Websites & Networking

Podcast with Kris Fassler of Alloy Six

Podcast: Websites & Networking

In this episode of the Banowetz Marketing Podcast, Kris Fassler talks with Sarah about his experience as an entrepreneur building connections in the community and helping people get the right kind of website for their needs.


– Well thank you Kris Fassler for being on.

– [Kris] Yes, no problem.

– Use your whole name here.

– Yes, thanks for having me.

– So this is the Banowetz Marketing podcast and our guest today, I’m super excited about, is Kris Fassler of Alloy Six.

– [Kris] Yup.

– Is there an end to that, Alloy Six?

– Alloy Six LLC.

– LLC! I’m like “I thought there was something else there!”

– I usually leave the LLC off.

– [Sarah] Yeah, makes sense. So you do website design?

– [Kris] Yes.

– And you are based out of the NewBo area in Cedar Rapids?

– [Kris] Yep.

– So tell us a little bit about yourself.

– So Alloy Six, I actually just changed the name at the beginning of this year.

– Okay.

– It was Fassler Marketing.

– Okay.

– Super creative, I know. But I changed that at the beginning of this year. But as a business, been on my own for this is the fourth year now. And so, before that worked for a company that built websites and was kinda doing some freelance stuff along the side of that as well. And I just decided to go out on my own and do my own thing. I’ve always been an entrepreneur business owner so felt like the right time. So, since 2016.

– [Sarah] Awesome.

– Been running my own business, doing website design and bunch of other random stuff that clients ask me for, too, but primarily web design.

– Okay.

– So, it’s been good.

– So how did you come up with, it’s probably pretty obvious and I just don’t get it, the name Alloy Six.

– Alloy Six? So I was looking for something that was simple.

– Okay.

– There was a little bit of strategy involved.

– Okay.

– Starts with A so it’s at the top of the alphabet.

– Yes, Yup.

– For search,

– Of course.

– something that was easy. So I’m sitting here at my keyboard. What’s easy to type? Alloy, ya know an alloy is a combination of metals, so.

– Mm-hmm.

– And marketing. Marketing is a combination of things, right?

– [Sarah] Yes.

– So same thing with a website of whatever. I wanted Alloy One but it was taken.

– Did you get all the way to six or what?

– No, six was just the next in line out of my brain.

– [Sarah] Oh okay.

– Six is random, alloy was–

– [Sarah] Not random.

– It was calculated I’d say.

– [Sarah] I like it.

– Yeah.

– I like it. Okay so tell us a little about family. Do you have wife, kids?

– Nope, none.

– [Sarah] Oh, okay, sorry.

– That was a quick overview. I have parents and a brother.

– Did you grow up in this area or where did you grow–

– I did, yup. So I’m from Cedar Rapids originally.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– I went Prairie High School, so I’m a south-side boy.

– Well, then we, ’cause we went to Solon. I think you know that, cause–

– Yeah.

– Yeah, so we’re like rivals.

– Yup, we never got, We weren’t when I was in school.

– Really?

– Yup.

– Oh, when I was, okay so we graduated in 2001, I did, and Prairie and Solen had a huge sports rivalry.

– Gotcha. We must have been not much better at the time. Solen wasn’t on the radar, so I graduated in ’97,

– [Sarah] Okay,

– So a couple of years older.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– But,

– [Sarah] So siblings?

– Yup, one older brother.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– Yup, he lives in town.

– [Sarah] Awesome.

– A couple of nieces and nephews.

– Awesome, awesome. Okay so, when a client comes to you and they’ve just said “I need a website”, what is one of the first things that you do? To qualify what exactly they need.

– [Kris] Yeah, exactly.

– Right.

– You have to dig a little bit deeper. So my experience as an entrepreneur business owner, you know started multiple businesses, just being around entrepreneurs in my life, it’s allowed me to understand how to ask good questions, and really kind of dig down and understand what a client’s business is, what do they do, what’s their, what do they wanna be known for, what product or service they offer. So I start asking a lot of questions on, a lot of people say they need this or that, or website or whatever, sometimes that’s actually not what they need, so I start with just asking questions and figuring out is it a website or is it something else. So that’s my first task. It’s really just digging in,

– So, if it’s not a website, are we talking about like a Facebook page, or an app, or?

