Extraordinary Experiences, Delightful Conversations & Zero Apocalypses

A kitten peaking their head out of a little box

As we kick off a new year, I’ve taken some time to dream about what 2022 might look like for me. Hell, for everyone really. Will it be full of opportunity, magic, joy, new relationships and extraordinary experiences? Or perhaps another repeat of 2021… more mandates, lockdowns, fear-mongering, social distancing, political battles, hidden truths and even stronger encouragement to be on one side of the fence or the other? Ideally, it’s the former. At least that’s the intention I’m setting for myself. Assuming some aspect of those latter elements will be a reality though, I’ve also set an intention to stand up, hold the line, and remain true to what feels right to me.

The Cycle

Just a fair warning – there’s a little doom and gloom in this article, so please bear with me. If there’s one thing I know we’re good at, in terms of the history of humanity, it’s our unequivocal ability to repackage and repeat the same mistakes over and over again. One person’s new idea, solution, or grandiose vision, inevitably based around some underlying act of control, becomes another’s downfall. It’s not always intentional, just near-sighted in most cases – causality in its rawest form. Each culture glides through history on various wavelengths, remarkably predictable with definitive highs and inescapable lows. You can sum this up with the following statement:

Hard times create strong people, strong people create good times, good times create weak people, weak people create hard times. Repeat.

It’s very easy to see and an extremely logical statement, but why do we continue to follow this pattern again and again and again? It’s like there’s something buried deep within us all that limits our ability to simply remember… truly remember, as if we are living it again, those hard times that we try so hard to block out and forget. Maybe that’s the reason – we all loathe the experience of pain. Whether emotional, physical, psychological or whatever else, we avoid it like the plague. It’s more/less a subconsciously driven instinct anymore, probably developed over generations to help preserve our way of life. What if, however, our way of life is on a path toward humanity’s destruction, unbeknownst to us? Sounds dark, I know. If you take a step back and look at things from a 30,000 ft view though, it’s just hard to ignore.

If you look back at all the great civilizations throughout our documented history, and study the many reasons for their falls from greatness, most can be summed up with one word: suicide. Wait, what?! Seriously?! Hear me out… while some were ended by being forcibly consumed by others, most fell as a result of the hostilities that permeated within each culture. Political factions, lack of trust and lack of moral obligations to fellow humans. Is it unreasonable to say that the U.S. is quickly moving to follow suit? I think not. It’s our ego, internal conflicts and entitlement as a nation. I feel our core values being set aside for political gain, and our fundamental freedoms being slowly and surely plucked from our fingertips, one-by-one, and by our own doing no less.

What's This About Anyway??

So why am I sharing all of this and what does it have to do with CreativeFuse? The purpose of this article is pretty simple really:

  1. I’m feeling called to vocalize the many indicators I’ve seen and felt in the hopes that it may bring about some greater awareness of the pattern referenced above.

  2. I have a lot of love for a lot of peeps, especially locally, and I feel a moral obligation to encourage everyone to more/less be better prepared at a fundamental level. It feels like a guitar string that keeps getting wound tighter and tighter. No one knows how long it’ll hold before it snaps.

  3. And honestly this really has little to do with the service offerings of CreativeFuse. That said, we tend to blend the lines between work and personal life within the organization and use this journal as just that — a journal. A safe, creative space to share what’s on our minds. As a team, we regularly look into our patterns, discuss openly and don’t shy away from having tough conversations, both internally and/or with clients, when they feel necessary. Allowing space for this is a huge part of what keeps us operating with full transparency and authenticity.

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to invoke any feeling of fear with this uncertainty, rather just recognizing the state of affairs today. Normal life is all but gone these days, at least the norm most of us may have known prior to “that which we do not speak of because I’m sick of hearing its name.” We’ve been all but programmed to accept the “requirements” that “will get us all through this together,” one ever-evolving fact after another. This is just me, but my intuition is screaming right now, telling me that everything is not as it seems on the surface. For one, working together through something like this requires people to communicate, listen and compromise if/when needed. It’s NOT creating divisiveness, silencing someone because they don’t repeat exactly what you say, and it sure as hell isn’t forcing your will upon them because you have the power to do so.

