Perhaps two hearts are better than one. Somewhere there’s a cocktail napkin supporting a glass of champagne that promises as much. It’s especially true when those two hearts also possess tenacious entrepreneurial spirits and a penchant for growing business in the New River Valley. Sounds like a celebratory toast is in order.
You may remember Caitlyn Scaggs, the police officer turned marketing professional from the March/April issue of New River Valley Magazine. She launched Blue Mobius in 2017 and has taken the area by storm ever since. With a focus on communications, messaging, social media and a “people first” mission statement, she tirelessly built a business finding and telling her clients’ stories.
Now enter Kevin Jones, the Virginia Tech and NFL running back turned industrial designer. Jones grew up in Pennsylvania and throughout his lauded career on the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears developed an interest in the entertainment and design side of football. After a trip to Italy and a destined reading of “The Alchemist,” Jones came back to Virginia Tech to pursue an Industrial Design degree. He cites having a grandfather who was a celebrated “jack of all trades” for the confidence to pursue multiple interests.
Jones’s company, Joba Design, opened for business in 2015 with a focus on brand identity design, product design, environmental design and digital design. He set up shop locally in the Corporate Research Center so graduating students didn’t have to run off to major cities to pursue a rewarding career in design.
“We are continually bringing people in from varied disciplines, geographic locations and socio-economic backgrounds. Having different thinkers around the same table to problem-solve is powerful. Multi-disciplinary views provide a competitive advantage,” Jones affirms.
As local entrepreneurs, Scaggs and Jones kept running into each other in the community (and on social media, too, Scaggs laughs). When the Blacksburg Children’s Museum rebranding and reconstruction opportunity surfaced, it was clear the project would benefit from what both companies had to offer. The chance for a fun, smart and solution-centered collaboration was too good to pass up.
“It felt whole,” Jones offers. “My goal has always been to create a total brand experience. This was a step in that direction.”
Scaggs and Blue Mobius handled the market research, communications and messaging, while Jones and Joba Design managed brand visualization, logo development, interior graphics and the design and build-out of the exhibition space itself. The new museum, Wonder Universe, is slated for ground breaking in early 2019.
“It demonstrated the power that we have when we function as one cohesive group. It felt natural. It was very much a team effort that was all aligned toward great outcomes for the client,” Scaggs states.
Shortly thereafter, Joba Design officially acquired Blue Mobius. Scaggs and her lean team of four moved down the street into Joba Design’s office. Operationally, there are always kinks to iron out when two teams become one, but Jones wanted to make the transition as comfortable as possible by treating Scaggs and her team like family. For both sides, the integration has been a very smooth process.
Jones, who just finished his MBA, credits the program with helping him fully appreciate just how valuable the marketing and messaging piece of branding can be. The kismet relationship with Blue Mobius came at just the right time. With industrial design, the focus is on how the consumer will engage with a particular product – how a chair is designed, for example, or a hairdryer, or a shoe. Marketing is just the different side of the same coin, thinking about what’s the best and most effective way to get the consumer’s attention. Both have the obvious end goal of turning all that strategic thinking into revenue for the client.
With the acquisition, Jones’s early vision of offering a total brand experience has become a reality. A few current projects include a new First Bank & Trust branch being built in Blacksburg, Brick House Pizza in Radford and Qualtrax, a local compliance software company.
“A lot of times clients come to us for one part and then they’re pleasantly surprised that we can do more. Now most of the time we get to say ‘yes,’ instead of, ‘no.’” Jones explains. In the short term, the two companies will keep their existing names; that is until they all gather around the table to execute for themselves what they work on seamlessly for other clients … branding.
In both Jones and Scaggs, one finds two people who dramatically changed career paths; two people with keen self-awareness and a history of taking risks to gain reward. The passionate determination – and hardwired skills – needed for that to be successful on all fronts is Herculean. But when the work is fun, too, telltale by the vintage PacMac machine in the corner of the conference room and the box of Carol Lee donuts in the kitchen, you know the talent and creative energy is all heart.
Text by Nancy S. Moseley | Photos by Kristie Lea Photography
Nancy S. Moseley is freelance writer from Blacksburg who happily enjoyed one of those Carol Lee donuts when she stopped by the office for the interview.