Neighbors Brett Gee and Kelly Taylor knew there was more to their careers and dreams when they started FORTHGEAR in 1995. With backgrounds in graphic design, and having separately considered starting businesses of their own, Gee and Taylor launched a creative design and marketing firm. Within a year, they transitioned out of their full and part-time jobs so they could spend more time building their business. Neither Gee nor Taylor had any idea how they would keep things going. Their risks proved profitable, however, as they realized sales in excess of $250,000 in the first year. They tripled that amount the second year, and grossed over $1 million in the third year.
Eighteen years later, FORTHGEAR is a successful marketing firm that provides clientele with assistance in graphic design, website development, business strategy, public relations and online marketing. Although Taylor is no longer with FORTHGEAR, Brent Hart, the newest partner, has been with the business for over 16 years.
As Gee explained, “it hasn’t always been peaches and cream. It has been a lot of work and effort; we’ve had a lot of struggles. By 2005, we had figured out the business side and it’s been a smoother ride.” A critical piece to overcoming these obstacles and building a successful business was working with Beverly King, former director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “Any time I needed help with the black and white areas in business, I’d call King. I’d reach out to her typically once or twice a year. It made a difference. I recently had her reevaluate my business from ground up,” Gee said.
Brandon Sttodard became the SBDC director in 2013. Stoddard will continue to work with FORTHGEAR as they navigate the challenges and opportunities that come their way.
Gee explained, “the SBDC, in all reality, made a big difference. The whole experience with the SBDC has been very useful to us. After eighteen years, we feel like we have caught a pretty good stride. In business, you build to sell or you build to keep. So far, we’ve followed the ‘build to keep’ method.”