About our EVP of Marketing, Tony Ford

Growing up in a small town in Northern Michigan, I got to see first-hand the power of community and community media. My first job was at the only radio station in the county, and we did whatever crazy thing the community wanted on the air. From the hospital report (who was admitted and who got out) to the town budget (we read it line by line and it didn’t take very long), we served community needs first. It was quirky, but every day we made a difference.

After receiving my Bachelors Degree at Central Michigan University, I managed a small community radio station. We struggled to balance business success with the diverse interests and needs of vastly different yet equally vibrant communities. I honestly don’t know if we ever found the right balance. Every day brought conflicting agendas and competing requests for limited resources. There were fights, tears, laughter and joy. But again, every day we made a difference in the community and I do know that my work positively impacted thousands of artists, musicians, and citizens.

John and I met in business school. We were both committed to improving our community but could never seem to figure out how to make the ideas we bounced back and forth work financially in the long term. The MBA program instructors weren’t much help, focusing everything on profit, expenses, and the usual corporate stuff. We both toed the line and wrote the papers we were expected to write, all the while spending off hours in conversations about how to use these business methods to make a positive impact in the world.

With a freshly minted MBA in hand, I left community media and went to work for a fortune 500 company. I put in long hours and worked in a variety of fields, managing Six Sigma projects, becoming a sales coach, completing a two year leadership training program and eventually managing a $60 million business. At the end of each 12 hour day, I realized that all of my efforts, while often benefitting customers and employees, were still just about lining the pockets of a giant multi-national corporation.

I missed community media and the education, inspiration, and innovation of that type of organization. I kept in contact with John over the years, and one day he called me with a new idea to fulfill the promise of those late night business school discussions. As it turns out, John was following the same path as I was, and realizing the same things about business and community. John’s idea was a winner. The more we discussed, the more it expanded to serve a community and positively impact people. The ideas from those first discussions were revolutionary. I mean insomnia-inducing-floor-pacing revolutionary. We discussed how to completely abolish old thinking about how an artisan sales site operated. We discussed how to create an organic, community driven organization that could completely change both how artisans made a living and how creativity could improve the planet. After couple of phone calls, I was sold. John invited me to join the team and I saw an opportunity to make a difference and work with someone who shared the vision of a community responsive business.

Now, here I sit with a strong cup of coffee and my head buzzing with caffeine and the overwhelming potential impact of the site we are building. In the next office, my old friend and new leader is writing a similar history and buzzing with both the same coffee and the same energy of what we are building. I hope you will join us in helping artfire.com reach its true potential. As a community we can change the world, one artist at a time.

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