Jamie Butterworth – Managing Partner & CEO, Studio III Marketing

Jamie Butterworth is managing partner and CEO at Studio III Marketing, a creative marketing agency based in Los Angeles, California. Jamie’s background includes everything from crop farming and beekeeping to offset printing and typography, all learned through working in the trenches of these professions. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he currently resides with his wife, three children, and two dogs. He is an avid sports fan, and loves to play soccer and golf as much as his busy life will allow.

How did the concept for Studio III Marketing come about?
I was not the founder of Studio III. Two friends of mine, a cosmetic dentist and a marketing guru, teamed up back in 2011 and started the company. At the time, I had a consulting business so was always peripherally involved, but I didn’t start it. The concept of Studio III was primarily the brainchild of the marketing guy, Matt, who wanted to create a different type of marketing company (I guess everyone says that!), but with the Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist as his partner, there was always a drive toward something different, boutique for higher-end clientele, but at the same time, very results-driven and honest.

How was the first year in business?
It was very hand-to-mouth. We had to get results in order to create word of mouth for more clients. There wasn’t really an option for failure in the beginning (and still isn’t honestly), as there was no investment; the company was sustaining itself on its own, right away. Despite the obvious hypocrisy, we never spent money on marketing.

What was your marketing strategy?
In the beginning, it was all simply getting fantastic results to create word of mouth – this is the best, and always will be the best, form of marketing that is out there. And that is exactly what happened: we started in a small community where word travels fast, and that is how our initial success propelled us in the first year. Keep in mind, I was on the outside observing this for the most part, but closely followed all of this, and saw the group expanding as well as successful clients.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Within two years, there were around ten employees. That was when I started. When I came on board, three of the main executives were transitioning out, so there was a bit of a “Second Founding” described by Eric Reis in his The Lean Startup book, in which I had to re-establish the core of the company around 6-8 key executives and then build from there. This was the point when growth began to accelerate, adding more than 10 people per year as we grew. Keep in mind, there still was no investment at any point. Within 7 years, we were up to 56 full-time employees in our offices in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, and we plan to add another 12-15 employees in 2019.

How do you define success?
That’s a great question. I’m going into my fifth year, with 55+ employees, Inc. 5000 two years running, over 300 clients all over the US, and it still feels like we are a small, close-knit company that is very insignificant in the larger industry of marketing companies.

I believe success is defined by the amount of people you can affect positively, and the amount of real, tangible positive change you can make for them and their lives. This applies to my clients just as well as it applies to our employees and my partners. Money has something to do with it, but it isn’t the goal, and never has been.

What is the key to success?
Empowering others. More specifically, when you are given power or control, getting great people to work with you, and giving them as much power/control as you can so they have their own personal growth that only builds on yours. And make sure they are the right people first, of course – trust always comes into the equation, but you have to find those people if you want to grow.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Never stop learning, question everything, even yourself. Ideas that are fixed and unmovable, and an unwillingness to look/inspect, ultimately kill you.

What are some of your favorite books?
I was really moved by Richard Branson’s bio, Losing My Virginity. Studying some of the top entrepreneurs of our time (Jobs, Musk, Branson, Bezos), Richard Branson stood out to me. Maybe, because he actually wrote his own book, but I don’t think that was it. It was because he created massive companies in many different fields and believed in trusting people and letting go of power. Back to the point about empowering people – he did this very well and that impressed me.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
A client once called me at 10:00 PM at night crying because he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, and he was worried about his business being able to carry on. He also just had his first child, and as a father of three, this was a tough night. Not to mention, I lost my father to cancer 10 years ago, but my company ultimately exists to help businesses grow, so the idea that we couldn’t help this client was devastating – at the bottom of all of this business talk, people are people and you have to remember that everything you do, every day, impacts someone.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My friends, partners, and family, who are one and the same at this point. We have a core foundation of people who ultimately are best friends, ride or die, at the top of the company. When I’m faced with adversity, I rely on them to pick me up and set me straight. They have done it (and conversely, me for them) plenty of times over the years.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Never stop questioning, learning, but don’t forget doing is a part of learning, and perhaps the most important part.

Kevin Reilly – Owner & President, Vallejo Admirals

Kevin Reilly is the owner and president of the Vallejo Admirals, an independent professional baseball team based in Vallejo, California. Kevin grew up in Garden City, Long Island, and has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley. He started his career at software companies, providing systems to large scale IBM computers as a marketing rep. In 1988, he started his own software firm and operated it until 2002, when he sold a portion and shut down the other. He owned a small portfolio of properties in Vallejo, and hung out his shingle in 2003 with the broker who used to represent him, serving mostly investors in Vallejo.

