Joe Weber and Chris Baker both saw a quality in Spencer that made them want to start a business together in the community.
So, in 2011, they did just that. Weber and Baker are the co-owners of F8 Creative, a small marketing agency that has worked on notable projects for businesses and organizations in Spencer, the region and beyond.
But it’s the businesses themselves that have captured their attention.
“The quality of the companies that are here are really a gem,” Baker said. “They really are.”
“And very unique, too,” Weber added. “I would say one of my favorite things is getting to know those businesses and getting to see what they do and getting to experience the really unique things that happen in our backyard.”
F8 Creative provides an array of services to their clients, including photography, video, brand identity, logo digital design and print design. Their clients range from small businesses to large corporations and other entities.
They get to work with many Spencer businesses with profiles that reach far beyond the community, but maybe aren’t top-of-mind to locals when they think of businesses located here.
“We have a company that builds fire suits,” Baker said. “We have machining companies that build super high-end parts for the government. All those things are really cool. You don’t realize some of those things are there.”
One of F8 Creative’s more recent higher-profile clients is the City of Spencer. F8 Creative was hired to redesign the city logo, which is in the city approval process.
“The city has indicated that they’re really, really happy with it and that they’re excited about it,” Weber said. “And that’s how we feel.”
The F8 team has also produced award-winning work for Spencer Community Schools and the Clay County Fair.
Weber estimated that most of F8 Creative’s work is local or regional. Baker defined regional as any place within a three- to four-hour drive.
However, they’ve been hired by businesses in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and more. They get much of their business through referrals and word-of-mouth.
“The saying I think is true is it’s all about who you know,” Weber said. “And so when someone is a really satisfied customer and they pass your name along to a friend, it’s interesting to see that trail develop and where the next phone call comes from for some of that work.”
Relocating to Spencer, starting a business
Neither Baker nor Weber is a Spencer native, although both have fallen in love with the town they now call home.
“My wife and I moved here in 2009, basically because we wanted to be in a community like Spencer,” Weber said. “We loved all the things that Spencer has going for it as positive qualities, you know, the size of the community and its proximity to the lakes.”
They also had family living here and they wanted to raise their own family close to them.
“That’s ultimately what attracted us to Spencer,” Weber said.
He and his wife recently welcomed their fifth child.
Weber was working for another creative printing business in town at the time. That’s where he and Chris met as coworkers.
Baker and his family had moved to Spencer from central Iowa in January of 2007, two years before the Webers. He had been working in Ames, while his wife had been working in Des Moines.
“We had come to the lakes a couple times and we were so busy down there (in central Iowa),” Baker said. “We had four kids and we kind of figured it out, both of our jobs being very demanding, that we had to do something different because she was working 55 hours and I was working 55 hours and we were seeing our kids very little.”
So, the Bakers knew they needed a change.
“We came here kind of to slow down,” Baker said. “But it was a change to kind of be able to be more with (our) family, spend more time with family in closer proximity.”
“When I got here, I was working for GMAC out of Chicago as a second job,” Baker said. He’d been in printing for about 13 years and figured he could work the GMAC job from Spencer and travel to Des Moines as needed.
GMAC went under in April of 2007. Baker then went to work for Pure Fishing as their photographer. A year after that, he was working out of his home.
“I worked with Joe a little bit and I was doing odd jobs mainly for interaction,” Baker said. “Because I was working out of my house. When you do that by yourself after a while you just go kind of stir crazy. You need some interaction.”
The company where Weber and Baker met didn’t last either, though.
“But we kind of kept in contact and I think both of us had kind of a similar motivation and desire to be on our own, to be doing something for ourselves and to create something that would serve the community,” Weber said.
At one point, Baker was working on a video for a client.
“I did a video for a company that we still work for today and it was terrible,” Baker said with a chuckle.
He learned Weber had editing skills.
“That’s when I reached out to him,” Baker said. “I still have the receipt from the meal we had for lunch.”
Their business partnership was born.
F8 Creative emerges
Baker and Weber spent the first three years or so in business together figuring out what they wanted their business to become. They had complementary skills, but needed to find how everything would fit.
“Even when we first started, Joe was kind of doing his own thing and I was doing my own thing and we were here (in their office),” Baker said. “And I always joke about that, that we spent three years developing our own businesses and getting to know each other.”
They were still figuring out what they wanted their business to become. Today, they know what makes F8 Creative stand out.
“Everybody tries to make customers happy,” Baker said. “But we really go above and beyond what we can do to make people satisfied with the product or even overly satisfied with the product.”
Weber said they wanted to know what they were doing and why they were trying to do it.
He said many marketing companies do what they do because they like it. F8 Creative is a little different.
“We certainly are doing what we love, but like Chris was saying, we really care about the product,” Weber said. “We really, really care about doing the best work that can be done.”
The care they put into the product pays off when working with local clients.
“It’s really awesome to get to experience the impact we have firsthand because it’s a small community,” Weber said. “So, when we work on a project for a client and then, for instance, that TV ad airs, or that brand is rolled out, or that product is printed and distributed, it’s for fun to get to experience that sort of in the wild, you know, and then see it work for the customer.”
Baker said the clients they meet are one of the best parts of doing business in Spencer.
“I think it’s part of living in the Midwest, but I think Spencer and the lakes region or the Corridor region, you know, has a lot of very good companies,” Baker said. “And a lot of our clients, obviously, are among those. I think everybody that we’ve dealt with in our region has the same values that F8 Creative has, so it’s very easy to do business when you finally meet or get together.”
Feature photo:F8 Creative owners Chris Baker and Joe Weber.
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