Ramesh Dontha - Building A Full Service Entertainment and Technology Agency with Larissa Lowthorp
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Guest: Larissa Lowthorp
Company / Business name: TimeJump Media
Larissa Lowthorp is the founder, president of TimeJump Media, which is a full-service agency that works in the entertainment industry. She's a designer, technologist, a screenwriter, emerging director and producer.
Larissa Lowthorp started out as a consultant and freelancer offering her services to the entertainment industry in various roles as a screenwriter, designer, and technology and worked for 12+ years before she started a full-fledged business.
Larissa talked about how she is building her current business by using referrals from her past life as a consultant. Larissa also talked about the challenges of switching from being a freelancer to a full fledged business with having to take decisions on type of corporation and number of sites needed.
Larissa talks about the importance of mentors and in her case the huge role played by her mentor. Larissa also talked about the significance of life events which were up and down and how they motivated her to pursue her entrepreneurial path. Larissa also talked about her mother and sister being great supporters of her work.
Larissa advises aspiring entrepreneurs to not have fear hold them back. Even though the overall entrepreneurial journey is overwhelming, takes it in bits and pieces.
Larissa talks about some important tools: Freelance on Mac is a good project management tool. Quickbooks is great for accounting. Larissa also mentioned stock photo sites like pixabay and pexels.com that she uses.
Larissa talks about some areas she’d have worked sooner. Being assertive and believing in herself much earlier than she did. Larissa is careful about screening the customers and being firm when needed.
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to the agile entrepreneurial podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dantha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance, and possibilities. Today we have a very exciting guest works in an exciting industry, that's entertainment industry. So her name is Larissa Lowthorp.
Larissa is the founder, president of time jump media, which is a full-service agency that works in the entertainment industry. Larissa is very, very talented. She's a designer, technologist, a screenwriter, emerging director and producer. Larissa welcome.
Larissa: Hi Ramesh, thank you so much for having me.
Ramesh: So what is it that you cannot do? It looks like I talked about everything that you can do. Are there any things that you cannot do?
Larissa: Oh gosh, you are hitting it right away. I just come out and say it. I am dyslexic at math, so don't talk to me about math.
Ramesh: So let's talk about your business then now. What is time jump media?
Larissa: Time Jump media is a full-service agency. Working within the entertainment industry. We do work with all other types of industries, but we specialize in entertainment. We provide branding, digital strategy, web solutions, app development, video production. You name it, we do it.
Ramesh: Okay. So how long have you been in the business?
Larissa: Time jump was actually just incorporated this past October 2018 as a limited liability company, but it was founded about two years ago.
Ramesh: Okay. So what was going on between the two years when it was founded and then LLC of October 2018.
Larissa: You know, I have to be honest with you, I was a little bit scared. I've managed small businesses and online businesses for a number of years and time jump was, it was my idea to form an agency from a very long time ago, but I had a mental and emotional block towards starting it. And so two years ago I bought a nudge from a very dear friend of mine. His name is Gino McKoy. He's a film director, singer-songwriter and screenwriter. He's the CCO of gold dot entertainment. And he said, why don't you just do it? So I said, okay, you know, let's make this a reality. I was in the process of transitioning out of my nine to five job. But in that year and a half or so, between that time and when I incorporated it was pretty overwhelming. You know, I was afraid to find funding, startup funding, writing the business plan was very intimidating to me. So I had to work on it just a little bit every day. And then seeing that build piece by piece was very inspiring to me. I started reaching out to colleagues, professional, some of the best people in the industry that I knew to talk to them about it. See if they were interested in coming on board and just trying to fit all those puzzle pieces into place. So really working behind the scenes to get things set up.
Ramesh: Wow. So Larissa actually you, you're walking right into the methodology that I talk about starting a business, which is, you know, try to bite you know, some small chunks every day. So things are not overwhelming. It looks like you have really taken that approach. So when did you actually get a paying customer?
Larissa: You know, time jump itself does not have paying customers yet. I myself as a consultant have had paying customers over the past 10 or 12 years in my freelance business. And so what I'm doing is I'm working to transition some of these into time jump customers. And then what I'm going to do is I'm kind of implement my outreach and marketing plan to get those official time jump customers.
Ramesh: Wow. So the time jump was not your first business. You had a freelancing business for the last 10 to 12 years?
Larissa: Yes, yes. I've been on freelancing, I’ve been consulting, I’ve been doing all that on and off since about 1999 or 2000 in various forms. Time jump is a formalization of that.
Ramesh: Okay. So actually that makes more sense to me. So you've been an entrepreneur for at least 10 to 12 years, as a freelance business and all that stuff, but as a formalization into a company, an organization LLC happened over the last couple of years.
