Over the years, I’ve met thousands of people who work as brand ambassadors, event coordinators, promotional models and more. Attending events varying in size on a national level certainly puts this industry into perspective and allows one to meet some incredibly wonderful, hard-working people.
With that, however, I’m often approached with the questions of, “How do you do this?” and “Where did you start?” I also occasionally meet my own staff who express interest in branching out and creating their own staffing agency, so I want to share my thoughts and advice on getting started:
1. Find your niche.
My family thought I was crazy, and my friends were curious when I first told them I was going to start a staffing business that specialized in motorsports. I started my company with an idea, a small loan, a computer, a cellphone, and a lot of drive and ambition. That’s it.
What made my company work, though, is that I was able to identify a niche in an industry that is, at times, incredibly close-knit. The motorsports industry in Canada is small, and I was able to use my experience, along with my passion, to identify a need for specialized event staff in this close-knit community that ultimately supported me and encouraged me to expand on a national level.
2. Start small with big goals in mind.
While it’s important to have big goals in mind, it’s equally important to set realistic milestones that you can work toward. For example, from the start, I wanted to start working with major brands I had been familiar with for years. However, I knew that with no events, no staff and nothing to show what I’ve done, I needed to work up to that point. So, I started working with smaller companies with the goal of building my portfolio in order to connect with larger companies down the road. And now, eight years later, I work with some of the brands I dreamed of when I first started.
3. Build a supportive team.
Before you start off running, you need to walk. I knew I needed solid bones to my company, so I made sure to build not only an informal team of friends and family, but also a formal team. I connected with a lawyer, an accountant and a financial consultant, who helped me make sure I had solid contracts written up for my clients and staff. At the time, I didn’t have a marketing budget, so I handled sales and marketing myself and relied primarily on social media to network. Once I had the internal processes set and felt that I was knowledgeable and covered from a legal standpoint, I started reaching out to potential clients and hiring staff to build a roster.
4. Network your heart out.
Networking is essential to starting your staffing agency. I attended every event I could within a two- to three-hour radius from my home, and I paid attention to which companies were hiring promotional staff and which weren’t. I handed out cards, went to social gatherings and spent time simply talking to people on a personal level.
That said, when you’re networking, don’t always push your company or services; spend time getting to know people to build those relationships.
5. Hustle, hustle, hustle.
For the first few years, I worked a few jobs while running the company in the evenings and on weekends. I juggled and balanced the best that I could. Remind yourself that it’s not easy to start a business, and you might have to hustle to get it off the ground.
6. Outsource your weaknesses.
Often, when starting a small business, there isn’t a budget to hire people to help you get started, so entrepreneurs have to wear many hats. I didn’t have the ability to hire a graphic designer, marketing coordinator or sales staff. However, as I grew, I continued to invest money back into the business and was able to, over time, hire additional team members to jump in where I couldn’t.
7. Spend wisely and have fair pricing.
I think this is the biggest mistake many new companies can make. One might start a business with a significant loan or seed money and spend it fast and furiously on apps, promotional materials, etc. I did that, too, and it came to the point where my company was spending a bit too much and needed to rein it back in. The funny thing is, no one seemed to notice that we went years without making another promotional item. I became more conscious of spending and provided fair pricing to my clients, which also set us apart.
8. Hire people who fit with your company culture.
Over the years, we’ve worked with so many people, some who have been a wonderful fit with our company, and others who haven’t. That’s OK; I’ve learned a lot and realized that it’s key to find someone who is a fit with not only your company and clients, but also your culture. Take the time to learn more about who you are hiring and what interests them about your company. It will set them apart from the rest.
9. Be curious.
To this day, I continue to be a curious person. If I don’t know the answer to something, I find it. I constantly research, knowing that the industry is always changing and that I need to be on top of it. If you don’t know something, figure it out. Find the answer, and learn from it.
At the end of the day, starting any business, whether you’re opening a staffing or modeling agency or another type of company, requires a great deal of work, time and energy. I hope some of these tips will help you in moving forward with your dreams, goals and aspirations.