The Disruptors: Darrell Keezer Of Candybox Marketing

The Disruptors is Pursuit’s new monthly feature that showcases thought leaders and CEOs who are changing the way we do business, how we perceive the startup landscape, taking ideas to the next level. It is where innovation meets a created market where none existed before.


BIO: Darrell Keezer is founder of Candybox Marketing (in 2008), and founder of Launch 48. Candybox was named #188 on Maclean’s fastest growing companies in Canada.

Keezer is author of Pick Up Your Freakin’ Phone: New Rules for Entrepreneurs and was inducted into the Sheridan Business Hall of Fame in 2014. He delivers about fifty keynotes a year across North America, for the likes of Microsoft, the Conference Board of Canada, the Young Entrepreneurs Conference, universities across Canada, Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

ABOUT: Candybox Marketing is a digital marketing agency, focusing on online conversions and conversations – web design, web-app development, high-performing search engine campaigns, fresh social media marketing strategies, and in-person training.

Candybox Marketing is the winner of two Awards of Excellence in Business from the Governor General of Canada. Their portfolio includes companies as Fox Entertainment, The Weather Network, Walk At Home, Unica Insurance, and more.

QUOTABLE: “I decided not to go down all of the traditional routes that they teach you in school, but decided to pick up my freakin’ phone and start making calls. I started by architecting a company that I would love to work in, instead of creating a job that would pull me away from my family.”

NUTSHELL: “Why contribute to the noise when you can change the conversation?”


What is Candybox Marketing’s signature idea?

Darrell: Sometimes people say ‘work smarter, not harder’. I think you really need to do both. My industry has actually, I would say, been cheapened with companies trying to cut corners, outsourcing overseas, cutting any digital corner they can to make a buck.

We are constantly doubling down on resources, innovation, and time for strategy. You can get anything we do, somewhere else. But it’s all worth nothing if it actually doesn’t work at the end. Our focus is our customer’s top line and bottom line – both at the same time. Most of our competitors are focused only on their own bottom line. We feel like if we help our customers succeed, meet their targets, grow their business, and kick the crap out of their competition – when the tide rises, our boats float.

When they are comparing us against our competitor, we give them a magnifying glass and say, ‘Take a deep look at who you are working with, what’s their experience, have they actually successfully grown businesses.’ We don’t talk much about what we do. We just show our portfolio saying, ‘We’ve moved a $10 million company to a $20 million company in three years.’

What do you do to knock people’s socks off?

Darrell: Conversion rates. If we don’t convert people, who cares. We’ve proven time and again that we can get really high conversion rates with well-executed campaigns.

Give me an example of a time where you had to seize an opportunity.

Darrell: A client needed a website. They needed it quick, cheap, and right away. I had no ability to do so. I just started … talking about this new company I was working on, where we sit down with clients for two days and put all content in a template.

I actually didn’t have Launch 48. I called it Two Day Website. I didn’t have people hired or even an office space. As I kept going, their heads kept nodding, and they said, ‘Yes, sign us up.’

I left the office saying, ‘Okay, I’ve got a new company. I’ve got to get an office together, branding, everything in three weeks.’ It was insane.

I just realized there was a massive underserviced area of our market where most digital marketing companies were going very remote, realizing that cuts down on the collaboration. I just, literally, jerked the wheel left and said, ‘Let’s do a bricks and mortar website company.’ We have launched close to 500 websites since that day –about $2 million in revenue.

What is the theme of Pick Up Your Freakin’ Phone?

Darrell: Everybody has a lot of opinions about entrepreneurship, and most of them have been formed over decades of start-ups, industry leaders, and business people. But, the reality is that the rules have changed in the last five to ten years – in some ways quite drastically.

Starting up a company is a lot easier than in the past. And yet, there still is a grind. There is a hustle that one needs to have to start a business. In one sense, entrepreneurship has been romanticized, as a calling to destiny. Part of it is true. Anyone who can start a company: Go.

As soon as you hit day one or day 10 of starting a business, you’ve got to grind like you never have before. You have things that are awkward and challenging. Business isn’t just going to come flying into you in the first couple of weeks. So, it is a summary of the new rules for entrepreneurs for all ages, how to get your business off the ground and start growing it quickly.

Advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Darrell: Launch early and launch often, is a phrase I’ve heard. When we say ‘budding entrepreneurs’ I’d put them in a category called ‘wantrapreneurs’. They desire something but are not doing something about it. Even if it’s small, start something. If you want to have a bike shop, start selling individual bikes. Start with something and learn as you go along.

A lot of people are waiting for permission – either getting a bank loan or VC, or their own family giving approval. Most banks don’t want to invest; most VCs are into high growth and themselves. You aren’t going to receive approval from a lot of people. That’s quite rare. Start it today. If you can’t start a business within one month, my question is, are you ever actually going to do it?


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