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Level 5

How 6 Entrepreneurs Started Their Marketing and Branding Companies




We asked six creative entrepreneurs in the QB Community how and why they started their branding and/or marketing agencies. Here is what they told us...





Toby Lewis Thomas, co-owner of Birch, a branding & marketing agency:

“While studying photography in school, I became involved in the music industry. I started touring with bands as a videographer/photographer and, shortly after, I decided to pursue it full-time. I rented a studio and started off with really small jobs, but my clients were always happy to recommend me.”


“Back then, content — and particularly video content — was becoming super important. Every brand suddenly wanted to promote itself through video, so finding work wasn’t a problem. The idea of even having "content" was still a reasonably new concept, and brands were looking for advice as well as production skills. I set myself apart from others in the industry by tracking the impact of everything I did. I was committed to finding out what worked and what didn’t work, and I always took the lessons I learned into my next jobs.”


“I met my business partners, James and Elliot, when I rented an office space from them. They had already been running Birch for about four years, and we developed a mutual respect for each other’s work. We collaborated on a few projects before deciding to come together to run Birch as a full-service studio.”


Read Toby’s full story: Meet Creative Agency Owner Toby Lewis Thomas




MIchael Koral, co-founder of Needls, a social media marketing firm:

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I wanted to be my own boss. Two of my friends from childhood had started a web design company and a website brokerage firm. Around 2009, I knew they were having some challenges and I talked with them about working together. We made a good fit!”


“We stumbled on the idea for Needls while trying to drum up more business for those first two companies. We were browsing social media sites looking for people who said they needed to build a website and then we reached out to them. That’s when we thought about writing a script to monitor social media for us. Turns out, we gained a ton more business from doing just that. We knew that if it worked for us, it could work for others as well.”


Read Michael’s full story: Social Media Marketer Michael Koral on Hiring Slow, Firing Fast and Pricing Transparency




Skip Blankley, founder of NoBox Creatives, a digital marketing company:

It started as another venture called Social Relish, an online marketing and web design business for the restaurant industry. I was focused on that field because I spent a decade working in it. I started that business while I was in a band and playing four or five nights a week, because my days were wide open. But I soon realized it wasn’t just restaurants I wanted to tackle, because they didn’t have the budget or the option to set up a large retainer. So, I launched NoBox Creatives, which provides the same services but for all other industries as well.”


“To be honest, it was a slow and painful transition! I was uncomfortable venturing into other industries and tackling issues for bigger companies with bigger problems. But stepping out of your comfort zone is important, and moving out of the service industry opened up a ton more opportunities for me.”


Read Skip’s full story: How Are You Measuring Your Time? Skip Blankley Shares His Secrets for Getting Organized




Taughnee Golubović, owner of Endeavor Creative, a digital marketing & branding company:

“For a long time, I called myself a web designer and worked with just about anyone who needed a website—non-profits, universities, government agencies, bloggers and small businesses. These days, with the advent of so many great DIY website building options, I’ve placed more emphasis on strategy. Now I specifically target very small, service-based businesses looking to attract clients online. As a tiny service-based business myself I’m intimate with the problems we all face trying to get our customers’ attention online.”


Read Taughnee’s full story: How American Expat Taughnee Golubović Lives the Self-Employed Dream in Croatia





Marty McDonald & Rich DeMatteo, co-owners of Bad Rhino, a social media marketing agency:

“Quite simply, we went to work. No financing -- we just went out and got our first client and went to work. Once we had the idea for Bad Rhino, Rich and I met for about six straight Saturdays to come up with service offerings focused on social media. We then started to work our network for opportunities and started cold-calling small businesses. Within about 30 days we had our first client, and we’ve been growing ever since.”


Read Marty & Rich’s full story: Bad Rhino Co-Founders Rich and Marty Talk Small Biz Marketing in the Age of Social Media


Starting a new business? Check out our guide to
Everything You Need to Know to Open a Business
for a wealth of resources and inspiration!

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