Looking back, 2014 was our best year yet! It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I started my company, Fresh Level Productions. This week four years ago, I officially began something new, totally unaware that I’d be on the path I am now.
I’m humbled to report that in 2014 we broke six figures in gross income! I’m totally amazed and thankful!!
Seriously, you couldn’t have told me four years ago I’d that own a business that would do well in such a short period of time. You couldn’t have told me some of our projects would air on American Airlines’ flights or even show on the jumbotrons of a Nascar race. Or that I’d take a crew up to New Hampshire in the winter time to produce a major marketing series for a nationally known company! I wouldn’t have believed you!
I began my business while I was teaching high school; commuting forty minutes to be in front of a classroom of thirty teenagers, trying to get them to pay attention to me and do math problems. I had always had an interest in graphic design and video production, but the main reason I started the business was because someone had seen something I designed for fun, and then asked me “How much would you charge to do this for me?” And I thought to myself: “Charge?!”
I didn’t realize my passion for creative design had potential to make money, let alone make enough for me to quit my full time job.
Two years later, I was announcing to the staff and my students that I wasn’t returning the next year. Needless to say, in those two years, working full time and building my business, I BUSTED MY TAIL!!
Most people had no idea what I was up to… and I suppose it’s too late to get in trouble for it now. I would take my teacher planning breaks to go to meetings at a nearby coffee shop, and sometimes came back with signed contracts! I took *cough cough* sick days to take on a producer internship in Washington DC. I even let my students give me feedback on videos we were doing, playing them on the TV in the classroom towards the end of class. That was always fun! The more and more I saw this thing growing, the more I realized this was for me.
I want to share the top four things I’ve learned so far on this crazy but rewarding journey, and officially announce our most recent news for the company.
- I learned the value of taking risks and hard work.
Was I nervous when I announced to my boss, staff and students I wasn’t coming back next year? YES!!! How about when I went to networking events, not knowing a soul in the room? UM.. YES!! What about when I was sitting across the table from a potential client, and the contract amount I offered was higher than usual? HECK YES!!
A ship is safer on the shore, but it wasn’t built for that. -Albert Einstein
I’ve learned that while taking risks is challenging, it’s the driving force behind business. Had I taken the safe way, I’d probably still be teaching. June 13, 2013 was my last day in the classroom, and I haven’t looked back. Of course, I miss the students and the spontaneity they provided everyday (trust me, I have enough stories to write a book)…but I couldn’t deny I was supposed to be pursuing more.
This drove me to work extremely hard, in fact, I have never worked this hard in my life! One of the thoughts that came to mind when I started the business was, “You are going to know the value of hard work.” This thought initially scared me, honestly, because most things just came natural to me and I didn’t consider them being hard work. Nevertheless, I made a commitment to do my very best. Once I was full time in the business, I actually found myself waking up earlier and working ten times harder than when I was teaching!!
Disclaimer: I did not just up and quit my job! I had a 1 year plan orchestrated by my business advisor, Arnel Tanyag (Awesome advisor), who helped me put revenue milestones in place to hit while I was still teaching.
Taking risks is necessary in business, and the fact that it takes hard work is an understatement. However, the reward and sense of accomplishment is amazing!
2. I learned the value of being a student.
With a Bachelor’s degree in math and a Master’s in education (Go Hokies!), people always ask me, how in the world do you go from that to owning a business producing videos?! Or did you go to school for that? Long story short, I invested a LOT of time in learning. I read and read and read, watched tons of videos, soaking up as much as I could about creative arts and video, and then implementing it. Luckily, I have a good looking husband who was my test subject for taking photos and video! I started created opportunities for myself to test out what I was learning, and got involved with a local church volunteering to help them with their graphics and videos.
Coaching was another aspect of the learning process that I strongly believed cut the learning curve for me dramatically. During my summers off, I started attending regular group training sessions in Virginia Beach with Arnel Tanyag where I learned about business. I was given the floor to share challenges and get immediate feedback to overcome them, and you better believe I had a TON of questions!!
It wasn’t until I came across Kris Simmons, a video producer in Chattanooga TN, that my eyes were opened to another level. His resources and coaching helped me learn the BUSINESS of video production and this made all the difference for me. Through his online community, I learned from others in the field, one of whom, Aaron Thomas of Your World Productions, reached out to me personally and offered me the opportunity to learn even more in Washington DC and Philadelphia as an intern. I was taking advantage of any and every opportunity to learn, and I’m still doing the same with other mentors.
A successful CEO told me, “Leaders are readers.” Currently, I’m still working with my advisor and professional mentors, reading a few books a month, listening to business podcasts, and investing in other resources. I even take advantage of the time I have on film sets with CEOs, presidents, and leaders to ask them their advice to small business owners. It’s awesome being able to learn from them! Their wisdom has been invaluable to my personal growth and the growth of the company.
3. I learned the value of relationships.
Relationships have played such a major role in the company’s growth. One thing that I began to understand about business was that the sole purpose of being in business is to be of service to someone else, to provide value to another. In essence, it’s about serving people. So I ventured out and began meeting lots of people, attending countless networking events. I took one summer off from teaching to drive across town to 7am networking meetings to meet other people. It was hard for me at first because I’m generally a quiet person, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was to put myself out there. But I got the hang of it, and made it a point to actually get to know people.
Close to 75% of our closed contracts have been referral based. It was through relationships built with friends, strategic affiliates, and a Virginia Beach BNI Chapter that we were able to land our biggest contracts to date. I’m a firm believer that in business and life, it IS about who you know.
4. I learned the value of teamwork.
When I started the business, I was pretty much a one-woman show. I did all the marketing, sales, meetings, scheduling, scripts, and I would film, edit, and design… all of it! At this point, my advisor said that I was like a hamster in its wheel, running myself ragged, working hard but going nowhere! I began reaching out to other video professionals who could help me with the work load. Thankfully, through the online community and building those relationships, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the best in the industry, who have much more experience than I do!
Without their experience and service to our clients the company wouldn’t be where it is now. The team consists of an office assistant, sales/production manager, a director of photography, an editor and a motion graphics designer.
The newest development in our business has caused me to depend on my team even more and look to find more to join us. That new development I’m speaking of is the start of a second location in the City of Brotherly Love! Philadelphia baby!! Things are already underway, and we are PUMPED!! So now that we have a location in Hampton Roads, VA and in Philly, I’m sure that we will experience new challenges, but I’m anticipating even greater rewards and opportunities! And with a team I can trust and am blessed to work with, the world is ours for the taking! Teamwork makes the dreamwork!
As I reflect on the past four years, there were a number of challenges, disappointments, and some scary moments. On the other hand there have been some really fun times and extremely rewarding experiences. I’m thankful for everything, humbled to be chosen, and joyful that I’m doing what I was called to do. God has been faithful to me, and I’m glad I trusted Him with this business. I’m confident there’s more to come and even more to learn. My hope is that others are inspired to take risks and go after what they want in life.
Have you taken the leap? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below.
Are you thinking about pursuing your business full time? I’d love to be a resource and support to you! Contact me and let’s chat!