OuterBox Solutions is Making it Happen in downtown Akron

All photos by Tim Fitzwater

Launched in 2004, OuterBox is a digital marketing agency and web design company focusing on custom website design, eCommerce website development and search marketing services such as SEO and paid search marketing. OuterBox employs of a team of nearly 50 in their office at 323 S. Main in the Kaiser building.

Downtown Akron Partnership sat down with founder and CEO, Justin Smith, partner and COO, Nick Nolan and partner, Jason Dutt at Cilantro Thai & Sushi to learn more about their presence in downtown Akron.

What are some factors that led you to being downtown?

Justin: The main reason was location. We all live between Akron and Cleveland and the commute to Akron is very easy. We opened seven years ago in the Selle building downtown on the ground floor. It was rough, affordable space and it helped us get started. The Kaiser Building is one of the oldest buildings on Main Street. It’s kind of what drew us to it. When space opened up in the building, we knew it was time to make the move.

Talk to us about the importance of culture building in your workplace?

Nick: It’s extremely important for us because we have a lot of different people with different skill sets and mindsets. For us it’s about having a single voice and something that everybody agrees to. The culture that we’ve tried to form is a winning culture. In eCommerce and marketing, competitive edge is important. That’s what our clients are looking for and that’s what we want to deliver. It takes a team to do these things.

Jason: To piggy back on that yes, we’re a web development and marketing company, and our job is to help other companies sell “stuff”.  But in this day and age people want to have value in their work beyond just selling and making money. And even though that’s the name of the game, what we’re really trying to get people to understand is that when we help companies succeed, there’s a whole payroll full of employees and families behind that. The delivery of our product isn’t just about the bottom line, but impacting other families outside of our own business. Relationships are everything.

Has it been easy to find talent in Akron?

Justin: Unfortunately no, at least not enough talent. It’s probably one of our biggest challenges for growth. If we grow from 50 people to 100 in a year or two, how do we hire that many people? Can we find that many people here? We might be able to, but we may have to diversify the talent pool with an additional location.

Jason: We don’t see any indication of our growth trend slowing down, so we’re just trying to anticipate it. One of the most difficult things we’ve had this year was finding the right talent to keep up with our growth. We’re in a sector of the market that is very competitive in terms of talent. 

Nick:  There other web design companies around and people who know how to do web design and online marketing. But Outerbox is focused in eCommerce and that’s a whole different world.  It’s hard enough to find technical people, but another layer is to find people with eCommerce expertise. Another point is unemployment is down; so many companies are having a hard time finding staff.

Are you aware of the city of Akron, Greater Akron Chamber and county of Summit initiative to align workforce and growth capacity to small businesses experiencing growth like yours?

Justin: No, but we are definitely interested.

Have you been able to work with The University of Akron for talent?

Justin: We haven’t, but we would love to work together. Even if it’s just to send us over resumes of people that would be a good fit.

Nick: We have had a few interns that have formed into long-term employees and it’s been great. We’d like to see more of that.

What amenities and venues to you or your team enjoy in downtown Akron?

Nick: A group recently did the Great Escape Room and it was a lot of fun. It’s good for big groups and team building. We’re also having our holiday party at BLU Jazz+ this year.

Justin: The Akron Civic Theatre, Canal Park and Akron Art Museum are all places we’ve been.

Jason: The whole area up on North High Street is pretty cool with BLU, Musica and The Nightlight.

What do you see as downtown Akron’s next move?

All: Finishing Main Street construction!

To read the full interview and learn more, visit downtownakron.com

Your office can make or break your company culture.

Today’s business leaders need to drive culture by giving employees an experience and purpose in the workplace. Without them, talent retention and attraction become an uphill battle.

Is your office tech-enabled? Is it designed for collaboration and professional development? Are your company values and branding clear?

Your people are one of your biggest assets. And, with so many skillsets and differing points of view, it’s important to break down the silos and encourage collaboration, which can be achieved in the way you develop your space.

For more information on how you can transform your workplace strategy, email Warren Blazy III at Warren.Blazy@am.jll.com.