Our first bridal show! by Love You Back Productions

Our first bridal show was mindblowingly awesome, but unfortunately we were so busy talking to brides we forgot to take even a single photo. Darn!

We were kicking ourselves after we realized we didn't take any photos at our first bridal show. We'll definitely take a ton of photos at our next bridal show, on March 7th.

We were kicking ourselves after we realized we didn't take any photos at our first bridal show. We'll definitely take a ton of photos at our next bridal show, on March 7th.

Julia and I had never been to a bridal show before and we had no idea what to expect. So we did what anyone would do--we got pinterest accounts. :)

We searched pinterest for different "looks" for bridal show booths before deciding on our own simple, clean modern aesthetic. Here was our inspiration:

So into this clean, modern look. 

So into this clean, modern look. 

We realized if we were going to get anywhere close to this look, we had to build ourselves a wall. So we enlisted the help of Julia's partner, Nik, to get the wall built. 

Nik had never built a wall before, but with a little direction and some you-tubing, he was up to the task. 

The wall turned out great, unfortunately, no photos. 

The centerpiece of our set up would be Julia's desk, which has a similar feel to the one you see pictured. It has white metal legs and a light wooden tabletop. On the desk we would place our main Mac desktop monitor, and on a side table we would place a second monitor. Both of them would be playing a different wedding film on a loop. 

We also printed awesome bridal show booking cards, courtesy of Office Depot (and the most awesome printing attendant ever--Desiree, shout out to you, you're the best!). They looked like this:

17.01.04 - Bridal Show Pricing Pamphlet.jpg
17.01.04 - Bridal Show Pricing Pamphlet (back).jpg

Julia had the idea to create lavender essential oil makeup remover as our bride show giveaway. Julia and Nik were up pretty early getting the makeup remover ready--screwing on 200 mini dropper caps was a bigger task than we realized.

The witch hazel stripped our fingers and by the end, the house was filled with witch hazel and lavender essential oil fumes. Don't get me wrong, lavender essential oil is great aroma therapy, but the concentrated smell did leave us pretty heady. 

Oh! We also decided to have a giveaway for one free Save-The-Date Teaser video to people who signed up on our contact sheet.

We thought this would be an ingenious plan for getting brides to sign in and give us their phone numbers and real email addresses, but actually no one noticed the giveaway sign. It didn't end up making much of a difference anyway. I think brides still gave us the same contact info they normally would. 

Even though the day was stressful and we felt crunched for time, by the end of the show we scheduled meetings with 20 brides!

We were beyond impressed with our performance, especially for our first time out. By the end we felt like bridal show pros...and we're so excited to go to our next one!

Cheers to a year of lightness and making lists! 4 Ways to Celebrate Success! by Love You Back Productions

"There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.  That’s why you must walk on lightly.  Lightly my darling… Learn to do everything lightly.  Yes, feel lightly..even though you feel so deeply."  Here, Aldous Huxley gets to precisely what I mean by “lightness.”   - Julia Elizabeth Evans

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Starting With "Why?" by Love You Back Productions

Simon Sinek discusses the principal behind every successful person and business. A simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?"

Why? Why do I do what I do? It's a question I've returned to after watching Simon Sinek's powerful TED talk about how to win in business and connect with customers. 

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it," he says.

As I discussed in my last blog post, Julia and I have been preparing to pitch as a part of the 2017 Women In Business Challenge. Julia and I want to model our pitch after the structure that Sinek lays out in his talk; start with why, then move to how and what. 

So why do I do what I do? The short answer is that I love listening to people's stories, especially if their views and experience are radically different than my own. I've always been a rule following, law abiding, perfectionist as far back as I can remember, but luckily for me, that also comes with a deep curiosity for people living on the other side of the spectrum. 

When discussing "why?" I told Julia about one of my oldest and best friends Alice*. Once when we were 16, Alice took me on a joy ride in a stolen car.

