John Jackson grew up in Ragley, a no-stoplight town between DeRidder and Lake Charles. It took him eight years to finish his general studies degree at LSU, thanks in part to what he considers some poor choices as an undergrad.
But through his academic wanderings—including business management, accounting, marketing and photography—he built a broad base of knowledge that lent itself well to his first video production business, co-founded in 2000 while he was still a student. After dissolving that partnership, Jackson went out on his own for a while before forming Launch Media with Michael Trufant, a businessman and entrepreneur formerly of Baton Rouge now based in Asheville, N.C.
“He opened his address book, gave me a little money, gave me some direction and was there for guidance,” Jackson says. “It took off from there.”
Launch creates corporate video for things like safety training, leadership messaging and peer-to-peer communication, primarily for companies in the oil and gas and health care sectors.
“Email and newsletters are important,” he says, “but video’s becoming a close second, if not the primary, way to communicate inside a company.”
Launch also takes on business development projects such as sales videos and TV commercials. It employs 15 people, and Jackson plans to add two more employees shortly.
As he outgrew his space at Celtic Media Centre, Jackson went looking for a new home for his business. He found a cluster of three shotgun-style buildings built in the 1930s and 1940s on Main Street that had hosted, among other things, a hardware store, a piano shop and a gas explosion. The last tenant, not counting homeless squatters, was long gone.
“It was pretty wretched,” he says, describing broken glass, termite damage and rotting posts. But it had high ceilings, room for studio space and the sort of character he wanted for his business, not to mention a downtown location at a reasonable price.
“We wouldn’t have moved anywhere else but Mid City or downtown,” Jackson says. “I walked in and immediately was like, ‘This is it. Let’s make it happen.’”
Launch Media takes up about two-thirds of the space, which allows for additional tenants and common areas. Collectively, it’s called the Creative Bloc. Jackson says it’s sort of like an office park for creative professionals, some of whom aren’t actually tenants but sign up for memberships.
“They don’t need a full-blown office, but they want to get out of their homes and not go to a coffee shop,” he says. “They want to have a formal meeting that’s not in their living room.”
And like many of those professionals, he has been asked whether he plans to stick around Baton Rouge, and why. For Jackson, part of the answer is just that he likes it here, and he’s been around long enough to put down some roots.
He says there was a brief moment after finally graduating when he thought he might be “ready to get out of here.” But during the 2000s, downtown came to life, new leadership joined the Metro Council and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the city-parish elected a mayor-president who was from the city, and it seemed Baton Rouge “was on the cusp of something.”
So instead of bolting, he got involved. Jackson joined several boards and pitched to Forum 35 the concept for Art Melt, which has grown into one of the city’s signature cultural events. He also found a close peer group of other young professionals who help each other hash out their challenges.
For Jackson, Baton Rouge is big enough to support his endeavors but small enough that one person can make a difference, even if that person moves here from a tiny town without knowing anyone.
“I can affect change here,” he says. “That, to me, is amazing.”