We are Chelsea & Rafael Zabala
15 years ago, we started our online marketing company from the porch of our Costa Rican coffee farm.
Here’s how it went down. Early in our marriage we lived in Atlanta. Rafael was doing well in corporate America, but something wasn’t quite right. With an hour commute each way, Rafa was gone everyday from the time his daughter woke up to the time she went to bed. We longed to travel. To explore the globe and see new places. But with a week of vacation a year, that just wasn’t possible. So Rafa and I asked ourselves…”Is this how we want to live?”
TIME FOR A CHANGE
In 2002, we made a drastic life change. It was time to reshape our lives, family-first, and make our own rules about how would grow our family legacy. After tons of planning, packing, and giving away our stuff, we packed up our bags and moved to the Costa Rican cloud forest. We lived in a tiny pink house at the bottom of an organic coffee farm with no telephone and no internet. It was different, but it was a lush tropical heaven.
OVER THE RIVER & THROUGH THE JUNGLE…FOR INTERNET
Now we needed to make money! We were tempted by family and friends to start a business in tourism or real estate development. But Rafa had a hunch he couldn’t shake. He needed to learn how to build websites. He needed to figure out SEO. Everyone thought he was CRAZY, but we bought a $3,000 satellite dish the size of a trampoline, stuck it in the ground, and mustered up 300k internet. Wow.
When the satellite signal at home went down, Rafa would have to go from cafe to cafe searching for internet. At one point, he rented a room in upstairs of a little old lady’s house because she had the strongest signal in town! He had to cross a river by foot to get there. No joke. That’s how (IM) got started. By the grace of Skype and the internet gods, Rafa was able to drum up business and communicate with clients.
Our life was amazing. Our daughter, Cecilia, went to a bilingual Quaker school in Monteverde. We had an amazing group of friends that had traveled across the globe to live in this lively, sleepy little town. We build our dream home on the top of our farm. It was nestled in a groove of starfruit, mangos, and limes. Butterflies and clouds would drift in and out of our house. It was heaven on earth.
DESIGN TAKES IT UP A NOTCH
One day, Rafa was working on a website, and I leaned over his shoulder and said “I can do better than that!” He giggled, and said “Oh, yeah? Go for it!” I downloaded Photoshop on my computer, and have been designing websites ever since. Rafa and I built our business together at home on our coffee farm. We had made a life for ourselves that belonged to us. In 2007, our son Elijah was born.
A BOOMING BUSINESS
We are back in Atlanta now. We still have our home in Costa Rica and visit it often. We continue to work from home, travel, and put family first. (IM) had grown exponentially. We continue to work hard, innovate, help our clients grow, and in the process grow ourselves. Rafa and I love working together. Our skills are so complimentary. He does the conversion strategy, the lead generation, and pushes SEO to the cutting edge. I help people build their brands and design websites that people love. I believe that our businesses are an extension of ourselves and that our passions can be communicated through messaging and good clean design.
Our little Costa Rica start-up has grown into a nationwide marketing firm. We have turned countless businesses into recognizable, client-generating brands. A huge thank you to our clients, our associates, and our awesome employees for making it all possible.
Rafa is always doing crazy marketing experiments & hunting for new technology and ideas. He tests out his weird ideas on personal projects, and implements the best strategies for his clients at (IM). His goal is to bring the newest, the coolest, and most effective strategies to YOU.
Chelsea is here for two big reasons. Design & communication. Her talents lay in brand building…taking the essence of your company & moulding it into a form that speaks to people. Her passion is in design and the ground-up construction of building brands that come alive.