We just invited Matt Stansberry for our first #ama Ask Me Anything event on our Slack team and this is how it went:
It was great.
There were 44 people tuned in to the channel, adding reactions and following along and asking questions. During the Q&A, our whole slack team grew to 200 members. Not to mention, the actual answers were informative and extremely useful for anyone in the local creative industry.
Wondering what an Ask Me Anything is? It’s a popular Reddit format, where an expert who’s got something figured out, or took on a successful project, introduces themselves and what they’ve been working on and openly answers questions for an hour. We are adapting this format to our slack team, where threaded questions and answers work great for the conversation.
So if you missed it or would like to share – we’ve got the whole conversation archived on this page. Read up!
Good morning! I am Matt Stansberry, founder of Nominee, a branding agency with the goal in mind to create world-class brand experiences for our clients. I started Nominee out of my house in 2010 and worked exclusively with music projects for the first several years, early clients included Radiohead, Peter Gabriel, Alabama Shakes, Dawes, Sony Music Japan, ATO Records, Red Light Management and others.
These were exciting times where I worked crazy long hours, but I knew longterm I wanted to build a team, an agency, not just have Nominee serve as my freelance business. So, I started with Tim Giddens as an intern and he is now our digital director. We then added Natalie Kent as a designer and she is now our creative director. Nominee began to become something once our base was established internally. We currently have a shop of 10, including Callie Ridley, our studio manager and two interns. We have diversified our client base to include a range of industries and projects like The Jones Assembly, The Social Order, Thrive Insurance, Cult Records (yes, we still do quite a bit of music based projects), Thunder Basketball (internal branding work), and a few new exciting projects currently in the works like Stella Nova, a coffee shop coming to the OKC area in November and a large music festival coming to Tulsa next year.
Overall, Nominee has flown under the radar in OKC for the most part, but we have steadily grown and greatly improved our processes and deliverables over the past several years. We are taking the approach of running a marathon, not a race, and want to be around for years to come. So, we’re working to make smart decisions and build a sustainable model for Nominee, not just financially, but creatively. We want to always continue to attract great clients and projects and experience growth by having an excellent team, process and product.
Side note, I’d like to extend an invite to everyone to checkout Night School. It’s a monthly, free event at our studio and is an after-hours gathering for skill-seekers expanding their creative knowledge and expertise. The Night School website (http://nightschoolokc.com) showcases past events and more info. We’d love to see you at one of these, or better yet maybe you’d like to present at an upcoming Night School. Just let us know.
Lastly, I’m happy to be sitting in today for the first AMA. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.
Additionally, I’m happy to talk about my own music, Matt Stansberry & The Romance. We just released a new album “Future Love”, recorded in Memphis due to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $26k. We’re performing our album release concert at The Tower Theatre on September 30th.
Q & A
What kind of work did you do for your music projects?
Everything from album art to website development to marketing assets for promotions at SXSW, Past Magazine, etc. Pretty broad range, but all around design and development
I loved this line in your intro:
We are taking the approach of running a marathon, not a race, and want to be around for years to come.
Can you talk more about how that has helped, and have there been any hurdles to approaching your business this way?
This approach has helped us most in attracting the kind of clients we want to have. The hurdles have been growing at a slower rate than I want too sometimes and having a lot of people not know who we are. The steady wins the race approach works but it’s tough. I can be very impatient with my own philosophy on this!
Ohh! Where in memphis did you record if you don’t mind me asking? I’m from Memphis.
We recorded at Ardent Studios in Studio A. Love that room!
Love Nominee’s work. I’ve been following y’all and you are definitely on the inspiration short list for my freelance studio, Toast Design Studio. We’d love to be in five years where you are now. What was most important in your early success? How did you make the leap to full-time freelance, and then to hiring employees on?
Thank you! Honored we’re on your list. In the early years I think being very intentional about the kind of clients we worked with helped a lot. In all honesty it was extremely hard to pay the bills early on. Like hard to get groceries tough and I had two daughters at the time, but I think staying the course paid off in the long run. Super hard to have that commitment but I think it’s important to establish what kind of agency or freelance shop you want early and stick to it as much as you can without going completely broke. Our switch to adding on employees is very different than most stories. I’ll start another response for this answer…
So for hiring our process has mostly gone something like this…we bring someone on as an intern first, if they are passed that point we bring them on as part time for the first few months. This probably sounds strange but every creative on our team, except I believe one, started as an intern and/or part time and worked into full time. I think we’ve found very ‘hungry’ creatives this way. They are looking for the right home to be creative, ambitious and have the right opportunity to succeed and I think we’ve been able to provide this
How can we attract more high-end tech talent & companies to OKC? I know a lot of great talented people from OKC, but end up having to move for better jobs in places like SanFran.
Great question. I think of this constantly. I was someone that almost left myself and there wasn’t a ton of opportunity so the entrepreneur in me started creating those opportunities for myself and at the end of the day I think maybe that’s what it will take. Dedicated Oklahomans that want to live and work in OKC. We have to create the opportunities for others. Only thing is we need a lot of these people and I think we’ve got a great start honestly. It’s going to take time but the wheels are already in motion just got to keep playing the long game and doing our part to keep as many talented folks here as we can. Great question and way more complex than my response, but just a little of my two cents.
If I wanted to start a KickStarter for a passion project, how could I replicate your success? ?
I will second Cara’s great question, I to am going to be doing a kickstarter soon and would love to hear a little bit about your success Matt!!
The thing with our kickstarter is it was our third one. First one raised around $5k, second one $10k and then the third one $26k. We built a base of support, we toured and we did all the day in, day out stuff. Every project is obviously different but our success was a multitude of 5 years of hard work, even a year or two ago I don’t think we could have raised as much. Not sure this helps!