Everything that is happening at the moment is so far from anything new as well. In 1841, Charles Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. He outlines his accounts of the South Sea Company BubbleMississippi Company Bubble, and the Dutch Tulip Bubble. The madness of crowds, such that we’re witnessing on a global scale today, is a cyclical commonality throughout human history. The quote from Charles MacKay sums it all up:

In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.

Regardless of your political point of view, or even your stance on the vaccine, this pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of our lives. Over 5 million people have lost their lives, tensions are skyrocketing all over the world, and trust (in authority as well as each other) is quickly becoming something from a long lost fairytale. It breaks my heart that we’ve allowed ourselves to get to this point. Most of you who know me, know that I would do just about anything for you, friend or just acquaintance. You know that I’m not aggressive by any means, and I’m a fairly calm, authentic and transparent person. I preface with this in hopes that you may resonate with how difficult all of this is for me to share. If we continue fighting each other and allowing our politicians and media to further divide us, it’s going to turn violent at some point. History has shown this to be true over and over again.

So What's the Plan?

So what can we do? For starters, we could all stand to be a little more kind and inquisitive toward those who might share a different opinion than our own. As I mentioned earlier, we can also lean more into the opportunities, magic, joy, new relationships and extraordinary experiences and less into all the doom and gloom that consumes pretty much all media outlets these days. Turn off your phone, TV and radio for a bit, brave the world at large and try creating some new experiences for yourself. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Try something you’re afraid to try. And rather than being angry with someone who shares a different perspective, try having a conversation with them to simply understand one another. If you do nothing else, please take a moment to pause, allow yourself to breathe, and release all the trauma you may be holding onto from the last two years. As much as I’d love to just ignore all the things in life that worry me, or make me feel less than excited, that kind of denial isn’t good for anyone. Which brings me to #2 above… we can still choose to be better prepared for extenuating circumstances.

I’m not saying to become a doomsday prepper and build a bunker out in the middle of nowhere. Or to go out and buy up a bunch of toilet paper and freeze-dried foods… what I am saying is that we’ve all sensed some red flags in recent months and things could quickly take a turn for the worse if they continue as they are. For instance: there is a major supply chain problem right now, and it’s getting worse every day. There are riots popping up all over the world due to the mandates being pushed. Russia is on the brink of a war with the EU/NATO. And the political landscape is so far divided at this point that the next presidential election is sure to bring about even more chaos than the last. The list goes on, and regardless of who’s at fault, the fact remains that these are real issues that aren’t going away anytime soon.

Just think about your current situation and what would happen if there was any kind of disaster, natural or man-made, tomorrow. Something that forces you out of your comfort zone and even just temporarily removes access to all the things you have readily available to you at the moment. How much food do you have in your home? Enough to feed your entire family for a week? How about a month? What if the water isn’t safe to drink, or stops flowing out of your tap and your power goes out for a couple of weeks? What if the supermarkets run out of food because their shipments continue to get delayed, even for a few weeks? All hypotheticals of course, and I’m sure I’m not the only one with a normalcy bias telling me that these scenarios could never happen here in the U.S., but they can and have… many times over.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that we all have a moral responsibility to be prepared for the inevitable ups and downs in life. Self-reliant, not system-reliant. The system is great while it’s here, and I have no qualms with taking full advantage of the resources available to us all. We humans are also fully capable of taking care of ourselves though, as well as those around us, with a little basic knowledge and fundamental skills that have all but been forgotten in today’s society. What harm is there in simply having a sort of “savings account” in your home with some basic essentials? I just care about you… all of you, and I’m more than happy to help you if you resonate with this mindset. Just hit me up. And if it makes you feel better to call me your crazy doomsday prepper friend, then go for it. While I don’t consider myself as such, it’s a small price to pay for potentially saving the life of a friend.

Casey sitting down in front of a black background with a tan scarf and holding a bourbon glass

Onward & Upward

Whew, that was a lot, I know. All things aside, this year has just as much potential to be the best year of our lives as well. I’ve shared my intentions for the year, but I’d love to hear about yours! Let’s grab a drink, raise a glass and chat. And here’s to 2022… may it be full of extraordinary experiences, delightful conversations and zero apocalypses.


