Is Attracting Capital Necessary for a Startup?

The following interviews, conducted by Jack Mayo, seek to understand:

  • If these creative entrepreneurs sought capital in starting their organization
  • What ways they may have done so, if applicable
  • What advice they have for aspiring creative entrepreneurs. 

This interview process is part of SMU Meadows’ class Creative Entrepreneurship and Attracting Capital.

Ezra Cohen, EzraCohen.TV:

Ezra CohenQ: Have you sought funding for your organization?

A: I’ve never taken funding… I started working as a freelancer. First time around was a senior in college, and I took any job I could possibly get. My first gig was a wedding video, shot, edited, rented the gear, for like $400, and I was like thrilled. And I did a bunch of work for the equivalent for like 8 bucks an hour for like a year straight and I did as much as I could and posted as much as I could, and just tried to get the word out. Obviously being in Dallas and being a part of large churches and stuff doesn’t hurt and I connected with some other churches in the area and started getting paid. I felt brave enough to ask for like $20 an hour and basically just started saving up as much as I possibly could. “The kids that wait till they’ve graduated to look for a job, it’s like good luck, you know what I mean?” I saved up as much as I could and published as much work as I could. I had like $10,000 in savings which was enough to get us by and started my freelance company.

Q: In what ways have you sought funding for your organization and how were you able to grow without outside capital?

A: It’s just like, work as hard as you can to get as much money saved up as possible. Now we are like self-funding everything… we’ve just like worked our asses off saving up money. I don’t believe in getting into debt, so I’m totally fine with having credit cards for the sake of cash flow, but if I can’t pay that off at the end of the month then something’s wrong. I got a great credit card and we’ve got like a $40,000 credit line so if we needed to do something we could, but most of the time working hard just looks like – last year I probably worked till 5AM at least 100 nights of last year, so I guess that’s how I raised money.

Q: What funding pursuits OR self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

A: I guess like the other thing I can add to that is since I’ve launched the film texture’s and other products, that has become a very substantial source of income. So that’s by far the most profitable way I’ve spent my time, is by generating products other filmmakers can use like there isn’t a job I can take that would pay me as much as just working on products. Having assets that create a source of income… it’s much less physical work than trying to make that amount of money as a DP (director of photography), unless you’re just the best in the world.

Q: What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

A: I guess I just answered that too, but like get your head around the things that help other people and help the entire industry as a whole, as soon as possible. Like you (myself) have been around this industry longer than so many people. You (myself) have seen so many angles of problems that exist and I think that it’s not even reinventing the wheel like people have done film grain, but I’m doing it too. Taking care of other people is profitable. If you just focus on creative work, there’s a limit on that. Create multiple streams of revenue so when the creative work dries up you have something else coming in and then you can make better decisions on the kind of work you want to do. You profit by however much you contribute to the industry you’re in. Advertising does make a difference, being really wise with how everything is worded and sell your webinar… very clearly presenting what the problem is, having people ask a question, and then giving them your solution and letting them know it’s not that hard. “People follow people, not products.” I’m still trying to figure out the balance between artist and sales guy. The final piece of advice I have is, if I went back in time I should have figured out some form of residual income first, there’s obviously so much placed on the creative end of it, but if you prioritize the business end of it a little bit, then you’re going to be able to have the creative freedom you want. That way you can work your ass off knowing you have the ability to fail and to not be afraid of that.

Scott Mayo, Ditore Mayo Entertainment: 

Q: Have you sought funding for your organization?Scott Mayo

A: I have not sought funding for our organization.

Q: In what ways have you sought funding for your organization and how were you able to grow without outside capital?

A: When Sam and I got together we brought a few relationships into our company, meaning that we essentially took relations we had prior to organizing our company and tried to leverage those into opportunities early on. I think it’s in large part our sort of success ingredient today and that is A) we put out a premium product, but we also serve – It’s easy to look at a creative organization and ask what do they make, what campaigns have they worked on? – We think the product is half of our business and the way that we serve, communicate, and conduct ourselves is the other half of our business. We started with very little early on with money and clients, but word of mouth through great product and great service was really the recipe for success. Who you know is equal to who they know, and if a brand or a client has a positive experience (product and relation) those things just multiply. We didn’t fundraise per se but what we did have early on was a line of credit that allowed us to battle the highs and lows of cash flow if a particular client was slow paying or you just go through a period where work is few and far between. We said no to very few things early on and took any opportunity as an opportunity. As we grew, we became more discerning.

Q: What funding pursuits OR self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

A: We went through all the channels, Vimeo, YouTube things like that. We joined local producer organizations and creative network organizations and that’s where you really meet colleagues… and that’s where you really network and make communities that you hope to build client relationships with. It’s important to never stop networking… the majority of our opportunities came from relationships more so than seeking work or marketing. People like to work with people they like, so be likeable.

Q: What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

A: Cast vision, what are you doing that is unique? What are you doing that strikes at the center of your personal passion? People always invest in people. Go to people that know you in some form… you are more likely to receive funding from people they know because people like you. Be concise, develop a visual presentation. Become a master of Keynote. Have short term and long term mile stones – and I would say test that presentation, master it and rehearse it and tell them to beat you up over it.  It’s better to get beat up by someone you know than to look unprepared. It’s better to have 30 minutes of info inside of you but to give them the tip of the spear and let them ask questions, and then reveal the depth and deeper thinking.

Keith Duncan, The Movie Institute: 

Q: Have you sought funding for your organization? Keith Duncan

A: YES!

Q: In what ways have you sought funding for your organization and if not how were you able to grow without outside capital?

A: We have mainly sought funding through grants, sponsorship, and individual donation.

Q: What funding pursuits OR self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

A: Sponsorships have proved very effective because businesses want to show that they are involved in the community, especially with youth non-profits. Our grants have come because we apply for them and our financials are really good, good income and outcome statements and our testimonials are really good. We’ve gotten grants over the last couple years and that’s been a growing part of our revenue stream.

Q: What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

A: Be organized and do the things you don’t like to do first. Secondly, be focused and know your vision and what you want to happen. Third thing is to be disciplined and diligent, quit talking about it and just go out and make it happen.

This entry was posted in Attracting Capital Interviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *