Blog: Kentaro Roy

In an era of flaming high tuition rates, it's enough for students to cover their own bills, let alone fund the education of others. Kentaro Roy, president of Kentaro Web Design + SEO and funder of a scholarship at EMU, writes about being a student entrepreneur and keeping young talent in-state.

Perspective of a student-realtor-web design entrepreneur

Kentaro Web Design + SEO is a little over two years old, and growing fast. I established myself as a freelancer for several years in the real estate industry, helping real estate professionals get more business from the Internet. As a licensed Realtor in the state of Michigan with years of real estate experience, I had begun to see a need in the market for a web marketing professional catering specifically to the real estate industry. I began offering web design and web marketing services to local professionals, growing my client base until it became clear that I needed to hire someone to help out.

Starting a web company as a student was very time consuming, but I wouldn't call it challenging or difficult because I loved every minute of it. One of my main concerns when starting the company was age discrimination – I remember telling a friend jokingly that I should invest in Touch of Grey for my hair. I wasn't sure if people would think I was too young and inexperienced to want to work with me. This never became an issue in the evolution of our company, as we always had results to show for our work at meetings with prospective clients. I believe that anyone passionate about what they do will find a way to manage their time and resources to work towards their long term objectives.

I'm originally from South Lyon, but our company is based in Ann Arbor, which is where our first office was located: a work space we shared with about a dozen other professionals. As our clientele grew, we continued to hire employees with additional skill sets, and we grew to be the agency that we are today: five employees in an office in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. Our team is made up of young people with talents ranging from content creation to web development to sales. It takes a lot of collaboration to get from point A to point B in a small business, so finding a good fit is a crucial part of our hiring process.

Though I started out working with real estate agents almost exclusively, we've diversified quite a bit in the past 2 years. We now work with businesses in manufacturing, health and supplements, tech startups, and service professionals to help them capitalize on their online presences to bring in more revenue and generate leads. Right now, we offer a variety of web marketing services: web development and design, SEO, web analytics, and pay-per-click ad management. We focus on making websites profitable, using both on-site and off-site techniques to create sites that can convert leads and do more than just look pretty on the Internet. Geo-targeted SEO has been very successful for many of our clients, who are all Michigan-based businesses. We also integrate online marketing with clients' existing offline marketing, like direct mailings or billboards. One advantage of being a small business is that we can easily tailor our services to meet each client's needs, instead of selling a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all product.

We've also begun to offer consulting services, and I like to act as a resource for people who may not be able to commit to a web marketing contract with us, but still need information or may want our help in the future. Last month, we actually helped a local small business owner get out of a one-year contract with a company that had taken thousands of dollars of his money for SEO, but sent literally zero qualified visitors to his website. He isn't a client of ours, but we were happy to help him get out of a deal that was wasting his time and resources.

As we move forward, our goal is to continue to brand ourselves as a Michigan-based web marketing agency. We will continue to help more brands in new markets, as well as provide our services to more national and international clients. We're very excited to continue building our team, and are planning on adding two staffpersons this year.