I remember talking to her on the phone before she picked me up. She told me to tell my parents we were going to the mall and to make sure to wear gloves and a hat. It was only once I got in the car that she explained it all: the car was stolen by neighbors who lived on her block who let her borrow it. The gloves and the hat were to prevent leaving any prints behind. 

The car was hot wired. She had to stick a screwdriver in the ignition to start it. She had barely any practice driving, and no driver's license, but what she lacked in practice, she made up in confidence. 

As a part of our joy ride Alice offered to ram in another friend's parked car because I was jealous of her. No one would ever know who did it, so why not? 

She drove to the friend's car in a parking lot and came as close to bumper to bumper contact as she could without quite touching. She revved the engine.

"Should I do it? Should I do it?" she asked, egging me on.

It was so tempting...but I turned down the offer.

Would I have normally found myself in that car? No. I was a goody two-shoes in high school and would normally be at home buried in my books. 

The thing is, I loved being friends with Alice. I loved being friends with her because she broke rules I would never dream of breaking. I loved listening to her stories because they were so different from my own and because while she told them, she was being her truest authentic self. 

When I produce a video, that's the magic I'm looking for. A story with authentic characters.  A story with a unique perspective.

That's my why. 

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

"All I Want for Christmas is You!" by Love You Back Productions

This post is akin to a holiday card. You know the kind-

The holiday card reaches your mailbox anywhere from early November to late January.  The card is an update from all walks of life - extended family and estranged friends - ranging from a quick paragraph to a long-winded anecdote.

As a holiday card, "a family photo and a short reflection" of the previous year will do just fine for this blog post.

Weenta and I met back in February 2016, working as camera operators for New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) music video production.  We were on set for the production of 1) Tanks and the Banga’s “Oh Heart” and 2) Trumpet Black and the Heart Attacks memorial video, “Good Life.”  Following production, we joined as business partners in June 2016.

Y’all have probably ready or heard most of this, so let’s skip to right now - December 2016.  

It's the end of the year, and our business continues to “rev up”….  Note: Yes, gross annual revenue is up from 2015! Woohoo!….  At this point, I spend more time with my business partner of half a year than I do with my boyfriend of 4 years.  Between us, running your own business is fun, but it is a lot of work. My work week averages at 70 hours.  

But, y’all, right now, I'm in my feelings.  And I feel lost for words. Almost.  Words never abandon me.  

I'll just go ahead then and exclaim my gratitude and praise.

Why? I love what I do.  Without sounding overly prosaic, video production connects me with so many incredible people.  The bottom-line of video production is connecting with others, storytelling, and sharing experiences.  Every single client is gracious and humble in this regard.

To every single person, who has entered my life through my work as a video producer that includes you reading this blog post right now, thank you.  Thank you to you all.    Your support is boundless, and your encouragement enables me and Weenta Productions’ growth.  

Again, thank you to each and every single one of you!   And finally, thank you - Weenta.   Our dynamism is gold.  I love working with you.   You dot my “i”s. I cross your “t”s.    I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings!

All I want for Christmas is you! And you! And you! And you! And you! Annnnnd you!    

- Mariah Carey

Side note: Oh, those late January folks and their better-late-than-never philosophy always touches me.  The letter arrives and exudes a sense of urgency and sincerity that those early November letters cannot emulate.

Every year, a collage of glitter-glam cards, store-bought stationary sets, and bright red cardstock makes a teetering heap in an all-too-often, much-too-small winter-themed wicker basket (that my Mom refuses to toss out because... she's sentimental about her deals) - bought on clearance, 70% off at the now closed Bed, Bath, & Beyond off Bowman Road in Little Rock, AR.  By Christmas day, the stack is a ticking bomb, an inevitable kitchen counter mess.   For the benefit of all, Weenta Productions sends good tidings over the internet.

...

<3,

Julia Elizabeth Evans

The Evans family went above and beyond with tree decorations this year. :) - Julia Elizabeth Evans, December 2016

How We're Going to Win $10,000... by Love You Back Productions

Madonna's powerful acceptance speech for Billboard's 2016 Woman of the Year Award. Click on the image for the full video at billboard.com.

