Starting Y
Starting Y

Episode 8 · 1 year ago

Starting Y: Why We Started a Creative Agency with Journey and Ravin


Our Intro is based on Quantum Jazz’s piece “Orbiting a distant planet”, published under Creative Commons

“The speed of the internet connection may be as important for your real estate value, as is a good train or highway connection” Joern Menninger, Starting Y

The Hosts:

· Michelle, a radio, and podcast host based in Silicon Valley. She is a lawyer by training and has been working in and with many startups, especially fintech and blockchain. Currently she is working for several non-profit organizations and startups. Michelle is the host of the Stanford Radio Show “Laptop Radio (Wednesdays 2-4 PM)”, which is also available as a podcast ( You can learn more about Michelle here:

· Jörn is a podcaster, startup scout and entrepreneur, who is based in Frankfurt, Germany. He has a background of more than 12 years of management consulting, with a focus on financial services and capital markets, mainly in Europe. He hosts an English startup podcast, covering the German startup scene ( You can learn more about Jörn “Joe” here:

· Hint: Here is his “Cook Instagram Account”

Formula Creative is a creative agency based in Los Angeles. Find out more:

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This is a starting why podcast. Here we ask entrepreneurs, actors, investors in the native and artist on the why, why they are doing what they are doing, what motivates and drives them and why can't they stop? We will start in five, four, three, two one. Welcome to starting why. My name is Michelle. Today we have DJ Journey and waving with us. Journey and how are you? We're great. How are you? Thanks for having us. Yeah, I'm really excited. Dirney and waving, our co founders are famala creative, and today's topic is why we started a creative design agency. So, before we began talking about why you start what you start? What is your story? Well, the story starts in Chicago, Illinois. For me, the one percent of the situation at Formula Stars off in Chicago Music Kid. You really growing up in a family full of older sisters and seeing how they thought about things and how they really went about life and how strategic they were about planning everything that they did down to the nails and hair. So, coming from that sort of situation, I was dra on into the psychological standpoints of how people work and how they inspire others and how they inspire themselves and what kind of makes them do what they choose to do and life. And my mom, she was more into the musical side of things, but she was more into doing music for the aspects of community. So I kind of drawn towards that and became a record collector from there. But it wasn't a record collector to be a DJ. was kind of a record collector to see how records even came together, that different instruments that made a composition. So it introduced the lifestyle of music. So when looking at the landscape for growing up, I saw the industry, and the industry is a little bit different from you know how things are kind of made and put together. It's just kind of the industry of business. So I saw that you end up shaping the form of what you're making to actually fit inside of the boxes and the industries of business. So I kind of changed the way that I thought. But I've always had this standpoint in respect on process. It was all about process, labeling, knowing where things actually came from, even down to the inspirations and so on and so for so it led me into radio and in other sort of aspects. But from that moving to New York and also live in in La as well, but New York really really taught me about there's the creators, there's the maintainers and then there's...

...the crowd that sits on the other side of that, and I've always gravitates towards the owners, the people who seated the concept to actually get the supporters on board. So that led me to working with a lot of owners and people that actually really really made stuff and produce things down to the business plan and so on and so forth, which let me to go into south by southwest to meet my lottime partner, Raven Dave, and we kind of met. I saw the way that he worked. He had a relentless crazy process about doing things, the way that he thought about things. It was more like wow, your genius in your ways, you know, I don't know how you do things, but you get things done and I'm like wow, I'm all about that part. So we went back to New York immediately fell into a friendship that we started pulling in all these crazy projects and it became his thing. But that's sort of the beginning that bills into this agency that we kind of put together based upon three individuals with those sort of process relentless process superpowers that created the formula creative agency. So I'll stop there and let Dave go into his bit on how this tree became a palm. Hey. How does that change? How does it? How do you shouldn't impact there, man. Yeah, like, yeah, it's funny. I think it's like twenty. Clearly get twenty year cycle. For me it began, I think, like moving around as a kid and going to a lot of different schools and you know, I was always kind of the new kid and you know, it's similar to like with whole like end of teething and all that starting. It's a room full of new kids and everyone's got a kind of like race to become like someone and who it is that they are, and then the circles start forming and then you know if you don't hang out and show up in the circle, that you fall out of the circle. And it's just funny how like that kind of stays with us our whole life and you don't really realize it. You know, may be necessarily like as you deal with people in person, but I think it's just kind of been a little bit of a lesson. It's interesting, right. It's interesting to think back to that which when we were younger and what we thought about the future would be and then now living it, comparing and contrasting where you are to where you were with those expectations, and I think that inquisitiveness and that kind of introspectiveness and that insightfulness and perspective is always kind of what's it's driven me. And so, you know, like I got involved ever since I can remember. I was like drawing, you know, that was like my escape. I was always afraid of boredom, being bored and also kind of afraid of work. But I came from a very like Morcoholic type family. When I was young, like, I mean up to the day my mom gave birth to me, like she was teaching aerobics classes and the time she was training Major League way base ball, and so this was in the early s...

