Our founder Justin Belleme started young in the world of social ventures. At the age of nine he launched a snake-rescue service in his hometown of Saluda, NC—safely relocating unwanted snakes that might otherwise have been killed. Before graduating from high school, he progressed through a number of homegrown businesses, from selling hand-picked mistletoe at the local holiday festival to designing websites for the companies his parents worked for.
In college, he started Asheville Now, with ambitious plans to make it the go-to online directory for everything Asheville, NC. Despite years of intense work, Asheville Now never took off the way Justin had hoped. But, through that experience, he taught himself digital marketing. He started working as a freelancer on the side and soon had more work than he could handle on his own. So, he started imagining something bigger.
Justin saw opportunity in the local talent he knew through his social network, Asheville Now, and volunteering—so, in 2010, he decided to start a digital marketing agency. His original goal was to build an 8-10 person agency serving local and regional clients.
Sarah Benoit was a competitor on the Asheville scene—building websites, consulting on strategy, and training people in the skills they needed to succeed. Her company was rocking it, and there was no reason to think she’d want to work for anyone else.
Justin approached her at just the right moment. “A week earlier, I would have said no,” Sarah recalls. “But a few days prior I had an epiphany that my business needed to go in a different direction. ” She realized that she didn’t want to keep building websites forever. She had a passion for teaching and she had a vision in mind for a new kind of digital marketing curriculum. One that was actionable and results oriented. She saw in Justin a potential partner who shared her belief in the importance of education and training.
The two were a great match because, in many ways, they’re opposites. While Justin is analytical, introverted, and a planner, Sarah is spontaneous, outgoing, and a people person. They also had complementary ambitions. Sarah saw an opportunity to expand her teaching while Justin took the lead in building the company. So, they teamed up.
In 2011, JB Media Group officially launched, with four employees based out of a coworking office. “We all sat next to each other in a row where we were practically touching elbows,” says Leah Quintal, who was one of the first team members. By 2013, even with a larger room, our company was bursting the seams of the coworking space. It was time for a milestone: We moved to our own office in West Asheville.
Today, we’re a team of 15 people and counting. (The vision for the company has expanded a good bit since 2010.) We’re constantly learning from each other and we make each other laugh.
Tapping into the expertise on our staff and Sarah’s gift for teaching, we were able to branch out and establish our sister company, a digital marketing school called the JB Media Institute. We held the first In-person Institute in Asheville in 2013, and launched the online version two years later.
On a Mission
As we grew, we also did some soul searching. We’ve always made a point of working with clients who make a positive impact in our community. Over time, as we asked ourselves what we’re most passionate about, we realized that it’s supporting clients who are actively solving social and environmental problems.
So, we started upping our game in the world of social entrepreneurship. In 2015, we became the primary marketing partner for SOCAP, the world’s largest conference of social entrepreneurs and impact investors, held annually in San Francisco. Justin says, “It was a huge undertaking and at times overwhelming that first year, but we were able to bring our passion and tactical skills to the table and help the event to reach new heights in both revenue and attendance.” Since then, we’ve had the honor to work with many movers and shakers in the social impact world.
From Asheville with Love
While we’re part of a national movement toward a more fair and a sustainable economy, we remain dedicated to our hometown of Asheville, surrounded by the gorgeous mountains of Western North Carolina. We’re proud to serve local businesses and nonprofits and we play an active role in our community.
Unlike many digital marketing agencies, we don’t outsource any of our services to cheap labor overseas. The team remains based here in Asheville, and the high quality of our work grows out of a unique company culture, centered on our mission and values. We’re grateful to be working together, helping our amazing clients change the world.
Milestones at JB Media
2010: After years of freelancing, Justin develops a business plan for JB Media Group, LLC.
2011: Sarah Benoit joins the team as one of the company’s first part-time employees.
2011: JB Media moves into Mojo Coworking space in downtown Asheville.
2013: The JB Media Institute launches.
2014: JB Media purchases its new office and moves to West Asheville.
2015: First cohort of the Online JB Media Institute begins class.
2017: JB Media reaches a size of 15 full-time employees.