– Potentially, yeah. So, giving an example, so somebody’s building or making some sort of trinket or whatever, and so they want to sell it online, so somebody comes and says, “I need a website,”

– [Sarah] Yeah. Well, maybe not.

– Well, maybe not. Maybe you should just sell your stuff on Etsy,

– [Sarah] Yes.

– And, go that way. So that’s an example of what I’m talking about. People think they just, “I need a website”, well “how come?” “I don’t know, everybody’s got one, “I should probably get one”. It’s probably true 90% of the time, but it may not be. I just start to ask questions and figure out what are they trying to accomplish with that.

– And when someone needs a website when do you recommend, if you do, a DIY website, like Wix, or Squarespace.

– Yeah if somebody’s like, “I wanna put up a website for my wedding” or some event, or something that’s simple, so the websites that I do they’re pretty involved, and so you know when you’re talking thousands of dollars to build a website, it could be outta somebody’s budget. So that’s when you go to Wix or some other Squarespace, Weebly, or some other DIY thing that they can do on their own. Or if it’s a new, maybe it’s a newer business, somebody’s got a hobby that they wanna try turn into a business, maybe they start with an MVP, like let’s not drop $5000 on a website right now, if you don’t even know that the business is gonna be around in a year, and so it’s situational obviously, and so you’ve just gotta dig down, really find out what the best solution is for the client instead of “Hey, someone’s gonna pay me to build a website.” That’s not doing them the best service in my opinion.

– Yeah. And what do you typically build your websites on?

– Typically WordPress. If it’s up to me, that’s my first choice. But depending on if somebody’s just gotta, they just wanna sell something like I said before, Shopify is obviously a great option, I’ve built websites with Shopify, built websites on Squarespace, so usually it just kinda depends, but I would say WordPress is my go-to, for a number of reasons obviously, it’s the most widely used platform, and I don’t know the percentages but the majority of websites on the internet are built with WordPress

– Yeah.

– You can customize them pretty much to do whatever you want. There’s a huge community of developers that build plugins that you can customize and really do a ton with WordPress.

– Well and, yeah and they grow with your business too because large companies use WordPress and small companies use WordPress.

– [Kris] Yes, yup.

– I actually got, I know how to, I know enough about websites to be a little dangerous, a little more than, a little less, but the reason I got into designing, not that I am, I’m not a designer, but the reason I got into knowing what I do know is because as I got into marketing through photography, and needing a photography website, there’s so many DIY photography websites and I was just not impressed with any of them, especially for search engine optimization, which they are getting better at,

– Sure.

– But, seven years ago, WordPress was the, if you really wanted to have a good site it was WordPress. There’s a learning curve, but once you know it I feel like having the skills to be able to edit a WordPress website is something that, to me, is just, I think it’s just very helpful because we can source people like you who can do the heavy lifting, but to be able to go in and make small modifications to your website and everything. Do many of your clients have capabilities to make small modifications to their websites?

– To an extent.

– [Sarah] Okay.

– A lot of my clients are very, in terms of their level of willingness or wantingness, to actually get in and do something. I would say in terms of design, that’s actually pretty set, and in terms of content, if they want to go in and change content or they want to add a blog article or something like that, my goal is to make it as easy as possible for the client to go in and do something if they want to do it, instead of hamstringing them to having to call me every time.

– Well, yeah, so putting blogs up is a perfect example because you probably don’t wanna be doing that all the time for your clients, right?

– No I do not. Yeah.

– Yeah, that’s actually one reason why I would really not wanna be with WordPress, or any kind of website developer is because I’m just kind of like, I wanna get my project done and move on,

– Yeah.

– It would be just constant.

– Yeah. I tailor the needs of my services based on what my client needs. So there’s some people, I want to empower them to be able to be confident to log in, to do somethin’, add a post, do whatever. But there’s other clients, they just wanna email me and say, “Hey, can you do this for me?” Because they’re just not,

– They don’t wanna touch it.

– Tech savvy, they don’t wanna touch it, they don’t wanna break anything, which is fine. But I don’t have necessarily the bandwidth to do that for all my clients, and so they just gotta figure out what the right mix is for people. And in terms of WordPress on the back-end, like I said I try to make it as easy as possible for people to do what they need to do without blowing the site up. But in terms of design, a lot of times that’s just set, it is what it is,

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– and if they wanna add something then it’s kinda a dynamic feed, for a WordPress site, just trying to make it as easy as possible.

– So Kris, when someone comes to you and they say, “Okay, I need a website, “this is the kind of website I’m looking for,” and you can tell that’s up your alley, that’s something that you could help them with, what is your process going forward with them on that?

– So like I mentioned before, I like to ask a lot of questions. I’ll usually schedule a meeting or I can sit down with them, meet them, have them tell me about their business, what they do, what they’re trying to accomplish, and then I’m really good at filling in the gaps with people because a lot of times people know their business, right they know what they do, but they don’t necessarily know how to explain it to somebody else or to a larger audience in terms of what it looks like on a website. I’m able to kind of fill in the gaps for a lot of people just because of my background as a entrepreneur and just so a little bit more background, I helped build some entrepreneurial resources here in the area, in hub, and so running different events, entrepreneurial events, I talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs, and so listening to hundreds of different pitches and businesses allowed me to gain more understanding of what that looks like for business owners,

– And what the end user is wanting to see?

– Yes, yup. And I can kind of guide people down the process of, “Okay, here’s what we need to do, in terms of your website,” and then from there I’ll kind of develop a plan of here’s what the website should look like, here’s some marketing messaging that we can use, and so I’ll just ease them into that process and really just fill in some gaps for them, answer questions for them, and really just try to take an understanding of their business. Does that make sense?

– Yeah. And then after you get the overview from them, after that initial meeting, do you put together some concepts to give to them, or what happens next?

– Yeah, so ill put together a proposal, outline some things that we’re looking to accomplish, and a lot of times it depends on the client and what their budget is, I typically won’t necessarily do mock-ups of a website,

– Okay.

– With different iterations or anything like that. It’s honestly easier for me to just build a website,

– Yeah.

– As opposed to build a mock-up in Photoshop, iterate on that, show it to the client, gets feedback, iterate on it again, and then, start the design on the website.

– [Sarah] That makes perfect sense.

– Because a lot of times you can do everything that you wanna do in Photoshop, right on the WordPress website based on how I build them. Fortunately, because I’ve done a good enough job on the front end understanding what people want and what message they’re trying to get across, when I show somebody the first version or first draft, they’re like, “This is great.”

– [Sarah] Yeah. Fortunately I haven’t had a whole lotta people say, “This sucks, we need to do it over,” which is good. But it’s easy to make changes, which is nice.

– What do you do when someone comes to you and their logo needs to be modified, like they need a graphic artist. Homemade logo, they need to have a graphic artist, their text is poor and they have really poor images. Do you refer them to different people, or how to do you go about building a great looking website with poor design tools that you wouldn’t have any control over?

– Yeah. If their logo is just not good,

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– A lot of times I’ll make a logo for them,

– [Sarah] Okay.

– I’ll be like here, here’s your logo.

– Love it.

– Sometimes they’re just Microsoft Word,

– [Sarah] Yes.

– Here’s a font I like,

– [Sarah] Yup.

– Turn that into an image. When I first started my company I would do logos for people, I learned quickly that it’s not the best use of my time,

– Yeah.

– Can I do logo? Yes. Do I want to? No. So I’ll refer that onto either, if they’re looking for a full brand identity I’ll refer that onto somebody that I know does that sort of stuff, if they’re looking for a logo, they don’t wanna spend a ton of money on it, I might refer them to like a Fiverr or some other logo design company that they can get a nice logo for pretty inexpensive. Or if it’s something that they don’t wanna spend any money on, I’ll spend a few minutes and do something for them. But typically, if they ask me to do a logo I’m gonna refer them to somebody else.

