Next Creative Co.’s humble roots in hotel lobby spark impressive growth

When their employer decided to leave the ad agency business in 2017, Rich Evenhouse and Tim Hackney decided it was time to create something special, an agency infused with their own unique magic.

They bought out their old firm, The Image Group, and started their new company, Next Creative Co., from the sprawling headquarters of, well, a hotel lobby. 

That’s right, Evenhouse and Hackney spent about three months meeting with clients and giving presentations from the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Holland as they waited for their new space at 76 E. Eighth St. to be completed. 

They drank lots of coffee, ordered lunch from the bistro, and met new people left and right.

“It was actually a really cool place to start a business,” Evenhouse says. 

Four years later, that combination of risk, patience, and creativity has paid off.
Ad agency Next Creative Co. has consistently grown and is now a multi-city firm, thanks to a recent merger with Grand Rapids-based agency AUXILIARY.

Next Creative Co. recently merged with Grand Rapids-based agency AUXILIARY to become a multi-city firm under the Next Creative Co. name. 

The six-month process, which became official Dec. 1, 2020, created what is currently a 16-employee agency packed with senior-level design, video production, writing, and strategy talent, Evenhouse says. 

He became president, Hackney became executive creative director, and Tom Crimp, the founder of AUXILIARY, became the new business director. 

Both agencies viewed the merger as an opportunity to expand creative capabilities, elevate the quality of work, and serve a wider range of clients. They had survived the pandemic and were looking for a way to grow more.

“It’s been a really good move for us,” Evenhouse says. “We have got a great mix of clients from both companies that have all come together. The work we are doing is a lot of fun. It’s exciting.”

Philosophy on work

Next Creative Co. initially grew because they found quality clients who had a similar philosophy of how the work should be done, Evenhouse says. They met companies where they were at. Plus they were easy-going people who enjoyed the work. 

The company had a strong focus on helping new businesses, such as restaurants, launch marketing campaigns. Evenhouse has enjoyed close working relationships with clients such as Lucas Grill, founder of 1983 Restaurants, which runs Public, Seventy-Six, Paquito, and Obstacle No. 1 in the greater Holland area.

“He has been awesome. He is a great client,” Evenhouse says. “We really find a lot of energy in that new business space.”

New industries

However, Next Creative Co. wanted to grow into new and different industries, such as health care, higher education, and B2B (business to business). AUXILIARY, which was founded in 2005, already serves corporate clients in those areas, so Evenhouse is excited to work with them as well.

“With this merger, we have been able to expand into those more directly,” he says. 
Evenhouse says the next challenge for the new firm will be working in person. They are slowly opening up their offices again post-pandemic and can’t wait to add even more creative spark to their work.

“Our teams are a lot stronger when they are working together personally,” he says. “A lot of companies are ditching their offices and going with the remote thing. We feel like having an office and being in person is very important.”

Read more articles by Jeremy Gonsior.

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