...and, you know, robics was just becoming a thing. So you had this, you know, woman who was a trainer leading super weird calisthenics during a time when men in a man's sport. So I mean up until like I was born, like she was bouncing up and down with me to some be you know, some sort of music, and so I think that's probably like the origin of where music came from. But even before that, like my great grandfather or my grandfather, my other grandfather, my father's side, like he was a stand up bass player, you know, and played music his whole life. And then, you know, his grandfather played music, I think the clarinet from what I heard. So I guess that's where it came from. I think when you're younger you want to play. So as I got older it led to kind of my father being business and running businesses and family businesses, you know, and then my mother being kind of very open minded and free spirited and bit of feminist streak and very kind of driven, and so those two things combined and you know, outcomes an artist that's interested in sports. And so my whole life it's been a dichotomy. It's been starting your first business when you're fifteen, going bankrupt when you're thirty, having a bunch of different companies in between working for other people, following your passion and trying to figure you're out, like all along, like what it is that your purpose of your existences. You know, for me, younger, playing a lot of sports like, I think gave me the work ethic and taught me how to step my mind on something, to focus on a goal and stay with it. And when you play a season of sports, like it's the entirety of time, right from the beginning to end, the preparation to the finish and then the off time, and you continue to do that year over year over year, it starts to cycle you and train you. Then I realize that that's what I was training for. And so I got the point where, yeah, we did a lot of Djang in high school and, you know, learned turntables and you know, the digital aspect and I really enjoyed entertaining people. I think that was my most fun and I loved running business so that when I got to college, you know, we threw huge, massive parties, thousands of people, like I think in one weekend we did forty something kegs, forty three kegs, and generated over twenty twenty Fivezeros. It isn't all illegally, but to us, you know, that was kind of like the thrill. And then the management, like the high of managing a thousand people and a party that lasted two and a half days. It's illegal, right, and making sure that like no one ends up dead, raped, God forbid. Like anything bad like happen, you're responsible. You're going to jail for a really long time. But that's the fun of it, you know, Almo so always dealing with that, you know, running a fraternity, running a newspaper, and then getting out to the real world and throwing big parties, and then that's just kind of...

