Website development firm Craft&Crew acquires Ottawa's Simple Story

Website stock image
Editor's Note

This story has been updated to correct Craft&Crew's current headcount and projected revenues. A previous version of the story said the company had 40 employees and projected revenues of more than $7 million for fiscal 2023.

A leading Ottawa website development company has taken over management of a prominent local video production firm that has worked with some of the world’s biggest corporations.

Craft&Crew announced recently it has closed a deal to acquire Simple Story, which was founded more than a decade ago and has produced thousands of animated and live-action “explainer” videos for customers that include Bell Media, Coca-Cola, CIBC, Pfizer, Shopify and Walmart.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. In a statement, the two companies said Simple Story will remain an independent entity under Craft&Crew's management.

As part of the deal, current Simple Story chief executive Alex Dorward will step down to focus on his role as managing director at Ottawa strategic content agency Ascribe. Dorward has led both companies for the past six months.

Craft&Crew founder and CEO Dave Hale said his company has partnered with Simple Story on various projects over the past dozen years, leaning on the video producer’s experience to serve clients who are increasingly demanding more multimedia content in their websites.   

"The need to have high-calibre video was coming up more and more and more. That’s where Simple Story really is phenomenal at what they do."

“The need to have high-calibre video was coming up more and more and more,” he said.

Hale noted that in recent years the company was farming out a “significant volume” of work to Simple Story and other video production firms and decided it was time to bring that expertise in-house. 

“That’s where Simple Story really is phenomenal at what they do,” he explained.

Several members of Simple Story’s previous ownership group – including Dorward, Ottawa entrepreneur Michael Aiello and creative director Gabriel Proulx – will retain a stake in the company, Hale told OBJ. 

Now at nine employees, Simple Story was founded more than decade ago by Kyle Braatz – the current chief executive of online health-care firm Fullscript and OBJ’s 2022 CEO of the Year – and his business partner Brad Dyment. A group led by Aiello purchased the company in 2015. 

'World-class' content

In a statement, Aiello said joining forces with Craft&Crew will allow his firm to expand its client list “while keeping our artists and storytellers focused on creating the world-class video content that has brought Simple Story such renown.”

Founded in 2010, Craft&Crew has created more than 500 websites for businesses and organizations that include Google and TD Canada Trust.

Originally known as Soshal Group, the company rebranded to Craft&Crew early last year after jettisoning its digital marketing arm to focus on building and maintaining websites for its expanding list of corporate clients.

The Simple Story acquisition will raise Craft&Crew’s headcount to about 30. Hale said the company is projecting revenues of more than $6 million in its 2023 fiscal year that began Sept. 1, which would double last year’s sales total.

“We have a really good business development engine that we’ve built, a really successful growth strategy that we’ve been executing over the last three years,” he said. “All of our leading indicators are very solid.”