Q&A With MojoHost’s Brad Mitchell
In his 13 years in the biz, MojoHost President Brad Mitchell has worn a lot of hats through the years. And if you’ve been lucky enough to meet or do business with the enthusiastic Mitchell, you’d find out that he doesn’t just wear a lot of hats at the company — but lots of original hand-painted shirts (you’ll find out about that later).
Mitchell, who built his company and brand with creativity, flair and hopeful spirit, recently spoke with XBIZ World about his adventures in the industry.
XBIZ: How did you venture into the adult entertainment business?
MITCHELL: In late 1999, I quit my position of seven years as director of medical billing for a family-owned healthcare company where I had worked since its opening when I was a junior in high school. Realizing that I was miserable in my day-to-day work and having an epiphany that I would never be an owner, I gave six-month’s notice (laughs out loud) and started searching for a business to buy.
I took on a money partner to buy an Age Verification System (AVS) paysite for $125,000 and was off to the races, learning things the hard way!
All within the last few months of 1999 and while being $50,000 in credit card debt, I quit my day job, got married, bought my first house with 3 percent down (laughs again) and really started to appreciate the idea that there were 24 hours in a day.
Within a month of the business purchase it was obvious that we were completely defrauded by the seller. Within three months, I realized that my then business partner had a big heart but was riddled with problems, not the least of which was problem gambling.
I broke ties and bought him out of our very defunct business, effectively starting over within the same corporation still in use today.
I was up a creek without a paddle, now $100,000 in credit card debt trying to figure out being a newlywed and business owner in the early 2000.
I threw everything against the wall to keep the lights on: new paysites, affiliate marketing, content leasing, domain sales, alternative billing and 800/900 phone sex marketing online.
To make a long story very short, I discovered that marketing live phone entertainment was a virgin opportunity in 2000. This endeavor was SinTalk and it was my first big success, accomplished in partnership with an established bureau and its owner, Tom DiCampo. Today, webmasters can still make money with OmegaCash!
Tom eventually purchased my interest for a lump sum large enough to settle all debts, start our family and really commit all of my time to MojoHost.
I met my business partner Corey Baldwin at a small webmaster gathering in Windsor, Ontario. I was there promoting the new SinTalk affiliate program. My memory is that at a subsequent lunch by where we lived in the suburbs of Detroit, Corey commented that I was good at sales and suggested that if I could sell some hosting, we could partner and he would run the technical operations. No business plan. We shook hands and our business partnership began on April Fool’s Day in 2002.
It’s been almost 11 years and I am proud that today we host many of the world’s largest and most-reputable adult entertainment brands.
XBIZ: MojoHost is one of the blue-chip brands in the industry. How did you get there?
MITCHELL: Things sure didn’t start out fancy. In fact, they’re really not that way at all, today. We didn’t spend much money building our brand, it’s been a labor of love. I don’t believe that any “image” without any core values in action is capable of sustaining success. “Image” if you’re paying full price for it, well, where’s the fun in that? Mom taught me to be a sale shopper and Dad always paid cash for everything. We are to live life on the court, not in the bleachers as a spectator.
Our growth is because of hard work, integrity, creativity and a hopeful spirit that embraces learning from mistakes. My parents really did brainwash me into believing that I could do anything I wanted, when I grew up. Belief in limitless opportunity is what carried us through so many challenging moments in the past and still drives our future, today.
XBIZ: What makes MojoHost stand out?
MITCHELL: Well, we’re still in business! (laughs) Seriously, I think it’s because I still answer my cellphone. Because I still show up at conferences and talk to anyone, without pretense and always with humility. I’ve been told there is an honesty people see in our actions over the years, which help us stand out from the pack. What this really boils down to, I think, is that our actions are truly our technical support. As far as I know, I’m the most readily available web host company owner out there. If service wasn’t great, it would be awkward in public! When I look back at nearly a dozen years of conferences, I feel peaceful about the whole experience. I did start off as the quiet webmaster in the corner, afraid to introduce myself to others. Old habits die hard and I still get nervous in these social situations. One simple principle makes us stand out, I think: Be authentic and treat others how you want to be treated.
XBIZ: Where is most of your business coming from?
MITCHELL: Most new clients come by way of a recommendation from an existing customer. I can’t buy the advertising a stellar reputation is able to generate. With more than 1,200 clients representing almost a 100,000 websites around the world, the best conversion to sale is always from a warm lead. We serve other markets but most of our business is adult in nature. As I have always said, if we can be a great host for adult media, we can do anything!
To scale quality support and service, we have always been careful about how much business we bring in and how fast. We never had a need to market elsewhere but do look forward to sharing our great service with other markets in the future.
XBIZ: With 13 years in the adult business, do you think the industry has matured greatly?
MITCHELL: Like all industries, online adult entertainment grown up quite a bit since its infancy. Today, like 13 years ago, there are still plenty of yahoos acting irresponsibly as if it’s the Wild West. Let’s not be small minded and think this is exclusive to porn, because really it’s just human. Opportunity is borne out of challenges. At the root of everything, we are still a community filled with passionate entrepreneurs. We are driven by our freedom of self-expression. We create great technology to serve our needs and when we do this, we profit. We’re so good that our tech spreads like wildfire, validating our genius in mainstream application once people realize what we figure out. It’s an odd industry, very few are so loved and hated. That’s how we roll.
XBIZ: What’s the origin story of the hand-painted shirts?
MITCHELL: When my three kids were really little, Melissa took a dress shirt and got their hand and footprints all over it in different paint colors. I wore it on my business trip and was amazed by people’s response… everywhere! Walking down the street, at restaurants, in seminars, everywhere… . It felt good and made for easy conversation starting. Anything that brings the conversation back to family both makes me happy and helps me to “sort out” the people around me.
XBIZ: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s a typical day like?
MITCHELL: Unless it’s a rare server or network problem, my kids do! I wake up before the kids and recently enjoy making breakfast and getting them ready for school. I had been missing the joy of this for too many years and just can’t imagine not making this a priority in the future.
A typical day for me has me in the office after seeing the kids to school. Meetings sometimes have me miss breakfast or dinner, but I find my focus on working smarter is giving me much more family time. My typical day is a lot at my desk doing phone calls, emails and meetings. They rarely end at 5 p.m., and I often do more calls and emails after the kids are in bed.
At night I often catch up on technical reading, which I actually enjoy quite a bit. I “nerd out” on network and server component researching.
For me, building hosting solutions brings me back to the same kinds of fun I had while playing with Legos as a child. Yes, I was a Legomaniac, too.