...landed me in a place of searching for like what are you going to grow up and get a real job? Right? Had I stuck with throwing parties, I probably would be running a festival's right, until again, the pandemic it and there's no more festivals. Right. So instead I focused on running a DJ company and then working my way up into advertising and marketing. And when I got presented with that opportunity, was like are you a creative or a businessperson? And you're like, whim both. Here's my portfolio, here's my sales numbers. Like well, if you want to participate in this world, and we're happy to have you in this world, but if you want to participate in this world, you have to pick one. You can't be both. Both do not exist in the SECO system. So I picked the one that I was least passionate about, even though I love business and I love art. Business came second to me. Art became is something that just came to me naturally. So business was the harder one and I would be the harder one to learn as I got older and got or set in my ways. And my father went back to business school when he got older. But it was one of those things where I said, you know what, let me just do this now and this is my business school. So I spent the next ten years learning project management, building APPS, running websites, running huge national campaigns with a bunch of twenty something year old working on some of the largest brands in the world, managing a forty million dollar budget for a billion dollar and, you know, at twenty six years old, and it was kind of wild. I started off in tobacco and then US spokens tobacco. Sold all three for nine point eight billion dollars, like that was a wild ride, like I'd be in board rooms with thirty people, two people deep and in the beginning of their ride, like you're against back against the wall. By the end of the ride and they're selling that account. You're sitting at the table as the young millennial, explaining to them why they need to be marketing to twenty one year olds in this way, because you were twenty six, you know. So it was like crazy to see to have that level of board room access, whereas I felt like I was getting my Mba, you know, when they bring out the bottom lines and the balance sheets, like I learned how to read a balance sheets sitting in a board room surrounded by people that were a hell of a lot smarter than me. And the reason I got there was surely because I had a drive to figure out what this thing was about. Improved everyone that sure, I can get a real job, but I really want to be a creative and so I think that's ultimately was the departure. When I left Heineken and met journey the same day, I was in a file south by southwest flute in New York. They're like Yo, we need to talk, and like absolutely. At that point I was kind of sneaking off and writing music seven and I was just over it, like the ride was done and they knew it and I knew it. was separated. Shook hands, signed agreements, my jump back on a plane, flew back to south by southwest landed. They're eight o'clock, eight hundred and forty five, nine o'clock back in downtown Austin to am I meet journey. And then from there on that began, you know,...

...this eight year journey, so to speak, upunintended of US building what we've been building towards now, and ultimately formula became a next piece of that process of you know, in New York we ran different things and I think ultimately what we aligned on, you know, for our intention, and it was a Madonna's first manager, Commille, our bone. I think that said this to us. It was like, when you find your intention, the truth becomes effortless. And what is it that your intention is? And for me it was figuring out how to be a creative executive, how to take business and how to take creativity and put him together and do so over the course of a career, that we create a path that can be replicated by others, that saves them a lot of time, effort and pain and providing a way to become a creative professional, the same way that you can become a creative professional in the world of I don't know, or not create a professional, but like professional doctor or a professional any number lawyer, you know, or businessperson for that matter. So how do you become a professional creative? What is that process? How did you get there? How did you succeed and coming up with a sustainable way to be able to operate? And that led me, you know, through New York City for a decade into California, staying connected with journey. We came here to start of Music Studios, start a content studio and ended up moving studios and starting a new partnership with an amazing fashion photographer who's originally born in Russia and came together with an idea and a bunch of other talented people, you know, and the idea is to create an agency that had that small time feel of being friends like us, you know, having a relationship with those who you work with and really building that relationship with your client from the inside out and growing with them as they grow their business. And then, as kind of as that was forming, the opportunity came up and suddenly we ended up at it graystone mansion, as result of a radio show that we've been doing for years. A journeys been leading with trip digital and that I skipped over a whole period of time where we spent seven eight years writing records and producing music and living in New York City and grammar see and, you know, running a studio out of there, and that's a whole other podcast and chapter and itself. All those stories are captured and probably about three hundred records that journeys put out and forty or fifty that we've put out on that project and it just led us to a place where suddenly there is an opportunity with a brand that was starting up and I think we needed money, but we also needed a purpose and we also had this new idea of wanting to create this new company and all of a sudden came together in August of two thousand and nineteen, and the next thing you know we had a client in alcohol all and they were starting...

