Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Interview With Aggie Catholic Josh Simmons

MARCEL - You are the owner of a large Catholic website company (eCatholic). Can you tell us your story about how the company started and where you are today?

JOSH - To be honest, it all kind of started by accident.

After graduating from Texas A&M in 2000, I worked as a Catholic youth minister in Dallas for two years. While there, I taught myself web design so that I could create a website for our teens. In retrospect, the website was terrible. But for 2002, it was pretty cool.

Over the next couple months, I started designing websites for other people and realized that:
1) I loved creating websites and
2) I could make money on the side doing so. 
This would allow me to stay in full-time ministry with a growing family.

In July 2004, while recovering from a tonsillectomy, I taught myself to program and expanded from just web “design” to web “development”. By April 2005, between my role at the parish and my growing business, I was working 80-hour weeks with a wife and two small children at home. Life was beyond hectic and something had to give.

In June 2005, I left my position at the parish to begin the development of eCatholic, a custom content management system for Catholic parishes, dioceses, and schools. In December 2005, I released eCatholic with the hopes that I could get 10-20 parishes signed up. Seven years later, we have grown to a team of five and serve 850+ Catholic clients around the world.

MARCEL - How has your Catholic faith played a part in building your company?

JOSH First, when I quit my job working at the parish, my monthly income from creating websites was only 25% of what my family needed. It took a lot of prayer and a huge leap of faith to step out of the boat and trust that we would not sink. But God is faithful and provided exactly what we needed that first month – and every month since.

Second, I have always tried to incorporate prayer in the business. From day one I have asked God to “give us the customers you want us to have and take away the ones that you don’t.” I also try to apply the principles of discernment to decisions that I make regarding hiring, marketing, and more. In addition, I stop by Eucharistic Adoration on the way to work each morning to pray for my team members and their families, as well as our customers and their service to the Church.

Finally, I have strived to create a Catholic culture around the office. We try to attend daily Mass once a month as a team, as well as open team meetings with prayer. It has been my goal to always treat my team members with respect and dignity and to be a family oriented company.

MARCEL - What is the Catholic Church not doing in New Media / Tech that we need to be doing? Why?

JOSH A lot! The majority of Catholic parish websites are still really bad and very few parishes are utilizing social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. So what do we need to be doing? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Recognize and understand the important role that the internet should play in ministry.
  2. Understand why Catholic parishes need a great website as well as how to create one.
  3. Embrace new media by blogging, tweeting, and facebook-ing.
  4. Offer parishioners online tithing.

In short, we need to meet people where they are – online. Only then can we effectively engage them and bring them into the community of the Church.

MARCEL - What do you think will be the next big thing in New Media / Tech that we should plan for?

JOSH -That’s the billion-dollar question. If I could answer that, I would have created Instagram.

MARCEL - What was your favorite memory of St. Mary’s as a student?

JOSH As a Catholic “revert”, I did not find my way home to the Church until my Senior year at A&M, so unfortunately, I don’t have many memories at St. Mary’s. However, the two memories that I cherish the most were going to daily Mass after class each day with 150+ other students and meeting my wife while staffing Aggie Awakening.

MARCEL - What is your favorite Aggie tradition?

JOSH The 12th Man. After all, it’s so Catholic – 12 men, always eager and ready, one unified body, willing to sacrifice when called upon. Plus, living in College Station, I have the opportunity to experience this tradition on a regular basis.

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