Madonna's powerful acceptance speech for Billboard's 2016 Woman of the Year Award. Click on the image for the full video at billboard.com.

I watched Madonna's 10 minute acceptance speech for Billboard's 2016 Woman of the Year Award while in the midst of trying to convince myself that I can one day run a million dollar business. 

Her speech was a reflection on her ability to maintain a 34 year long career in the music business despite the criticisms she faced as a woman in a position of power. 

It was enlightening to hear Madonna, a woman who has achieved multimillion dollar success, say "There are no rules -- if you're a boy. There are rules if you're a girl." It's not a surprising statement, but more a confirmation. It's a reminder that sexism is as strong a force as ever, especially at the highest levels of success, even for someone who has been around as long as Madonna.

The thing about being a woman in business is that as you grow, you start to realize all the basic stuff you didn't know but that's totally integral to running your business--while also realizing that there are men all around you that have somehow inherited this knowledge through class or privilege or both. 

Even though I'm sure as a woman in business I'll face barriers to success based on class, privilege and of course gender, participating in the Urban League's 2016 Women in Business Challenge has given me and Julia, my business partner, some of the tools we need to close that gap in knowledge. 

We're in a class with about 14 other women entrepreneurs competing to pitch our business at New Orleans Entrepreneur week and win a grand prize of $10,000. The best part about the whole thing is that we get a business consultant that we meet with every week to develop our business and financial model.

We are 5 weeks into a 6 week business accelerator course that's a part of the challenge. We are knee deep into our business plan. We are practically drowning in marketing and sales strategy, throwing around terms like "market segmentation" "financial projections" and "beachhead markets." It's all very overwhelming and sometimes we feel like our heads are going to pop off. 

We're just about done our first full draft and although it's been painful scrutinizing each and every paragraph, we know it will be worth it when we're done. 

As a woman and a person of color I think it's important to share the knowledge that you have with other people who may not have access to the same resources. That's why I wanted to write out a few of the things we've learned so far, in case it helps other women or entrepreneurs just starting out.

Here are a few business development do's and don'ts:

Do hire subcontractors: you can't be everywhere all at once. Train and hire subcontractors that can get the job done the way you need it done. This applies to our wedding business. We're already double booking dates for 2016 and we're connecting with other wedding videographers who can help us film. 

Do invest in a professional accounting system. A personal accounting system like Quickbooks is a $300 investment. That may seem like an unnecessary spend to the budding do-it-yourself entrepreneur, but it's the best way to keep track of your spending, especially come tax time. When it comes to our business, we realized a basic excel spreadsheet with dates and invoice numbers won't cut it anymore. We just got Quickbooks, and our business consultant Mr. Frank is helping us learn how to use it. 

Don't decide your prices only based on what your competitors charge. Of course it's good to know what your competitors charge so that you know what the market can bear (i.e. what customers are willing to pay), but this singular way of pricing does not account for any of your overhead or operating costs, such as taxes or subscriptions you pay for to keep your business running. Basically, It's an easy way to lose money.

Our business consultant gave us a costing sheet that allows us to input all of our basic costs and calculate our profit margin on every job we do. That way, we know exactly why we're charging what we're charging and most importantly, we don't lose money on jobs. 

Don't skip your business plan. It sounds pretty basic, but many small business owners get so focused on the inner workings of the business that they feel like they don't have time to write it all out. 

This is what happened to Julia and I before we got into the Women and Business Challenge. We tried to write a business plan at the start of our partnership, but quickly lost motivation in the midst of trying to organize our website, portfolio, pricing and other general sales tasks.

Since we were required to write a business plan as a part of the Women in Business Challenge, we realize the value of that process. It's helped us ask ourselves some BIG important questions about our business that we would have otherwise skimmed over.