– Yeah. What about imagery? Do you sometimes get into stock photos?

– A lot of times I have to, ’cause I’ve just found most people just don’t have good high quality photos of their company or anything that portrays their business in a good light. So I’ll use some websites, Unsplash is one that I use a lot. I try to stay away from the really cheesy stock photos ’cause those are pretty bad, obviously. You know if you can do a good job of finding images that are nice that can do a good representation, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using, quote, unquote, stock images if they fit.

– [Sarah] Yeah. So what’s your favorite part of website design?

– So I’m a builder,

– [Sarah] Okay.

– I like building stuff, I like creating stuff, whether it’s a website or I’m in the process of designing a house that I wanna build for myself.

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– Wanted to be an architect when I was in high school, so I’m a creator,

– [Sarah] Yeah. Makes sense.

– And so my favorite part is just building something and be like, “Look what I have created.” The completion of it, and then when you turn it over to the client and they’re happy, and they’re like, “This is amazing,” and when you do it for, I’ve re-done a lot of websites that other companies have done, for three times the budget and a tenth of the quality,

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– And you do it for somebody else, and they’re like, “Thank you, this is amazing.” That’s probably the best part, building it, turning it over to the client, and they love it.

– Very, very awesome, very awesome. Okay so lastly, you have had a huge influence on the Cedar Rapids business arena and it should have been our first question, but let’s end with this,

– [Kris] Sure.

– So what are all the things that you have done?

– Back in 2011 timeframe I believe,

– [Sarah] Okay.

– I don’t remember, it’s been seven or eight years ago already, so a couple buddies of mine and myself had an idea for an app that we’re gonna build, so we just started seeking out people in the community, realized that the entrepreneurial community really wasn’t that robust in the area and so we joined a co-working space called The Vault Co-Working. In the midst of probably over the next year the two folks that founded The Vault, Andy Stole and Amanda West, were off doing other projects, so it was basically, it was either gonna fold or somebody had to take it over, so I volunteered to run the space. At the time there was about 10 or 15 entrepreneurs that were either one or two man shops that were trying to build some stuff or just individual entrepreneurs that were doing their own business. We’re located in the Guaranty Bank building, downtown Cedar Rapids, at the time. And I realized for my own needs, because I needed a network of people that knew how to build a company, this was before I was really doing anything with websites or anything like that, didn’t know anything about building apps or starting a company or growing a company like that, so we really started to get into, “Who do we talk to, to do this?” and so found out there really wasn’t anybody, there was, just nobody knew about them, nobody knew how to connect with them, and so that was a goal of mine and some other folks in the area. So over probably the next two years, I really started to develop some programs within that. There’s a program called One Million Cups,

– [Sarah] Yes.

– That I got connected with, and it originally started out in Kansas City, and then we brought it to Cedar Rapids as the original organizer for that. So the One Million Cups program, Cedar Rapids was the sixth city in the United States to bring that program to the area, and now I think it’s probably over 100 cities,

– [Sarah] Wow.

– Kinda organized that, and really the goal was to bring a community of entrepreneurs together to meet each other, figure out who needs help, who do I need to connect people with, and so that’s been really good. Over the process of the last six or seven years a lot of people have come together to accelerate that. For me it was, “Okay, we need to do this,” ’cause I had some selfish needs for that and it wasn’t something that I wanted to do forever, there’s other people better suited for that long-term, that are doing that now, ’cause I knew I wanted to run my own company,

– Yeah.

– Right, but I wanted to, we also needed to bring people together to bring a community of people, so that if people like me are starting a business, there’s a place to go, and so that place today, in my mind, is down in NewBo, in the building that I’m in

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– So it’s just a great opportunity for people to build a company. Now out of that is the NewBoCo and the Iowa Startup Accelerator,

– And Iowa BIG, is that part of,

– [Kris] Iowa BIG is not necessarily part of that,

– Okay.