Let's share a bourbon together.

Freelancer or Employee: Which Life Is Better?

A person peeking over the edge and thinking this or that

I’ll be up front and let you know that this isn’t really a cut and dry question. However, both have their benefits and pitfalls, and honestly, it comes down to what you value most as a person today. We’ll dive into each and allow you to make your own choice.

Freelance Life

The trend of moving from your traditional 9 to 5 job to a more flexible and remote freelance environment is on the rise. In fact, freelancers are predicted to make up more than half of the workforce across all industries by 2020, according to Forbes. So what exactly is a freelancer? According to Merriam-Webster, a freelancer is “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”

So, what’s so great about being a freelancer? Well, for starters, you get to set your own hours, wear whatever you want (or nothing at all, if that suits you), and work in pretty much any environment you choose (depending on your industry of course).

I know what you’re thinking… this all comes with a price, right? Yes, of course. You’re not likely to have a routine of one hour workdays followed by poolside cocktails the rest of the day. Freelancing is hard work, and in most cases you’ll be working more than a standard work week. The tradeoff being a larger potential for rewards.

I’ve lived the freelancer life for a little over 10 years, and the employee life for just under 10 as well. During the freelancer timeframe, just having a choice turned out to be the most meaningful aspect for me. It allowed for maximum flexibility in all aspects of my life, but this wasn’t without its challenges. With limitless choices, what ultimately kept me on my toes was the fact that there’s nowhere to hide. I was accountable for everything. No guarantees. No promises. Just me, my values and my ambition – it was a beautiful thing, and scary as hell.

It takes diligence, discernment and lots of patience

Having shared some common misconceptions above, let’s dive into some of the perks of being a freelancer in today’s workforce:

  1. You set your own hours. Although most freelancers tend to maintain a fairly normal schedule (9-5) based on client needs, you still have the flexibility of establishing expectations according to the hours you prefer to work. If you want your mornings to yourself, go for it. It just comes down to communication and being true to your word.

  2. Your skill sets will be ever-expanding. Being a freelancer typically requires you to wear multiple hats, sometimes unexpectedly, which means you tend to learn things quickly in order to keep up with demand. Adapting to your market(s) needs and continually learning new skills will put you in a much better position to support a broader range of clients. There’s typically a much larger variety of projects and challenges you have an opportunity to work on as well.

  3. You can work in your underwear. This is somewhat cliche, but true nonetheless. You have complete control over your work environment if you so choose. Personally, I prefer co-working at places like Nucleus – collaborating with other like-minded folks leads to more opportunities, and sometimes even a mutually beneficial partnership. I still find myself working in my skivvies at home every once in awhile though 🙂

  4. You set your rates. Freelance rates are typically higher than most traditional day job rates, but you’ll want to make sure to price yourself competitively within your market. Here’s a helpful article on helping price yourself as a freelancer.

  5. Tax benefits. If you’re diligent at tracking all the relevant information, there are some definite tax benefits of owning your own business. Here’s a list of the top 500 deductions you may be eligible for, and there are a number of apps out there to help with tracking many of these.
    Gratitude. Last, but not least, is just the pure and simple appreciation that comes with being a freelancer. There’s no better feeling than being chosen time and time again by the same client because of the results you’ve delivered in the past. That’s all you – just be sure to reciprocate that appreciation back to your clients!

When it’s all said and done, freelance life isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to lead yourself, let alone others. It takes diligence, discernment and lots of patience, but the rewards can be infinitely more meaningful, if you ask me. Let’s take a look at the other side of the fence to round out the perspective, then we’ll hone in on making the decision.

Employee Life

Traditions have their place, and being an employee has been a fairly stable one for the past 75+ years. Although keeping a job is far from guaranteed, I can say that the overall spectrum of ups and downs is typically much more minimalistic compared to that of a freelancer. There’s rarely a feast or famine scenario when it comes to employee life, assuming you have a job of course, and for the most part you can expect to get paid for the time you put forth.

