Living on the Edge: This small shop learned that a setback can actually lead to success
Living on the Edge is a series exploring how small agencies have overcome adversity and applied creativity, ingenuity and hard work to solve a business problem.
When my first business partner told me he was leaving in 2016, I had to fight back tears. We started the business together in the midst of the recession and hustled for years to build a beautiful space in L.A. We developed “the vision” and talked about how we were never in it for the short game—everything was a long play. I didn’t know if I could run the business without him, but with a full staff and loans on our house, I had to face that he was leaving and learn how to keep going.
When I told the staff, they were shocked and visibly upset. I worried that I had not only let myself down, but I let them down. Then, someone got up and hugged me. Then they all joined in. It was one of the most incredible acts of love and kindness that I had ever experienced. And while I would love to say that after that I realized we would be O.K., I would be lying.
Looking back, I realized I didn’t have to focus on or talk about myself because there had been a talented man at the company’s helm. Being a woman in what is largely a man’s world makes it easy to hide behind a man and talk about his greatness, but what would I do when I had to be confident in myself? I was depressed and in a fog that I couldn’t get out of. Then a few things happened that turned me around.
First, I saw a psychic. I was always searching for what I did wrong and then she said, “He left because you didn’t need him anymore. You had run your course together and now it’s time for you to stand on your own.”
That led me to the second thing, which is that I always look for the opportunity in tragedy. In this case, I had given my former partner right of first refusal. Any job that came in was his first which kept me from seeking out exceptional talent because they wouldn’t receive the best opportunities.
But with him gone, I could have anyone I wanted. I thought about the most inspiring piece of sound design I had ever experienced. I loved the opening of "Inglorious Bastards"—the sound was so subtle, the moment was so tense, and every small sound added anxiety. Every creak, every cloth movement. I thought that if I could have anyone to join my agency, I wanted Wylie Stateman, the genius behind that memorable scene. I called Wylie, spoke with his wife and after two phone calls he was signed to our company. After everything, I had arguably one of the greatest living sound designers.
Of course, everything happens for a reason. There is always a gift in the struggle and an opportunity once you get out of the sadness. I was able to own my place in this industry and the projects we were doing. I could take credit and not feel embarrassed or undeserving. I became increasingly confident in my ability which steadily attracted greater opportunities for us. We won dream projects, started earning recognition, became the London International Awards Music Company of the Year for 2018, and then won Ad Age’s Creativity Award for the Best Music and Sound Company of the Year for 2020.
Our team expanded, everyone worked collaboratively and without ego, and started the process of building our New York studio. Although we are in another trying time, I have learned that with confidence, a relentless drive and unwavering prioritization of creative, we can get through anything.