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Jarad Johnson, 28
Designer and Partner at Mostly Serious
ï¡¿Founded in 2010 by Jarad Johnson, Zack Bonebrake, Joe Donohue and Clay McGee, Mostly Serious has rapidly grown into a go-to web-design shop. As head designer, Johnson—who started in the industry by building websites for his high school teachers—works daily with clients including Farmers Park, Marlin and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. His projects range from full-blown corporate websites to the nonprofit crowdfunding platform Cause Momentum. He also works on in-house products including a streamlined web-hosting company and a location-based gaming app, like FourSquare but with head-to-head contests.
Johnson is also growing Springfield’s network of imaginative thinkers through the group Springfield Creatives, which is expanding to include a monthly mixer for anyone with a hat in the creative market.
But Johnson’s give-back and grow-together mentality extends beyond the office. As a strong local-food advocate, he has put his talents to use for Springfield Community Gardens. He works pro bono and serves on the group’s board to help produce more than 2,000 pounds of produce in the Grant Beach neighborhood. “This is a great way to start [the movement] at the bottom,” he says. “There were children who couldn’t identify what a potato was… that’s unacceptable as a community and as a nation.”
Occupation: Co-Founder & Designer, Mostly Serious
Education: Some College
1. How did you end up at your current job/profession?
Growing up, my best friend’s dad would pay us to haul hay with him through the summer. After saving up for a year, I managed to buy the parts and build a computer. (It had LED lights built into the case!) There were programs on the computer that let you build websites if you could write a bit of HTML. I became infatuated and would sneak onto the computer after my parents went to sleep, so I could design websites for anyone who would pay. I sold my first website to my Spanish teacher for $25. I have continually moved up to bigger and better projects, but the foundation started there. I found something that I absolutely loved to do, so I just kept doing it.
2. Where do you find passion to do what you do?
I watched my parents work their hands to the bone running a business they started when they were young themselves. They were driven to provide for their family. They were driven to give me the opportunity to do what I love. Find what you love, and you will have found passion.
3. Tell us about your family.
I am married to my perfect partner, Laura Greene-Johnson, and our first child will be born in July.
4. What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
I play basketball as often as possible, am somewhat of a fantasy sports nut, and am part of the generation that gets away with calling video games a hobby.
5. Are you involved in any charitable organizations? (If so, what are they, and what is your role? Why is it important to you?)
I have always wanted to give back to the community in the most beneficial way possible, and for me and our team that has always meant working with charitable organizations to improve their online focuses. In the past few years, I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity, Kadyn’s Krew and The Ozarks Literacy Council. We were also honored to work with Community Foundation of the Ozarks and The Marlin Network to create Cause Momentum, a local crowd funding tool for non-profits.
I also serve on the Springfield Community Gardens advisory board to continue to improve our online presence as we grow. Last year we produced more than 2,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables for the Grant Beach neighborhood, and we are looking to expand our outreach both in the Grant Beach neighborhood and to a second community garden located near Smith Park.
6. Are you a member of any professional organizations? (If so, what are they, and what is your role?)
Around the time that we started Mostly Serious, I also started a simple Facebook group called Springfield Creatives. Over time the idea grew, and we began organizing monthly presentations and meet ups (more appropriately named “drink ups”), and we used the Facebook group to help spread ideas and discussion throughout the community. We have revamped the group in 2014 and, with the help of some brilliant local creative leaders, are hoping to see it become a better resource for people living in the 417 area.
7. How would you define the secret to success?
A desire to shape the world and an understanding that the world is malleable.
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
I walk into an office full of the most intelligent, driven people I’ve ever met, and we have the privilege of creating things for clients and ourselves.
9. What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
When it comes to creative people working in the tech industry, we have seen leaders find their footing in Springfield and move on to Austin, San Francisco, and New York to chase their dreams. It is amazing to grow around such talent and, more recently, see that talent stick around and set up shop in Springfield. The next 20 years look very promising for creative folks choosing to live in 417-land.
10. If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Listen to better music. We all went through the Linkin Park phase. Sorry if you’re still in it.
11. What was your “dream job” at age 5?
Depending on the time of year, either playing in the NFL or NBA. I secretly still have this dream.
12. List three traits that define a successful career:
Willingness to take chances, understanding how to fail gracefully, and being stubborn as hell that you will reach your goals next time.
13. Why are you a 20 under 30?
I have lucked into being surrounded by amazing people throughout my career. From my first design job to the partners and team at Mostly Serious, I have continued to be given an unfair advantage by those I work with. The pat on the back I would give myself is being able to keep up with them.
14. What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
We have spent years creating a revolutionary mobile game where users battle over real world locations, turning day-to-day life into a constant battle for survival. It is the first game of its kind, and we’re excited to expand our beta testing group to other members of the 417 community soon, before releasing the game to a national audience in mid-2014.
We will also be launching two of our largest client projects to date in 2014, and we will be excited to announce their launch dates as we approach completion.
15. What completed project are you most proud of?
We launched our first online product, Servious, last year. Servious simplifies website hosting for people who don’t understand—or don’t want to mess with—databases, apps, and other highly technical issues that come along with traditional hosting. Just as our mobile game aims to change the way people play on the go, Servious aims to change the way people host websites.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
Family makes life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without a NERF dart to the head.
Ten years from now, I hope I’m living in a moon house.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would run a Mother’s Brewing tap line to the office.
The best part about being a 20 under 30 is the best is yet to come.