There are quite a few limitations that come with being an employee, but again, it depends on what you value most as an individual. For starters, most employers require you to arrive at a specific time (usually 8-8:30am), and stay until the end of the work day (5pm). While this isn’t much different than what a freelancer might work, the option for flexibility is pretty much out the window. If you have to shift your schedule or take care of something outside of work within that block of time, that will typically eat away at your paid time off (PTO). Things like income, growth potential, education and skill set can also be very limited as an employee. On the flip side, these can also be benefits depending on what you consider most meaningful.

Some employers offer training and certification reimbursement programs

Here are a few of the factors that I appreciated most as an employee:

  1. Benefits. This was the biggest one for me. 401k, healthcare, and paid vacation time, these can all have a major cost (and time) impact on your life, especially if you have a family to take care of. Out-of-pocket healthcare can be outrageously expensive!

  2. Steady Income. While the income may not always be as much as you would like, or may even deserve in some cases, there’s still a great deal of value in being able to count on a paycheck every two weeks.

  3. Team bonding. One of the biggest challenges for me was not having anyone around sometimes to bounce ideas off of, and just feeling lonely to some degree. Co-workers, while quirky and downright obnoxious at times, can make a big impact on your performance, potential and well-being.

  4. Professional Growth. Some employers offer training and certification reimbursement programs, which can allow you to increase your skill set without it coming out of your own pocket. Depending on your industry, this can require a fairly large investment at times.

Much like freelancing, any traditional day job will have plenty of benefits as well, but it’s really a matter of what’s most meaningful to you. If I were to boil everything down to the one differentiating factor between freelance life and employee life, it comes down to choice. As a freelancer, there are almost no limitations on your choices, whereas most jobs tend to dictate your day-to-day efforts for the most part. If this is of utmost importance to you, then I think you know the answer. If you value stability most, then maybe being an employee is your cup of tea. Either way, the ultimate decision of which one is better falls on your shoulders.

My Hot Take

I’ve actually preferred both at different times in my life, and both served me very well for what was needed. No matter which life you feel is best for you, being grateful for the current opportunity is the only way it will feel meaningful. If you’re dreading going to work every day, then maybe it’s time to consider a shift in your career. Don’t just jump ship to another job without considering what is so difficult about your current workplace. Many times you’ll find the blame to be a result of your mindset, not your actual job, client or employer. Whatever it is you choose to do, do it with purpose and don’t look back. And be confident in your decision, otherwise you’re just going to end up wasting your time, or your employer’s time. For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying the life of a freelancer and business owner!


We love meeting new friends!

The Journey Thus Far

A beautiful scene of a lake with tree and mountain landscape

In the Beginning

Back in 2009, we were presented with an opportunity to become part of a new business model. One in its absolute infancy and one intent on serving the community, fundamentally unlike any other. We asked ourselves a simple question, “If we strip away all the assumptions and expectations of starting a new business and simply focus our efforts on what we love, being creative and creating authentic relationships, will everything else just fall into place as needed?” Now I know what you’re thinking, that sounds completely ignorant. To be quite honest, it was. Regardless though, this simple question allowed the birth of CreativeFuse, and was meaningful in more ways than you can imagine.

Ignorant as it may have been, it was well-intentioned nonetheless. From day one, our mission was simple: Serving creativity in all its forms. Freelancers, organizations, local agencies, clients, partners, or whomever considered themselves a creative, we were ready to support. There would be no need for competition, service would be our currency, and money a true byproduct of our efforts.

we were completely non-competitive, and still have no intention of competing against those in our local community…

“Wait, did you just say no need for competition?” you may ask. Well, yes, we were completely non-competitive, and still have no intention of competing against those in our local community today. It’s counterintuitive in the marketing realm, but extremely meaningful to our mission. We find more appreciation in collaboration, whether that be with a freelancer, another agency, or a client, rather than pushing toward winning a contract. The world is an abundant place, and when it’s all said and done, we’re just grateful to be serving those individuals who find meaning in their participation with CreativeFuse.

