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Photo: JMX Brands CEO Jim Miller

To outsiders, the notion of an Mennonite internet mogul may seem contradictory. But Jim Miller, CEO of Sarasota-based JMX Brands, has established himself among the top web-based retailers. Selling Amish furniture gathered through a traditional sourcing network and sold at DutchCrafters.com, Miller has in fact become a national leader among business owners in the community, last month joining the board of directors for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates. 

Miller founded JMX in 2003 and has since been noted by Inc. and Furniture Today for his success selling old-fashioned craftsmanship through a tech-forward avenue. He acknowledges it wasn’t always an easy sell. “There were hesitancies about the internet amongst the Amish and Mennonite communities, but not for the reasons you might suppose,” he said. It’s wasn’t some caricatured fear of technology keeping Mennonites in the brick-and-mortar sales world, but a hesitancy to dive into modern marketing methods that weren’t yet so tested, and a concern that the market for people buying $3,000 pieces of hand-crafted furniture sight unseen might not prove as profitable as it ultimately turned out to be. “For a long time, the value of humility was ingrained in our psyche,” Miller said. “Marketing, for a lot of Amish, didn’t come naturally.”

Debra Gingerich, Web Presence team manager at JMX, says the company today employs social media and mass communications with the same savvy of any major retailer. And the company has won accolades for that. JMX employee Alex Miller was recognized this year by MEDA on its “20 Under 35” list of young professionals in the community, and Jim Miller company social media expert Jayca Pace last month gave a presentation on “Likes, Tweets and Pins: Why Social Media Matters to Your Business” at a MEDA convention in Virginia.

And now the company is actually moving into a traditional market, opening a Sarasota showroom on Lockwood Ridge Road. Gingerich calls the move “clicks to bricks.” Of course, company growth has also called for an expansion in office space, so the move is a natural one. The showroom likely will hold a soft opening this month, and a grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 8, Miller said.

Photo: JMX Brands CEO Jim Miller

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