Mike Ragsdale, owner and founder of 30A.com, has an amazing story behind the foundation of the 30A brand, and I’m proud to be able to interview him and share that story with you.
Mike business background started at the University of Alabama, where he graduated with a master’s degree in advertising and public relations. “Despite how clever and educated I thought I was, I couldn’t get a job,” Mike recalls. He then bought a computer and forced himself to start a graphic design business. He ran that company successfully for seven years, and it grew in size to about 60 or 70 employees. After that, though, he had a long string of business failures. Those failures, however, led him to move to the Emerald Coast and start 30A.
Mike had been vacationing in this area for years, and he always felt that it was a special place. “The natural beauty is just unparalleled, and it felt like the perfect place to raise a family,” he says. When he arrived at the Emerald Coast, the area didn’t have a cohesive brand. 30A was not used to the degree that it is today—a company in Texas actually owned the URL. Every individual community in the Emerald Coast had its own brand, but the one thing that tied all of them together was Highway 30A.
“Today, we really don’t view it as a location—we view it as a lifestyle.” What he means when he says that is scenic 30A here in South Walton is just one of four 30A roads. State Road 30 runs from the Alabama state line to Perry, Florida, and there are four alternate routes (hence the “A”) that branch off that old state highway. 30A isn’t just here—there’s also a 30A in Bay County and two 30As in Franklin County. To him, the 30A idea evokes small-town America and “old” Florida.
“It’s a lifestyle brand, not a tourism brand.”
Mike originally moved here to become a writer, so he initially bought the 30A.com domain name to be a blog. He had no intention of turning it into a business, but after several years of developing the URL, people started asking him if they could advertise on the site, and he agreed. He describes this evolution as “very organic and unintentional.”
Today, 30A.com has three different divisions: the digital division, the retail division, and licensing division.The digital division includes their radio station, mobile app, Facebook page, and their websites. Their retail division includes their four 30A stores, but their apparel can be found in over 100 locations nationwide. “Think of it as Patagonia,” he explains. “Patagonia is a place, but you don’t have to go to Argentina to wear Patagonia apparel.” Their licensing division takes first-class products and licenses their brand to the companies that produce them.
Mike was surprised by how fast his company grew, but as an entrepreneur, he always has an eye for growth and business. Having 900,000 Facebook fans is something he never really anticipated, but he thinks they’re just getting started, and they’re now focused on taking the brand national. Not the tourism brand—the lifestyle brand.
“I tell people it’s small-town America at the beach, and that’s what we’re trying to capture in everything that we do.”
As to where 30A.com ranks online, it’s difficult to say and depends on a few different metrics. To them, though, the goal isn’t about online rankings. They view their website as a way to share stories. Everything they do in their company comes down to four words: “We love the beach.” That could mean loving it in ways that include music, cocktails, food, and lifestyle, and also loving it in ways that mean preserving and protecting the beach itself. That’s where they feel the company is going as much as the digital side.
What’s next for 30A.com? They’re about to launch their 30A Sessions concert, and they have Lady Antebellum as their first opening act. They also have several shows coming up next year featuring big names and world-class talent which will be captured for broadcasts on major networks.
30A is a blessing for our area, and we’re glad they’re here. We all look forward to seeing what’s next for them. If you have any questions about this interview, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to chat with you.