Style Observer

2019 Ready: Kimala Bennett

Sunday, December 30, 2018

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And what of the creatives amongst us?

Fly While You Leap: The “Creative” Entrepreneur

The only constant in life is change. In the life of an entrepreneur no truer words could ever be spoken. Being a creative professional, one of the first books that I read on leadership was the autobiography of musician Quincy Jones. A quote of his stuck with me: “Success is when preparation meets opportunity”, and this one line has guided my entreprenurial jounrney ever since. So in a constantly changing world, how can one prepare? The answer, a seeming paradox, is simple: you have to be flexible, you have to plan for change, and you have to be ready to seize any opportunity.

Adapting to change

My passion is film, and as I've found out, true passion can lead you to places you never imagined.

It was this passion that led me and my then business partner Melissa Llewellyn to think we could start a music video production company with J$20,000 and a mac computer out of my dad's recording studio on Grafton Road. I found myself envisioning an international-level production company similar to the one I interned at in LA after I had finished college. I set about structuring the business. Little did I know that this would be a daunting task and a life-changing one. Faced with the challenges of multiple systems, institutions and red tape I wrote my first book Starting a Business in Jamaica. I had started this journey as a film-maker. But I was becoming an entrepreneur.

Recognising that music videos, though exciting, were not sustainable, we started looking for steadier projects and looked to the corporate sphere. We quickly began to build a reputation of being a film crew with a fresh approach and were sought out by agencies to create TV commercials.

We soon realised that there were boundless opportunities in the advertising space. While we had become experts in executing the concepts given to us, we knew that given the opportunity to produce our own concepts, we could knock it out of the park. We could be game-changers, but if no one was interested in our creative output we would have to pivot, and repackage our business model. We decided that in order to keep creative control we would become an advertising agency ourselves. What started as two young ladies and a dream has become The Limners and Bards (LAB) Limited a fully integrated advertiing agency and production company that represents some of the largest brands in Jamaica, including National Commercial Bank, Grace Foods and Digicel.

A Flexible Business Model

If you throw a rock into a river with all your might it will sink to the bottom, but a leaf floating along the surface moves with the currents and tides. One advantage I have as a business person who started in the creative field is that I am of a flexible tribe. The creative space is less structured so our minds are trained to adapt to continuous change. The other advantage is that when you start as a freelancer, in order to survive you are constantly looking for opportunities, and that instinct never leaves you. Millennial in our thinking, we adopted new technologies into our operations, and began to employ disruptive ways of work, beginning the editing process on-set. We built a reputation for creating high-quality work in record time.

Keeping the Bar High

Steve Jobs once said, “I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” This is true of the successful “creative” entrepreneur. Why? The non-traditional arena does not train us for the linear confines of the business arena. But in Jamaica where it is a fledgling industry almost every creative starts as a self-employed freelancer, so we quickly become entrepreneurs, peddling our personal brands. But stepping from creative into business almost immediately at a corporate level came with severe challenges. The two spheres speak almost different languages. Indeed, we had to learn to punch way above our weight, adapting quickly to projecting a corporate image, and holding ourselves accountable in order to retain reliability and trust.

This our eleventh year was a milestone year for me and my team. We won an Addy award, and acquired a 5,000-square foot permanent office space. Reflecting on this journey I have shared, I also saw this year as an ideal time for new beginnings, and I am filled with a new fire as we have spotted many opportunities arising out of gaps in the industry. Seeing gaps in millennial marketing support we launched the inaugural marketing Think Tank, entitled Reaching the Jamaican Millennial, with keynote speaker millennial whisperer Tina Wells. Seeing a need for structured workspace with creative resources we launched Cr8space, a collaborative space and learning initiative for non-traditional professionals. Also noting the pace at which clients now want to develop content we launched Scope Caribbean, a regional online platform for talent and locations booking at the click of a button. The icing on the cake came very recently as I have been recognised as the Anthony Sabga Laureate for Caribbean Excellence in Entrepreneurship. As I look back at what we've accomplished I'm excited to say the new vision for The LAB is region-wide. I honour my journey to this point by knowing that so much more is yet to come.

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