Scott Thomas and Ruth Stephensen have developed a $1 million business that makes it possible for amateur and expert visual storytellers to make a good living. Visuals are seen as essential by more than 50% of experienced marketers, and Creatively Squared offers a wide selection of visual products. It is a multinational company, with contributors from over 30 nations working with companies like Google and Heineken. According to Cisco, 82% of all internet traffic will be made up entirely of videos by 2022, and consumers now want marketers to use more visual content than any other type of media.
Few people have the good fortune to be paid for doing what they love. Usually, there isn’t much conflict between covering your bills and achieving your goals. Scott Thomas and Ruth Stephensen do not have to make a decision. They have developed a $1 million business that makes it possible for amateur and expert visual storytellers to make a good living.
The proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been more true than in the chaotic world of today. Visuals aid in detracting attention from rival companies and presenting a convincing message as firms vie for our ever-shrinking attention spans. Visuals are seen as essential by more than 50% of experienced marketers, for instance, and Creatively Squared offers a wide selection of visual products.
According to Ruth and Scott, Creatively Squared is a “managed” market. They choose the brands, hire the creatives, and match the three according to the instructions. It is a multinational company, with contributors from over 30 nations working with companies like Google and Heineken. Within a few weeks, a worldwide team can offer localized, tailored content.
The statement made by Scott was, “We connect brands and creators around the world, but it’s not self-service.” “We facilitate the interaction between the two parties by matching the request with the originator. It’s more of a three-sided marketplace since our artists aren’t usually used to dealing with professional marketers and professionals aren’t always used to interacting with average folks.
On the correct path are Scott and Ruth. According to Cisco, 82% of all internet traffic will be made up entirely of videos by 2022, and consumers now want marketers to use more visual content than any other type of media. Despite being a bootstrapped business, Creatively Squared is completely on trend, and as you’re about to see, the visual storytelling sector is also on the rise.
Fresh Starts, Fresh Challenges
Like many others, Ruth took some time to figure out her line of work. She obtained a master’s degree in advertising while floundering as a designer at NewsCorp and secured her first freelancing job with a children’s clothing firm. When Ruth photographed items and worked with artists in the studio, she saw a need for a community to elevate the social media material she generated.
I spent a lot of time looking for someone to capture the pictures I needed, said Ruth.I wanted diversity, distinct kids, families, and parents, but there was nothing available on the market to meet my needs. I therefore made the decision to start an Instagram creative community. I was aware that many individuals were considering this style of photography as a pastime or a method to earn extra money.
The neighborhood grew to nearly 20,000 residents in just two years. Ruth saw incredible contributions from common people from all around the world because there were no geographical boundaries on who could submit stuff. This neighborhood acted as the “MVP” or proof-of-concept for Creatively Squared, giving Ruth the assurance she needed to recruit Scott.
We wanted to be as inclusive as we could, said Ruth. “We didn’t want merely powerful people, people with lavish houses, or people who fit that description. We wanted everyone to feel appreciated for their ingenuity. Despite the remarkable skill, several performers lacked sizable audiences. Being able to offer them work was amazing because their creativity, not the quantity of fans they have, is what gives them worth.
Creatively Squared was founded by Ruth’s yearning for a fresh start, but Scott was intrigued to the difficulty of expanding a bootstrapped business. He worked in research and pharmaceuticals before earning his MBA in 2015, and then spent time in the oil and gas sector. He felt the need to start his own business after working for a few years as a strategy and innovation consultant at EY and other companies.
New business approaches and problem-solving have always attracted me, Scott stated. Sparing 0.1% of a balance sheet item was no longer difficult because this is the norm. So starting a worldwide firm without money seemed to be an even bigger challenge. What first drew me to it was the everyday challenge of coming up with something fresh.
Ruth continued to work part-time at NewsCorp to augment their income while Scott left his top-four consulting post to devote himself fully to Creatively Squared. After her maternity leave was up, she gave birth to their first child, Jett, and then she joined Scott to focus on Creatively Squared. The first six months were amazing, according to Ruth.
“I still remember signing our first significant international client,” Ruth recounted. It was a request for around 750 pictures from J&J in Singapore. I was doing everything at home by myself because I had no help and a baby who was just two weeks old. At that point, I understood that this was no longer a side job. Herein lies a lesson for all aspiring entrepreneurs: start small, and who knows what you can accomplish.
Scott was also thrilled, and after landing some reasonably huge fish early on, he could see a bright future for the company. I knew the firm would grow once the big companies started calling us, said Scott. “All we had to do was keep the customers and the creators happy.” Despite the seeming simplicity, balancing two different sets of criteria would be difficult in any market.
How they came to be together Creators and Brands
The following describes the Creatively Squared business model: The online solution from Creatively Squared streamlines the short submission procedure for businesses. The team then introduces the customer to the visual storyteller who can best fulfill their needs. The team makes any required last modifications once the assets are finished, which usually takes a couple of weeks, before handing them over to the customer.
But from whence did the first significant consumers come? Before the pandemic-caused travel bans, Ruth, Scott, and Jett traversed the world together while pleading with companies for time to show them how Creatively Squared might help them. By charming his way past gatekeepers, Scott, who is experienced in the business world, was able to show the value of visual storytelling.
“I would call them and let them know that I will be in their city the following week. Possibly some coffee? Scott said that as a result, we got our first big customer in Singapore. “Once you land a big name, you can go after others with confidence. This lasted for around two years, during which time we made trips to London, New York, Singapore, Sydney, and other locations for face-to-face encounters.
