Marketing and video production co celebrates 5th anniversary

January 23, 2024

A couple weeks ago, Jon Powell glanced at the calendar and realized he had extra reason to celebrate — it was his fifth anniversary as a business owner.

On Jan. 2, 2019, launched Christopher and Mae, his marketing and video production company. Business pivots, growth, and a pandemic later, we sat down with Jon to chat about this milestone accomplishment and the lessons he learned along the way.

So how does it feel for your business to turn 5?!

Jon: Even saying we made it to 5 feels too monumental. It’s surreal. It feels like a long time, but also it doesn’t.

What are the highlights for you as you reflect on the last five years?

How much I’ve grown as a person. I can remember a time when I was so nervous to talk with a client that I wrote out everything verbatim and had flashcards. Now I’ll pitch a concept in the car in between dropping kids off for practice. Just the level of confidence and growth and progression — if my 2019 self could see me now, he’d be like, wow.

Also, my connection to the city. I’m originally from Columbus, but I fell in love with Dayton. I’ve gotten to work with some Dayton staples, brands and orgs that I never dreamed to have on my calendar.

But my biggest highlight — my wife told me that since I started the business, I’ve been a better husband, partner, father. That has meant more to me than any contract I’ve worked on. That’s what keeps me going.

What was the first moment that felt real as a business owner?

We’ve been uniquely blessed. We started our business in January 2019 and had our first five-figure contract by February. So it was a blessing, but it also gave us a fall sense of reality. We had a deep valley after that. But that first meeting, that first contract — it was for an event. It was great, it started a great relationship. And it was the first time where I felt like, this is a thing. It’s not just an idea anymore, it’s an actual thing.

Was there a significant low point along your journey?

That first summer was a significant valley. We landed big contracts in February and April. Then we did not land another job until October. We were quoting a bunch of stuff, but nothing hit. Resources started to dwindle. Money ran out. Confidence was shot. I didn’t think I’d make it to year one.

What did keep you going?

People always ask, when did you know it was time to walk away? I always said, I’ll know it’s time when I’ve tried everything I can think of and none of it has worked. And so as long as I had an idea of I could try next to keep us going, the idea was enough to push forward. And I was always trying to learn and grow. I spent a lot of time reading and self-teaching that summer.

What is the top thing you’ve learned?

I’ve washed my hands of the notion of work-life balance. It’s about mindset and energy. I can call the school for something during the work day, and I can take a business call while the kids are at swim practice. I don’t separate my work and personal life, but rather, I’m looking at how I can show up in each of those areas.

When I first started out, it was all business. I was running off sheer adrenaline. I worked those crazy hours — waking up at 5am, working until midnight or 1am, but it didn’t feel bad. But eventually, there were times when I’d be physically there, but I wasn’t there. My kids would tell me about their day, or my wife would ask me a non-business question, and I didn’t care. My relationships started to suffer.

And I found myself falling into the trap I started my business to get away from – tackling projects that left my team and the client creatively and emotionally spent by the end. I started Christopher & Mae because I felt there was a better way to do this work, a more holistic way. Where I get the biggest passion, biggest reward, is when I leave conversations with people, and they go, “wow, I thought this would be more complicated,” or “I had low energy around this and you made it better, I’m excited to work on this now.”

So in June 2022, I started to shift away from those work hours. I started trying to be more strategic about the work I was doing. It took about 6 months to transition out of the hustle. I’m working around 30-40 hours a week at this point. Profit margins have gone down, but it’s intentional. We’re doing quality work, and our client relationships are stronger.

Would you do it all again?

Honestly, if I had to start over right now, I don’t know if I’d do it. My kids now are 9, 6 and 3. They’ve got their own personalities and goals. I have to be intentional at home. I want to be the best dad and partner I can be, not just the best business owner.

Biggest piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs?

I heard someone say it before, but I never fully understood or appreciated it until this year — start with the end in mind. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Build from there.

So, what’s next for you?

I want to get Christopher and Mae to that next level. At one point, we had a staff of 9 or 10, but right now, we’re a team of four. My goal is to get back to that small boutique agency, 10-12 employees, with a stand-alone brick + mortar studio, working with really great clients. We’ve got the great clients. So 2024 is about going back to the basics, building the rest.