Happy 20th Birthday, Keybridge Communications!
August 14, 2023
By Sam Ryan
Exactly 20 years ago today, Keybridge Communications was officially formed. I was 29 years old with $17,000 of credit card debt. I’d actually quit my day job three years earlier to become a full-time freelance writer. But I was working out of my bedroom, and struggling to pay the bills.
At the time, the risk of starting a new business from scratch seemed overwhelming. The financial burden alone was daunting. I had no reliable source of income, no connections or steady clients, and yet was suddenly adding a $600 monthly rent — plus telephone and internet bills — to my regular living expenses. On top of that, I needed to buy office supplies, including a chair, printer and telephone.
It was scary and exciting. A friend had given me an e-book called “The Wellfed Writer.” I’d read it cover-to-cover and it was my Bible.
In those first few weeks, I was determined to build a client base. So I spent my days making cold calls – literally calling companies I’d find in the Yellow Pages. I posted a telephone script on my wall, and made a minimum of 50 calls per day for the first several months.
My goal was to earn $50,000 in the first year. I believe we ended up billing around $200,000. The next year, we hit $400,000. Then $600,000. Then $1 million. And in year five, our revenues doubled to $2 million. Then $4 million. Then $8 million. The growth itself was a challenge and, at times, overwhelming.
The past 20 years have been a wild ride. It hasn’t been easy — there have been many failures and sleepless nights. Sometimes excruciating pain. But for the most part, it has been incredibly fun. I’m especially grateful for – and proud of – all the wonderful people this company has brought together, including business partners, employees, vendors and clients.
I’ve made so many lifelong friends — that’s the best part.
I don’t know what the future holds for Keybridge Communications, but here’s to hoping that the next 20 years will be as successful and exciting as the last.
Some quick thoughts on the photo below: It was taken on 8/20/03. So about a week after I’d officially formed the LLC. (Funny side note: I came very close to naming the company Foggy Bottom Communications. I’d also originally intended to form a bike-tour company on the C&O Canal, but at the last minute decided to form a PR firm instead.)
Note that I’d actually started working a week or two earlier. I’d found the 400 square-foot space from a sign in the window, and subleased it at a first-year discount from a psychiatrist who needed to break his lease.
You can see from the business card posted on the wall that I’d already had our logo designed (by a friend of my mom’s). We still use that logo today.
I’m sitting in the northeast corner of the office, which we now call the Caddyshack. I still have a copy of the telephone script on the wall. I read that thing aloud over 1,000 times.
I’d picked up the wooden desk from the sidewalk, where it had been dumped by a Georgetown college student.
I look at the kid in that photo, and it makes me both proud and sad. The passage of time. It’s difficult to convey how hard that kid worked those first few years. He never took vacations. He worked every weekend. He rarely left the office before 9pm and often came home after midnight. He lived in that corner.
All that work brought rewards, but there was also a lot of sacrifice. I don’t know where he found the courage or the energy. It was wildly stressful and exhilarating. Twenty years later, I don’t have that kind of energy anymore. The effort now would break me. I certainly couldn’t do it again. I’m grateful that he could.