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Change or Die: eHouse’s Path to Reinvention

It’s hard to believe, but eHouse turns 18 this year. It’s eye-opening to look back through time and see how eHouse has changed and evolved over the years. It certainly hasn’t been a straightforward trajectory. But our varied journey has shaped us, giving us broad experience and building our resilience to find opportunity and face challenges as they come. 

Two main themes emerge as I think about all we’ve accomplished since eHouse was founded in 2002: “Reinvention” and “remaining true.” While the business has pivoted a few times over the years to focus on different types of work, our core values and why we do the work we do have remained steady. And I think that’s why we’ve ultimately been successful – consistently attracting and retaining talent, and working with leading brands in various capacities.

Reinvention: Changing the niche

As with most startups, eHouse was launched from a small apartment. Three small apartments, to be exact – mine and those of two buddies in Mexico City. Eventually headquartered in Boulder, CO, we built websites for small businesses, like hair salons and restaurants. For one restaurant, we did everything from the website to menus, interior design to shelving installation! Working with developers and designers through my partners in Mexico, it wasn’t until much later that I realized I was learning how to code Flash in Spanish.   

A few years later, Chris came on board to help run the agency, putting her interior design career plans aside (permanently, as it would turn out), as we moved the company to Charleston to partner with a company called The Quinn Consulting Group – which added strategic marketing, branding, and sales management expertise to our creative skills. 

This change helped eHouse transition to become a UX agency, specializing in designing lead-gen experiences for high-end real estate and property developers. We won our first real estate-related project and then the referrals kept coming. In the midst of doing these huge, long-term projects, I remember sitting in a conference room with a friend who owned another digital agency. He predicted that at some point we’d need to make a choice between real estate or eCommerce.  

Our amazing team makes it all work

Sure enough, about four years ago we ended up taking what we’d learned about creating immersive experiences and lead-gen and shifting our focus to eCommerce – creating immersive experiences and converting customers. Our first projects tended to be with major retailers who wanted a redesign of their eCommerce properties. However, after a while we got tired of projects that extended for years and often didn’t even get implemented due to bureaucracy – we wanted to see the results of our work! Hence the shift to DTC brands and Shopify. People thought we were nuts to focus on a single platform. But we wanted to be recognized as the agency that knows Shopify inside and out  -- better than anyone else.

This most recent transition to DTC eCommerce was the hardest because it was the most considered, deliberate and focused change we had ever made. In the past, change usually just happened organically. This time, we decided to really focus and strip away layers to discover who we are and what we do. For the first time, we turned away work (scary!) if it didn’t help us reach our goal of becoming a premier Shopify DTC eCommerce agency. It wasn’t easy to reevaluate and re-strategize. But it’s one of the things in my career so far that I’m most proud of. And as a result, we can really relate to our clients who often are in some phase of reinvention or reaction to the changing retail marketplace. 

Remaining true: A strong core

Despite changes over the years in the type of work we do, how and why we do the work hasn’t changed a bit. We’ve always been committed to creating fantastic experiences and strong relationships. This core is impactful to the work we do, our relationships with customers and with our team. I think having a strong, unchanging core is essential for pivoting to change the niche focus of your business. You need something steady to pivot off of.

Having a strong core also attracts and retains great talent. eHouse employees go the distance – we have employees coming up on 7 to 10-year anniversaries with us! That’s not to say roles don’t change – we had a PM who wanted to become a developer. We supported her interest, she stuck with us, and today she’s a great developer on our team. We're truly blessed to have the team we do. We’re connected by the desire to create great work for our clients and our client’s clients. We passionately defend creating great experiences for our end customers. 

Another core value that stays true is transparency, which we try to achieve through great communication – talking about issues, not around them. This value is integrated into new employee onboarding and we give every new employee a copy of the book, Fierce Conversations. We also pledge to clients that we will always be transparent with them. This might involve having some hard conversations, but in the end, the ability to be upfront and truthful is what will lead to the best work. 

Reinvention and resilience

It can take a while to figure out your business. Sometimes it falls into your lap. Sometimes you’re forced to make a choice. But the hardest or scariest choices can end up being the most rewarding. The reality is that this process of reevaluation and reinvention is cyclical – things are always changing and your business has to change too. What we’ve learned over the last 18 years is to not be afraid of the journey and to be ok with trying something different that may open up new opportunities.

What’s next? Now more than ever, we see the need, opportunity and obligation to open our eyes and hearts to the world around us. We hope to use the strong core we have built, our resilience and openness to change to help others. Going into our 18th year, we see the need to help retailers navigate the current and post COVID-19 landscape. We also feel the need to make an impact to be more racially inclusive and accepting in our community and help support this change for our country. We know that we won’t always make the right choices, but we truly believe that in every obstacle there is an opportunity for a miracle and right now our world could use some miracles. 

"We also feel the need to make an impact to be more racially inclusive and accepting in our community and help support this change for our country. We know that we won’t always make the right choices, but we truly believe that in every obstacle there is an opportunity for a miracle and right now our world could use some miracles."
- Chris Quinn. COO & Partner

Chris Quinn COO & Partner / Aaron Quinn CEO & Partner