WBENC marketing and creative agency co-founder

Nashville Business Journal Leadership Trust
by Kedran Whitten, Co-Founder at Brand825
Kedran Whitten is cofounder of Brand825, a full-service marketing and creative agency that is passionate about building successful brands.

I wouldn’t call myself an adrenaline junkie per se, but I do love to take chances. When I went skydiving in 2012, there was a chance I could have been street pizza if my parachute didn’t open, but I jumped anyway — and I did it again three years later! When I completed the full Music City Marathon in 2016, I risked physical and mental catastrophe due to the hilly streets and crippling Nashville humidity, but I ran anyway.

And just a few weeks after the marathon in 2016, when my business partner and I made the decision to leave our comfortable corporate jobs to open our own full-service marketing agency, we risked total failure, but we launched it anyway. However, as I stood on the precipice of launching my business — and taking the biggest risk of my career — there are several things I know now that I wish somebody told me back then.

The business is always on your mind

I anticipated starting my own business would be demanding; I just underestimated how demanding. There’s no such thing as a 40-hour week when you run your own business. Whether you’re taking care of clients or crossing off logistical items from your massive to-do list, you never stop thinking about what needs to be done next. For me, it’s nearly impossible to just “turn it off” at the end of the day because I never stop thinking, worrying about or strategizing for the business. It’s always on my mind.

Not everything is fun and games

Starting your own company means you get to be the kind of boss you’ve always wanted to be. That includes creating the dress code, establishing your own vacation policy, treating yourself to a shockingly overpriced office chair and more fun things. But you also need to carry out tasks that aren’t the most exciting, like finding group health insurance, learning how payroll and payroll taxes work, writing employee handbooks that outline company policy, and many more elements that may require overcoming steep learning curves.

You wear all the hats

In a corporate setting, there is always an individual or team to handle accounting, human resources, benefits, customer service, etc. Owning your own business means you wear all those hats. You may start your morning handling an insurance dispute for an employee and then quickly transition to invoicing your clients. The key to not getting bogged down in the daily minutiae is to build a team of people to help you carry the load when you are moving from one role to another.

Don’t forget to work on your business, too

Every day, my partner and I work tirelessly to produce the best work we possibly can for our clients and to ensure they are getting everything they need from our business. Our clients are our top priority. However, when you spend most of your time taking care of your clients, it’s easy for the needs of your business to get swept aside, and your company cannot flourish unless you purposefully make time to work on it. For example, my partner and I have a standing call three times a week at 8:15 a.m. to discuss items and issues that need to be addressed to make the company stronger. This call is in addition to weekly meetings with the entire staff to share ideas and brainstorm about what we need to do to improve our agency, from website updates to advertising opportunities. These meetings make our communications more seamless and allow us to remain on the same page.

Building a winning culture is crucial

Launching a business is great and all, but if your company culture doesn’t motivate employees to want to work for you, your company won’t stay afloat for very long. We work hard to build a culture that makes our employees feel included and directly invested in the success of the agency. As a small company, we can’t compete with big corporate salaries, so we find ways to be creative with what we give back to our employees. We also make sure our employees have the tools they need to be successful, feel empowered to do what we hired them to do and have the flexibility to balance life and career.

Yes, launching a business can be scary, nauseating, upsetting and stressful but it’s also exhilarating, fulfilling and rewarding. If you are an entrepreneur feeling unsure about starting a business, it is absolutely worth taking the leap and working to bring your vision to life.


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