The village of Brookfield may have taken a pass on local digital marketing company Boxless Media when it came to hiring a consultant to lead a new marketing effort, but that hasn’t stopped the company’s founder, Jason Baumann, from pursuing parallel efforts in that regard.
Baumann, a native of Chicago’s Southwest Side, started Boxless Media about eight years ago after years working first for Crain Communications and then nonprofits like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Easter Seals and Starlight Children’s Foundation.
His move to Brookfield was an abrupt one, he said, resulting from a fire six years that destroyed his Garfield Ridge home. His fiancée’s sister lived in Brookfield, and the couple decided to move to the suburbs.
Since then, he said he’s grown to love Brookfield’s penchant for rallying to support others in the community in times of need, citing the response to 11-year-old Maxx Kusper being severely injured when he was struck by a train in 2020 and local businessman Chris Borzym, who was diagnosed with cancer last December.
“People here come together for good reason,” Baumann said.
Another recent example of that spirit, he said, was when Make-A-Wish Foundation, to whom Boxless Media donates video production services, approached him to see about getting one of their clients a membership to Brookfield Zoo.
Baumann went to a Brookfield community page on Facebook to put out the word.
“Within hours there were people coming to us saying, ‘Can we drop off a $100 bill’ or ‘Can we pay for it?’ We bought [the client] a two-year super membership,” Baumann said. “It was just so cool how everyone came together. It’s that kind of community that I like.”
After bouncing back and forth between offices in the city and suburbs, Baumann moved Boxless Media’s operation to a small storefront at 9140 Monroe Ave. in the Eight Corners business district last September.
This year he joined the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and has since partnered with them on a couple of efforts. One, which launched in mid-June, is a podcast series called Explore Brookfield, where Baumann interviews local business owners and political figures.
The other, launching as early as this week, is an app called Beyond the Zoo, which will serve as a directory for Brookfield businesses, with direct links to their websites, promotions and coupons. Businesses will also have access to analytics, showing them how much traffic they’re getting through various aspects of their listings.
“The chamber is using it as a value-added for membership,” Baumann said.
The podcast, available through Spotify or at BrookfieldPodcast.com, has featured a diverse array of guests, from Brookfield Chamber of Commerce President Brian Sharenow and local restaurateur Mary Vasquez of Mary’s Morning Mix-Up to state Rep. Michael Zalewski, Brookfield Little League President Katie Nasti and Brookfield barbecue maven Meathead Goldwyn.
“It’s just a way for us to help out local businesses, and I think for the businesses, it’ll give them a platform to tell people about themselves,” said Baumann, who hosts the podcast, adding that the Chamber of Commerce helps find guests and make connections.
“The sole reason for doing this is to really help the small businesses in our neighborhood do a little bit better,” Baumann said.
Of course, Baumann has also picked up a number of local clients, many of them restaurants, for whom he provides digital marketing and video services. During the COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020, when those clients were struggling to survive, Baumann said he kept them on for free.
He was able to do that by creating an online platform allowing funeral homes to offer high-quality, professional, private livestream video for funeral services instead of those services being clumsily broadcast over platforms like Facebook Live.
Hitzeman Funeral Home in Brookfield and Conboy-Westchester Funeral Home were two of his earliest clients, who now number more than 40. Although looser COVID restrictions have resulted in fewer livestream requests, they’re still popular, Baumann said.
“We’re still doing it, because there are always going to be families who have family members in Ireland, or Mexico, or Guatemala,” Baumann said. “There’s always people who can’t always get there or who have aged parents.”
Boxless Media also does quite a bit of marketing and advertising design and production for political candidates. In the local elections held earlier this year, Boxless Media worked with 28 candidates, producing direct mail pieces, digital ads, video and TV commercials.
Another of Baumann’s business ventures – he’s a partner in a tequila company called Tequila 1455 with two others – is moving its offices next door to Boxless Media later this month. The product is manufactured in Mexico and is awaiting final approval by the Mexican government, Baumann said, before it can be distributed in the United States.