It Takes Grit To Run Your Own Business In Hollywood


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Happy 15th Anniversary To Hollywood Branded!  

I opened a box containing a binder and stamp fifteen years ago today, and my world changed forever. That binder was the documentation stating that I had successfully filed in the State of California and federally - and officially launched Hollywood Branded.

I was now the proud owner of an agency expected to pay taxes. I had no idea in 2007 that we were entering a recession and no one in their right mind would start a business. Luckily I've always been up for a challenge. In this blog, the CEO of Hollywood Branded discusses the challenges and grit it takes to run an agency in Hollywood over the last 15 years. 

Blog - It Takes Grit To Run An Agency

Step One To A Thousand

I can assure you that I had no idea what I was doing as a business owner. I learned on the go pretty much everything thanks to Google on how to set up the business, including what type of business to open - choosing from an LLC, partnership, single proprietor, C Corp, or S Corp.

That was my first big decision after figuring out the agency's name and what bank I would be sending all of my savings to. I was self-funding this brilliant idea of mine without the benefit of investors. I was, in other words, All In. It was more than just a little scary, but as a risk taker who at that time thrived from sky diving, scuba diving, race cars, and third-world travel - I knew that scary lasts a moment and is part of the bigger adventure and story.

I went with an S Corp as I thought it sounded right - and happened to get lucky in that it was. There were a lot of other choices I made that were not quite so right on the first go around, although none seemingly so wrong that catastrophe occurred. I opened bank accounts and created business plans, proposals, marketing decks, contracts, and about ten thousand other things. No one tells you when you are launching a business how much there is (always) to do. It never ends either. It. Never. Ends.

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What The He**

There have been painful learning lessons along the way, which have taught me things I would have never wished for anyone to learn.

  • I've been attacked by a prior employer who did not want me as a competitor - and I won. It cost me my savings for a house. They eventually went out of business. In the scheme of things, I have made a lot more money since then than that savings account held.
  • We've weathered the storm of cyber fraud in Nigeria and China, which wiped out our entire savings and operational capital due to a scam email our then bookkeeper fell for. How many agency owners can say that profits from millions of dollars of work went to drugs and buying guns? I can.
  • We've had a client decide not to pay a million-dollar+ invoice because they changed their mind after the work was done. That's one scenario where you are happy you have great lawyers.
  • We've been threatened to be put out of business by one of Hollywood's most prominent directors who was irate that a client's promotional campaign fell through - all due to no fault of our own. I squashed it, and it will become yet another chapter for that book I will one day write.

Partner breakups. Employee breakups. Nasty clients. Covid. Recessions. War. And so much more. These are all things that could have inspired month-long bed rest with sheets pulled tightly over my head and uncontrollable sobbing. Don't get me wrong - they each indeed led to rivers of tears. Yet instead, our team and I have continued to move forward, figure things out, grow - and prosper. 

I honestly thought I knew what I was doing way back when I decided to become an agency owner. I can say fifteen years later, nope, I didn't. I have had a mountain of lessons to undertake. But I have learned one thing.

I am nothing if not resilient, and know that passion and drive will lead to success for those who give it their all and demand it.

Welcome To The Insanity

Life as an agency owner is chaotic, relentless, stressful, and insane at times. It's certainly not for everyone, nor is business ownership in general.

Agency life itself is for a rare breed of individuals. Most people can't cut it. Especially when you combine Hollywood and agency life together. It's too chaotic, multi-task oriented, and in a world where you must always be moving incredibly fast.

There is no option to drop balls. You have multiple clients of many personality types to answer to, who typically don't tell you when they are happy - but always tell you when they are not.

In our world, we must satisfy both the production or celebrity partner AND the client - bridging two worlds of creativity and corporate that just don't mesh. Each deal that falls through means another must be created to fuel constant growth and that ever relentless payroll that comes around every two weeks.


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Never A Day Off

As an owner, you give up - a lot, and your family does too. There is no end of the day or weekend where your responsibility stops for a moment. I even worked the day of my wedding - and honeymoon? Hah! Every single day of that. Thankfully I married a very understanding phenomenal, kind, and brilliant man. (Dear Ian, I can never say how grateful I am to have you in my life. You, of all people in this world, have weathered some of the worst storms along my side and encouraged and enabled me to keep going.)

There is no vacation where you can forget about your responsibilities. Things pop up at the worst of times, and you just - deal. Whatever it is, you find a solution because there is no other option. 

Money Is Always Required

Employees and vendors must be paid. That is the overall focus at all times that you never can let your eye stray from. How to get new clients, keep current clients happy, and build the business becomes the driving thought behind all that you do. You learn to toughen up and make hard choices when team members choose not to pull their weight. You get better at saying goodbye to people who do not share your passion and drive and can't pull it together to get to the next level - those are the two things you cannot give anyone else. You discover your boundaries when you have a client, or employee, who asks for far too much. It truly is not all fun and can be pretty dreadful on occasion. 

Until you own a business, you won't know what it is like to be a business owner.

It's more complicated than you can imagine.


The Buck Stops... With Me

It's different from running someone else's business, which I had done over the decade before launching my own. Everything is riskier and more stressful. The bottom line is that the business owner (me!) is responsible for everything (literally everything) at the end of the day. One wrong decision and poof! It will cost you in time, energy, emotions, money, or the business itself. 

It doesn't matter if an employee screws up. I am responsible. It doesn't matter if a deal gets off track. I am responsible. The weight of responsibility is intense. From ensuring employees' paychecks get paid, and vendors stay happy with timely payment, the buck stops with no one else but me. 

The last three years certainly have not made things any easier. If anything, over these last years, I've had to get more resourceful and toughen up, even more, finding solutions in thin air.

But I Still Love It

Yet, despite this - the reality is that I would not go back in time and change too many things. I don't want to work for someone else, and I'd still choose to be an agency owner. The mistakes I've made, I've learned and improved from. The scenarios that almost felled us, I've put in safeguards to try to ensure they never happen again.

Fifteen years is a significant accomplishment, and there have been more than a few days when I was unsure we would get here.

I, who rarely pat myself on the back, can say that I am enormously proud to have launched a business that has, over these fifteen years, provided salaries and learning opportunities to well over 100 people between team members and interns who have passed through our doors.

The agency and I have been featured in all major business publications through media interviews read or watched worldwide - even going viral thanks to a coffee cup in Game of Thrones.

Through these years, we've built over 10,000 brand campaigns valued well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm incredibly proud of our past client work. And proud of so much more.

I am thankful for the team members who have helped us soar and the clients who have allowed us to help them grow as it has enabled us to have grown along with them, to use our brains, and to create solutions.

And I am excited about the new opportunities and lessons tomorrow will bring.

Cheers to all who have helped us over these last fifteen years. I sincerely can say - thank you. We could not have gotten to today without you. 

To our current team of HB Rock Stars - we have a glorious adventure ahead, and I am happy to have you on our team, helping us make our agency dreams a reality.


So...What's Next For Us? 

We've had 15 amazing years as an agency, and we can't wait to see what the future holds for us! Over the years, we have published thousands of blog posts; without our readers, this would be for nothing! Be sure to check out some of the blogs below - with thousands of blogs in our library, you may have missed a gem! 


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