...a new brand and we came across them and suddenly just grabbed a glass of wine and was like Hey, you want some weed? And you're like, Huh, that's pretty funny, is that? We did it know, like okay, well, try it, and then you try it it and the next thing you know, this is crazy, and so you bring it over to journey and he's drinking some and then Catherine's drinking some and then her friend Gwen's drinking some and then we're getting drunk off some and then I don't know, it was just like hungry for business and then Kat went over, struck up a conversation and then following that conversation there finds out that there's other deeper connections involved there with previous projects, a journey was working on and just a whole can of worms. And from there we just kind of showed up and carved out that was actually the managing partners just going through, but carved out a place to really help them do something that they were starting up and doing that we had experience doing certain aspects of figured that we could bring a bunch of value to the table to help them get to where they needed to get to, regardless of what the situation was on the front end of the deal. And we jumped in and sense of designed a lot of packaging, just a lot of just opportunities, and suddenly the pandemic hit and fast forward through that and I t's blew up and now here we running a design company doing packaging. You know, we did some stuff for Walmart this past year. We have another brand that we're in the process of working on that. That's a little baby like energy community shot, and so it's just been super incredible that you go one way and then suddenly opportunity comes and you pivot this way and then some major thing happens and you fall fast forward and now here we are, without necessarily that intention, but it became effortless in a certain way. What is your purpose to make it easier for the next generation of creatives to find that balance between creative and business, because I think creativity can help solve a lot of business challenges and that's a missing link within the world of tech, business and creativity, something jobs understood and apple did well, which helped lead to them them to where they are. That's the power of design and creativity, of what it meets technology and business, which is you know where they are. And I bought that stock when it was seventeen dollars. Everyone thought it was going to die. What and in do out your journey of starting this creatitis line agency? Are there moments when you get really scared? I take that know as personally know, because it really comes down to trusting your instinct. There's always going to be new things that come into the... and new bubbles and new technology and so on and so forth. Everything new is going to happen. But one thing that I think Dave and I are very, very keen on is being sourced and a very, very well put together, a family sort of oriented situation where we can grow, we can grow our branches, we can branch off into package field and we can branch off into different things and you know the metaverse and you know other sort of exciting things that kind of are rooted and where we come from. I never did anything without technology, so I call myself a technologist. If my job entails computing and coding and programming, then I'm probably a technologist. And from day one that I've done anything that had anything to do with producing any artists or records or anything like that, or doing remixes and programming radio shows and so on and so forth, it always are driven by a technology she then that's what I'm sourced in. But the why and where we come from is not the fear is the outside voices of you can't do it or is hard or anything like that, and I think that we built something that came from a truthful manner of roads crossing, and David even at this. But when I met him I was at a point of like managing myself in New York and so on and so forth, handling my own business, putting people together, sourcing people in and out of certain opportunities and situations. So I've always been in business and he's been at this cross road of like art and everything. So I think we met each other it was in a hard sort of transition to actually lose those tools to gain others or to lose those tools and go into this art world of not caring and not getting up at five am and so on and so forth. I was more of a structured sort of person, so I guess it was easier to actually mesh with personalities and so on and so form. So as far as like the fear is concerned, it's it only comes from, you know, not understanding, and if we know that we're going to be learning for the rest of our lives, you shouldn't be scared of new things that you have to put yourself into or throw yourself into a new program to learn. So and that's not the way that I guess we were raised anyway. It was just not raised to be scared of anything. I mean, you're going to die from something, so you might as well live your life one hundred percent, be as honest as you can, show what work, as hard as you want to deliver on time and all those other things that makes a great person. And I think we're not defined by our work. We're not defined by the work that we do. We define by the people who we are. At the end of the day, we can look back at our day and say, how many people that you help today, how many people that you give information to, and did you work out and, you know, get that salutation in before... started your day? So it's more of you can see other CEOS that I've you know, work themselves into these regiments and these rituals, if you will, to actually be successful. And success doesn't start with the business, it starts with what you do before you even decide to create a business that will provide, in our case, design solutions and so on and so forth. So I think we finally got a chance to build something from ground floor level that we've been talking about for the past eight years, that we can throw our full selves and it doesn't have to be void of music or devout of design and devoid of spreadsheets. It's everything inclusive and we can be who we want to be and we can find talent that are just more talented than dancing and singing. We can say hey, you can be whatever you want to be inside this sort of thing, because it's going to take a hunter gatherer sort of mentality to actually survive the next ten years. So be as well as you want to at everything, but also be a professional when it's time to. So I wanted to you know, since you talk about the external and you if for a little bit to the internal or difficult. So what if your core being and how are you like just the way you are? The being right, how are you extending that to your business and your Cave Design Agency? The core being is if it didn't happen, is not yours, if he wasn't a part of it, and you can't claim it. So it's more of actually getting the experience to qualify you and a certain space. So we look at a lot of things when it comes to working with people, and most of our relationships, even down to the fact that we started his companies, it was based upon some sort of friendship, some sort of crossing the paths that we had going on with this person and we found our myths together and now we're scaling that and making money from it. So I think the core part of it is relationships. It's real relationships that you build over time. You've deposit, you know, some time into that Bank of relationships to get to a point of like, I want to become a millionaire with you or we want to do billion dollar things together, because I can trust that day can get it done if I'm sleeping, or I can get it down when he's doing his things. So the relationships the core thing. Yeah, I mean the name came from came from Catherine, where she was as a photographer. She runs a photography business, but she also is a certified what developer, shopify developer, and, you know, knows how to code and spend. Here's, you know, growing up and she was a kids building computers and you know, and then on top of it, like she's also a director and you know, and then has an amazing team of people that she's worked with over the years that are fantastic, you...

