Mark Jacobus worked on a dude ranch, fought wildfires out West, built houses, picked oranges and held several other odd jobs before finally finding Chattanooga and the career he loves.
He and several friends left Bradley University to hitchhike around the country for a year and a half, living out of tents. In that time, the now-head of the local branch of advertising agency Twoxfour learned an important lesson.
"Either you work today and you eat, or you don't work today and you don't eat," he said. "That was one of the best learning experiences of my life."
That work ethic has served him well in the years since he traded in his tent poles for pencils. He moved to Chattanooga and got a job at radio station KZ-106 as an ad rep, launching a decades-long career in the industry.
Some of his jobs haven't been perfect, he said. But he's loved most every advertising gig he's taken. He found the best fit most recently, leading the recently opened Chattanooga Twoxfour office.
The president of the Chicago-based agency, with clients such as Wrangler Jeans and Bridgestone Tire, has a background in the creative side of the business. That focus on creativity rather than client volume works great for people like Jacobus who love what they do, even if it means staying at the office until 3 a.m. every once in a while.
"You're going to have to love this because you're going to spend some time at it. If you don't love it, probably don't get into it," he said. "Don't really do anything that you don't love to do."
For Jacobus, advertising is about more than engaging consumers and selling products. It's about helping businesses grow. The knowledge that your work helps local businesses gives Jacobus a certain pride in his city and community.
"If you can make a difference in that business and grow that business, you've got a friend for life," he said. "That's what I've loved about it all along, is helping businesses grow."
But like so many other industries, the rise of the Internet and social media have shaken up the advertising world. Typesetters have been replaced with programmers, and direct mail has morphed to targeted emails.
Jacobus said the challenge is a welcome one. New media mean new ways to get creative.
"It's still about the creation of ideas. What has changed in our business is how that message is delivered," he said. "Creativity will never change."