Brent Wardrop is the Founder of Elemental, an independent full-service creative advertising and marketing agency based in Toronto. Elemental positions itself as a partner in growth, assisting clients in engaging their audiences and driving business results. Under Brent’s leadership, the agency has had the privilege to serve notable brands such as Dyson, Scotiabank, Allergan, Shred-it, and Honeywell. His journey to entrepreneurship is unique, having transitioned from his earlier career as a professional musician.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Brent Wardrop shares how he transitioned from his music career to starting a creative agency
- Networking and leveraging personal connections to secure clients
- Brent’s first hiring milestones
- How Brent pivoted his digital agency to focus on B2C work
- The importance of showing efficacy by driving ROI for clients
- Structuring the equity stake in a business partnership
- Measuring success in a bootstrapped company
- The creative process for developing a successful marketing campaign
- The value of mentors and community involvement
- Brent’s journey of self-discovery and finding passion through exploring new things
In this episode…
Is there a secret to creating marketing campaigns that not only drive engagement but also foster a deep sense of connection and brand love?
According to Brent Wardrop, a seasoned entrepreneur and expert in brand engagement, the secret lies in crafting campaigns around a simple yet powerful core idea. This approach, which fosters a sense of unity and shared ownership, can inspire a level of loyalty and connection that extends far beyond conventional consumer interactions.
In this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz chats with Brent Wardrop, Founder of Elemental, about the intricate art of developing strategic marketing campaigns that elevate brand love. They explore Brent’s unique journey from music to entrepreneurship and delve into how businesses can leverage simplicity and shared ownership to create impactful campaigns. Brent also talks about navigating transitions and the value of continuous learning in achieving business success.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- EO Toronto
- EO Accelerator
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
- Dr. Jeremy Weisz on LinkedIn
- Brent Wardrop on LinkedIn
- “[Top Agency Series] Most Valuable Advice When Selling Your Agency With Todd Taskey of Potomac Business Capital” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Top Agency Series] Navigating a Merger and Becoming an End-to-End Digital Partner With Kevin Hourigan of Spinutech” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- Dustin Brown on LinkedIn
- Scene+ by Scotiabank
Sponsor for this episode…
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Co-founders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90x, Atari, Einstein Bagels, Mattel, Rx Bars, YPO, EO, Lending Tree, FreshBooks, and many more.
The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Co-founders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now let’s get started with the show.
Jeremy Weisz 0:13
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, founder of inspiredinsider.com. I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Brent Wardrop of Elemental and you can find them at elementalinc.com. And Brent before I formally introduce you, I like to mention other episodes, people should check out of the podcast. You know, I had a really good one with Todd Taskey. Todd Taskey runs a company that matches private equity with agencies and actually as a second bite podcast, because sometimes when they sell the private equity, those agencies make more on the second bite than they do on the first. So it’s really interesting to talk about valuation and the agency landscape since this is part of the top agency series. And that was a good one. Also, Kevin Hourigan was a good one. He’s been in the agency space since 1995, when he started an agency so it was interesting to see the evolution of what he went through from the kind of the tech boom and bust and what happened to the industry. And he still was, is alive and kicking with Spinutech. So check that out, and many more on inspiredinsider.com. This episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do the accountability, the strategy and the full execution. You know, Brent, we call ourselves the magic elves that are working in the background to make it look easy for the hosts in the company. So they can build amazing relationships create great content, but also just run their company. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to do that than profile that people in companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to rise25.com And I’m excited to introduce Brent Wardrop. He’s the founder of Elemental, they call themselves the human connection agency. They’re a full service collaborative agency. They work with clients to make their phones ring right now who doesn’t know who doesn’t want that. They’ve been fortunate to work with well known brands such as Dyson, Scotiabank, Allegan, Shredded, Honeywell, along with many, many, many more. And he’s actually a former professional musician. He pivoted to a new creative career after he was dropped by his record label. So love to hear about that. And I find some of the most successful entrepreneurs, Brent started in the music industry, they had to hustle to get butts in seats, and to do all this stuff. It’s a business too. So he started this creative firm evolving into a full service, strategically led agency working some of Canada’s largest brands. Brent, thanks for joining me.
