Five guys with a vision and a banker
Editor’s note: The author of this article is Brian Dokter, accounts director for TBX.
2018 was a banner year for this team of five entrepreneurs. With a vision that started with one man 20 years ago and grew into a broader vision for five guys to live the lives they want to create and form a company where everyone is passionate and can accomplish their goals — ThinkBox evolved into TBX.
ThinkBox Creative began in Big Rapids over 20 years ago by a gentleman named Ben Eggers. Eggers brought on our current design director, Travis Fahlen, as his designer. In 2006, I came on board as a sales executive. I started selling and Fahlen worked on websites. We started building ThinkBox Creative together. Fast forward to 2015, and we grew our agency to the size where we needed to rethink our vision and goals. We were growing significantly.
We started getting projects that were so large that Fahlen couldn’t do everything by himself, so we started looking for someone with specific skill sets, and we met our current partner now, Michael Probst, our developer.
We grew ThinkBox for several more years while we all wore several hats. It was a very bootstrap, startup, small-business mindset — do what we can with what we got. We eventually had enough clients and projects that I couldn’t manage the projects, do the sales and grow the company so we started looking for another designer to help Fahlen and a projects manager to help me. Nathan Messelink and Bruce Pobocik joined our team. Both had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to consider a partnership.
We started to see a new vision for our company, and we needed the expertise of a banker to help put this together. We brought on ChoiceOne Bank’s Grand Rapids Market Executive Troy Butler.
We were looking for a bank as a partner that could teach us as young entrepreneurs with a growing business experiencing lots of fluctuations in revenue and sales but a consistent growth of 30-40 percent each year. We needed education on how we could use smart financing to grow our company. Butler came in initially and helped us understand what that relationship looks like and how to structure it.
When we were ready, Butler helped us put together the plan to buy out Eggers in October 2017. (Eggers went on to become a pastor so two of his visions in life were fulfilled.) Shortly after, the five of us — Messelink, Pobocik, Fahlen, Probst and I — were able to restructure our company and become official partners in January 2018.
At that time, we launched a rebrand of the company where we transformed to TBX from ThinkBox, giving us the ability to create a company that matches our vision, our goals and our lives.
We’re a year into our new brand now, and ChoiceOne has continued to invest in us even though we’re a small client. We felt Butler treated us with respect. He was able to get creative and structure loans for our needs, which made us feel that the business was now ours.
We’ve been able to grow to a place where Butler assists us in multiple ways with different financial needs, from investing in hardware and software to having the ability to manage our fluctuations. It’s given us peace of mind and less stress. ChoiceOne has backed us from Day 1 in terms of what TBX is, how we’re growing and what we want to become.
Last year was a banner year for us. We were significantly more profitable, produced more revenue and worked on more projects. This happened because of our ability to reinvent TBX, which gave us the flexibility to invest in our team to get our jobs done with our vision.