...know, dps. So he's that she's hired for creative projects and client projects, and so the idea came in all of these la based, you know, creatives that come together to work on different projects, where it's hair and makeup and whatnot. It's this core of people. But then, you know, it's also very intimate relationships that you have from the client side. So on one hand you're sitting there with your client who's paying you for that day and shoot, but the next day you're out to dinner as friends. So that's a very intimate relationship. And even as a DJ through over the years, you know, I djade coming out of college. I djed probably about fifty or sixty weddings related to my fraternity. So and each of those weddings I made at least a couple grands. So I made a hundred grand off of relationships over years, which is crazy. But it was also one of those things where you had to learn how not to give discounts because you had to keep that like there's a certain level of experience that you're bringing. So ultimately, right that relationship is the absolute core. And then the integrity of how you run your business and how you deliver will dictate what maintains or whether or not you're able to maintain a business friendship relationship with the client, and so the idea became building around that kernel and that insight of what that trust means, that if you can build business out of trust and truth, then therefore, you know you can build a better relationship, but you can also build a better product in the lung. And then that combined with process and the ideas that you have a core and then you expand and contract based on needs as different projects come in, and then, basically, you know, you look towards doing a model of shared ownership or working towards ownership, right, because the other issue that this really comes down to it we had to tackle in terms of the sound side is the Ip. So when you're creating IP, right, and clients want low costs. So what is that balance of ownership to cost ratio? And the same thing for when people are, you know, working within a company. So, you know, I think it's answer your question to before, right, like our confidence in tomorrow is based on our failures of yesterday. Right. Yes, we've had success, but there's a lot of failure. So every time you take you fail. That's something that you can learn and put it forward into something you're going forward or into a solution that you create along the way, and so that's what formula is really it's built around relationships and then it's coming up with a sustainable model, not only from a project management but from concept to completion of a project, so that you can contract or expand as needed to fulfill the needs of that project, based on trust, in order to keep it on Spec on time, on budget. Are there any regrets? No, I mean...

