Written by Jodie Jackson of J3 Content King
Imagine a world where a playful T-Rex with equally playful yet serious web development chops discovers a secret but abundant cache of magic pixie dust. Hard to imagine? Then you’ve not seen Erica Martin of Pixel Jam Digital in a T-Rex costume, holding a sign that reads, “Big heart, little arms.”
(Sound a bit eclectic? Nerdy? Erica embraces that persona while also wearing the cape of her dual superhero alter-ego known as “Mom.”)
There’s so much more to the story of this website-creating and website-rescuing superhero, so we’ll let an array of Pixel Jam Digital’s satisfied clients tell it.
Carrie Gartner, executive director of The Loop CID in Columbia, built and published The Loop’s original website, “Just to get it up there,” following the savvy business advice that “published is better than perfect.”
But Carrie, a remarkably creative thinker, was the first to admit, “I can provide data, I can write copy, I can do a lot of things. What I can’t do is fun design; intricate design.”
Carrie takes a deep breath – a satisfied inhale of Pixel Jam Digital magic? – and says, “Erica is so good about that.” Specifically, Carrie had a white background on the original design. But she wanted, well … the street. Not just something that represented Columbia’s colorful, vibrant Business Loop, but she wanted the street, a sight – and website – that also brings to mind the aroma of barbecue, the sound of Moberly Area Community College students chatting in the parking area at Parkade Center, and the quiet whirr of cyclists commuting to work or class.
“I had no way to verbalize that, except say, ‘Look at the street.’” Erica listened carefully – her clients praise her patience and active listening – and went to work. Using that Pixel Jam Digital magic, she flipped the background to black, added some just-right design elements and color, and – voila! – The Loop.
Carrie shakes her head and smiles. “I was able to say something about the design that was vague and impressionistic. Erica was able to translate that into a look and feel for the website. It was fantastic.”
It’s interesting to note that Carrie already had web design chops and understood many of the ins and outs, nuts and bolts of the how-to. That’s not the case for most of us who are mesmerized by those who understand html, Java script, and other coding languages.
Funny, too, that Erica masters that lingo, though she won’t talk down to anyone who doesn’t. Nor will she think less of anyone who, like her, might admit they watched that TikTok of the guy playing ping pong with his Labrador retriever a few (dozen) times.
Perhaps typical of many Pixel Jam Digital clients, the nonprofit Missouri River Relief staff was “very unfamiliar with” WordPress and Oxygen when Erica partnered with them, says Kevin Tosie.
“Near the completion of the project, Erica had met with our entire staff to walk through the WordPress and Oxygen platform and really brought it down to our level,” Kevin explains. “Erica also worked very hard to create a how-to document for our organization, which continues to help us through the editing and maintenance process.”
Hearing a down-to-our-level explanation might just seem like magic pixie dust if only because trying to understand techno techie tech-talk is about as impossible as convincing a Mandalorian to take their helmet off. (Because “this is the way.”)
Lukin Murphy also heaps praise on Pixel Jam Digital’s chief of everything, and if it sounds as if Erica might be a good teacher, then you’re exactly right. Lukin is director of community employment services at EnCircle Technologies, part of the programs of Woodhaven Learning Center.
Erica has taught some classes for EnCircle Technologies, and when the organization launched a microenterprise project that needed a website, Lukin called her again.
“She has an incredible amount of patience for listening and guiding,” Lukin says. “I don’t know anything about web analytics, for instance. She was very careful – when I’m stumbling over words, not using the right terms – instead of correcting me, she kind of meets you at your level and uses layman’s terms.”
Without overloading her speech with tech jargon, Erica quickly helped Lukin and his team understand the need – and the solution.
“She was never like, ‘I’m the expert, I know more than you,’” he explains. “She definitely does, but it doesn’t feel like that.” Lukin adds, “She made a difficult project enjoyable because collaborating with her was fun.”