Not Without Hurdles

During the first year, projects began to flow in from all across the board (print, digital, video, animations, displays and even obscure requests like building an interactive game for a local museum), which opened the door for us to begin collaborating with our network of local freelancers and friends, creating specialized teams to accomplish the work. It wasn’t without its challenges, but it was unlike anything we had ever done before. In fact, at least on a regional scale, it wasn’t being done by anyone. The model worked great for a couple of years, but the first of many unforeseen and seemingly impossible hurdles came into view as we continued to scale up.

With year three just around the corner (late 2011), we were now averaging over 1,000 projects per year, which in time became an absolute logistical nightmare, nearly collapsing the organization. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the creative support to handle the workload, but rather the operational workflow and/or toolsets in place just weren’t scalable to the degree needed. It wasn’t so much a financial challenge either, considering we had no financial goals at the time (we’re just doing what we love to do, remember?). How can four people process 1,000 projects over 365 days you ask? That’s almost three per day on average! In hindsight, I have no idea how we did it, but I do know one thing for sure– if it weren’t for the amazingly talented freelance community we have in the Dayton region, it never would have happened.

We couldn’t truly give any one client or project the level of support we felt it should have.

So, what did we learn from this? Don’t be afraid to say no. We felt somewhat invincible with the growing pool of freelance talent at our fingertips, but this mentality turned out to bite us in the butt over time. We couldn’t truly give any one client or project the level of support we felt it should have. It wasn’t that we were half-assing anything, and our clients were happy for the most part, we could just see so much more room for opportunity.

With all this in mind, we scaled back to projects we could support most efficiently, while still leaning into our mission and continuing to focus on supporting our immediate community. At the time, we had a leadership team of eight and a peripheral network of 40+ freelancers we were actively engaged with. As we continued to redefine our processes and overall workflow, another major hurdle was fast approaching: The collective why.

The Collective "Why"

Although CreativeFuse’s fundamental purpose is fairly easy to wrap your mind around, our internal relationships at the leadership level (aka “the bridge”) were very non-traditional. We were basically married to each other and shared all aspects of our finances accordingly, both personal and business. Needless to say, this approach isn’t for everyone, but we kept that door to leadership open regardless. Anyone could participate with CreativeFuse, at whatever level they so choose, but keeping service at the forefront takes tremendous diligence. When participating at this level, there was nowhere to hide, no job security, no guaranteed salaries and a significant time investment. The reward was just the simple gratitude of serving those around us, and some minimal, but reasonable income. This was quite a challenge, which we put on ourselves, of course. In hindsight though, I wouldn’t change a thing–as it gave us a truly unique foundation to build upon.

In 2012, through a series of serendipitous circumstances, we simultaneously lost the majority of our core team while bringing on a new bridge partner. It wasn’t necessarily anything bad, per se, that caused the team to leave. It was another bridge member that decided to go out on his own and offered a few of the others the opportunity to join him. We didn’t really have any issue with this, especially since we often encouraged people to grow into whatever path they felt led toward (i.e. freelancing full-time, securing a job with a local agency, creating their own gig, freelancing while they found that right job, etc.), but the sudden nature of it left us in a tight spot with a few clients at the time. That’s another story for another day, though. In any case, we managed to work through it due to one primary factor: Gerrad Wise began working closely with us and provided a great deal of balance, design knowledge and experience, and most importantly, patience. 

we’ve been concentrating on how to balance our focus on building relationships with clients and inspiring the right people to join us on projects

Over the years, we had to be willing to allow for the experiences we were going through and embrace the thought of “fearlessly failing.” In fact, “fearlessly failing” has become a principle for us and it’s important to note, without doing so, we would not have seen the opportunities to refine and hone in when it was needed. In the first years of our company, we were learning how to operate and figure out how to process over a thousand projects per year (let’s grab a beer if you want to hear more about that). Yeah, we were one of the very fortunate companies to have work right out of the gate – and too much, at that. We found ourselves in a cycle of churning out project after project, with no real rhyme or reason for choosing the projects we did. 

From there, we were learning about what it meant to create a team and company culture around working with freelancers and partners. Oh man, did we fall flat on our face. Sure, we had a ton of work to start. But not having the right people in place can certainly tank that momentum in a hurry… and it did. Now, it wasn’t all because of the team we were working with at the time. I, too, take credit for the growing pains. As part of transitions with the team, this was the first time we found ourselves in a bit of a financial struggle. Since then, we’ve been concentrating on how to balance our focus on building relationships with clients and inspiring the right people to join us on projects.

