Carlisle-based Web design and marketing firm growing 40 percent per year
Life is all about timing.
For William Craig and others of the millennial generation, life was defined in the mid-1990s by the concurrent dawning of the information and computer ages.
In 1994, Netscape launched what would be the dominant Web browser until Internet Explorer came along. A Netscape stock offering followed in 1995, and the Web was well on its way.
Craig, 33, began building websites at the time while a student at Shippensburg University.
His passion never wavered. By graduate school, he had written his own search engine.
"It was an extremely new industry, and I saw it as the future," he said.
Craig would go on to do freelance work from 1996 to 2002 before founding WebpageFX, a Web design, Web development and Internet marketing company, with his wife, Karie Shearer, also a Shippensburg University graduate.
The duo started in Harrisburg around 2003, but four years ago moved to the Murata Business Center, a business incubator in Carlisle owned by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp.
Quickly, the young company began adding full-time staff. Four years later, the design and search engine optimization firm is one of the fastest-growing in all of Pennsylvania.
"It's been boom times," Craig said, citing 40 percent average annual growth in both revenue and staff size.
WebpageFX last year moved into a larger space at Murata to accommodate its continued growth. There are 25 in-house employees and an additional 15 who work from remote locations.
As companies continue migrating to the Web and tracking of Internet marketing solutions grows, Craig said, he expects to continue expanding at a similar pace for the next three or four years.
"We'll go where the market goes," he said, hopeful WebpageFX will double in size within five years.
The company has a goal of 30 percent return on investment for its clients.
Craig also credits the incubator and pool of available talent in Central Pennsylvania and across the Mid-Atlantic region for his company's success. The average age of his workforce is 25.
Aside from offering office space, Murata provides entrepreneurs with technical assistance, practical advice and opportunities to network, he noted.
"It's nice to have a board of advisers and structure to help grow and organize," Craig said.
Several technology companies also are located there.
"From the first meetings with WebpageFX, we saw a dedicated management team that would benefit from the mentoring environment the incubator provides," said Pam Martin, the incubator's executive director. "WebpageFX has taken advantage of all of the programming and networking opportunities offered. We provide structured reviews, mentoring and an extensive network of contacts. The most important characteristic of a member company is in the management teams' receptivity to input."
In December, WebpageFX was named Entrepreneur of the Year for 2010 by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC.
In June, Heardable Score ranked the company No. 1 on its Top 99 SEO Agencies list.
"For us, that was just validation that what we're doing is working and we're recognized in Central Pennsylvania," Craig said. "This is where most of us are from, and it shows we can compete with Silicon Valley."
WebpageFX is one of many success stories to come out of Murata over the years.
Businesses at Murata operate under an eight-year graduation cycle, meaning that if they are successful or ready to move on, they leave the incubator to open up shop elsewhere.
Its graduates include Carlisle-based Z-Band, an industry leader in high-definition video distribution systems. Others include WorkXpress, SE Moulding Inc., Automation System Interconnect Inc., Pest Patrol, Sustainable Community Development Co. and BitLeap.
At this point, WebpageFX plans to remain at Murata. With more than 5,000 square feet of space, there is still room to grow, Craig said.
However, when the day comes to leave, he said he expects the company will likely buy a building in Cumberland County.
In the meantime, the plan is to continue developing products and services, he said, including CrawlerFX, a search engine developed specifically for search engine optimization.
"The marketplace is going with more social media and services for mobile," he said. "Just the tracking out there is amazing from a web standpoint. The level of targeting on the Web continues to improve, so we're trying to do more of that."
Craig said the company's biggest challenge will be structured growth as he and his wife continue to build up internal managers for different departments.