David Allen Moss
Meet David Allen Moss, Founder of MossMedia.
Briefly describe your company.
MossMedia is a Cleveland-based communication design collaborative of senior-level creative and technical talent. Our core competencies include brand strategy, content creation, interactive design, and media production.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been enterprising -- in some ways over-involved. I think it has to do with the fact I started art and music at age 5, and never put either down. I grew up in small rural town where no one ever said, “You can’t do that.” So I did is much as I could, every season.
I evolved as an entrepreneur after having worked nearly a decade and a half of corporate and non-profit assignments. From IU and American Greetings, to Beachwood Studios and Cleveland Institute of Art, I had been working as an intrapreneur
on the “bleeding edge” of web, digital signage, and interactive kiosk. My father always said, “You know you’ll never be truly happy until you’re running your own thing.” Turns out, he was right. It just took me a few years to believe.
Why did you start your business?
Because I needed to prove to myself I could succeed as captain of my own ship, where I could focus my passion for design and technology untethered. I had grown impatient with leadership in my various roles; folks were shaping my destiny without dialogue. That little thing they call “the glass ceiling” is really made of Kryptonite. MossMedia is not my first startup and most likely not my last. I believe in entrepreneurial DNA. (It’s a blessing and a curse.)
How did you come up with the idea?
Fact is, in the "creative Industries," every day, most of the day, I play a miner. We are the new world laborers -- only our
raw materials are ideas. The idea for my current business was part necessity, part notion. I had launched FUTURE Center, a breakthrough Design and Tech Transfer program at Cleveland Institute of Art, from the ground up – only to have the project upstaged by a $35 million dollar campus consolidation campaign. That’s when MossMedia dragged my grandfather’s boat out of the woods in Claridon and co-founded Boondock Walker.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
That the people who rally around you, even your best cheerleaders, are not always the people who “bring it.” As a team player, the hardest things to get used to are the threads of isolation and ambiguity. I call it the “Lone Ranger Syndrome.”
What resources/organizations here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
COSE, Score, YBI, LaunchHouse all have helped in some ways. I have personal advisors and independent business owners who have been coaching me along the way. My family and friends are my bedrock, and I’m always checking in with them. But I would say the relentless networking while at FUTURE and over the past decade provided the most valuable asset: a solid advisory and referral network.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
I was fortunate to connect with a former associate and angel investor, who also provides rock solid financial and accounting support to our firm. It’s allowed me to focus on the work product and business development to a greater degree. Unfortunately, we have found it difficult to work with the banks in recent years on securing additional funds, such as a line of credit or SBA.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee was technically a former high school alum. We worked in a couple startup projects together, and our shared upbringing and values made for a reliable work unit. MossMedia’s first employee was a former associate and 20-year veteran of the media production industry. His know-how and steady, contemplative work style balances my rapid fire and relentless approach to the work.
Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
MossMedia’s first customer was Bajer, a home goods manufacturer out of Milwaukee. It’s where I learned the ins and outs of private label, packaging design, and brand building for POP at Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Lowe’s.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Convenience. Cost. Connectivity.
What advice would you give to someone starting a company here?
Think about the growth and economic sectors that are rapidly expanding and design a way for your business to thrive alongside that growth. Our medical device and technology clients are all doing very well and in no small way helping power growth and innovation in all that we do.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
When I was a kid, my uncle backed up a dump truck and dropped a pile of original Cleveland street bricks on our drive. My father paid me a nickel a brick to chisel off the asphalt and wheel the bricks in my wagon around back for a garden path. It was a mountainous pile; I thought I’d never make it through. It taught me a thing or two about production and perseverance.
What inspires you?
Everything about my wife. The amazing things my daughter says. The bright minds in my circle of friends and family. The cultural authenticity of Cleveland. The opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives.
What companies or founders do you admire and why?
Locally: Steve Cencula of FORM for his level of creative excellence and design values. Lev Gonnick of CWRU for his leadership and passion for technology. Dan Morgan, photographer for his positivity and spirit. Jim Cossler, for his entrepreneurial spirit and positivity. My Emerging Chefs co-founders Rick Turner and Michael DeAloia for their tenacity and against-all-odds mindset.
What’s next for you and your company?
I’d like to see us solidify our position as a leading provider of content creation for DOOH (Digital-Out-of-Home), Interactive, and Mobile. It’s never been our goal to be all things to all people, but sometimes that’s what you do to survive in marketing communications. It’s time we move from “survive to thrive” mode, which involves being choosy about what projects we pursue. I’d like us to continue to drill down to our core capabilities and grow our talented collaborative of independent creative and technical professionals. We could use help with outside sales and secure added representation where we’re seeing some growth in California and New York.