Living on the Edge: How Camp & King learned to bet on itself
Living on the Edge is a weekly series exploring how small agencies have overcome adversity and applied creativity, ingenuity and hard work to solve a business problem. This installment is about how one small shop took a big leap of faith to secure its office space.
Any founder will attest that the roller coaster ride of emotions and confidence—or lack thereof—of running a small agency is not for the faint of heart. And what we’re living through has exacerbated every fear we’ve ever had. But when Jamie King and I look back at pivotal, challenging times in our agency's history, we find ourselves best served by the words “Bet on yourself"—words of wisdom from my friend and Venables & Bell agency co-founder Greg Bell.
It was our first year in existence and Jamie and I were lamenting the cost of office space in San Francisco. We had seen dozens of potential office locations but were enamored with one in particular, a historic army barrack in the Presidio. It had picture-postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts, but was more expensive and required a longer lease.
We tried to get it out of our heads but, dammit, it was just perfect! We agreed no other location had the potential. When it was time to sign on the dotted line and put our money—like, all of our money—where our heart was, it was “welcome-to-starting-your-own-agency-risk-taking-101." We debated between a more cautious, short-term lease or something a bit longer, which ran the risk of being a huge financial burden if our new agency didn’t work out. Of course, we believed in each other and what we could build, but also incredibly aware that the agency world is littered with others whose aspirations didn’t work out as hoped.
This commitment was going to basically require us to deplete our bank accounts. As we went back and forth on the level of financial commitment we were willing to risk, Greg overheard us and said “Bet on yourselves." (Or he might have said “Get Ron the shelves!” I don’t remember specifics and Greg mumbles sometimes.)
It’s crazy to think that was eight years ago. Thankfully with a lot of luck and crazy amounts of sweat and tears, the agency has grown to the point where we not only filled that initial office space, but have added even more across the hall. And there’s not a client who’s come in that hasn’t stood inside our lobby and taken a picture of the view from our windows.
"Bet on yourselves" has been a phrase that Jamie and I have turned to many, many times over the years. And make no mistake, not every bet was a win. But as we’re all trying to make sense of this crazy world, where we’re being asked to guide our clients' brands as well as manage our own through this difficult time, we’ll double down on those words again.
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