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The Ronin Founding Story

The Ronin Founding Story
August 21, 2018 Jess

Defining moments – every person has a life filled with them, and every company is a collection of individual team member’s defining moments.

So it’s no surprise companies are often founded at the time of one, or a series, of life-changing decisions. Ronin Marketing’s founding story is a collection of learning experiences, the passion to always ‘do more’, and one heck of a defining moment.

So now we’ve hooked you in, let’s go back to the beginning…

Way back in the 90s, Ronin Founder and Creative Director, Kurt Schubert was completing his PhD in film theory and arts at Griffith University, Brisbane. He was studying the plurality of story ideas and the different ways of telling them. Although this seems like a mundane fact to tell you in a founding story, it’s actually where Ronin all began.

The timing of Kurt’s PhD coincided with the early years of the internet (i.e. when everyone was exploring the simple idea of using hyperlinks in text). During this period, Kurt was also lecturing on a variety of subjects including journalism, advertising, media and marketing. Although many of the subjects he taught were only vaguely connected to his field of expertise, he happily tackled anything thrown his way.

However, as technology continued to develop, Kurt realised it was no longer worth investing time and money into his PhD. Instead, armed with his eclectic skill set, experience in various industries and a never-say-no personality he decided to turn his attention to the world of marketing. So when the opportunity arose to work in marketing for an accounting firm, Kurt, of course, jumped at the chance.

“I was teaching advertising and marketing at the time, so I took the job and, marketed the firm, and it was successful,” Kurt said.

“I did that for a couple of years until the firm split just six weeks before my family and I were set to leave on a holiday to Europe.

“It was then when I realised I either needed to go out and get a job or set up a business myself with the money we had committed to going on that holiday.

“During this period I was also headhunted for a leading global advertising agency. While I was in a job interview, I was asked all these questions, and I remember thinking ‘who are you to ask me all these questions’, ‘why am I accountable to you?’. I started to feel resentful of anyone actually questioning me.”

Cue the defining moment…

“I just remember saying something along the lines of ‘I just want to be my own dude for a while’ – the interview ended very quickly!

“It suddenly became clear that I wanted to build something up and have 100% control rather than working for someone else.

“So at that point, I started to set up Ronin.”

Like many Brisbane businesses, Ronin was founded during a transition period and built on a solid foundation of hard work and determination. After prescribing himself a time limit of three weeks to get Ronin rolling, Kurt started cold calling and sending out dozens of letters of introduction a week.

And it worked. Slowly, the business grew.

“We were living in one of the Woolstore apartments. I had a laptop, a phone and a set of IKEA shelves – that was the first Ronin office,” Kurt said.

In the early years, Ronin was focused on traditional marketing, offering services such as telemarketing, rebranding, creating signage for trade shows and building simple websites.

The business chugged along until the global financial crisis.

“The GFC made things really tight,” Kurt said.

“The economy and Australia freaked out and stopped spending money.

“But, somewhere after that, SEO came into play a bit more. So I started looking at outsourcing it because I thought it was a unique skill set. And that’s how Amber, my wife, became involved.

“Amber is incredibly talented and can do anything she puts her mind to so I asked her to look into the SEO side of things.

“That was the beginning of doing ongoing work for clients.”

Of course, as the digital landscape has continued to develop, so too has Ronin Marketing. From its humble beginnings as a one-man-band and a set of IKEA shelves, Ronin has developed into Brisbane’s premier digital marketing agency at its new home in a customised office in Newstead.

To succeed in the digital sphere, and compete with continuously changing demands, a business needs to be flexible and move with the times. That’s where Ronin has flourished. Throughout the 12 years since its inception, Ronin has adapted, pivoted, developed new skills and hired expert staff to fulfil the full scope of digital marketing demands and beyond. Just like a targeted reach, Ronin too has grown organically.

“I always had a vague idea that I’d start a business and then it would be an agency. But I didn’t really have a massive plan of attack – I just put one foot in front of the other,” Kurt said.

“I’m all for not missing opportunities, but instead pursuing and finding opportunities, and letting things grow organically.”

And as technology continues to develop, Ronin will continue to grow and adapt.
“We’ll always be looking to diversify into related fields, skills and projects,” Kurt said.

“It makes me happy, and a bit choked up that I can now let go of a range of different things because one of the Ronin team has really impressed me with something far better than I could’ve done myself.

“It feels really good, to know that you have people who can blow you away with all their abilities.

“My sales pitch for others used to be – you can’t do all of this yourself, and now I’m in that situation – within Ronin we need to follow the same principle.”

Ronin now consists of a team of carefully selected creatives and industry experts who work with a range of clients from start-ups to million dollar companies.

If you’re looking to diversify your marketing mix, expand into the digital sphere, or you just need a team get the job done, contact Ronin today.

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