How do you define success?
I define success very personally and by project. An internal feeling of success needs to exist within when you start any project, so decisions are made from the confidence of knowing basic truths that work and the confidence to flex to something else if even the most basic truths don’t hold up. As for success on a given project, it may be changing a business’s reputation, or it may be changing the foundation of how it operates or how personnel see the customers or changing all those who do see the customers properly before running out of cash, etc. Each enterprise is different and the definition of “success” meeting a grounded set of step-wise goals.

What is the key to success?
Attitude, and attention to customers.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That I am responsible for everything that happens. That is empowering. It enables one to decide everything that needs to be done and tests creativity and leadership in bringing those factors to bear.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Do something original, work hard, don’t be greedy.” – Ted Turner

“When in doubt, make a decision, see the result, then make a new decision and a new one, and a new one…never fear, just make a new decision. Look for people who have appreciation for customers, then set basic guidelines and enable them latitude to make decisions to innovate serving customers.” – Kevin Reilly (derived from Charles Wong, founder of Computer Associates)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”)

“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment…if it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali

What are some of your favorite books?
The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema – helps entrepreneurs sort out what to focus on in decision making.

Any book about JFK and books or quotes on leadership. Through the glamour, JFK was a heroic figure. Other leaders too – FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln. Leaders never have as easy a time as the history books make out.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
They’re all the same. Go in, have fun, and start making decisions. Enable people to be who they are, deal with the feedback, and make a new decision based on that.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
You mean every day? Adversity is a state of mind. Every day is a new set of decisions and they are made as quickly as possible to extend the quality of experience and magnetism for customers and keep expenses down.

How did you come across the opportunity to purchase the Vallejo Admirals?
I was approached. At the time, I saw it as a great device to feature the best of the city so the residents had somewhere to go to feel good about their city. I knew very little about baseball.

What is your vision for the future of the franchise?
To extend the underlying vision of featuring the best of the city via deeper relationships with major institutions as well as to prospective guests who have never visited because they think that an Admirals game is only about baseball but not food, friends, neighbors, fun, and other entertainment and community members performing, playing, or being honored.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Do something original, do it really well, don’t be greedy, and love your customers; they feel it and help you succeed.

Ben McKean – Founder & CEO, Hungryroot

Ben McKean is the founder and CEO of Hungryroot, a direct-to-consumer brand of healthy, easy-to-make foods. Hungryroot offers close to 100 food products ranging from plant-based pastas and clean-ingredient sauces to delicious proteins and wholesome desserts. Prior to Hungryroot, Ben was a vice president and general manager at Groupon, overseeing their food and beverage business. Ben came to Groupon through the acquisition of Savored, which he founded in 2009. Savored was the nation’s leading provider of yield management technology to the restaurant industry. Prior to Savored, Ben worked in Merrill Lynch’s technology investment banking group. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and lives in New York City with his wife, Kay.

How did the concept for Hungryroot come about?
After founding Savored and working at Groupon, both of which helped customers save money at local merchants, I was eager to solve a problem that would touch consumers on a more emotional level. I believe that the best business opportunities are those that can build authentic, positively-impactful relationships with customers on a daily basis. Food is an industry that is uniquely positioned to do so. Consumers literally digest food products into their bodies, which means food brands chemically-impact how people feel each and every day. On top of this, food impacts how people feel emotionally—whether they feel proud of their diet, or regretful of their choices. This means food brands have an incredible opportunity to help people feel great and to inspire people to live their best. Legacy food product brands have largely failed in doing so, however. Especially in the packaged food segment, products are full of processed sugars, trans fats, and chemical preservatives. This is what inspired me to start Hungryroot with the mission of building a new type of food product company, one that offers fresh, wholesome, convenient food, and sells directly to the customer online.

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was challenging and required making pivotal decisions that would shape the future of our company. When we first launched, we offered six products, all fresh, vegetable-based 7-minute meals. We quickly realized that to build a packaged food brand online, we would need more than just six products. So we aggressively developed new items, launching 15 new products over the following 12 months, which included new clean-ingredient sauces, as well as our chickpea-based cookie dough, which is still a customer favorite. This product expansion really fueled customer growth and repeat order rates, and setup the business to raise our $7.7 million Series A in our second year.

What was your marketing strategy?
For the first four years of our business, we grew solely through word of mouth and Facebook advertising.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We grew to $30 million of sales in just three years.

How do you define success?
We define success as positively impacting people’s lives on a daily basis through our brand and products.

