I was sitting in the upper section of my college’s gymnasium, whistling and whooting as a group of my fraternity brothers and closest friends walked across the stage at commencement. It’s always great to watch others accomplish great things, especially receiving their college diploma. Times like this lift the spirits of everyone around them, but I still had a stale taste in my mouth from the events that occurred a few weeks prior.

I transferred an Associates degree from my local community college into Saint Leo University, a small school about 40 miles north of Tampa. My plan was to hit the ground running and knock out all of my major classes, snag a great internship, and move into a downtown apartment with some frat brothers after I landed my first job. Courses were aced, a summer internship was in the works, and graduation was close. About 3 weeks before the end of the semester, my advisor calls me in to go over my transcript, for what I figured was a pretty normal year-end review.

“Joe…you won’t be receiving your diploma. In fact, you won’t even be able to walk with the class.”

Apparently, the type of degree that I received from community college was not completely transferable, and I was still 20some credits short of filling the program requirements. I was floored. My transcript showed I had earned over 120 credits between the two schools. How the oversight went on for that long is something I don’t think I’ll ever know. I left the meeting with no real idea of what to do next.

I still had an interview for the internship that I lined up, but I was feeling so defeated that I wasn’t planning on going. At the urging of my girlfriend(now wife!), I threw on a suit and drove down to Tampa. I knew the internship was for a marketing company, but I had no idea what they actually did. I walked into an office filled with 30 employees in their 20s in t-shirts and flip flops, writing all over the walls, and a gong in the middle of the room. It seemed like a really cool place, and my suit and tie made me stick out like a sore thumb.

A few days after the interview, I got an email offering me a full-time position with the company. Me! The same me who was just told to screw off by the college was offered a job at an industry-leading content marketing firm. 98% of my classmates hadn’t even gotten a single offer yet! I ran home to tell everyone about my change of luck.

Guys I got a job doing SEO in Tampa, how awesome is that?!”

Cool man! What is SEO?”

Sure, it wasn’t some huge recognizable name in the marketing world, nor was what I was going to be doing something that ANYONE had heard of before, but this crazy string of events caused a door to open for me that I’ve sprinted through and never looked back. The digital marketing industry has taught me so many invaluable skills that no college course can teach. It’s allowed me to meet hundreds of creative minds that have changed the way we browse the web, scroll through social media, and send emails. It’s allowed me to create Mangrove Marketing.

So looking back on that graduation ceremony, it’s probably the most significant memory I carry with me from my time in college. Not just for the fact that it was spent with some of the men and women who have help mold me into who I am today.

And it’s not because the graduation party we threw that night was one for the history books.

It’s because that day lit a fire inside of me.

A fire that drives me to exceed all expectations and stigmas of a “college drop out.”

And right now, that fire is burning stronger than ever. Each tidbit of information and each digital marketing skill and platform that I’ve mastered has fueled the flames.

Mangrove Marketing is the next logical step in the process for me. The site has been created, the marketing plans are in place, the seed has been planted. It’s time to grow.