Larissa: Yes, yes, that's right. And I mean it's been such a learning curve because the process of actually incorporating and figuring out the taxes, the legal side of it, structuring it, getting business partners on board, that's all pretty new to me. I did have to rely pretty heavily on Gino McKoy to help advise me and guide me through. So hopefully this conversation could help, you know pay it forward and help other entrepreneurs do the same thing.
Ramesh: Excellent. Actually, so then how do you support yourself? Is it through your freelancing business you're supporting yourself as you are building time jump media?
Larissa: Yep. I'm working as a consultant for a fortune 100 company and I'm reinvesting that money into time jump and I'm working on building on time jam on the weekends, on the evenings and the side. You know, partnering on some really exciting projects.
Ramesh: Excellent. So well right now, I mean, do you say that you have a line of sight to getting a paying customer for time jump media or is still a work in progress?
Larissa: Absolutely. I have a definite line of sight towards getting my first paying customer. I'm both looking forward to it and I'm afraid of it. I feel like in some ways I am afraid of success. I feel like I have this inside of me where if I just unleash this, it's going to be really good and it's going to be really big. But I'm not sure what the outcome is going to be. And I find that that's stopping me in some ways. I'm trying to work through that.
Ramesh: Wow. Actually, this is a pretty good conversation because we are talking to a business owner who is actually you know, work in progress building the business. Excellent. So Larissa can you talk about how the journey of getting the paying customer like what things you have to do for the customer to trust in you and then say, okay, I’ll go with Larissa on time jump media.
Larissa: Well, I feel like on this part of the journey I actually do have a leg up. Because I have previous referrals. I have previous paying customers. I do have an established client base and established network that I have built a reputation with. And I have built relationships and cultivated those relationships with over the years. And so even in my work previously as a freelancer, previously as a consultant, in the future I can lean on my network for referrals to people that they might know if their own businesses need something else and things like that. And so that is probably going to be my first line of attack when it comes to getting those first customers. And then I would pair that with you know, probably some more cold calling, cold emails and I'm putting feelers out there. So it would be a hybrid approach.
Ramesh: Oh, excellent. So in the last couple of years or so as you've been thinking about formalizing this company, what specific areas really held you back or you know, took longest time. Was it an incorporation piece of it or legal, funding? Trying to figure out your pricing? Can you talk which elements really were the hardest nuts to crack?
Larissa: Gosh, that's a tough question, because they all pose their own unique challenges. I'm going to start with incorporation itself. Because once I got, I began researching it, things began to fall into place, but I'm mobile. So I personally am based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But you know, we have satellite agencies in Los Angeles, satellite agencies in Toronto, Ontario. And so it was a lot of research to figure out where should we incorporate. What's best for our goals, what's best for our tax purposes. What's best for the type of company we do. Do we do an LLC, do we do a subchapter S? So kind of where do we want to go. There was a period when I was exploring a partnership with another person and that ended up not working out for that person. Hopefully she will you know, come on board and be able to lend her expertise in the future. But so that wasn't so difficult as much as it was time and research invested. When, once again, I have to think Gino McKoy for helping me through that. He'd put me on to a lot of good research about the best places to incorporate. He had previously done that with his company. Gold Dot. So that advice was really invaluable.
Ramesh: Wow. Excellent. I mean I also based on recommendation; I’ll get Gino onto this podcast show one of these days. It looks like he's got a lot of knowledge behind him.
Larissa: Absolutely. Absolutely. He would definitely be a help to any entrepreneur looking to get their, get their business off the ground.
Ramesh: Alright, so let's talk a little bit about you. Why did you have this drive? Like why you want to have your own company and why don't you go work for somebody else and live happily ever after?
Larissa: Well, I have always thought that I would be an entrepreneur one day. My parents were entrepreneurs. They opened their own business a few years before I was born. So I’ve been exposed to that lifestyle in that environment all my life. It was kind of a given that myself or my sister would take over their company at one point when they retired. And so I feel like, you know, in some ways I was encouraged you know, to pursue my entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. So, you know, I would have stands out in my yard and I would sell toys, I would sell whatever. I was a very creative child. I was always making things. I sold jewelry to local customers. It got picked up by a local art galleries.
So it's just kind of built throughout my life. Well then it happened, I didn't know where to get started. You know, once I'd graduated from high school, I had been a university student. I had to drop out when my dad got sick. So I kind of shifted focus and I shifted plans and I'm going to take you now back to your previous question about the hardest things to get started, because really the hardest thing for me has been to secure some startup funding and investments. And this has been the case for a number of years. Even when I was starting out as a freelancer, I'm starting out as a consultant. So I put this plan in place that maybe I could get a corporate job and I could work my way up the corporate ladder and save away enough money that one day I could start this this big company. I had a vision of kind of a, a conglomerate company that did many different things. So the evolution of time jump is an aspect of that. So really kind of how I got here is I’ve been working in the corporate environment for the last 10 to 12 years. Back about four years ago, I got very restless in my corporate job. I left it and since then I’ve been working toward what eventually was to become TimeJump.