Erica also has a nifty niche as a presenter to small business classes for Central Bank of Boone County’s ProsperU. Sarah Moreau is the bank’s assistant vice president and community outreach officer, and director of the ProsperU program that offers free financial education and literacy classes.
Sarah was seeking subject matter experts in web design and development, and several individuals in the small business community glowingly recommended Erica Martin of Pixel Jam Digital. That connection paid off immediately.
“She created three small business courses that we’ve been running on somewhat of a rotation for a little over a year now,” Sarah explains. “Erica is amazing. Every time I ask if she can teach, she does.”
But how have her students responded? Here’s a sampling of survey results and feedback:
“Enjoyed the content and speaker.”
“I think the presentation was very well done and would be very useful to a business that would need to start a website.”
When students were asked for suggestions for additional classes, they offered up responses right up Erica’s alley.
· Website maintenance and growth.
· Small business marketing. (Oh, yeah, Erica does that, too.)
Sarah lauds Erica’s professionalism and friendliness as well as the expertise behind Pixel Jam Digital, adding, “She’s done such a nice job of taking that high level content and making it accessible. You don’t have to be an expert to understand what she’s saying.”
As you’ve seen, the key concepts of a partnership with Erica and Pixel Jam Digital are “fun,” “energetic,” “transparent,” and “educational.”
But the secret sauce? “Collaboration.” You know Erica has other clients, but she helps give you a Yoda-like calmness and confidence as she treats you like you are her only client.
Kevin at Missouri River Relief explains, “We know that she had her hands full through the entire process” with her entire schedule, “but she made us feel like we were always on the top of her list.”
Lukin with EnCircle Technologies makes it clear that his nonprofit felt like the only client – even though he knows that isn’t the case. He uses the analogy of a duck gliding on the water, “But under the water, they’re paddling furiously. But you don’t see that” with Pixel Jam Digital.
“I’m sure she’s very busy, but she is also very good about being present, calm – not coming at this with a sense of overwhelm. She may be feeling that, but she doesn’t communicate that.”
Again, he mentions Erica’s “mindful, active listening,” and not being distracted. “She makes it look easy when I’m sure it’s not.”
Steve Schnarr at Missouri River Relief, like Lukin, was especially appreciative of Erica’s understanding of nonprofits.
“Erica worked with the staff at Missouri River Relief through several revisions and worked with us to get things just right,” Steve said in a glowing Facebook testimonial for Pixel Jam Digital. “Questions and concerns were quickly responded to and addressed, and Erica was often available for a quick Zoom meeting to talk things over in person.”
Steve added: “Her attention to detail and understanding of nonprofits helped make our project a success.”
Remember how Carrie described Erica’s ability to take vague concepts and turn them into “Aha!”, as if Erica knew the Business Loop? Well, there’s a little more to that story. Carrie explains.
“Erica absolutely loves what we’re doing on the Business Loop. She was aware of what we were doing” with beautification, multi-use functions, and other focused additions or improvements, Carrie says. In fact, Erica had even reserved the Loop’s pop-up park for a previous event.
“She came at this project not like it’s a job, but as a way to use her experiences on the street to build us a great website,” Carrie continues.
That positive critique gets a big ditto from Lukin, who adds, “When we met, it was apparent that she had spent time thinking about and researching the topic.”
It’s safe to say that Lukin and Carrie can describe the essence of what makes Erica Martin and Pixel Jam Digital tick.
“She’s got a huge heart,” Lukin says. “She chooses a lot of her projects and how she spends her time based not on how much it’s going to benefit her or her finances, but how it’s good for the community. She definitely makes that a priority, and that’s something I appreciate.”
Carrie explains, “I got the sense all the time with Erica that she loves local business and she loves local activities.” That’s an equation that adds up nicely for Carrie.
If your brand, business, or organization is looking for a super nerd and is ready to unleash the power of a web developer with a big heart (and little arms) the portal to that world is now open to you.