Sometimes home is not a house or where we were born; instead, it becomes a place we create far from what was once familiar to us. In November of 2005, James Carter, along with his wife, Angela, and toddler, Eve, left his birthplace in the World Heritage Site and historical city of Bath, England, to create a home in the Shenandoah Valley. After visiting the area in years prior, the couple agreed that The Friendly City was a place they could build a life together. With only ten boxes of belongings, no housing, no transportation or solid job offers, James Carter took a risk which would ultimately result in him achieving The American Dream.
Prior to moving to Harrisonburg, VA, the Carters initiated an online business for the sole purpose of funding their overseas move. The business, Parentbaby.com, sold pregnancy and baby products — the same products James’ spouse, Angela, purchased during her pregnancy while visiting her home of southern Virginia. These products were not easily found in the UK, and was James’ first instance in discovering his love for entrepreneurship and online marketing. This venture was the beginning of Carter’s passion for marketing, and would eventually lead to him opening his own full-service downtown Harrisonburg marketing agency, Digital Minerva.
In 2007, the Carter family welcomed a second daughter, Eleanor. During this time, the family attended weekly family events at Massanutten Regional Library and The Harrisonburg Children’s Museum. Downtown businesses and nonprofits were an imperative part of their lives; with no family living in the area, local community events offered an opportunity for their family to socialize with others. These establishments gave the family a sense of belonging, consistency and engagement, when all else had changed within their lives.
Carter began working as webmaster for James Madison University, and believes that the opportunity solidified his future in marketing. Joining the Marketing team at JMU gave Carter the opportunity to immerse himself in website development, enabled him to take credit courses which taught him invaluable skills, and allowed him to form professional relationships and partnerships which help make Digital Minerva what it is today. Andy Perrine, Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing at JMU, and current Board President of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, encouraged Carter to learn continuously.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if it hadn’t been for Andy Perrine,” he says.
Perrine was supportive when Carter pursued professional growth in a role outside of the university. “Digital Minerva would not be possible without the support of others and the collaboration of small businesses. My hometown has a vibrant city center and when we originally moved to Harrisonburg 14 years ago, we felt the same way about Harrisonburg. I feel it’s essential support local businesses. They are the heart of our community.”
Like many who relocate to America, James Carter always carried hope that hard work and perseverance would equate to what some may take for granted — owning a home, land and his own business. James has gratitude that you see in many who discover that there is, in fact, an American dream present and attainable in our Friendly City. Digital Minerva, located in an office space within The Hub, is proof that an idea, or dream, can come to fruition. The Hub is a collaborative work space and environment for innovators, start-ups, entrepreneurs and dreamers.
“When I was looking to start my business, I reached out to those who I admired for advice — all were owners of downtown businesses. They all offered advice. Downtown businesses are collaborative and work together. This confirmed that I needed to find an office space downtown. The Hub was a perfect fit for Digital Minerva,” Carter said.
With a team of seven marketing, graphic design and content-writing professionals, Digital Minerva is a full-service digital agency, with proven expertise in business’ online presence, websites, photography, video, marketing, hosting, digital reputation management, SEO, and digital advertisements.
“Businesses must maintain their online presence the way one would the maintenance of a building. Telling your business’ story is important. We understand that our clients have busy lives and our services help each business focus on what is important to them, inside and outside of their workplace,” Carter said. “If you don’t have good content no one’s going to come.”
Potential clients can expect the first meeting to give them an opportunity to share what their wants and needs are. “We work WITH clients. Open communication and transparency with clients is important. With Digital Minerva, [c]lients are a part of the process, and receive direct contact to the consultant assigned to their business. It’s an ongoing relationship and conversation, a partnership.”
Some of Digital Minerva’s current clients include The Jack Brown’s and Billy Jack’s Group, Mary Baldwin University, Engineering Solutions, James McHone Jewelry, Pale Fire Brewing Co., Cuban Burger, Red Wing Festival, and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (including their new Friendly City Fortune raffle microsite and ecommerce platform).
Carter believes in paying his learning opportunities forward by offering paid internships through JMU’s School of Social Media Arts & Design (SMAD) Department. Digital Minerva also performs anonymous work for area nonprofits.
“Sometimes we want to do work that feels good and for no other reason than wanting to help.”
Nonprofits particularly dear to Carter are those who assist individuals with physical and developmental disabilities; Carter’s sister, Victoria, passed away from complications related to Cerebral Palsy. “Having a sister with a profound disability helped shaped my view on how lucky I am and how important it is to support others around you.”
Diagnosed with dyslexia at age 11, Carter attended the dyslexia institute for 7 years, and learned how to surpass the condition. “I love the purity and logic of code and data. In my line of work, there is always a reason if something doesn’t function as you expect it to”.
Just as Digital Minerva was created to offer business’ digital solutions, Carter leads his team with the same concept — work/life balance is important and encouraged.
“We work hard, but I also recognize [as a business owner] that creative Inspiration doesn’t always come in the rigid 9-5 schedule; we set our hours by appointment to encourage creativity, and we want the opportunity to go for a hike in the National Forest if that’s what increases our productivity at that time,” Carter said.
The American dream is the cornerstone of downtown Harrisonburg. Each shop, restaurant, church and office space is an example of our community’s support of individuals and their dreams. Nearly 4,000 miles away, Carter’s birthplace attracts approximately 5 million day-trippers to its city and surrounding counties, and he believes it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world — but he has visible pride when he confirms, “Harrisonburg is home.”
You can reach Digital Minerva at www.digitalminerva.com or by calling James at 540-466-4276.
Written by Angela M Carter, an author, poet, motivational speaker, spoken word performer, and visual artist. Her writing in her full-length poetry memoir, Memory Chose A Woman’s Body, was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Her poetry performances have been featured in a multitude of venues including The KGB Club in Manhattan and Busboys and Poets in DC. Angela is an advocate of the healing ability of the arts. She, her husband, two daughters and two dogs reside in Harrisonburg, VA after relocating, from Bath, England, approximately 10 years ago. The Carters are proud to be a part of Harrisonburg’s growing and caring downtown community. Read some of her work here.