...yes, personally, I think there's Times that, like in the very you know, on set, my emotional intelligence was lacking in certain ways and I resorted perhaps back to like old school ways of management, of which, like, I was possibly like, I don't know, board rooms get crazy sometimes and, like you know, there's a lot of passion that happens behind those and in those meetings and sometimes, like you know, that needs to stay in the corporate environment and then start up. Like you there's no room for that corporate mentality in a start up. Yeah, it's have to be adge down. It's always moving, and so I know that. You know, you do music creative as well, and a lot of you really don't understand the relationship between music and digital are what is there a really a relationship between them? Or they separate. How do you manage that? There's a lot of relation and music to everything that we do, I mean, and it goes back to, and I'm going to get very Bohemian on this, it goes back to harmony. Harmony and balance is super, super important. Have you ever listened to a song that didn't have harmony? No, not really. I may exist hard listening. It's like listening to Jim Shoes and a washing machine. It's like like Whoa, what is what is this? That's just noise. If those Jim shoes started to harmonize and they tap boom boooom boom boo, boom boom boooom boom boom boom boom boom boom, it'll be more soothing to the actual listener. So the harmony of sound creates the song and the song gives you a template to actually go in visually to paint that harmonic picture, and from there you get the characters and everything I thought to bring on, the storylines and so on and so forth, andages bills. It's like a tree, you know. Tree has to have this this root that's really, really solid in the ground and most of the tree you don't really see, because it's maybe six, six feet, a root and a ground, but it starts when it start peeking. And, like I said, I'm getting Bohemian on this, but the sound and the harmony creates a song. It's all intertwine. So if it's like having artist that don't know that come in and try to make songs, it's not going to work without the producer that's coming in. What a sound mind that's listening to everything, given them the pieces and parts and putting those things together to create this thing that's receptive by these beating hearts and human beings, that's really, really sensitive to things that are not harmonic din balance. It's very, very intertwined and...'s an understanding of I think music gives us a backdrop of how the world actually work, how relationships works, how business really really actually come together a flourish to actually serve these living and human entities that are actually the consumers. So it's all interconnected, rather we know it or not. But I subconsciously I think we all know it because you know, you get a bad Dj and a Rome, people are going to leave. Usually journeys two sinks, but he's Long Sayah, I'm going to summarize up his long longness. So the top line here, yeah, AG Bag gggg aaaab AG. Right, that's hot cross buns. Right now we're going to take that and translate those same notes into digital speak. And so in digital speak, right, if I'm a marketer, that would be all right. Let's see what this says. There's, I would say, TV Social Radio, TV Social Radio, billboard, Bille Board, Bill Board, radio, radio, radio, TV Social Radio, and actually, actually would be like TV social radio, TVV Social Radio, radio, radio, radio, social social social, TV social radio. Right, that's hot cross buns and marketing. And the moment I figured that out that, like again start was a name, as like a keyboard or piano or just like a score, it all clicked and to me it's all the same shit. Right. So, whether or not I'm making like and add designing a bottle is the exact same process as writing a song, like making these it's all decisions. It's all decisions that you make of where to put certain things, and that's just making stuff. Like the same person that made this dongle had to think about all the decisions of all the little pieces that go into all the places, and then you use this standardized where you use this one or any of the other ones right, must piece. And now we have all these thousands of fucking things that are designed and my goal in life is to design shit that fits better, better than all of these random devices like in our world, to make it a better place to live for the next generation of creatives and businesslike minded people and andles. The last question is just in one word. For the next generation of creatives, what is one word that they should remember from your story? Hashtag just show up. Okay, that's one word right, because for the Hashtag of the work it's got to be one word. That's how you get three words into one. I used to say that, yeah, Hashtag, just show...

...up, but I think from the pandemic I've changed that and it's be kind of graduated to resilience. One word, resilience. Most people don't know what it is. You look it up, you see that you have to be adaptable to any sort of disaster changes that have. It's like you're not a leader if you're not resilient. So, yeah, maybe it's pivot. I guess. I don't know. Yeah, not even. I don't know. There's real these flow man flow. Yeah, I think been a brown tough a little bit about we sayings and I think seed Connor toughal all that about flow and a nighting that fire with it or something. We got the time. You got to find that. You got to find that. That's that's the natural way. That motivates you, like and that's what it is like. It's like failing tons of projects, but how do you get back up and get motivated again? So yeah, resilience and flow there. Yes, and resilience. The definition of resilience is the capability to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness. I was back completely agree. Just want to thank you guys, both journey in a way to thank you and hunt. We have a wine bottle to that. I'm working on that. I just realized. Looks like you're background, like it was one of the concepts. It's like, oh, or you see like the know, the the grading of like color skins. Yeah, they color are awesome. Sounds like a sunset son. Go work back. That's all. Is Beautiful. That means color was on because I'm like you naturally had it in your background and you're always on point. So I'm like, Oh shit, color my background looks like her background. I'm like, okay, we're on point. Thank you. Yes, awesome, awesome, yes, we'll see you tomorrow. We're going to go chase track, Justin down, I guess, to see if we can get a get into this new space to see what we're looking at. Okay, okay, okay, by peace.

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