Story by Amber Henning | Photo by Lucas Hitchcock
Back in 2007, when Blane and Angela Russell were first profiled in the Destination Eagle Magazine, things were a little different. At the top of their game as the owners of Eagle River Mortgage they were living embodiments of the “American Dream.” They had come from modest beginnings and achieved success in ways neither of them imagined when they were just young kids growing up in Idaho.
From the company’s early beginnings, working out of their townhouse with only one computer, Blane and Angela put in long hours and all they had into building their business. After years of perseverance, their hard work paid off. Eagle River Mortgage grew to become the largest private mortgage company in Idaho.
Then 2008 happened. With the collapse of the mortgage industry, Blane and Angela found themselves losing several million dollars’ worth of their own real estate investments, including their own primary residence. Eagle River Mortgage eventually closed their doors and the Russell’s were back to square one.
Driving away from his former neighborhood, Blane hit a low point. As he was leaving behind his home, which he was helping the bank short sell, in a vehicle he was a month behind in the lease payments, he saw a gentleman doing maintenance for the neighborhood association. Years ago, his thought seeing this man may have been different, but on this day Blane could only think how lucky this guy was because he knew where his next paycheck was coming from.
In 2009, the Russell’s annual income was $1000 less than their health insurance premiums for that year. The cars they did have were leased and with their credit rating shot, these vehicles had to be returned to the bank when the lease expired. Unable to obtain a car loan, they had to purchase a $1000 car they found on Craigslist.
In the years after the collapse, the Russell family did whatever they could to survive. In order to feed their family and put gas in the car, they took to selling their personal belongings, including the ones with sentimental value. Angela developed a real knack for selling items on eBay and made a modest living selling jewelry and clothing accessories. She also began working part time for Mimi Marie’s Boutique as a jewelry buyer.
Blane used his business expertise to begin helping other companies develop their social media. In 2010, Blane founded Social Eyes Marketing. As the business model matured, Blane brought in more talented experts to provide website design and search engine optimization services. Now with a staff of 11 employees, Social Eyes Marketing provides stellar digital marketing & SEO services for clients on a local and national scale. With an office in the heart of downtown Boise and talks to open a new location in Eagle, Social Eyes has become a digital marketing machine that is consistently at the forefront of the industry in the Treasure Valley. In fact, growth has been so steady, Angela is now working with Blane to help manage expansion and develop new clientele.
Now almost a decade since their life was turned upside down, the Russell family is happy and secure. They were even able to purchase a beautiful home in Eagle last year. Having gone through hardships and coming out the other side has encouraged the Russell family to find ways to assist others who find themselves in desperate situations. Along with Scott Johnson, a local financial advisor, Blane and Angela have organized an annual fundraiser for the Frank Church Foundation for Student Achievement, formerly Helping High, a charity that works with the school system to assist high school students in getting the supplies they need for school and beyond. In the last 2 years, the event has raised over $80,000 for the foundation, and the Russells invite the community to join them at the next fundraiser November 16th at the JUMP Building. For more information on getting involved or attending the event, please contact Blane at Social Eyes, 208.955.6679.
Despite all their family has been through, Blane and Angela’s outlook on life and success hasn’t changed. Their original 2007 article included the following quote, “The road to success means taking risks, using ingenuity, being ambitious and never giving up.” The Russells clearly take this credo to heart and through their tenacity show just how rocky–and rewarding, the road to success can really be.