We opened in my rented house in 2009. Right in the middle of a recession. A single mom with two kids and her new boyfriend who was now her partner, no reel, no money and no bio, we had to jump in very creatively to get things going.
In a way, I am really glad we did it then. We had to be so creative, but we also were lucky because the only overhead we had was taking care of ourselves and our family. I never, ever accepted no for an answer. Ever. I felt like I had an imaginary bag of tricks where I would just keep pulling ideas to keep us in contention. There were so many losses, but I couldn't take any personally. It was really about perseverance and creativity. No one could outwork me. I knew that to be true.
I learned that there is a way to make ANYTHING work as long as all parties were flexible, and I was fortunate to have clients who wanted to discover what those creative ways would be, instead of forcing an idea that couldn't happen.
One of the things that I think resonated the most was when we got our first space. We rented the upstairs of a closed-down studio in L.A. It had a sound design room, mix room, a small production office, kitchen with a bathroom attached (not ideal), lobby and a narrow machine room we made into our conference room. But we had almost nothing else. Our sound designer brought his own gear into the studio until we could afford to replace it. We had no refrigerator, window shades or snacks, and minimal furniture. When clients came, one of us would run to the gas station and buy the drinks, or buy fruit from the vendor on the corner. There was a cooler in the space where a refrigerator would go one day. We would run to the Coffee Bean next to the strip club for coffee.
We wanted people to come back, and we knew they had been so spoiled with fancy client services and chefs. We couldn't compete with that. To make people feel better about coming back, I would take a picture and send a thank-you note for what their job bought the studio. The most exciting part was when I could take a picture of a fully stocked beautiful refrigerator and send it. I felt in that moment, "We made it!" There are few moments when I have been as proud.
But that actually did more than I anticipated. While for me it was a Hail Mary "Please come back!", what it did for the people we worked with was instill a fierce sense of loyalty. They felt as if they were a part of our story, and they were. They would then very passionately tell their colleagues about us, and before we knew it we had a full studio, a beautiful reel and and incredible network of clients that I considered friends.
Going into this next challenge is much different. It's a worldwide stoppage. I now have four children, a large staff and two facilities in Los Angeles and New York. I see everyone around me laying people off and cutting salaries by 50 percent to survive the unknown, and I don't know if I will end up being wrong here, but my staff is so incredibly important to me that feels like a last resort. Some might say it's the downside of business being so personal.
There are so many other things we can do right now. We don't know how bad it will be for us. But what has always worked was creating energy. If everyone is moving and everyone is creating energy, you cannot help but succeed. Energy focused in the right place creates actual jobs. Take the director's cuts. Take the student films, just keep moving. If you become stagnant or lose your purpose, you will get depressed, and that leads to failure. But if we just keep moving and staying focused on the positive, we can survive this without so many hits.
But you do not have the luxury of opportunities passing you by. You must take every one, even if it feels hopeless. You never know what anything or any relationship can turn into. You can be positive that the other side of this will be fantastic. People will want more than ever to go out, to connect. And brands will be there to offer their products and services into this new wave of movement. I just keep telling my staff that we just have to get through this and we will be better, stronger and closer than ever before.
We have been through worse in our lives, that is for certain. This is just a moment. It's significant and it's scary, but it's temporary.