What is the key to success?
We believe the key to success is a relentless focus on the customer. This includes a deep understanding of who your customer is, what job you are performing or problem you are solving for them, and how you fit into their broader life.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve ever learned is how important it is to really understand how your actions impact and are felt by others. This didn’t come naturally to me and was only through years of leading teams of various sizes that I realized I needed to focus on it. By working with executive coaches and participating in leadership workshops, I’ve gained a perspective of how I can best lead and support others, and I’ve learned that self-awareness and self-discovery are lifelong skills to develop and refine.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Make sure you have time in your life just to think.” — Henry David Thoreau

“You cannot discover new oceans until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

What are some of your favorite books?
Borrowing Brilliance by David Murray
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
In early 2017, we made the difficult decision to shut down the business for six months and pivot our operation. I wrote about the experience here and Forbes covered it here. We were doing $1 million a month in sales, but we were not setup for long-term success. Our supply chain was overly complex and while we were growing nicely, we were also letting customers down. We shut down our food manufacturing facilities, and partnered with other food companies to make products on our behalf. This was an extremely difficult decision, but it ultimately paid off.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
As long as our work is positively impacting people and we are making progress, I’m motivated to push through adversity.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find your personal passion and stay focused in pursuing it.

Candice Lu – Founding Partner, OnPrem

Candice Lu is one of OnPrem’s founding partners. She has worked in the media and entertainment industry for nearly 20 years, 15 of which have been dedicated to management and IT consulting. Since joining OnPrem, she has focused on projects related to process, strategy, and organization.

Media and entertainment has been the common thread through Candice’s career, which she began in the creative side of the industry, working in talent agency, production and marketing while completing her undergraduate at UCLA. After graduating, she made the switch to consulting joining Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting practice. Prior to OnPrem, she led Cognizant’s strategy and operations group, with a focus on building effective processes and organizations across media and entertainment.

For Candice, the people aspect of work has always been her driver. She is extremely proud of the team and the culture that has been created at OnPrem and is excited to continue being a part of its development. She knows that finding a balance between work and career is crucial. For her, consulting gives her the flexibility she needs to have a family while still letting her do the work she loves. Ultimately, she is a big believer in focusing on what matters most in life, prioritizing that, and setting your own path to getting there.

Candice has a Bachelor’s in Economics from UCLA and an MBA in Strategy and Entertainment from USC. She has authored multiple white papers on organizational models and culture and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur, and Success magazines. Candice is an advocate of giving back to the community and to those who would otherwise be underserved. In 2015, she initiated OnPrem Outreach, which provides pro bono consulting for nonprofit organizations. She is extremely passionate about surrounding herself with creative, intelligent, and sarcastic people, her husband and two children included. Candice lives in Los Angeles with her family.

How did the concept for OnPrem come about?
OnPrem was driven off of the concept of wanting to focus on consulting and software development services domestically, or “on-premises,” in the United States. Additionally, on the consulting side, we do not have office locations, but work at our client sites. The four of us who founded the company had worked together for over 10 years and had seen models that spanned all the way to offshore, so we just wanted to start something that would enable us to focus on our people, our culture, and our clients, with the “on-premise” focus in mind.

How was the first year in business?
Surprisingly smooth, especially when you first start out and have no idea what you’re doing. We were fortunate that we had a reputation from working together for so long that opened up the doors to clients and team members that enabled our growth from the 4 of us to 30 people within that first year. Because consulting overhead is lower (especially when you don’t have many offices), we were profitable from month one, and thankfully had clients that paid in a reasonable amount of time, so we were able to stay afloat.

What was your marketing strategy?
It was all word of mouth. We didn’t spend a dime on advertising. We are very much a relationship-based business, and that is how we grew. We are putting more emphasis on marketing now as we grow beyond media and entertainment clients, and outside of Los Angeles and New York, but initially we just believed in doing good work, treating people right, and the rest of it would line up. Which, it did.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We made it on the 2017 Inc. 500 list with 1412% growth (in revenue) since 2013. We are currently over 200 people.

How do you define success?
I am a big believer in karmic leadership, meaning that if you do right by your clients and by your team members, that it all comes back in a positive way. So, for me, success is a measure of impact that you have on people. Did we advise our clients with integrity, did we support our team members and develop them in the right way, are people happy? If we have a reputation of working hard, doing the right things, and people think about their time at and with OnPrem with positivity and with impact, that to me is successful.

What is the key to success?
Hiring the right people. Don’t hire jerks, and hire leaders that will believe in and develop your team members.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I have ever learned is to trust your gut when it comes to hiring. Every single time I felt that I shouldn’t hire someone and I did it anyways, it always came back to bite me. You should only hire someone that you are jumping up and down at the thought of working with. One wrong hire impacts the whole team and is such an energy drain.