If you just started a business or are thinking about a business and don't have a business plan, I highly recommend you google "small business resources" in your area and get help writing yours.


Lastly, I want to share my gratitude for everything the Urban League has given us through our participation in this challenge.

Our weekly meetings with our consultant have forced us to confront hard questions about who we are, what we do, and what we want our business to look like in 3-5 years. Through much careful thought and revision of our business plan, our business consultant has given us faith that we have a solid plan moving forward.

Whether or not we win this challenge, we know we've already gotten the crucial advice and guidance we need to become the type of creative, impactful, woman-run business we want to be. 

What inspires us to dream big by Love You Back Productions

Now that's the kind of wedding video we want to make. Shot by Alex Colby

I send Julia bits and pieces of inspiring content every week. 

This week, I sent her one of the most amazing wedding videos I've ever seen. It was shot by Alex Colby, a freelance videographer from New York. The couple who got married were Nigerian and New Orleanian and 80% of their vendors were black.

They call their wedding the "Biggity Blackest Wedding of All Time." 

After watching it, Julia wrote back, "We've got to figure out slo-mo."

New Orleans does everything different, it just does. This video reminds me of what a special place we're in and the amazing people and settings we get to film. 

Julia and I are in a phase of our business where we're figuring out what makes us unique. Part of developing that unique quality is looking around at our competition and deciding what we want to avoid and what we might want to emulate. 

This week while scrolling through forums on video production, I found another business whose structure and values overlap with ours. 

They're called Stillmotion. Check out their vimeo page. Their films are all about people making change in the world, both in the US and abroad. They've expanded their business to include Muse, an educational platform that teaches people how to tell better stories about their cause or brand.

What's most inspiring for me about Stillmotion is how they got their start. It was actually a wedding highlight video that they did FOR FREE that got them noticed. 

What's even more amazing is that this video was shot by ONE person, using two cameras. 

Someone from the NFL watched this video and was so impressed that they hired Stillmotion to produce a 12 part series for NFL and CBS. Since then they've produced tons of videos for big time sports organizations. You can read their full company story on their blog. 

Finding Stillmotion was totally validating. It gives me faith that our business model isn't a total outlier. Others have been on our path and made it work. 

Of course, in order to be truly competitive we have to build something that sets us apart from our competition, something with a strong value proposition that's difficult to replicate. Still, I can't help but look around at what other people are making and dream of someday being just as big--or perhaps even bigger.  

What's in a picture? What's in a company name? by Love You Back Productions

Julia crafted this collage back in August 2016 during a family reunion in Aspen, Colorado.  She sees an eagle in the picture. What do you see?

This collage is tucked away in my personal journal. What do you see in this collage?  A patchwork of glossy nature photography?  A few random shapes?  Any forms?  An angry bird?  Perhaps, nothing at all?  

Perception affects psychology.  When I completed this collage back in August 2016, a private sense of liberation coupled with personal empowerment came over me.  Do you want to know what I see?  

Each time, I see the same thing - an eagle flying through forest of Aspen trees. 

As a cultural symbol, the eagle is associated with motifs like perseverance, redemption, success, authority, and personal/individual freedom.  In seeing the image of an eagle, the subtle power of these motifs affects me.

Of my journal's many pages, this one is a favorite. I return to it often.  At this time, Weenta and I are now at a crossroads.  We love our company name - Weenta Productions, but we also realize the company is altogether different from whence it started.  

Re-branding is an awkward road.  Is it possible to redeem ourselves from a decision made months ago?

 

Taken during our company website bio photography shoot.  Where am I relevant to the company's brand-name?  As with everything, Weenta and I are tasked to figure it out together. :)  - Julia Elizabeth Evans

...

Back in the Spring 2016, Weenta registered Weenta Productions as a distinct legal entity within the state of Louisiana, whereby Weenta Productions got a business tax code as well as laundry list of legislative protections, e.g. a state claim to business copyright protection, bankruptcy protection, and so on.  

