Baaqir Yusuf

Running a Video Agency in a Pandemic

November 2, 2020

I began my entrepreneurial journey in early 2018 during my sophomore year in college. In my final semester as a senior at UNC, I was ecstatic that the business had grown to a point where it made total sense to work full-time on our company post-grad. I was sitting on the beautiful beaches of Mexico during my senior year spring break with my closest friends, reflecting on my journey over the past four years. It seemed like the perfect end to the beginning. 

Cue COVID-19.

In early March, I was more than ready to graduate and close out my memorable and fulfilling time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The next two months would be full of celebration, reflection, and great feelings of reward for me, my family, and my peers. Moreover, the start of 2020 was an incredible time for my company's growth – new projects and new opportunities came knocking like never before. It seemed at the time as if I had nothing to worry about. 

The abruptness of the pandemic was – to be frank – catastrophic. An onslaught of confusion, fear, regret, anger, sadness, and incredible stress overwhelmed me. Consumed me. It felt like everything that I did right the past three years had been the complete opposite of what I should've done. Our agency's business and growth that we had entering the new year vanished within days. My friends' high-paying corporate jobs with locked-in start-dates a few months out meant career and financial security that I didn't have at the time.

As in any entrepreneurial scenario, the unexpected is to be expected, and the importance of adaptability is paramount. Like every other challenge we'd overcome in the past two-and-a-half years, we remained persistent and optimistic amidst a new challenge that overshadowed the rest. 

While the world seemingly started to collapse around us, the only option was to continue to push forward. And among all the negative emotions I just mentioned, there were positive ones too. Newfound excitement, fresh concentration, and an intense desire to solve new problems helped me stay energetic and confident. I believe that's something that many other entrepreneurs can relate to – it's almost as if the challenges and uncertainties that come with running your own business provide a sense of relief and enjoyment. No rush beats the rush of solving a new problem. 

Moving forward, we had less of a focus on client projects following the onset of the pandemic. Instead, we refocused our attention to other business aspects: internal creative brand-building efforts, refining our business and video skill sets and managing personal and professional relationships. The team worked together to develop new skills in motion graphic animation and visual effects, explored course building for online education from the production and logistics side, and identified key markets + people that would be mutually valuable to develop relationships with. 

Since then, we've established partnerships and collaborated with fantastic agencies all over the nation: Bloodhound Marketing, BluePrint Business Communications, BCom Solutions, the Looma Project, Gladius Communications, and Let There Be. Go check them out — incredible people who do excellent work. 

In the past months, we've built multiple comprehensive online courses. We first began with Ryan Vet, entrepreneur, and sommelier, to make an educational course on wine. You can find it here. Using the knowledge we gained from this course, we then worked to create a life mastery course for the Journey Principles, launching in the next few weeks. Building an online course from a production standpoint is a behemoth of a task logistically. Maybe we'll draft a guide on how to do it both technically at a high-level and efficiently next!

The point in mentioning these two areas of focus is that the ability to adapt and pivot is essential in entrepreneurship. It is the sole reason I'm able to write this from a place of gratitude and growth at this current time. Here are a few important takeaways from my journey over the past few months: 

It's essential not just to be acutely adaptive but holistically adaptive because the unexpected is constantly happening. Whether small or large, a problem is often multifaceted and can be solved in many different ways. What way works best for you and your business and is also efficient and implementable?

Honesty, trust, and fluid communication with your team are critical in times of crisis. We're quite fortunate to have co-founders that are so close-knit. Our constant weight on holding each other accountable kept us spirited when we were separated and working remotely for weeks.

Consistency over a long time is what yields results in any situation. The same way that the pandemic wasn't going to end overnight, our client base didn't magically re-appear either. Our concentration towards meeting specific, measurable, and achievable goals over months paid off in ways that we didn't necessarily see at that moment.

In a service business, stay away from selling your services / products directly. Instead, provide value to others and concentrate on building meaningful relationships. A shift in reaching out to people to hear about exciting things they're working on, gaining advice from industry experts, and having genuine conversations positively impacts your overall knowledge, humility, and future network.

I write this from a very fortunate and privileged position in both my personal and professional life. Millions of people around the world have had their lives completely upended in myriad ways. While I would've loved to walk across the stage for my graduation or film for more months this year, it's important to acknowledge that others may be going through much greater hardships. However, do your best to see your challenges as opportunities. Looking back, the challenges we faced this year forced us to become better, fast. Looking forward, I'm only more confident and excited in myself and our team.

"Being challenged in life is inevitable; being defeated is optional."

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