– They’re just in the building. So Iowa BIG was a member of Vault,

– [Sarah] Okay.

– Originally, ’cause they wanted to get out of the school building and teach kids in an entrepreneurial environment, so they’ve been involved in Vault basically since the beginning. So, it’s been good to see that process, I don’t really have any involvement in that anymore just ’cause I’m building my own business,

– Yeah. For about three years, you know I was heavily involved in trying to help everybody else and kind of build a community, and there’s a lot of people that have come together and taken that ten steps higher than what I ever did.

– There’s a lot going on in that area.

– [Kris] Yes.

– And then you know my uncle, Frank Camp.

– [Kris] Yep.

– Right.

– [Kris] Yep. Frank’s in the building,

– He’s a volunteer attorney. Well not volunteer, I guess he does,

– [Kris] Pretty sure he’s on the payroll.

– He’s on the payroll.

– Maybe volunteer for you. No he doesn’t. Well no that’s not true, he did give us some advice. My mom just actually just purchased 25% of Banowetz Marketing,

– Oh nice.

– And so I have my own, Banowetz Marketing has their own attorney and then he looked over the papers and gave us some free advice on that.

– Frank looked over some papers of mine that had too, on another company that I have. He’s good.

– [Sarah] He’s a good guy. So he’s my moms brother.

– Gotcha.

– My moms older brother.

– Cool.

– Yeah, he’s a good guy, and they grew up in this area, so yeah that’s pretty cool.

– We know a lotta the same people, and the cool thing about the entrepreneurial community is that, because of that, because there’s sort of a hub, a lot of people can get connected, so if somebody’s got a question about whatever, if you’re connected in the community, “Oh, I need you to talk to so-and-so,” instead of just like, “What do I do?” I think a lot of entrepreneurs or a lot of business owners they’re stuck because they don’t know what to do next, and so the cool thing I think about Cedar Rapids and Iowa City is that people are willing to help each other

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– Just like, give you some free advice. Point you in the right direction.

– And that’s how I got connected with you anyway too because I won’t say who it was ’cause I don’t wanna get them in trouble, but I asked, I just said listen, this is what I said, “I’ve got very high standards, “I want to get connected with a solid web designer, “you know a lot of people, “and you know a lot of web designers, “But if you had to go to the one person “who would that be?” And they responded right away, and they said, “Kris Fassler,” and I said, “Okay,”

– Cool. My reputation precedes me, apparently.

– And then, I’ve been throwing your name around with my clients too because that’s the thing, is I’m like listen, Banowetz Marketing, I wanna connect people, I want to be kind of like the wheelhouse or whatever to just connect everybody and I’ll be frank to say I’m not a web designer, I’m not a web developer and I don’t wanna be constantly managing your websites and this is who you need to go to and everything.

– Yep. So basically all of my business, coming back to your point of referring people, so it’s just me, I don’t have any employees or anything like that, so my ability to stay in business is based on my reputation of who I am as a person and the quality of work that I produce, and so for three and a half years I’ve not done any marketing of my business,

– It’s just been word of mouth.

– It’s just been word of mouth, because,

– Which is the best marketing, by the way.

– It is. It’s like, if you do go to work and you’re good to people, you charge a fair price, then people are gonna refer you.

– [Sarah] Yeah.

– It’s been great, and that’s just ingrained into me.

– Yeah, yeah.

– Yep.

– Okay, so if people wanna get in touch with you how do they find you?

– Yep. They can go to It’s A-L-L-O-Y-S-I-X dot com,

– Perfect.

– And contact information is on there. My email’s Kris, K-R-I-S

– Perfect. Well thanks for being on the show today Kris.

– Yes, thanks for having me.

– I really appreciate it.

– Yep, thank you it’s been good. Appreciate it.

– And, thanks for joining us. Follow Banowetz Marketing on all of our social media channels and reach out to us if you have any marketing questions and we will talk to you later, bye.