For many members of the Class of 2020, surviving their first year of college amid a global pandemic was plenty to accomplish. Maryville’s Jackson Greene, however, also started his own digital marketing business.
Greene had volunteered with the media department at First Baptist Church of Alcoa starting in 2015, and in 2019 became director of media ministries at the age of 17. He led a team ranging from adolescents to older adults and was responsible for Sunday and Wednesday service production, as well as the church website and social media.
Settling into college at Middle Tennessee State University, he connected with the campus ministry and a local church and took a part-time job for a few months delivering food through the DoorDash service.
During winter break, family friends asked him to look at their business website and social media, hiring him as director of digital marketing. He already had made some videos for them, and worked construction cleanup while he was in high school.
By year’s end Greene had redone the website for M Squared Custom Homes, and the owners encouraged him to start his own business.
The toughest part, Greene said, was finding a name he liked that wasn’t already in use. At one point he began looking at Bible verses and recalled the life verse in a Bible he received at age 12.
The website for his company, Pursuit Digital, includes the verse from 1 Timothy 6:11 that inspired the name: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”
On Jan. 1, before he turned 19, Greene officially owned his own business.
He knew recruiting clients could be a challenge, so he built his reputation first. His next client was part of his extended family, the owner of Hutton Fly, a fishing company based in the Bahamas.
Finding his niche
Greene was in sixth grade when he first began editing videos for his family. At Maryville High School he took classes in audio and video production, computer science principles and information technology.
He learned skills he could immediate put to work at First Baptist Alcoa, editing video, adding a map feature to the website and improving the Wi-Fi signal.
Still he was unsure of his next path. “I didn’t have one thing that I loved,” Greene said. “I like coding; I don’t love coding. I like shooting video; I don’t love shooting video.”
The MTSU media arts program allows him to bring everything together as he pursues a major in interactive media with a minor in video and film production.
Advance Placement classes at Maryville High as well as credits earned through the College Level Examination Program at MTSU have allowed Greene to complete requirements quickly, and this past semester all of his classes were related to his major or minor, such as one on writing for interactive experiences.
“Literally I would get off the Zoom for that class and be like, ‘That is a great idea. I’m going to go change that on this post right now,’” said Greene, who’s currently managing social media for three clients.
Shining at Starlight
The spring semester was particularly hectic when Greene worked on the Maryville City Schools Foundation’s Starlight Gala, held at multiple locations because of the pandemic.
Greene edited prerecorded videos for the event and prepared the hosts with written instructions and a Zoom meeting, reminding them, for example, to not let their kids take up bandwith in the home by streaming a movie or playing Fortnite during the event.
The day of the gala he set up in the control room at Maryville with five monitors and managed the livestream to dozens of locations, including a live auction.
While he was livestreaming at FBA, Greene said there was never a Sunday without some type of hiccup, but over about four hours the gala went off without a hitch. “I didn’t get a single phone call the entire night about an issue,” he said.
At the same time he was working on the gala, Greene entered a business plan competition for MTSU students and alumni, which he heard about through an entrepreneurship class.
“It was intimidating,” he said, noting he appeared to be the youngest competitor by far.
In addition to answering questions about his business plan, he had to create an elevator pitch, PowerPoint presentation and more.
Pursuit Digital took fourth place, earning a $2,500 prize for Greene.
If he can take needed classes during summer and winter sessions, Greene could complete his degree by December 2022.
In the meantime Pursuit Digital has at least 10 clients, and he’s talking with more. He preparing to launch a revised website next week for Revolution Dance in Knoxville.
He’s also putting his talents to work for church again, developing pro bono a website for a new giving initiative at City Church of Murfreesboro.
Greene is learning things that may not be covered in the classroom, such as how to communicate with clients, manage the scope of projects and understand the value of his work.
After all, right now his business expenses are low.
He runs Pursuit Digital out of his parents’ house with a MacBook Pro, two monitors and an old iPad2 for music. He manages most of the social media work from his iPhone XR, which he also uses to shoot video when needed.
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