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Zach’s Story Part 2: How MGMT Digital Was Created

This blog is a part of a series presented to you by the MGMT staff. Since we spend so much of our time working and wearing our business hats, we thought it’d be fun to open up a bit and get personal.

When I was leaving treatment, it felt like I was walking through a big open door of endless possibilities. I was simply loving life. The sky was really blue, the palm trees were really tall and I noticed every part of it. Addiction professionals describe this time as ‘riding the pink cloud’, and man, I was riding it.

I’d love to say that’s when my fairytale ending began and my life has been smooth sailing ever since, but I can’t. In hindsight, my life has infinitely grown bigger and bigger throughout every stage of my sobriety, but there were some dark, dark moments in there; and it’s important to talk about them.

Assessing the Situation

It was an interesting time learning that the drugs weren’t necessarily my problem, and that when I stopped doing them, all my problems would magically go away. My problem is and has always been me, and it wasn’t going to take just a couple of months of talking to a therapist to resolve twenty three years of my existence on earth. 

Fortunately (and others may disagree that this was fortunate) I was introduced to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not going to get into too much detail about twelve step programs, but my path was choosing to do the work, which gave me my solution. On top of this solution members of AA love to talk about, I made friends – great ones. That’s how I met Danny, the tall, charming Irish redhead from Brooklyn, NY. I’m not sure if it was because we were both from New York, or spent our college years in South Florida,  or both active members of Alcoholic Anonymous, or all the above, but we became inseparable best friends.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Danny and I spent a lot of our time together, and even became roommates. We were sober, ambitious guys working in the addiction treatment industry – life was good. Just like me, Danny came out to California to get sober after living in South Florida for some time. Dreaming big, Danny and I always had long conversations about owning a business together. We would spew out ideas, discuss our passions, explain our strengths, and eventually, circle back to what made the most sense. 

Danny talked about his life in Florida. Back in the sunshine state, he worked at a digital marketing agency. Our conversations about owning a business quickly shifted to digital marketing and the treatment industry. So, where was the missing link? How could we take our experience in the treatment industry, Danny’s experience in digital marketing, and combine the two worlds we were passionate about into addiction treatment marketing? How could we also do this with no savings and no investment?

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The Beginning of MGMT

Fuck it, it didn’t really matter was the consensus. Like I said, we were young, sober and determined. If we wanted it bad enough, which we did, we could. We both agreed, we would make it happen.

So, in addition to the best friend and roommate friendship, Danny and I became business partners as well. For the next few months, the two of us stayed up late, creating what became MGMT Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency, all the while maintaining the jobs we had at the time. 

During this time, Danny mentioned that his coworker from the marketing agency he worked at in South Florida was now living in California too. He tried describing Steph, which is a difficult task because she’s pretty much indescribable, but he would use words like brilliant and genius. We invited Steph over, who was currently working at a large marketing agency, and told her everything about what was then the beginning of MGMT, and our behavioral health marketing dream. I’m not exactly sure how far we were in this development stage, but Steph was in. After landing her dream job at this large agency, she quickly realized that it wasn’t a dream after all. 

Passionate about helping others, the three of us collectively discussed how we would use the skills we had to do good and create change. At the time (which hasn’t changed much), the treatment industry had a dark side with a lot of gray area, and unethical practices taking place. Right there, we came up with our mission, which remains today, to be an ethical solution in the treatment industry.

Addiction IS a Disease

Fast forward to when we landed our first client, it was an incredible time for us. We were proud and excited. We were really doing this. 

A few days later, Danny lost his life to this disease that we’re constantly battling. I couldn’t really understand why, especially when it seemed everything was going so well. We shared the same excitement creating MGMT, and the same excitement when we got our first client. I realized that the why doesn’t matter, and that the disease doesn’t care about anything at all. I also realized that my life would be significantly different, and I wouldn’t have what I have today without my best friend Danny. 

The day Danny passed, my life and MGMT Digital took on a different meaning. While the MGMT mission remains the same, I made it my personal mission to continue building our dream.

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