Chris Bowler - Fusion Ads
3 comments | Posted: 11 October 09 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
Recently I had a chance to pick the brain of Chris Bowler, who is the cofounder of the invitation only niche advertising network, Fusion Ads – which was recently redesigned by the talented Elliot Jay Stocks. Despite his success, Chris remains a humble man, trying his best to follow Christ. I am thankful that he was willing to share the life lessons he’s learned.
Please describe your background. Did you have any previous experience in advertising, design, or web development prior to Fusion?
My background in the web before Fusion was reading about what others did. My education was in IT, and my career has been mostly in frontline and application support.
When my wife and I had our first child, we split up the parental leave and I had four months at home. When it was my turn to be at home, our daughter was having nice long 3-4 hour naps in the middle of the day. I used a lot of that time to start a web page so the out of town family could see pictures of the new addition. Many random surfing sessions later, I happened upon the blog of Jon Hicks. He got me hooked on the topics of design, web browsers, Apple and Mac software in general.
During the following years, as I read blogs of folks like Dan Benjamin and John Gruber, I realized that I wanted to be more of an entrepreneur and run my own business. And write a blog. So I started with that – I took the time to get familiar with WordPress, modified my own theme and started The Weekly Review.
As anyone who spends a bit of time online, I started to get to know more and more people. Guys like Shawn Blanc and Michael Mistretta. We all read each others blogs and via Twitter, started to develop relationships. One day I wrote about The Deck and how they “did online advertising right,” as well as my desire to one day earn an income from my own work. I guess it inspired some ideas in one of my young readers (Mistretta) and Fusion was born.
It had a different name at the time, but here we are today.
What made you decide to focus on advertising to designers and developers, as opposed to a more generalized populace? How do you divvy up the responsibilities of running the business itself?
Focusing on the web savvy crowd was just a natural choice. It’s the audience we know – we’re a part of it. We were familiar with so many different bloggers, many of whom are designers and developers. We are familiar with the tools and products that this groups uses and talks about. So it was just a natural progression to start in this industry.
As for how we divvy up the work: I do all the hard stuff and Michael cavorts with all the rockstars of the industry! I kid. In reality we share in the day to day operational work and any decisions. When we have big decisions to make, we get out-of-this-world wisdom and advice from Shawn Blanc, who has also been involved since the beginning. In general, I deal with the advertisers and Michael deals with the publishers.
Michael’s story is inspiring and humbling to me, and makes me feel quite old. You both co-founded Fusion while he was still in high school. He has since opted not to pursue higher education, and is instead pursuing a videography internship – doing what interests him instead of what’s the norm.
So Chris, what would you say you have learned, in and out of a classroom setting, and what advice would you give to aspiring, would-be businessmen? Go to college, or pursue your dreams? Are they necessarily mutually exclusive?
Wow. Such a great question for this day and age. I’d say both are good options – they are definitely not mutually exclusive.
The internet has opened a lot of doors for younger people and we’ve seen a lot of successful teenagers. So it’s clear that you do not necessarily need a post-secondary education to have a fulfilling career. We have to let go of the notion that without an education you can never be successful. I know way too many psych majors who are working for minimum wage.
But at the same time, I think those who downplay the importance of an education do not credit the full breadth of experience that going to college or university gives you. Regardless of what field you enter in to, the experiences alone were worth it for me. Developing relationships with your classmates and professors, learning to determine what is expected of you in each course, and learning to deal with a high workload and deadlines are invaluable lessons which have only enabled me to be successful in my career.
I would say if know what your dream or calling is, do what you need to in order to fulfill that vision. If school will get you there, enroll. If real world experience is the best avenue, then start working. The best news is that we have a wealth of information available now that was not previously so accessible. Learn to use the Internet as a resource, whichever avenue you take.
Lastly, but most importantly, how did you come to faith in Jesus? What would you say has been your greatest challenge and greatest joy as a Christian?
I first came to Christ as a young lad at a summer Bible camp. But being from a non-Christian home, this change was not really reflected in my life until after a failed marriage in my early twenties. Reflecting on where my decisions and actions had led me as well the consequences affecting others, I eagerly turned to Jesus for real guidance. And although I still make mistakes, He has blessed me abundantly ever since.
My greatest joy as a Christian since then has been being blessed with family again. The responsibility of parenthood and raising our children in “training and admonition of the Lord” is both the most exciting and scary aspect of my life. Especially in light of my children from my first marriage, I believe God has really shown me the generational effects of sinful living or a life of strong faith. As Christians, what greater legacy or effect can we have in the world than the raising of more strong Christians in our home.
My greatest challenge as a Christian has most likely been the same as most Christians throughout the last two thousand years: “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” With all the distractions and noise in our world, I fail to give Him the attention and devotion that He deserves. It is a daily struggle, but it’s also a struggle where I can see the progress when I take a step back and reflect on how much He’s changed me over the past 10 years.
We serve a loving, faithful God. He proves that day by day.
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