Student Founder Eclipses 6-Figure ARR With Brand Growth Agency in Under 2 Years

Following a childhood diagnosis in 2012 with a rare and serious autoimmune disorder, Massachusetts native Jake Ross turned to sports trading cards as a welcomed distraction.

That ‘distraction’ quickly turned into an obsession. It wasn’t long before he was sharing his new passion with a growing YouTube audience.

Fast forward to today and Jake’s applying that same community building skill set to help grow his marketing and PR agency, “Build You Marketing”.

Now nearly two years into the journey, he has a team of six and within the past two months they’ve doubled the company’s monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

And oh yeah…he’s doing it all while being a full-time student.

In this interview, Jake details the steps he took to get started and how he’s using LinkedIn to hire and drive lead generation. He also breaks down how he’s learning to take a step back, and give his team greater autonomy.

I am always beyond impressed with student founders and Jake is no exception. Enjoy his story…

Tell Us About Yourself and the Agency You Started.

My name is Jake Ross and in 2012 at the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the mucosal membranes in the body.

I was hospitalized for two months, on two separate occasions. Because I couldn’t eat, I required a feeding tube and stitches in my eyes to prevent blindness.

Jake Ross in the hospital at 10 years old diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome where he started to collect playing cards.

One day, my Mom brought in a box of sports cards. I’d open up the packs, and she’d read off the player’s name since I was unable to see.

As soon as I could see again, I would sort these pieces of cardboard every which way. I fell in love with the hobby.

Before long, I started a YouTube channel to show off my collection and grew to over 11,500 subscribers. Through this process, I observed the power of community first hand.

With this realization and after having about a year of agency work under my belt, I founded Build You Marketing – a full-service marketing and PR firm that helps small to medium sized companies grow their community.

We work with both venture-backed firms and cash flow based companies to help them increase their customer base and establish brand loyalty through social media content, email marketing, and press releases. We also offer website design, SEO optimization and in select industries, paid ads.

Our awesome team of six includes three full-timers and three part-timers who all have extensive marketing experience!

Who or What Inspired You to Start Build You Marketing and How Did You Land on the Idea You Are Pursuing?

I am an ‘accidental’ entrepreneur.

I had already built my sports trading card community, wrote a newsletter for an organization and had a year of experience where I learned the agency business model…so I said, “I should try freelance marketing.”

“I approached my first customer and offered to write his newsletter for him. That sales call turned into me also helping him establish a presence on YouTube. I ended up ideating with him, editing his videos, creating the thumbnails and so much more.”

After a couple of months, I pitched the idea of Build You Marketing at a Babson College pitch competition sponsored by eTower called ‘Seed Fund’ where I explained my business idea to a panel of three judges.

Jake Ross posing in front of his website landing page for Build You Marketing.

After that pitch, I was hired on the spot by one of the judges! I now had my second customer.

With a full-time course load, I could not take on all the work myself, so I hired my first teammate (gosh, opening payroll was a headache). The rest is history…

Today we’ve worked with over 50 firms, reached millions of people on social media, and created powerful communities for our clients.

What Has Your Growth Trajectory Been Like?

As in any business, acquiring your first 5-10 customers is a difficult process. And, as a college student, you really do not have much credibility yet.

I was lucky that I found those companies and founders that were willing to take a shot on me. After that, it was a lot easier to grow.

We began getting a lot of referrals and I began creating my own community of founders through LinkedIn that were supporters.

Jake Ross outside with his laptop showing his LinkedIn page.

Every week, I post about something in my entrepreneurial journey. Showing the hustle has helped in acquiring new customers (65% of my business is generated through LinkedIn).

Now we are growing faster than ever before, doubling our MRR in the last 2 months.

We brought on another full-time teammate and plan to do so again soon.

Describe the Most Significant Failure, Setback or Stumbling Block You’ve Faced Along the Path to Growing Build You Marketing.

The hardest part of the journey is that it can get really lonely if you allow it too. Your business is your baby, so it can be hard to let someone else have it in their hands.

It took me a while, but I realized, if clients trust our team with their business and marketing, there is no reason I should not have full trust in the people that I hired.

In the past 6 months, I have really stepped back and let my team navigate the direction of client accounts and Build You as a whole.

It is easily the best decision I have ever made. It allowed me to really focus on growing the business and helping more companies.

I am so lucky to have such an amazing team that are extremely passionate about and great at what they do.

How Are You Tackling the Issue Today?

As I mentioned before, it is all about trusting your teammates and asking yourself, “what can I do better to help them be successful?”

Most of the time, it is simply letting the team know that I trust them.

Jake Ross and the Build You Marketing Team in Cape Cod.

A nice reminder to trust their instincts and implement their strategy. Client deliverables have been a lot better and productivity and morale have increased.

If You Could Only Choose a Single Lesson Learned From This Experience to Pass On to Other Founders, What Would It Be?

Trust your teammates.

Jake Ross and the Build You Marketing Team at Babson College.

I can’t say it enough!

Where Do You See Yourself and Build You Marketing in the Next 3 to 5 Years?

In 5 years, we plan to help 1,000+ businesses grow their community and solve the problem they are on a mission to tackle.

That’s really what it is all about.

On top of that, I hope to have inspired other student entrepreneurs to follow their dreams, take the risk and invest in themselves and their team.

Finally, I plan to grow our team and continue to build the world’s best marketing agency.

What Resources Could You and Your Business Not Live Without?

There are a few tools our business could not live without:

  1. – track outreach emails with click rate and reply rate. 
  1. Klaviyo – the best email marketing CRM out there in my opinion. They have amazing design templates, impressive integrations and deep analytics.
  1. ChatGPT – AI is inevitable and ChatGPT has really helped us become more productive in order to help more companies achieve their goals.
  1. LinkedIn – post once per week…trust me! The amount of amazing opportunities I have gotten from a simple post every week has been invaluable. Again, 65% of my business is from LinkedIn. Further, our entire team came from LinkedIn job applications!

Most importantly, my business could not live without my team.

Shoutout Sarah Camara, Megan Frongillo, Madison Imoto, Christopher Burroughs, & Marie-Elena Gerety!

Where Can Stumblers Go to Learn More?

The best way to stay up to date with Build You or to get in touch with me is via my personal LinkedIn!



Build You Socials:


Keith X. Donovan

Hey, I’m Keith! Since 2011, I’ve been working for and with startups. More recently, I’ve founded a few websites and rediscovered my love for storytelling.  Startup Stumbles is where I get to fuse these two passions. I hope you’ll discover what I have – that failures are often far more informative and interesting than accomplishments.

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