Alumnus Tim Hebel named to St. Louis Business Journal’s 40 under 40
“The year I wanted to apply for it, they got rid of it,” Hebel explained. “So this year for the 40 under 40, someone nominated me. It’s exciting to be part of the group that St. Louis thinks is on the up and up.”
Hebel, a 2016 graduate of the University of Missouri–St. Louis computer science program, is the founder and owner of Beanstalk Web Solutions, a web development and digital marketing firm he started as a student at UMSL.
As part of the honor, the Business Journal will feature a photo shoot and Q&A with Hebel, as well as the other honorees, in a special edition published on Nov. 19. Additionally, the publication will host an award reception Nov. 18 at the St. Louis Marriott Grand Hotel.
Hebel has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
As a high school student, his plan was to go to college to find a skill he could build into a business, rather than pursuing a business degree. Initially, he thought that skill would be ocean engineering – a niche field with minimal competition.
After a year at Florida Atlantic University, Hebel realized what he enjoyed most were his computer science courses. He moved back to St. Louis and enrolled in the computer science program at UMSL. In 2013, he founded Beanstalk while working toward his degree.
“In a way, I never had the opportunity to get that degree, graduate and then think about starting a company because I started it while I was in school at UMSL,” he said. “This wasn’t the intention, to create this. The company that I wanted to start just happened naturally, and here we are eight years later.”
By 2016, Hebel had a handful of employees and was running Beanstalk full-time while attending classes at night. Juggling school while running a business was tough at times, but UMSL’s computer science program gave Hebel the tools to succeed.
“We see a lot of people coming through things like LaunchCode and other coding bootcamps, and it’s made me realize how valuable a computer science degree is,” he said. “The value is that you learn all the fundamentals behind it all. You gain a deep understanding of programming in general, how all programming languages work, why they work.”
It’s made him, and the other UMSL graduates he’s hired, incredibly adaptable to a broad range of projects, and that knowledge base has set Beanstalk apart in the market. Many web development companies specialize in basic front-end design, but Beanstalk can handle more advanced back-end work like API integration and databases.
“For example, some websites have a complicated design and need very experienced web developers to bring the design to life on both desktops and mobile devices,” Hebel said. “Or say a site has multiple levels of integration. A contact form may need to drop the form fill data into the customer’s CRM software, then send that same customer information into marketing automation software and an email list and finally process a credit card payment when the customer signs up for a member portal.”
A digital marketing division also provides clients with metrics-based, marketing services – search engine optimization, Google Ads, marketing automation and more – that can propel company growth. Hebel said many businesses want to catch up to the 21st century and use technology to grow revenue, automate manual tasks and generate more leads.
In the last five years, Beanstalk has grown considerably under Hebel’s leadership. The company has continued to add team members and increased revenue fourfold. In total, it’s worked with more than 600 clients, 70 percent of which have been local.
During that time, the company has adjusted to a constantly evolving digital landscape and focused its client base.
Readily available, easy-to-use web development tools such as SquareSpace and Wix have made it easier than ever for someone with minimal computer science knowledge to build a decent website. Hebel said in the early days of Beanstalk, the company was often competing with freelancers who were building basic websites for a flat fee of around $1,000. As the company started growing, it was no longer worthwhile to allocate resources toward those projects.
“We used to play in that smaller space, where we would work with companies that were under a million in revenue,” Hebel said. “With our size, we can’t feasibly deliver a product that can compete with that. It’s forced us to change our target market, where most of the companies we work with are more like in the $5-100 million range. A company that’s not so big that it has its own internal web development team and small enough that they have some sort of marketing team outsourcing certain parts.”
While Hebel has successfully expanded Beanstalk, he admits there were some business fundamentals he needed to sharpen along the way. The Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program and Vistage, a monthly CEO roundtable, helped him do that.
“The self-taught method worked really well, but there’s some things that I realized you miss,” he said. “I thought I understood what the balance sheet was, but I didn’t quite understand to the correct depth how useful that is and how it all works. How you can use information from that report to make business decisions.”
Recently, Hebel made the decision to expand. He anticipates adding two new business divisions in the near future. One will specialize in helping clients automate administrative tasks – something Beanstalk does itself and for many of its clients.
He highlighted the company’s document management solution that templates business documents, alerts senders when the document is opened, provides the option for an e-signature and triggers a thank you email once the document is signed.
“It can be incredibly useful to help a business focus on what they do best, rather than being in the weeds with some of that,” Hebel said.
There are also plans for an industry-specific division. Hebel is evaluating the company’s client list to identify what industry would be the best fit but hasn’t made a final decision yet.
He encourages anyone interested in web development to consider UMSL’s computer science program if they want a leg up in the industry. It undeniably made a difference for him.
“UMSL did an amazing job,” he said. “You come out of there as a person who can, if you need to learn a new programming language, learn it in about two days because you have such a mastery over the broad fundamentals. I think the computer science department gives a ton of value in that regard.”
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