With young children, most parents, guardians, and teachers would usually search for signs of the more traditional talents – singing, dancing, acting, art, sports, enabled memories, and so on. No one really pays any attention to the business-savvy kids and early strategists. Somehow, a flair for entrepreneurship is not usually considered a real talent – until the kids make it into Forbes list.
When American serial entrepreneur and SEO expert, Jason Hennessey, was only seven, he unknowingly built an early reputation as the young candy seller with astute business skills.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was seven years old and in grade school,” Hennessey begins. “Back then, I’d buy a juicy fruit gum pack for $1.50 and keep it in my backpack. I’d sell it to other students for 25 cents per pack of gum and make nearly 100% profit.”
Hennessey is the founder and CEO of Hennessey Digital, an online digital consulting firm that offers services including SEO, pay-per-click advertising, web design, web development, organic social media growth, and conversion rate optimization. With over 20 years of experience with reverse-engineering Google’s ranking algorithm, teaching himself to bring brands from the bottom of the index right up to the first page, Hennessey has become one of the most reputable SEO and digital consulting experts in the world. With honorable mentions on the Inc. 5000 list for two years in a row, he now runs a 125-employee firm valued at over $10 million.
Early life and childhood dreams
Life hadn’t started so brilliantly for Hennessey. His mother had only been 17 when he was born, and when the young Hennessey was three, his father, a truck driver, left the picture. Things became unbearably difficult for the little boy and his twenty-year-old mother.
“Initially, my mom was left to raise me all alone,” Hennessey recalls. “We got evicted out of our apartment, we didn’t have a car, and we had to walk everywhere. I remember as a five or six-year-old, we would be walking and I would stop and ask my mom if we could take a break because my legs were so tired. Eventually, we moved in with my grandparents. My grandmother made bathing suits for a living and my grandfather was a custodian at the local high school.”
Naturally, his grandfather, Frank Marrone, assumed the role of a father in his life. Hennessey attributes a lot of his character development, old-school traditional values, principles, and ethics to living with his kind grandfather.
As a kid, one of his earliest goals was to make enough money to buy a Lamborghini. At the age of 12, his mother had found out she had brain tumors and was constantly traveling to New York City for checkups. During her surgery, the young Hennessey walked into a car dealership across from the hospital.
“This was the first time that I had ever seen, much less touched, a Lamborghini. That day, I made a promise to be so successful in life that I would be able to buy a Lamborghini one day,” Hennessey said.
How SEO changed his life
Following his exit from the U.S. Air Force in 2001, Hennessey enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While studying, he set up a mobile DJ company to cater to local weddings and other events. He was making a lot of money and could keep up with his bills. Luckily, the business started to grow and he reinvested the profits for expansion. Eventually, his mobile company owned a fleet of 16 sound systems and he had to rent a warehouse while hiring other DJs to help.
However, Hennessey felt he wasn’t getting enough traction from merely publicizing his business on the Yellow Pages.
“I wasn’t tapping into the market of brides that were coming from other places to Las Vegas to get married,” Hennessey explains. “I decided to pay a developer $5000 to build a website named Vegas Wedding Mall for my business. After about a month, I confronted the developer as to why my website wasn’t ranking on Google’s page. He claimed he had no business with something called ‘Search Engine Optimization’.”
Hennessey took the challenge and delved into the strange world of SEO – reading extensively, teaching himself all the principles, practicing, and constantly working to reverse-engineer Google’s ranking algorithm.
As he figured it out, he began implementing the principles on his website. Vegas Wedding Mall began to rank so excellently that other professionals started placing ad banners on the site. Hennessey created more websites for locations such as Los Angeles and Phoenix – all of which later came under the parent brand, Creative Web Ventures.
“At the age of 29, I sold off my first business, DJ’s Entertainment along with Creative Web Ventures,” he recalls. “For the past 20 years, I’ve immersed myself in that industry – reading, learning, educating myself and I just keep getting better. Today, I’m asked to speak all over the world on SEO.”
In 2008, Hennessey had just moved to Atlanta to follow up on a joint business venture when he was invited to speak at a lawyer’s house during a conference.
There were about 50 lawyers there and they all met to discuss some of the tips and tricks through which they marketed their firms. I knew nothing about legal consulting, but I took my turn and told them how I was able to rank number one through organic SEO. The lawyers took copious notes during my speech and when I got off the stage, some of them approached me and offered deals.
At the end of the meeting, Hennessey walked away with $35,000-per-month in recurrent revenue. From there, his third company, EverSpark Interactive, was born. He co-founded this agency with two other friends and six years later, in 2015, he sold his shares, relinquished his CEO title, and walked away from the company.
A kind and supportive father to his three children, Hennessey moved to California with his family where his son, Zack Hennessey, could pursue a career in acting. While relaxing and settling into his new environment, more deals came his way, and finally, Hennessey Digital was created.
In advice to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to teach themselves marketable skills, Hennessey says: “Find something that you’re interested in, and then pay your dues: put in your 10,000 hours. You just want to be 1% better than yesterday.”
Hennessey is also the founder of iloveseo.com, a top-rated, merch-producing website that provides free and premium access to countless SEO resources, articles, and tools.