Ramesh: Excellent. Thank you very much. I mean that is an interesting journey there. So I'm thinking that there is probably some story behind time jump the name.
Larissa: Yeah. Actually, it's funny that you've asked. Because I always have a hundred ideas for everything, but somehow I was having a lot of trouble with choosing a name for my company. So once again, I have to bring up Gino McKoy because we were having a phone conversation and I was very excited. I'm like, let's get this off the ground. You know, that I got to do this, I have to do this. I was so jazzed and so pumped up to do this. I said, I don't what to call it. I wanted to buy my domain name, so that I could set up a website. And he said, well what's your favorite animal? And I said, kangaroo. And then he said, what's your favorite aspect of outer space? Because he and I are both outer space geeks and I said, time warps. Because I love star Trek. So he said, well how about calling it time jump?
Ramesh: Wow, That's good. So a couple of things that you really like and then put them together. That is so very, very creative. And then also very personal as well.
Larissa: It is a very personal, and you know, I’ll be honest with you, I wasn't entirely sure about the name. It was so unique. So I thought of a few different names, but I kept coming back around to TimeJump. Because like you said, it has that personal connection and I just love that and I think too, it works for the vision of the company because my company is about stepping customers forward and getting them, you know ahead of the curve and ahead of their competition so that they can really meet their customer's needs. And I think any business that a person forms the name is so important. It has to convey so many nuanced things. 16:19
Ramesh: Yup. Yup. So actually that is very good. So let me talk a little bit about the customer pipeline and then the customer itself. So typically what is the starting point for your work with the customer? Is it like they'll come to you and say, build me a web design, website? Or how does it start?
Larissa: There's a few different ways that it starts. Usually I will have a potential client come to me who has a very definite idea of what they say they want. And a lot of times this client has previously worked with a designer, previously worked with an agency and for whatever reason it wasn't working out for them anymore and they needed to change. And so they'll tell me, their backstory, I will listen. And then once we start working through it, we'll have a consultation, we'll have a conversation, and then it's kind of a matter of reading between the lines. Like you are telling me that this is what you need and this is what you wanted, but you weren't satisfied with your results. So why aren't you satisfied? And the answers that they give are not what they think the solution should be. Very seldom. So I help them to read between the lines to find a new solution and a new approach for services that really work for them and meet their goals. And I try to work with them and educate them throughout the entire process that we're working together.
Ramesh: It's really a very consultative process that you're taking. So let me ask you this question. Typically how do your potential customers find you? Like what kinds of promotional strategies that you've been working on that are working out in a way that the customers are finding you?
Larissa: Well I have to say for TimeJump, I have not implemented my promotional strategy in full force yet. And so I have been getting a number of queries through my websites. I have social media channels set up that people are finding me through. And then again, it's word of mouth Ramesh, it's word of mouth. My previous clients, the past several years I have been traveling to film festivals and film markets throughout the world. Those are great for networking. Those are great for finding people who were missing a link between their analog services and their digital services. Because I have noticed that film in particular, many processes are still analog. And so these people that I met, I can then reached back out to and say, Hey, you know, I noticed this and you told me you're trying to do that. Would you be interested in talking? So personal outreach really works best for time jump because of the bespoke nature of our services.
Ramesh: I see. So one thing I'm still trying to understand because you had a freelance business, you've been a consultant, so in some ways you are in business for yourself for quite some time. But how is time jumper as a company different from your freelancing business and consulting, especially given that you're getting referrals from your prior freelance and consulting business anyway.
Larissa: TimeJump as a company is different because my hope is to do that full time. You know, it's going to, the goal is that it will afford me the freedom of time. It will afford me the freedom of finance to be able to do what I love, which is to go travel, to go explore, to do, you know activism, community outreach. I recently started a humanitarian organization called Pen power, which helps female entrepreneurs throughout the globe to access crowd resourced tools to improve their businesses from micro entrepreneurs all the way up to you know C suite entrepreneurs. So it's really an Avenue to pursue my personal passions without being tied down to a nine to five Monday through Friday job that I have to stay in one location for.
Ramesh: Got it. Okay. So I understand that. So as you look through the journey like what are the things that you could offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs? So what is that you would tell about if they want to start a business?
