In the latest installment of Success Stories, a series highlighting the personal and professional journeys of some of the most dynamic entrepreneurs, YFS Magazine speaks with Jess Richman and Justin Giangrande, co-founders of NCLUSIVE, a Los Angeles and Atlanta-based digital creative agency.
Can you launch a startup creative agency and go from being virtually unknown to signing a high-profile roster of athletes, fashion and celebrity brands, in two years? NCLUSIVE co-founders Jess Richman and Justin Giangrande say it can be done. Why? Because they’ve done it.
The LA-based creative agency, occupying one of Hollywood’s trendiest zip codes, started from nothing and now boasts an impressive client roster, from heiress and entrepreneur Paris Hilton to NBA player John Wall.
Richman manages NCLUSIVE as the chief executive officer alongside business partner and chief operations officer, Justin Giangrande. Both founders attest to the power of organic, bootstrapped growth.
“We started with five hundred dollars out of our pockets, and to this day, we are still self-funded,” Richman explains. “We’ve grown off of pure profits … We have 30 people now working in our office on Sunset Boulevard.”
Giangrande attributes the startup’s growth to their keen ability to prepare and invest in people. “You have to be prepared. If you see that you have a bunch of new clients coming, don’t wait until you land the business, invest ahead,” he says.
Learn how Richman and Giangrande bootstrapped their agency from the inside of an apartment to a 3,000 square foot office space on Sunset Boulevard; and why they believe entrepreneurs have to put in the work.
|Founder(s):||Jess Richman , Justin Giangrande|
|Location:||Los Angeles, CA|
|Industry:||Advertising & Marketing|
How We Got Started
JR: Before NCLUSIVE, I was at a sports agency… and I noticed that a lot of things were being done very archaically … this was five, six years ago.
Moving forward, Justin and I saw the opportunity. I started looking around at what other digital agencies were doing, which allowed me to see where they were succeeding and where they were lacking. The major [weakness we observed] was the connection between business and creative. For example, we have our hands in a lot of different parts of the business, and at the same time we service clients full 360 and help them with everything they want to do in the creative space.
So it’s more hands-on. We’re not just building websites or doing social media; we’re involved in the day-to-day business of [our clients].
YFS Magazine: How did NCLUSIVE land its first client?
JR: To this day, we don’t have any sales people. We get all of our clients through relationships and networking. Our very first client was a random friend of mine — one of Justin’s family members. We were working out of my apartment in Hollywood. I knew the power of what I could do in digital and Justin knew how to sell that as a big company.
JG: Our most notable first client was Yolanda Foster, of Bravo TV’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She allowed us to encompass our [new business model] – creating her brand from [scratch]; creating her social media presence, website, and partnering to help create a jewelry line.
To see where we are now, I don’t think Jess or myself would have ever thought that in 19-months … we just feel truly blessed.
JR: We started with five hundred dollars out of our pockets, and to this day, we are still self-funded. We’ve grown off of pure profits (JG: Reinvesting hand-over-hand. Every time we bring on a new employee it comes directly from our profit). We have 30 people now working in our office on Sunset Boulevard – which is not cheap. We’ve had VC’s come to us, but it’s just not our approach. We’ve grown organically along with a team and culture that is extremely talented.
YFS Magazine: How can entrepreneurs manage rapid business growth?
JG: You have to be prepared. If you see that you have a bunch of new clients coming, don’t wait until you land the business, invest ahead. In theory, when you bring on new [employees] you’re going to still need three to four weeks to train them. My father has [always instilled in] me that, “People are everything and to always be prepared.” Make sure you are getting out in front of [what is next] … over-staff a little bit. If you find someone that is talented – hold on to them. And don’t micromanage talent.
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