Brent Wardrop 3:14
Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thanks for bringing up that pain of me losing a record career.
Jeremy Weisz 3:20
We got to bring up the pain, it’s it’s the good stuff. What talk about your band for a second how this got started.
Brent Wardrop 3:28
So so as a solo act, I was signed to a label here in Toronto, and I had the privilege of making an album and touring all over toured in the states toured in Europe. And it was wonderful, it was a really great experience it was, you know, it’s the sort of thing that you know, it’s one of those things that as a youth you find out you’re good at something and you start digging into it, you know, taking lessons learning your craft, learning how to write songs, and eventually someone starts saying that they kind of believe in you. So you start down the road of, of pouring yourself into it. And for me, it was a it was a good 15, 16 years of my life that that was the only thing that mattered. Absolutely the only thing and what happened was I was I was working on some solo stuff in a recording studio. And the engineer working at the studio just happened to you know, know, a guy who wanted to own the label and play the tapes. And we started talking and next thing you know, you know, I had this great opportunity unfortunately, like like every other business you have to actually sell the product to be successful. And and albums sold well and you know, overseas and outside of Canada, where I’m from and but they didn’t sell well here. And so from a purely economic standpoint, it didn’t make sense for them to continue investing in me. And at the time, I was devastated. I was absolutely destroyed. I mean, everything I had been working for it was a hard no By this point I was, I want to say 32. I think there abouts. And it’s pretty hard to recover out of that. I admit I was terribly bitter, very bitter. But at the same time I needed to eat. Right. So I had a friend who worked at Honeywell company that makes thermostats. And he needed some posters made for the factory floor to, you know, produce some morale posters. And I had designed some of my own literature as a musician. And he knew I was in a in a bind. So he asked me if I would make these posters. And so I had been noodling around with at the time they called it desktop publishing. I don’t know if you remember that. Yeah, we’re talking later, this would be ’93, ’94. And so I didn’t know what I was doing. Right. Other than having a bit of taste, I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I had noodled, around with some photography, and I took photos of glass. And glass, when you shoot it up close, has this wonderful organic quality. So I made these posters with images in the background. At the time, no one did that. Because, you know, the images were 20 Meg’s, and my machine had two Meg’s of, of RAM on it. So it literally take eight hours to render these things. But hey, I didn’t know and I had all the time in the world. So anyway, I made them. And then that landed me. You know, it gave me some money for rent and food, which was great. But it also parlayed money into other relationships. Because now with money at Honeywell, as a client, I had the confidence that I could go out and start talking to other companies. And that led me through the doors of companies like 3am. And, and the hospital group here, it’s called the University Health Network. They were good to me. And then, and then with every success of, you know, project, I just parlayed that into a greater reputational growth. And over time, I surrounded myself with people who are skilled, schooled, and, and simply better at did various tasks. And, and now we’re almost 30 person team, servicing clients across Canada, we have half our businesses in America, we have clients in Europe. And it’s just the best, you know, because anyway, I’m probably going off too much.
Jeremy Weisz 7:23
It’s amazing that your first client was Honeywell, right?
Brent Wardrop 7:28
Jeremy Weisz 7:29
So I’m curious. I want to get to how you, you make it sound easy? Well, I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Like, oh, we got we went to 3M. And we, you know, it was a hell of I’m wondering how you actually approached those other companies. But first talk pricing for a second. You are musician, your friends, like, hey, create these, how did you price that initial project?
Brent Wardrop 7:49
They told me how much money they had. And I said that sounds good.
Jeremy Weisz 7:55
See what an insight. I mean, it helps to have an inside person give you some, some intel.
Brent Wardrop 8:00
You know, this was a long, long standing friend. I had known him since I was in university. And he was a big fan of my music. And he you know, at the same time, I had a marriage that was going sideways. So like everything was going back to like nothing. Right? And so this was a generous gift from him. Like, yeah, and, and then the pricing, you know, I don’t remember the name of the book, but I picked up a book about pricing, creative work. And about, you know, learning how, because I’ve never worked in an agency. Right? You know, I’ve never worked for anyone, you know, in this this industry. So I just picked up a book, you know, and even, you know, like, even at the beginning of me working with Honeywell and stuff. The first thing what I did is I went down to the local school that taught graphic design and bought every book. Now you don’t even need it. All you need is YouTube now. And you know, I mean, but the truth of it is, you know, when there’s when there’s desire, you can learn anything. In my case I really desire to eat. Leading was a good thing.
