When Lindsay Rogers started a creative agency, she asked friend Tristan Velasco to join her. Here they share their sides of the story of what made them their first million.
It all started when a previous buyout fell apart, which in itself, was worse than any break-up. It was what I counted my future on. I was working my butt off for years, and it came crashing down in 48 hours with no warning. I cried a lot and was sitting at home, talking to a few mentors.
I called Tristan and laid it out on the line, telling him about the agency I wanted. He was really challenging me with questions that night. He made me realise that I didn’t have the full skill set [for what I wanted]. I thought about who I wanted on the team, how I never wanted to go up against him in a pitch and how it would work so well if he was keen. We’d never worked together on anything; how much risk would that be? The next time I asked him, he said yes, and we hugged in my kitchen.
Our first project, with The Salvation Army, was worth AU$3500 and we thought we had hit the lottery. We used our own personal laptops, rented equipment and hired our first contractor in the first three months. We were like, “How will we pay him?” Now we’re 17 months in and we have 45 clients. We’ve made our first million and we just won our first international client. We were the only Australians going up against global agencies, so we went above and beyond.
Winning the Telstra Young Business Women’s Award was a huge moment for me. I was over the moon because it was such a long shot. It was good for morale. People wanted to talk about our business, which a year ago didn’t even exist.
In our first quarter this year we’re up 200 per cent. It really feels like we’re just scratching the surface. The journey we’ve been on with clients is also a challenge – we say when we think something is not a great idea. If for some reason someone is not happy, then we make sure we make them happy. We’re really aware of our shortcomings and lack of experience. We haven’t been through a financial crisis and come out the other end. We have sought people with experience to work with us.
I met Lindsay on a trip to India. I’d always wanted to work with her. When I approached her, she said no, because she had a good thing where she was. [I knew] she was involved in the planned buy-out of a business.
One Thursday, I got a phone call from her, expecting good news. Instead she was quite upset, she said the owner had withdrawn and she was figuring out what her next plans were. She decided she wanted to start her own business. When she said, “I want you to join me,” it was an easy response. I resigned from my job the week after and the rest is history.
We had to spend a lot of time with each other at the start. We were not really comfortable, but then we learned how to be in each other’s space all the time. When we were able to pay ourselves a regular wage it was quite empowering. Working with Lindsay was the best decision I’ve ever made. She is a really tough person, always go-go-go; do it right now; make it happen. If she doesn’t like or agree with something, she will let you know. I’m the ultimate procrastinator, a bit more calm and chill. We are always trying to find balance.
The best thing about this partnership is knowing you’re not on your own. Because we were equally invested in the business, we had absolute trust in what we were doing. Even if I didn’t understand something, I trusted that the decisions she made were made in the interest of the business. It was the same if I was going to try a creative approach. Lindsay has got quite a brilliant mind. I wouldn’t have thought of hiring business advisors. She came up with the idea of work holidays.
She went to the Stanford [Executive Bootcamp] and it was an eye opener to how we can build a sustainable business. I had gone on a charity cycle, which I filmed, and we saw how important it was for us to be able to step away and see the business outside of the business. When she won the Telstra [Young] Business Women’s Award, it was the proudest moment by association I’ve ever had. I had no doubt that she’d be able to make such an incredible achievement. And I guess it also pushed me to have to achieve something on par!
Sometimes I do get sick of her – we have intentions of switching off but the business always creeps in. People say don’t go into business with your friends, but because she legitimately cares about how I am, how I am feeling, my family and my relationships, I couldn’t do this with anyone else.
Read the full story in Collective Hub, Issue 31.