@branderson Not sure if you saw my response to Cara or not, but I had the advantage of 5 years of building a support base. That was huge for us. I see other people have quick success with things but for some reason I’ve never had such luck, ha. I tend to take the long way and Kickstarter is the same way…years of work that’s beginning to pay off I guess
What’s been your favorite project that Nominee has taken on so far? Either because the process and the client was so fun or because you’re so proud of the final product (or both!).
All in all, The Jones Assembly. I think it best represents our range creatively I think and the process was a blast. Oh and anything that moves OKC forward in a positive way I’m all about and I think the Jones does that and is big for our city
Can you name all of the things created for Jones? The amount of collateral is amazing and beautiful together.
Also, were they down for everything suggested, or did you have to talk them into it?
It was a total collaboration. They brought amazing ideas to the table. So everything we did was a partnership, give and take with the goal that the best ideas won. It’s hard to say everything that our shop created, but here’s an attempt: menus, logo variations (they have more than one logo), “famous Oklahomans” toile design by Natalie, website, photography direction, social designs and direction, show posters, 8-track mural (custom layouts + 8 track labels), coasters, candle packaging, jean jacket, shirts, hats, stir sticks, custom lettering on windows, fence paneling around the perimeter, t-room branding, soft opening kits for guests, and a crazy amount of small touches, and after all this my team is probably going to kill me for leaving out a bunch of stuff!
How do you go from defining the specific clients you want (dream clients), and actually getting those clients? Connect those dots for us.
One project at a time that puts you on a trajectory. You don’t have to know anyone…eventually you do, but initially I think you put your name in the hat and you reach out to people. A month or two ago I found a creative contact online for Capitol Records. I reached out cold and told him what we’d been up too and a week later sent us a project. I think it takes intentionality. If you know who your dream clients are, but maybe they feel out of reach, start with something in that lane that is tangible and go from there. That’s what we’re still doing and will most likely do for as long as Nominee is around. Does this help?
Hey there, downtown Edmond neighbor! As a celebrated creative shop, how do you feel about officing in the suburbs when the trend is to find space further south in OKC’s “cooler” communities?
I’m a big believer in scenes. The closer in proximity we all are the better. I love Edmond and grew up here. However, I think people and organizations need to be located wherever gives them the most opportunity in our city. So these pockets of cool communities are great. I’m a big supporter of them! I think they are helping generate big ideas that will change our city over time.
Could you give us glimpse into your team’s general creative process on a project? From a client’s intro to completion? How has it evolved over time, or has it remained consistent?
It’s constantly evolving. I think it’s never ending. When I first started my process was pretty bad, so ‘low touch’ for clients. We are still working to make this more sophisticated and high touch, more relational. I attribute this all to our team though. We have conversations daily about tweaks and how to handle specific situations and every client is different so although we have a process it gets changed here and there and even from project to project. Let me think about this some more and try to give you some more concrete ideas…
A big part of our process is not just diving in, because a lot of our clients have an existing brand. So that’s a challenge. We like to pump the breaks and really understand our clients, ask them the right questions and get a handle for things before we start executing. This is tough sometimes because even clients want to see something. That’s why they hire us, right? So making sure we are as knowledgeable as possible on the front end and have the core brand things all in place is so important and saves so much time and headache on the backend. The worst thing that can happen is trying to solve branding issues on the fly or through a one off project for a business. You know when you haven’t built the brand and the client just needs that one thing here or there. Those projects are deceiving because you’ll end up needing to solve critical branding things, if the brand isn’t already really buttoned up before you’re brought in for that one thing. Hope this makes sense.
How has you experience in the design industry changed your music career, and vice versa? Are the two processes similar for you?
The processes are actually pretty different from each other. The branding piece of it is the same but everything else is different. Nominee has it’s way of doing things and The Romance has it’s way of doing things. The cool thing is they have both helped create momentum for each other. A perfect example…I picked up a client, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men because of initial music related contacts. We branded his non profit, Micah’s Voice about four years ago. I became friends with his family. His wife, Sharhonda, saw some videos of us performing on Facebook and then hit me up and said Shawn would love to collaborate with you on some music. Last time he was in Tulsa he sat in at one of our shows and we’ll be collaborating with him on some music sometime in the near future. Side note, you can hear Shawn doing a guest appearance on the new Foo Fighters album. So to me everything just sort of works together in a weird way even though they are very separate too.
You guys have been in business now for 7 years, and I’m sure you’ve experimented with various pricing models. Where have you ended up? Hourly? Value? Hybrid?
Hybrid I’d say at the moment. Value is the biggest driver for what we do though. There is a time and place for retainer and hourly clients for us, but it’s a smaller percentage of our work. Value driven just makes sense to me and most of our work falls into this category.
I’ve heard that Nominee’s project management approach puts clients in direct contact with creative instead of filtering through an AE or project manager. If that’s still the case, what are the benefits to that approach, and do you see it changing as the company grows?
That’s correct. We tried that role before and didn’t work for us. I’m sure it works great for other shops, just not ours. I’m not sure we’ll ever have AEs or not. Hard to say what the future holds, but I will say we have no plans to add that in the future ?
Thank you everyone! Really great questions. And amongst peers and friends, please let your friends know about our release show at the Tower on September 30th. It’s a big room for us in OKC and would love to see you there!
Thanks again everyone and I’m hoping off now, but feel free to email me anytime firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks @mattstansberry Loved your answers! ??????
Agreed, this was awesome @mattstansberry. Thank you!
Go here for tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1506903-matt-stansberry-romance-oklahoma-city/
Every Tuesday morning at 10am. If you want to listen in or ask your own questions, get your slack invite here: dsndevokc.com/join-0ur-slack
Got any suggestions for the next one?
Featured image filmed and edited by: Travis Tindell http://podgevision.com/