Grad-owned business makes online marketing ‘worthwhile’

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Grad-owned business makes online marketing ‘worthwhile’

Worthwhile has been in the business of online marketing since the early days of the Internet. Photo: Dave Saunders

Worthwhile is a company that has always been a little ahead of its time: a fact that can be seen even in the name of its website, Worthwhile.com. Today, buying such a clear and concise website name would cost a fortune. But when Worthwhile came on the scene, the Internet was a bit less crowded.

The Internet has become such a part of our everyday life that it’s almost impossible to imagine life without it, but in the early 1990s the Web was in its infancy, and people were only beginning to realize the potential of this new technology. Worthwhile began right on the cusp of this growth. It was in the mid-1990s that Jonathan Pait, co-founder of Worthwhile, began doing something that has led to the founding of many companies: experimenting.

While working as Dr. Bob Jones III’s administrative assistant, Pait began dabbling with the Internet. At the time, the University was just beginning to create an online presence — the beginnings of today’s bju.edu — and Pait was helping with the effort. In an endeavor to make the website more useful, Pait was attempting to take Scripture passages and put links in the text so users would need only to click on a word to get cross-references and linguistics information. Today, such a feature is commonplace, but back then it was both a novel idea and an enormous undertaking.

Pait’s ambition and ability with design caught the eye of then head of the computer science department, Dan Wooster. After seeing Pait’s ambitious Bible project, Pait said Wooster exclaimed, “You can’t do all that! It’s going to kill you. I can find a student who could do that in no time!”

Thus began the partnership between Pait and Wooster: Pait would handle the design side, and Wooster would take care of the technical aspect.

The Internet has grown a lot since the ’90s, and Worthwhile has grown right along with it. The company that started with three founders has expanded to 45 employees with offices in Charlotte and Greenville and now serves businesses all over the world.

As the Internet has become more and more crucial to businesses, the services Worthwhile provides have become equally as important. Initially businesses would come to Worthwhile and request only a website design, but now Worthwhile’s process and relationship with businesses goes much deeper.

Companies still come to Worthwhile for beautifully designed websites, but as Wooster explained, the people at Worthwhile want to do so much more than make a website. “There’s not a company, ministry or organization on this planet that doesn’t need what we do,” he said. “Whether it’s web design, branding, programming, app building, they all need it. So what we do is find companies who realize they need us and partner with them.”

It’s in this business process that you can begin to see what makes Worthwhile different from other similar companies. Rather than waiting for businesses to come for help, Worthwhile proactively searches for businesses whose needs match the company’s expertise. Then, Worthwhile does a total evaluation of that prospective client, looking for problems that could be solved with technology. The client can then either accept Worthwhile’s proposal or take the information gained from the evaluation and look elsewhere for help.

This unique practice reflects the idea of sticking to your standards, an important quality to the company’s co-founders and CEO.

Wooster emphasized the importance in starting a business by finding people who share your worldview. Whether you’re looking for a partner to start a business with or hiring an employee, he said it’s crucial to find someone with whom your core values align. “Ninety-five percent of our employees are BJU graduates. You come into some hard situations in business. You had better be on the same page philosophically,” Wooster said.

Worthwhile has standards for the employees it hires, and it also has standards regarding those to whom it provides services. Though Worthwhile believes, as Wooster said, that every company needs Worthwhile’s services, that does not mean Worthwhile is interested in working with every company. As CEO Dan Rundle explained, “We are going to draw lines based on our values. Our values are creativity, curiosity, honor and service. There are plenty of companies that don’t align with those, and we’re going to choose to work with the ones who do.”

Worthwhile is looking for companies who share three goals: user focus, co-creation and disruption. The company’s website up sums these goals when it says Worthwhile is looking for “true partnership.” Worthwhile wants to work with companies on a peer-to-peer level to bring substantial change to the company.

Worthwhile’s striving for excellence extends even to its charitable work. Rather than trying to help every single organization that needs help with digital marketing, Worthwhile created Web for Good, a nonprofit organization that finds charitable organizations in need of Worthwhile’s services. “The purpose of Web for Good is to select one ministry or nonprofit organization each year that can get the full slate of our services completely free,” Rundle said. “We’ve been able to do several projects, and it’s been a blast. The team has really loved it, and we’ve been able to make a real difference in those ministries.”

One organization Worthwhile has helped is A Child’s Haven, a Greenville organization that seeks to help young at-risk children who have faced developmental challenges. Web for Good also assisted the I Do It For Foundation, an organization that helps to raise money for people in need.

In a world where compromising standards is commonplace, Worthwhile’s goal is to stand in contrast. Whether it’s choosing clients, employees or charity work, Worthwhile looks to go beyond what is easy.

As a company, Worthwhile seeks to do something that makes a lasting difference in the world: something that is truly worthwhile.