Flashframe Digital Media, with two partners, plus a team of freelancers (editors, videographers, animators, graphic designers) on a project-by-project basis, their 2009 revenue was just over $500,000, which represents more than 550% growth over the previous two years. This makes them one of the fastest growing companies in all of Canada! While most of their clients are in Toronto, they have also completed shoots all over Canada, and some in the US as well.
Today, we have a great interview with Lee de Lang, Co-founder of Flashframe Digital Media.
Flashframe Digital Media was founded in 2006 by Lee and his business partner, Mike Welker. Prior to starting Flashframe, they both worked in the Canadian film- and TV-production industry. However, changes in that industry and the rising Canadian dollar were driving more and more US-based film and TV productions out of Canada. Noting the growing potential of the Internet as a new channel for video storytelling, they decided to make the leap out of film production and into video and to put their skills to work for business clients.
Flashframe specializes in online video and multimedia presentations for social-media campaigns, as well as traditional corporate video work. The company’s client list has grown steadily to include some of Canada’s largest public relations firms as well as large and small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Flashframe has proved so successful that in 2010, PROFIT magazine named us to its PROFIT HOT 50 list, which ranks Canada’s top emerging growth companies.
Biggest Success? It was the moment we thought: “Wow, not only are we a real business here, but we must be doing something right!
What inspired you to start your business?
In our former career in TV/film production, the work was drying up as US-based productions started to leave Canada. At the same time, technological advancements (like a surge in bandwidth capabilities and the emergence of Web 2.0) were opening up exciting new opportunities for video storytelling on the Internet. I had several friends who worked in the PR industry, and I began doing the occasional project for them, shooting and editing videos for their clients. The work grew steadily and soon after I asked Mike to come on as a partner, and Flashframe was born.
Where did your business’s seed capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
I was fortunate in that Mike and I already had much of the equipment, hardware and software we needed from our career in film-and-TV. Any equipment that we didn’t own, we were able to rent. Still, in the early days of Flashframe we would pour most of the profits right back into the business and invest in equipment upgrades.
Could you tell us a little more about your products/services?
We make kick-ass video and multi-media presentations for social-media, marketing and educational functions – specializing in online and viral video.
Our clients use our videos for a number of applications: for social-media campaigns, for marketing online, for their corporate website or company YouTube channel, to show at large meetings…there are many different applications.
What makes your products/services unique/different/better?
Even though our backgrounds are in film production and neither of us ever took a single marketing or business class, I think Mike and I quickly learned how to strike the right balance between meeting a client’s business objectives, while getting the message across in an artistic and engaging way. Like any other film, we aim to tell a story with our videos – but we keep our sights on the business objective as well.
How did you build your management team?
It’s still a core team of two: Mike and I. It works because we are very open and direct with each other and we’re able to discuss and resolve challenges as they arise.
What insights do you have from building and attracting your workforce?
We work with people on a freelance basis; we try them out on a project and if it’s a good fit, we’ll bring them on more often, for more hours. So far this freelance partnership model has worked well for us; it allows us to be very nimble in a number of ways.
How did you brand your business and market it?
We haven’t had much time to devote to marketing and branding, which I realize is a pretty nice problem to have. We’re fortunate because the business has grown organically via repeat business and referrals. We have always focussed on client service and building long-term client relationships, but we haven’t done any marketing beyond our existing client base yet. We’re just beginning to devote more time to marketing ourselves and our first project is to upgrade and rebrand our website, which we’ve almost completed.
It’s very satisfying to create something out of nothing and watch it grow.
What has been your biggest success so far?
Being named to the PROFIT HOT 50 list in October 2010 was cool. It was the moment we thought: “Wow, not only are we a real business here, but we must be doing something right!”
Also, we recently purchased new office space: before we moved into our offices, every team member worked out of his or her home studio and the new office is a total game changer. Having everyone under the same roof makes for faster and easier collaboration, and it also allows us to attract more talent, host clients, and house our growing stockpile of gear.
I’m happy to say we’re profitable, with a net margin currently greater than 10 per cent.
With that being said, do you have plans to expand to new markets/products?
There’s so much opportunity and so many great projects happening here in Toronto that we have no immediate plans to expand geographically. We’ve been slowly expanding into new production styles, based on client demand. Again, our wide network of freelance partners is key to being able to meet client needs if they want a video that falls outside of our core business.
What are your goals as an entrepreneur?
We just want to keep being able to do work we enjoy and experience the satisfaction that comes from building a successful business.
What is your exit strategy?
We’re just getting started! We haven’t yet thought about the exit. Work is still fun every day and the market keeps growing, so we plan to be in this business for a while.
Do you have any other ventures you are working on?
We make kick-ass video and multi-media presentations.
How do you define success?
Freedom, autonomy and financial security.
To what do you most attribute your success?
We’ve been lucky to have great clients and we focus on building lasting relationships with them.
If you were to recommend a book or movie to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?
I’d tell them to go watch whatever movie their spouse or their best friend wants to watch!
Entrepreneurs tend to neglect other aspects of their life and focus solely on the business, which is not a good recipe for a balanced life.
Has being an entrepreneur affected your personal life?
It’s been challenging at times because your work becomes your life. Mike and I still struggle to maintain a balance between work and family obligations.
What is the best part of owing a business?
The tax write offs! And it’s very satisfying to create something out of nothing and watch it grow.
If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?
We’d move faster and take more risks.
Amazing Productions, Awesome Business.
Thank you to Lee De Lang for sharing your insights and information on Flashframe Digital Media. It is clear that they have kept true to their vision of storytelling with the use of technology and videos and in the process have been able to keep their eye on their overall business objectives as well.
Maximizing their network of freelance partners has also helped Flashframe Digital Media be more flexible and nimble to respond to ever changing technology, and to adjust to their market needs. This in turn has allowed them to focus on client service and building long-term client relationships which ultimately has brought about their organic growth and profitability.
Click the link, to check out their awesome website and for more information on Flashframe Digital Media.