These conferences are now held online. Additionally, finding content providers necessitated the construction of a collaborative, instructional place where visual artists may refine their skill, but acquiring clients relied on traditional business development tactics. Ruth helps content producers monetize their passions or create new professions with her tailored courses and themed challenges.
“Creative people do not always want to run a business,” said Ruth. “As a result, a platform like ours supports their way of life. We help those who want to build portfolios. The good news is that everyone tends to stick around the neighborhood to help and support one another. For creators, we have established a really collaborative atmosphere.
Scott contends that finding the ideal creator at the appropriate time is more important than counting the number of people. The global community excels in this area because it has created a talent pool with a wide range of styles, specialties, and geographical regions that allows for an amazing level of personalization for companies. And for artists, this means exposure to significant, all-encompassing companies that demand regional knowledge.
We’ve developed an incredible and talented creative community, according to Scott. “We have now appeared in 35 different countries. We always try to help them develop their own work and explore their creativity, even when they are not working with us. Some people have never worked with brands. We frequently support people like Ruth who want to leave the 9 to 5 job.
Think of Creatively Squared as an incubator for creativity. If you don’t have the abilities, Ruth and Scott urge you to join in the community until your first brief is finished. In other words, these co-founders have helped many people who may not have had the chance to commercialize their abilities turn their interests into money, which has led to pleased and driven producers.
According to Ruth, “We review their Instagram account and any personal websites or portfolios.” “Determining if a candidate is a good fit for a task or for the kind of work we undertake is quite straightforward. In order for them to learn from the information we post and other artists around if they lack expertise, we urge them to join in the community.
Equity, culture, and Other Difficulties: Growing Pains
Any entrepreneur will tell you that understanding the issue you try to solve is essential for business growth. You would assume that Ruth and Scott’s problem was producing high-converting graphic material on the client’s end. In order to make the transaction fair for both sides, Scott further notes that they wanted to put creators on par with expert marketers.
Finding the ideal balance between the demands of marketers and artists is our responsibility, according to Scott. This implies that not all of our decisions are made with the client in mind. For example, we would never utilize a crowdsourcing approach where advertisers only pay for the content they enjoy while receiving far more material. The authors would suffer because of that.
The Creatively Squared corporate culture was imbued by this idea of equality. Being linked to their workstations or gadgets all day was not what Ruth and Scott, working parents with a two-year-old son, wanted for their staff. Ruth and Scott recognized they had to deal with the challenge of being unable to fully unplug, even when working remotely.
“Work should revolve around one’s life, not the other way around,” Scott added. “Yes, time management is important if you want to be productive, but you also need time to relax and recharge on the weekends. We leave work on Fridays so that we may prioritize our families. If the objective is to build something lasting, it makes no sense to rush to finish it in a year. Life is more important since it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.
Ruth had worked for NewsCorp, and Scott had worked for BP, two organizations with very different business cultures. These encounters, together with their principles, inspired them to establish an environment at Creatively Squared where they and their staff would look forward to going to work each day. They could only contribute time; they were unable to offer Silicon Valley pay.
According to Ruth, “Because we are self-funded, we cannot always compete with large organizations on salary.” However, we may compete on the basis of culture and work-life balance. People that cherish culture and respect this part of our business are drawn to us. As this enables people to complete work that is important, we want our staff to work in a way that complements their lifestyles.
However, there have been difficulties as a result of being so approachable and employee-friendly to the worldwide market. Ruth said, “We’ve had customers and creators in different time zones because we chose to be global from day one.” “In order to offer and manage jobs, we had to get past language barriers, even resorting to Google Translate.” But given the technical advances of today, it’s a task worth taking on.
What might they have done differently?
Creators and brands have been successfully connected by Ruth and Scott. These co-founders have developed a platform where you can build your portfolio and earn money, regardless of whether you’re an aspiring professional photographer or content producer. Have they ever felt regret for their actions? They ought to have relied more on their instincts, according to Ruth.
We may have trusted our instincts rather than claiming we lacked prior industry expertise, Ruth said. Instead of seeking outside help or hiring more experienced people who did not bring what we wanted to the table, I think we would have made the greatest choice if we had trusted our gut and intuition.
Scott went a little farther with Ruth’s idea. People assert that without finance, you cannot expand, go worldwide, or construct a certain thing. However, we didn’t spend money on complex websites or branding. We completed every work by ourselves. To see if anyone would pay for it, we pieced it together with low-level coding, and then things expanded.
Does this suggest that Creatively Squared will always be bootstrapped? Maybe not. Ruth and Scott think that for fundraising, timing is crucial. If your firm is bootstrapped and expanding on its own, why give up some of it and set a timeline for success? Startups must remain agile, which they cannot accomplish if they are constrained by growth goals supported by investors.
“Never say never, but funding only helps if you’ve validated everything and the only thing preventing you from scaling is funding,” Scott cautioned. “Neither do I think money would help us get there, nor do I think we are there now. However, we may think about it if we got to the point where funding was the only thing standing in the way of our quick growth. However, that is not on our agenda right now.
What about changing up their material to reach a wider audience? Ruth said, “At this time.” “I think we feel very comfortable with the visual environment. I suppose you wouldn’t rule anything out. We certainly want to support creative people, but I think we’ve found a good balance with the lifestyle and things we provide right now.
Who conceivably could argue against that? Ruth and Scott are the owners of a $1 million business that helps the worldwide community monetize their endeavors. Their culture is life-affirming, thus complicating issues with finance or new kinds of material is inappropriate. Additionally, Creatively Squared will have access to finance if necessary as long as their rising trend continues.
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