Jeremy Weisz 9:04
Yeah. It’s funny because I Brent had a conversation with someone yesterday. They said the first project forgot the company was a huge company. And he’s like, I usually charge $60 an hour. So I charge 120 And I figured it would take two hours. So I charged him $250 So the pressure is huge company and he’s like obviously they were they were thrilled, but he was like I charged obviously too little but he said over the next over the following two years. They paid him like $230,000 or whatever it was because they just kept giving asking for more work. So um, I guess it paid off that you were not crazy. expensive for them. Talk about going now you have Honeywell? Yeah. And you were smartly okay. Now how do I parlay Honeywell into the next one? Client because you owe you a good friend at Honeywell. So yeah, how did you get into what was the first milestone of client? Where you didn’t know someone there?
Brent Wardrop 10:09
Oh, so well, that was that came a little bit after because my first thing was to figure out, wow, I can, I can actually make money doing this, which which shocked me. You know, I mean, I mean, I could be shingling on a roof, right or this so. So I like this and I just I just really tapped everyone I knew. And you know, I had a, I had a pretty I had a pretty robust fan base when I had a career. And some of the people I had become friends with, you know, and so I literally just asked them, Is there anyone you know, that can help me? And, and, and that became I know, this person who works here, but they might, and it just became this sort of, you know, working working the network, you know, because this was this, like, this was before cell phones. You know, I mean, this was, this was really organic. And, and at the time, you know, at the time there, I don’t think the I don’t think the freelance community community existed, I don’t even think the word existed at that time. So to have somebody show up and just say, hey, I can, you know, help you with some stuff was the sort of thing that they were having. Like, at that time, my biggest competitor was the receptionist. You know, they would kind of get her to, or him to use Microsoft Publish. And then here I come along with CorelDRAW. But oh, man, I can use different fonts other than Arial. Mind blowing, right. And I’ve always had a I personally, I’ve always had a very good work ethic. And I gate, I greatly respect the grace of when people give me work. Like, I’m convinced that a success is only based upon, you know, people ensure there’s a whole trust thing with work, but they’re putting their own reputation at risk to hire you, within the organization. So so there’s a deeper, more human connection that occurs in that decision making. And I think, I think always having that sense of gratitude, even though personally, I think that’s a word that’s becoming heavily outplayed. But really, truly appreciating that someone has chosen to feed you. Like there’s something really pure of of that, and I it’s never lost me, in all these years, it’s ever lost me that, that I am super fortunate.
Jeremy Weisz 12:29
So I love how you think about this. Because anytime someone hires you, you if you if someone has this in their mind of they’re putting their reputation at risk, right? Not like I’m entitled to get this work. But more on the flip side. It makes, it makes me think a lot differently or anyone about that project, right? It’s like, this person is taking it super serious. They’re taking me super serious. And I love that thought process that you go through with that. But I like also how you reached out. I mean, you weren’t afraid to reach out to your network of people to ask for help. Like sometimes. I don’t know, I found with some people I’ve talked to like, there’s ego involved, they don’t want to reach out for help. They feel like they can do it themselves. And so I liked that, that aspect as well.
Brent Wardrop 13:31
Even let, let’s not get confused. I at the same time. I’m the sort of guy that I hate to ask people for things. Because I’m just not built that way. But literally, when you have nothing, no prospects no way have you like No, no future because your your, your entire back layer, everything you’ve done up until then is done. It there’s a certain there’s a certain urgency that comes with, you know, Hunter be hunted or, you know, and and, I mean, I’m probably I probably met him I probably have minimized what that was like at that emotional state. But it was desperate. And it’s good. You know, I think I think at the same time, you know, I didn’t have anyone chirping in my ear that I couldn’t do it. So, you know, I think that I just did it. Because I had to and it’s and it’s paid off.
Jeremy Weisz 14:28
What was the what was the kind of music and what was the album called?
Brent Wardrop 14:32
Well, the music is Pop Music.[Continue to Page 2]