What are some quotes that you live by?
My mom would tell me to “learn to like who you are since you are around yourself the most in life.” That goes a long way for me to make sure that I don’t lose sight of meaningful activities, like spending time with my family and friends, exercising, continuing to learn, and just finding joy in everything around me. I also like the quote “to think it true,” meaning that if you want something badly enough, to set that intention and visualize it, and that will pave the way often times.

What are some of your favorite books?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – underlines the importance of vulnerability and relationships to enable trust and accountability across a team, The Happiness Advantage – teaches us about the power of positivity, and how opportunities come to those who choose to find them. I speak about these two books the most when it comes to building culture and creating success.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
One of the toughest days I had as an entrepreneur was when we first started out and I had to fly out on a business trip when I had a newborn (and a 4-year-old) who I had to leave at home, and I just felt overwhelmed at the prospect of balancing it all. The world of a working mom is difficult, and you have your days where you feel like you can’t succeed in either work or at home. But, it’s a momentary panic, because I go back to the realization that I did all this so I could have the flexibility in my schedule to enable me to be with my kids. As much as I work, the ability to shift your schedule as an entrepreneur is the key to being a working mom, so I am extremely fortunate to be in this position.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The knowledge that it can always be worse, and that there’s always a silver lining in adversity. I grew up in the Philippines and I think that has single-handedly impacted the way I think about anything negative that comes my way. When you see poverty around you and people never having enough, it puts such a perspective on bad days, especially when you’re lucky enough to live in this country and be an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
If you have an opportunity to start a company, DO IT. It is one of the most rewarding things that you can do. Also, find partners that you align in values with, who balance your strengths/weaknesses, and that you know will be there to support you through every step of the way.

Eddy Hood – Founder & CEO, Ignite Spot Accounting

Eddy has worked in the accounting field since 2003. He worked in construction accounting for four years and later went on to work as an auditor in public accounting. In 2008, he launched Dashboard Accountants, which was later rebranded as Ignite Spot Accounting. He received his Bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Utah and his MBA from Weber State University.

How did the concept for Ignitespot come about?
I was working as an auditor and I had to tell a business owner that he had $50,000 less cash than his bookkeeping team reported. It broke him. I went home thinking that accounting was full of problems. I decided to leave auditing, and try and solve the in-house problems that people were having without having to pay the in-house costs. It worked!

How was the first year in business?
I had to look at my cash flow forecasts several times a day. I was always worried about spend and controlling costs. I worked out of my home and I wore all ten hats, but I did what I had to do to make it work. Most days, I was pulling at least 15 hours of work.

What was your marketing strategy?
I started the company in 2008. Back then, digital marketing was still trying to figure itself out, so I built a website and spent some time knocking on doors. It was a pretty poor strategy, but at the time it worked because I was very persistent.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We grew rapidly for the first few years, always doubling revenues at least, but by the time I got to ten employees, our growth pattern changed. I think a lot of that has to do with internal politics and dynamics. Things began to slow down because we had to build processes to support our growing needs.

How do you define success?
Having positive cash flow and happy customers.

What is the key to success?
Come into work every day expecting the absolute best from yourself and your team. Never walk through the doors with low energy. If the CEO has high energy, it feeds the team and they show up with purpose.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To ask higher quality questions. It’s easy to ask, “What’s wrong with us?” or “Why aren’t we making any more money?” Those kinds of low quality questions always return low quality answers. Instead, asking “What is the next improvement we’re going to invest in?” or “What are we going to do to improve the customer experience this month?” are much better questions.

What are some quotes that you live by?
My favorite quote is by the comedian Steve Martin. He said, “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” It’s on my wall, right over my computer. It reminds me every day that the success of my business is up to me and my commitment to what I do.

What are some of your favorite books?
Measure What Matters by John Doerr
Tribes by Seth Godin
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Unshakable by Tony Robbins
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The first time we didn’t meet expectations, the client decided to discontinue our services and wanted a refund. At the time, I didn’t have the cash. It was just me and two other employees, and I had to answer for their work that really wasn’t up to snuff. We were able to work it out in the end, but I thought that guy was going to put us out of business.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I always think about my wife and kids. Having a family that I love and am proud to support pushes me to work late and go the extra mile.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t worry about top line revenue or sales. Instead, focus on the net income. What shakes out at the bottom is all that matters. You can grow a multi-million dollar enterprise, but if it’s not profitable, it doesn’t matter.