So, Weenta Productions is officially a limited liability company (LLC), but what does that mean for me, Julia Elizabeth Evans?  Am I protected?  Are my shares in the company insured? Is Weenta bound to service my stock as well as personal investment in the company?  The short answer is no.

The company name does not reflect the company’s business structure. Weenta and I met in April after the Weenta registered her company name. Our working relationship evolved quickly.  Come June, Weenta and I found ourselves conducting each and every business project and company decision together.  Weenta is still the only registered owner of Weenta Productions, LLC., but our company is a co-created firm.  

We need a name change.

I took this photo of Weenta back in July.  It reflects where we are now in November.  We see our form, but what's right before us is not clear enough. - Julia Elizabeth Evans

This decision comes at a hectic time. Weenta and I have been chosen to participate in 2017 Women-In-Business Challenge.  

Each year, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans (ULGNO) pushes, counsels, and prepares its accepted applicants for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) Pitch competition.   The prize is a $10,000 business grant.   

[Ouuuweee!]

Weenta Productions is at the semi-finalist stage of competition. Amid the flurry of client bookings, blog posts, and endless cycles of post-production [video editing], we are also attending two evening business classes a week.

On these days, Weenta and I are extra sensitive to one another’s energy and anxiety level because the work day ain’t wrapping up till about 9:30PM. Regardless, we’re excited! Weenta and I are in it to win it! 

...

Although the prospect of re-branding our company feels daunting, it is nothing the two of us cannot handle.  I see myself and I see Weenta as two eagles, two independent agents, unbound by the decisions that were made months ago.  

Everything is a comedy, sometimes. Julia's partner, Nik, happened to adjust his iPad homescreen to this image of an eagle at exactly the same time Julia finished this blog post.  

As our close friend put it, “No one will care [if you change your name].”   That is true.

Interesting enough, though, a company’s name does influence client psychology. Weenta and I accept that no one will care about our company’s name-change, but we also acknowledge that a name change will inevitably influence our future clients.  

In the financial page of the New Yorker’s first November issue, James Surowiecki writes on exactly this idea.  The article's title is “What’s in a Brand Name?,” 

“...In the case of existing words, connotations are crucial: a Corvette is a light, speedy attack ship; Tesla was an inventor of genius. Made-up names often rely instead on resonances with other words: Lexus evokes luxurious; Viagra conjures virility and vitality. Bad names bring the wrong associations to consumers’ minds. In the nineteen-eighties, United Airlines tried to turn itself into a diversified travel company called Allegis. The move was a fiasco. No less an authority than Donald Trump (whose faith in brand-name power is total) said that the name sounded ‘like the next world-class disease.’

...In one experiment, people were shown a picture of a curvy object and one of a spiky object. Ninety-five per cent of those who were asked which of two made-up words—'bouba' or 'kiki'—best corresponded to each picture said that 'bouba' fit the curvy object and 'kiki' the spiky one. Other work has shown that so-called front-vowel sounds, like the 'i' in 'mil,' evoke smallness and lightness, while back-vowel sounds, as in ‘mal,’ evoke heaviness and bigness. Stop consonants—which include 'k' and 'b'—seem heavier than fricatives, like “s” and ‘z.’ So George Eastman displayed amazing intuition when, in 1888, he devised the name Kodak, on the ground that 'k' was 'a strong, incisive sort of letter.'"

As with each little step along the way, Weenta and I will agonize about our company's name-change.  Our minds work differently.  As Weenta thinks about concepts, I think about letters and their sounds.  "I like the 'w' in her name, always have. It's expansive...reminds me of Wal-mart. Perhaps...our name will even stay the same," I think out-loud.   

Whatever happens, nobody has to worry. Our company name - Weenta Productions - is here to stay... for a while longer.

<3,

Jules

 

"Our minds think differently," I write. ...Our decision-making process is arduous and oftentimes taxing.  The effort is never needless, however, because an immaculate conclusion always turns up. - Julia Elizabeth Evans