The Nucleus

Going back a few years from where I left off (2015), we continued to pivot from our debacle back in 2012. In doing so, we were intent on meeting new people and creatives in our community, so much so that we were a part of creating Dayton’s first co-working office, Nucleus. Before Nucleus became a thing, the vision started off with a small group of friends that just enjoyed being around one another. We wanted to meet new creative people. We wanted to bring forth a new life for our company, and we were hell-bent on doing things differently. As we begin discussing this idea with others we soon met Lauren and Andrew White from Indigo Life Media. Shortly thereafter, they introduced us to Jay Nigro from Liftoff Entertainment. Jay and Indigo were already bunking up in a space near the Oregon District. We had one, maybe two conversations, before Andrew came back to us, and said, “Let’s do this!”. Nucleus was born. Early on, there were several people that came together to make this happen, guys like Joe Harrison, Aaron Adams and Brian Ward. Ultimately, we were 1 of 4 companies that banded together to launch Nucleus. We worked with Jen Cadieux from Downtown Dayton Partnership (DDP), which by the way had helped us look for office space a couple of times prior with no luck, so it was pretty special for us all when we found our new home at 411 E Fifth Street in the Oregon District.

We did our very best to encourage a well-balanced, fun-loving creative culture

The impact this had on our company was tremendous. About two years in, we were watching a team gel around us like we hadn’t seen before. We did our very best to encourage a well-balanced, fun-loving creative culture. One of the big things that came out of this experience was the desire for employment from the team. Up until this point, we worked exclusively with contractors and other industry partners. So, as you can imagine this was a very big decision for us to consider. We did end up moving to a payroll model, with the help of Gusto, and began to bring on W-2 staff. Right around this time, Nucleus had gained quite a bit of traction and allowed us to snag the attention of Scott Koorndyk over at the Entrepreneur’s Center (TEC). Shortly thereafter the discussion came up about what’s to come of Nucleus. We mentioned we had been growing ourselves, but it also seemed all the partners and contributing parties of Nucleus were growing as well. We began to acknowledge that it may be time for Nucleus to take the next step, and in doing so, we could remain advocates and cheerleaders for the entity. Through much discussion and planning with TEC, we eventually felt it was best for them to acquire the brand, and later finalized this in early 2018.

A Decade of Service

In June of 2019, we officially hit our ten year mark as a company. It had been truly remarkable to see how many things had changed over the ten years. All the challenges, wins, relationships and the downright bazaar… we never lost our focus of remaining grateful for it all. At times this was certainly more challenging than others, and it never stops…

The thing about running a business, is that as soon as you feel things are going smoothly, there’s always something that will come in a shake things up. It’s inevitable. Of course, we know this is all part of growth, but that doesn’t really make it any easier. Late 2018, we had to make some hard decisions as a company. We begin to see a trend with our team that was shifting once more. Nothing really negative was happening, but we started seeing some members of our team grow and continue to build themselves around their passions. Certainly something we have been and will continue to encourage. Since then, we’ve had team members move across the U.S. to pursue their passions and continue their growth. 

Two lessons we learned from having employees: 

  1. First, it’s difficult to keep great staff employed. 
  2. Second, there’s a lot of “bloat” to account for operationally when having employees. 

That said, we decided to take what we had learned from the couple of years of employed staff and marry it back with what we loved most about working with contractors, building the right teams for the right projects. The thing we realized about this approach was that the people we are working with are typically freelancing full-time or have their own company. Both of which, are scenarios where the individual or company is highly specialized in their skillset. And they are following their passions and working the way they want. This is ultimately what drew us back to working with contractors and trusted partners, and more importantly, our friends. 

We’re spending each new day continuing to do what we love most, all the while building stronger relationships, supporting the local community and always remaining grateful for the opportunities that float across our path. If you’d like to meet up to learn more about who we are, to start a new project together, or to just grab a beer, we’re always available – just hit us up


We can't wait to hear what you are up to and how we can support.