From building Legos to building dreams

From building Legos to building dreams

From building Legos to building dreams

Named in honor of “both sides of his roots,” Jon James (JJ) Vogel ’11 has established The Vogel and Woods Merit Scholarship for first-generation students in Rowan University’s William G. Rohrer College of Business.

“Both sides of my family have had such a profound impact on my life,” said Vogel. “Legacy is important to me and I wanted to honor my roots.”

It’s safe to say Vogel’s roots were also part-entrepreneurial and will contribute to his long-lasting legacy at Rowan. The desire to run his own business is one embedded in him from an early age as his father has owned and operated a construction company for 35+ years.

“There was a time when I wanted to be a sportscaster for ESPN,” said Vogel, “but I grew up in an entrepreneur’s world. I really wanted to be in control of my own fate and destiny.” 

vogelAn entrepreneur who likes to help entrepreneurs, Vogel acknowledged that the perception of entrepreneurism tends to get misconstrued. In his experience, those who can persevere are the ones who make it. 

“It’s more than just hard work,” said Vogel. “You’re going to fail a lot as an entrepreneur. I’ve failed more times than I can count, but you have to let it fuel you and not cripple you. You also have to be okay with being told no.”

With financial needs in mind, Vogel believes that aspiring entrepreneurs must be committed to “finding a way” because otherwise, what is the alternative? 

“This is a world of choice, you either select a path or a path is selected for you," Vogel added. "As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.'”

Vogel studied entrepreneurship at Rowan and was one of the first students in the program when it became a major. He later earned a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Drexel University. 

As a student, Vogel was one of the founding members of the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity, sophomore class president, treasurer, and student body president for Rowan's Student Government Association as well as a member of PROS. He was also chosen to be part of a competitive internship program where he painted homes for a nationally recognized organization and was top five in the entire nation during the program.

“What’s appealing to me about being an entrepreneur is that I’ve always loved building things,” said Vogel. “I loved building Legos when I was kid. I built my first business as a freshman at Rowan. I helped build a fraternity and I enjoyed building the student government while I served as president.”

Vogel went on to build his own full-service, digital marketing agency, 215 Marketing, with co-founder Garrett Gillin. Their business was named one of Inc. 5,000’s “Fastest Growing Companies” in 2020.

“Sometimes marketing becomes overcomplicated, so a big part of our company is to make it as simple as possible,” said Vogel. “We want to provide custom marketing solutions that help our clients get results, and we’re unique in that we offer strategic plans to fit their specific needs.”

The “bread and butter” of 215 is marketing consulting, which includes website design and development, email marketing, analytics and attribution. A primary focus for Vogel is to help his clients understand how business goals should drive marketing goals while maintaining relationships based on merit not contracts.

Vogel and Gillan constructed the beginnings of 215 as graduate students, passing up higher paying jobs and putting in a lot of overtime. But Vogel has a philosophy about that as well.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind,” he said. “I constantly need something to do and that works to my advantage as an entrepreneur. But also, the reality is, that’s kind of who I am. I want to be active and always doing something mentally stimulating. Do I still feel stressed and have anxiety? Of course. But back then, I understood it was a short-term sacrifice for a long-term reward.”

Vogel recalls being fortunate in that he has always had a network of family, friends and mentors who have not only helped him throughout his career, but who have taught him the importance of paying it forward.

“I talk a lot about legacy,” he added, “but if I want to help people and have tangible impact when I’m gone, I need to work on that now.”

Vogel’s pledge of $25,000 to establish The Vogel and Woods Merit Scholarship will directly support first-generation, undergraduate marketing or entrepreneurship students from New Jersey who have maintained a 3.5 grade point average.

“Considering the economic climate and knowing I have been afforded opportunities, I wanted to call out first-generation students because odds are they aren’t given those pre-built-in advantages,” said Vogel. “Accessibility is important. Everyone should be given the same opportunity to build their own dream.”

In addition to 215 Marketing, Vogel teaches business courses as an adjunct instructor at Rowan and serves on the Alumni Board of Directors.

“The Board is a great outlet to channel the way alumni view the institution and provide feedback to leaders on campus from the alumni perspective,” said Vogel. “I give a lot of credit to the Foundation, the staff, and especially President Houshmand for launching the University to heights I never thought it would reach.” 

“I brag about it a lot,” he added. “I’m proud of how far my alma mater has come and I’m determined to see it succeed.”

The first recipient of the Vogel and Woods Merit Scholarship will be chosen for the 2021-2022 academic year. Vogel hopes to see the scholarship grow in great scope, offering countless opportunities to business students for generations to come.

“My gift isn’t going to change the world,” Vogel concluded, “but I believe it’ll be a start.”