Kevin Fullerton | Mission, Kansas | Main Street
Our fifth annual We Create KC report is out! This year we are focusing on the six imperatives the community laid out to reach Kansas City's goal of becoming America's most entrepreneurial city:
- telling the story of KC entrepreneurship
- maximizing entrepreneurial support resources
- creating a strong entrepreneurial pipeline
- building talent
- engaging the corporate community
- increasing available startup and growth capital.
To celebrate the release of the report, we caught up with some of the entrepreneurs who were featured in previous We Creates. Kevin Fullerton plays many roles as the founder of Springboard Creative: communications designer, talent scout, mentor, teacher and KC true believer. Here he is now with a few updates:
What is your biggest news from the past year?
We moved into a new studio which doubled our space. That growth was fueled by our highest revenues/profits in our 12 year history. And that success was highlighted by landing several new clients!
What are your goals in the next year?
To accelerate our growth and add staff while narrowing our focus to what we truly do best. It's a great place to be growth stage entrepreneur and not without a fair number of challenges!
How would you like to see Kansas City's entrepreneurial community adapt in the coming years?
Build stronger communities—whether that be by industry, location or goals—in order to accomplish more together.
That is music to our ears. Accomplishing great things together is what drives us here at KCSourceLink, too. If you're a community builder at heart as well, then you will love Kevin's origin story:
Interns, be warned. If you choose to work with Kevin Fullerton at Springboard Creative, he’ll make you sign a contract. His interns aren’t allowed to fetch coffee (unless it’s for themselves) or make copies.
Because for Fullerton, hiring an intern is not just about the help he can get for his business and his clients. It’s about bringing diverse talents and fresh ideas to his business and grooming the next generation of talent to be the next generation of Kansas City business leaders.
And Fullerton has had a bit of practice recruiting talent.
Located in downtown Mission, KS (that will be important in a few grafs), Springboard Creative is a communications design firm focused on publications, collateral, web and branding. Charging clients with its tagline—to “Leap Boldly.”—Fullerton himself has followed his own CYP (that’s “Crap Your Pants”) advice throughout his career.
From Coveted Career to Admired Entrepreneur
Fresh out of Northwest Missouri State University, a combo journalism and graphic communications graduate, Fullerton traveled the traditional and coveted career trajectory—art director, senior art director, creative director, vice president, when he realized “safe” wasn’t doing it for him anymore.
In 2006, he made the leap and opted for the path of scary chances. (Yes, “crap-your-pants” chances. There are buttons.) He left the pretty titles and launched Springboard Creative.
(Remorselessly stolen from www.springboardcreative.biz. Because, well, look at it.)
Like so many microenterprises, he started his business in his home. Not one to stand still, Fullerton soon expanded, opening in an office in the Vox Theatre and then on Johnson Drive in Mission, KS.
The Necessity of Mentoring
Running a graphic design business is more than full-time work in and of itself. Getting clients, doing the work, estimating, invoicing, advertising, networking, chasing down said invoices and ultimately hiring those interns.
All the while, Fullerton gave and keeps giving back to his community.
“For us to truly succeed, we need the top talent, but if we aren’t bringing, retaining or maintaining that talent, it’s not going to last,” says Fullerton.
He became president of the Art+Copy Club and then president of the American Advertising Federation of Kansas City. He became a member of the National American Advertising Awards Committee and was named to the board of governors of AAF District 9. He is partnering with a client to launch a new business. He is working, pro bono, to help raise the profile and rebrand the City of Mission. (His intern, Travis Young, took the amazing photographs you’ll see after the jump.) And eight to ten times a year, he hits the streets to advise high schoolers through career preparation organizations like PREP-KC and college students through career days, guest lectures and commencement speeches—he coaches them all to take scary chances, to leap boldly.
And let’s just say he’s persuasive, his entrepreneurial passion, contagious.
Evangelist for Entrepreneurs and Interns
You don’t have to go far to see Fullerton’s impact. Sure, there’s story after story of Fullerton’s impact on creative careers in Kansas City, but his own HQ hosts the spirit of entrepreneurial risk and reward.
Art director Brendan O’Shaughnessy and his glorious beard frequent First Friday pop-ups with their own entrepreneurial endeavor: Ocean & Sea, an ode to the port of Kansas City, design and illustration project and online shop started by Brendan and his wife Amanda. Former intern, Nick Howland, Springboard’s resident designer, illustrator and Peter Parker, just finished a subinternship with SalesForce. (He turned down Twitter.) Young years aside, he, too, has a long past as an entrepreneur and go getter.
You’d like to think that’s what it’s about: finding, retaining and maintaining great talent and then giving them the wings to fly. That education and opportunity, says Fullerton, “raises people up and helps them change their circumstances.”
But that’s only half of the equation.
“They bring a different point of view to my work,” says Fullerton. “They make me think differently, they make me take risks. And that means they’ve made me a better designer,” says Fullerton.