your journey if they were all here on the show today what would you want to say to them

i guess thank you for supporting me um and and you know helping me on this on this journey and um you know for all the advice and support that i’ve i’ve gotten over the years so i couldn’t do it without them definitely yeah awesome so um thank you so much jay for being on the show today i appreciate the opportunity to to chat with you it’s been a pleasure yeah thank you i appreciate it for everyone who tuned in thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach tim camsell be sure to help us spread this movement by liking the show and posting about it on your social media to join our movement go to be mad together dot com all right folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and i’ll see you all next time take care