Larissa: Oh gosh, I'm so happy you asked. Well, first of all, I hope that they could go on my website or go on my Facebook or Instagram and reach out to me and we could start talking. I would suggest do it. Don't let fear hold you back. I did that even though I had been, you know, freelancing and consulting, somehow the step of formalizing it into a company and saying, I want this, I want the freedom of you know, managing my own company versus letting somebody else manage me. That was a difficult bet for me. So just do it. And if it seems overwhelming, take it in small bites and this is what you teach, which is wonderful. And I’ve been spending a lot of time on your website, because I tend to think so big picture. It was really a practice to discipline myself and jewel little bit by bit by bit.
Ramesh: I see. So Larissa as you are building your business I'm assuming that you are going through selecting some tools that will help you in various aspects, whether it's legal accounting or whatever, whatever. So I mean, what are the kinds of tools that you're using other people can say, Oh yes, those are the good tools that I should look at as well.
Larissa: I would say, you know, first and foremost, invest in a really good project management software. I believe there's one for Mac computers, it is called freelance. It lets you, you know it lets you keep a portfolio of your clients, your project history, your invoice numbers, the billing dates, the payments, everything like that. You can get one of those that fully integrated into in account management software like QuickBooks. That's great. I would say you know get that all squared away, so that you don't have to get muddy down and doing, you know back paperwork all of the time and you can just focus on moving your business forward.
Ramesh: Okay. So a freelance is one. And then the accounting one, I mean are there any tools that you use for your design work and then things like that?
Larissa: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm always trying new ones. I mean, as far as web design goes, Jovi creative suites. They have, you know, their cloud based system. Get a good package for stock photos. There are some really good free stock photo websites like pixabay.com, pexels.com, they have very high quality photos. That is really going to make or break your project. If you're putting together an RFP, a request for proposal or a concept development. I mean, the images, I have seen firsthand that quality images can make or break whether or not a client decides to go with you.
Ramesh: Wow. So I'm familiar with the Pixabay and then those kinds of sites as well. I agree with you that some of the media and by the way, I use like Canva kind of stuff where I use for some design work as well.
Larissa: Canva is a great tool.
Ramesh: Yeah, exactly. So and then I know you talked a few times about Gino who really inspired and who helped you. So likewise , are there any other people one beyond Gino that inspired you in your life?
Larissa: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my mother was a huge inspiration. She is a writer. She and I actually wrote a screenplay together. My mom and my sister in particular, they always wanted me to cultivate my creativity. My father as well. You know, my family has gone through probably like most families. My family has gone through some really hard times together. Internal family struggles. But one thing that they've always encouraged me to do is be myself and believe in myself. And that really meant so much to me.
Ramesh: Excellent. So likewise, are there any books or any movies or anything that inspired you? That you keep going back to make sure that you know, this path progresses?
Larissa: Yeah, I feel like I should have an answer to that. And now that you asked me, I can't think of any. I'm looking forward to your upcoming book. I'm definitely going to read that when it comes out. But I try and take inspiration from everything and any little thing and sometimes I don't realize until after when something in particular has inspired me. Kind of a funny thing that I’ve been thinking about doing lately as taking some improv classes. Just to help with my personal communication skills. Especially if as time jump moves forward, I am going to be trying to do more of that face to face networking. I think that could really help.
Ramesh: So that's excellent. So Larissa a couple of questions more before we end the podcast. So one question is, if you were to go back and restart, right, so restart even the freelance business or restart the time jump, what kinds of things that you've learned that you would do differently?
Larissa: Oh gosh. I would be more assertive in my favor. I feel like, especially when I was first starting out as a freelance and as a consultant, I let other people's opinions shape my actions a little bit too much. And so again, I would believe in myself more. I would have more confidence. That was a really hard one. But you know, and stand up for yourself. Sometimes you get clients who want the moon and they don't want to you know pay formally for their demands. And so yes, like customer service and satisfaction is very, very, very important. But you also need to learn how to set your limits and be firm with customers yet tactful.
Ramesh: Yeah, I know about those kinds of customers. One of the podcasts guests that I had previously said she would fire those kinds of bad clients.
Larissa: I've had to do that once or twice in my career and it's never fun.
Ramesh: It's never fun. Yeah, I agree with you. So the last one. Anything that we have not discussed, any information that you wanted to share that, but we didn't get to as we close the podcast.
Larissa: I don't think so Ramesh. This was just so wonderful to speak with you and thank you so much for having me on.
Ramesh: Thank you very much. I mean, you have a very, very interesting and fascinating story. I'm so honored to talk to you, Larissa. Best of luck with time jump media. Looking at the kind of mentors that you have, looks like all good things will happen to you.
Larissa: Thank you. You as well. I'm really excited for your release of The Agile Entrepreneur and I will definitely put it on my preorder list.
Ramesh: Thank you. Thank you.