Talking shop with Jason Wray, owner of Creative Edge in Jackson

Monday, May 4, 2009
Jason Wray is president and CEO of Creative Edge Inc. in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

Creative Edge is celebrating its 10th year in business. The full-service marketing and video production agency serves mostly real estate clients, though it has clients in a range of other industries. Business editor Brian Blackwell recently sat down with owner Jason Wray to learn more about the company's rise from a house to a 14,000-square-foot facility in Jackson, where its 14 employees work. Wray, 31, and his wife, Cori, have a son, Zack, and a daughter, Hannah. A native of St. Louis, Wray moved to Jackson when he was 12 years old and has remained there ever since. His community involvement includes membership in the Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Perryville chambers of commerce and a board member for the Vision House of Cape Girardeau, a faith-based, long-term transitional living facility for homeless and addicted women.

Q: What's something most people don't know about you?

A: I want my life to be purposeful. I want to inspire people and make a difference while I'm here, since we're here for such a short time. Someone once asked a few years ago what legacy I want to leave behind. The person said more people should live like they're writing the ending to their own book. That's why I volunteer with so many organizations. When I see people down the road I want to see a happy ending. And I love teaching and leading seminars. One day I'd like to do seminars for underprivileged kids.

Q: Who has influenced you the most in life?

A: One key influence was my late uncle Cary Flanagan. He was my rock. In the early days of starting this business I'd get so discouraged and wanted to throw in the towel. He was my encouragement. He would help bail me out and was always there. Since he's gone I miss him terribly. He treated me almost like a son, and if he were here I know how proud he'd be. My parents were also another influence. Their work ethic still is with me today. Seeing that was an inspiration.

Q: What motivates you to keep at your job?

A: My family inspires me to be a better man. If it weren't for them, I would be a workaholic.

Q: How did you start Creative Edge?

A: Early on I had ambitions to do radio and wanted to be in the entertainment industry. I did stand-up comedy around town and worked for different radio stations. I eventually worked for Brennecke Chevrolet. I sold cars and became advertising coordinator. That's when I realized my love for advertising and persuading people. In October 1999 I had this burning desire to start my own company and took a big leap of faith and a calculated risk. I believed I could do it.

Q: Did times ever get hard and what made you stick with it?

A: I failed miserably the first year, when I made hardly any money. So I moved back to my mom's house. I traveled city to city selling ad services. I was in my early 20s and trying to persuade everyone that I knew what I was talking about. Age was a contributor to my lack of success. But perseverance is what made me stay with it. So many people felt I was insane for leaving a stable, good-paying job. From an outsiders' position I was very successful in my past position. It was painful for so many people I know to see me fail. But that all changed in May 2000. I worked out a deal with KFVS12 to do a real estate show "Heartland Homes." That show was the beginning of a producing shows across the country.

Q: How have you grown?

A: I started in my basement in 1999. In January 2003 I moved to 810 E. Jackson Blvd. The year after that I opened another office in uptown Jackson for our TV studio. In 2005 I leased a Washington Street location for sales and additional editing space. In November 2006 I made the decision to conduct all operations under one roof. We moved here last year into our current space. It includes a 4,000-square-foot studio, a floor for editing and video production, banquet and meeting facilities and other office space.

Q: The current times we're living in can make a person -- especially a business owner -- fearful. What has gotten you through the time we're living?

A: I'm a Christian and try to have a moral perspective in the way I do business. In October last year when the stock market crashed and fear was coming out, it snowballed from the real estate industry. Everyone became consumed with fear. We had moved to this facility in January 2008. During that time we have been in this major walk of faith-not by sight process. If I watched the TV all the time and saw how horrible things were I might as well have not come to work. In a time when people are laying off employees and seeing a decline in productivity we've seen nothing but an increase. In fact, I'm looking for employees. I just signed a deal with Howard Hanna real estate from Pittsburgh, which covers four states. We're taking over all their multimedia. I believe as a man of faith there's power in the right attitude. My entire team has transitioned their thought process and attitude toward enthusiasm. This will be our year for growth. You can put your focus on surviving or thriving. We're focused on thriving. God is really doing some pretty awesome things here.

Q: What have you learned since starting your own business?

A: Success is not about money in the bank account. It's about living a life that's fulfilling and finding true contentment that at the end of the day you are who you are now. At an early age I wanted to be a millionaire. But I've learned that when I reached certain markers that I wasn't fulfilled. I grew up in a trailer park and saw both of my parents struggle. My dad was a mechanic and my mom a housekeeper. So I've been on both ends of the spectrum. Once I got to my 30s I began to figure things out. I'm more fulfilled today because I've found happiness with my wife, kids and the work I love. My team treats this as their own business. We celebrate victories and encourage each other when we have storms. I'm a blessed man.

Q: What is the future of Creative Edge?

A: We have major plans for growth and expansion. We're getting ready to release new products and bring on new talented individuals to our team. I believe 2009 will be a record-breaking year for Creative Edge. It should be a lot of fun and excitement to come.

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