“Why I wanted to buy a video camera so badly at the age of 13? I don’t know.” said John Williams, the CEO of JCW. “It was a hidden passion stirring in my gut. I knew if I could get my hands on a camera, something special would come about.”
The tug on John’s heart at a young age was the beginning of something bigger than he could imagine. What started as a small video production company has since evolved into a successful, full-service creative agency. Our team at JCW sat him down to get the full story — the zeal, the growth and the challenges behind it all.
What was the beginning of JCW?
It all began the moment I walked out of Best Buy with a $500 camera at thirteen years old. I mowed lawns all summer to save up the money, and I remember spending it all at once. I gave my company the name JCW Productions, and I had one mission — to film everything I could and give every client a quality video that captured the essence of their story.
How did you get your first client?
Believe it or not, the first events I made money shooting was my sister’s cheerleading competitions. I would travel with her, film the various competitions and then walk the bleachers asking parents if they wanted to buy a copy of the event. I’ll never forget receiving my first paycheck of $20. It meant so much to me.
When did growth begin to take place?
Here’s the thing: once people know you’re out there and you do great work, they’ll start calling. I was receiving phone calls within the first six months. The first call came from my 7th grade math teacher, who was also the school’s basketball coach, asking me to start filming their games. I sold game night videos and player highlight videos to parents, and for the first time, I was bringing in thousands of dollars.
Tell us about the next big turning points of your career.
When my math teacher got engaged, he requested my services for his wedding. From that point forward, the requests for weddings just happened organically, and I became known throughout the school and town for filming weddings, marking the beginning of Weddings by JCW.
The next big turning point happened when I graduated from high school in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. In Memphis, I had a great reputation, but in Baton Rouge, no one knew me. The transition challenged me to really think outside of the box and market my company in new ways.
After settling here in Baton Rouge, how were you able to build business and a new reputation?
I built a website! Back then, Google was offering a $100 voucher when you signed your site up for Adwords, so I did that too. From the first couple of ads, I got 3 wedding jobs! That’s when I really started to gain a foothold here. Even further, working as a videographer for LSU Football put me in a position to gain connections and opportunities.
How did you know it was time to expand into your own office?
Clients started to request studio shoots, and at the time, I didn’t have a place to work. Plus, if I was going to eventually grow my business and team, buying a building just made sense. It wasn’t the prettiest place to work when I moved in, but it was in the Garden District, the neighborhood I’d just moved into, and had great potential and character.
Why the bright green doors?
Okay, so about the bright green doors — during renovations, someone accidentally spilled the green paint that was meant for only the walls in the studio, and I said, ‘Let’s just go with it!’ We started painting the doors and accenting other areas with the green. I’ve grown to really love it. We’re known as the office in the Garden District with the green doors.
Tell us about growing your company from one to a full team.
I started out hiring a couple of interns. As time and business progressed, I hired more people and began subdividing the building for more individual office space. From that point forward, I can say success has been all about hiring the right team, with people who maintain our mission and provide clients with quality service and products. Over the years, I’ve hired some amazing people who are not only extremely talented but also care deeply about what they do.
Let’s fast forward to today. Why the rebrand?
It was time. This company has come to offer more than just video production services. Our creative team is capable of transforming company brands, from their website and collateral designs to their marketing strategy and messaging. Plainly put, we’ve rebranded to evolve our image and name into a better representation of who we are today.
What’s been your M.O.?
My M.O. has been to get people in my office who are smarter than me and who are better creatives than me. Building a team that has amazing people has led us to amazing results. In everything I’ve done along the way, my team and our method of teamwork has been the most important thing. Everything about this company is focused around collaboration.
Did you ever imagine your company would become a creative agency?
Not at all! That one little passion to shoot videos at thirteen years old had tremendous potential. I had no idea one passion could unfold into so many different opportunities.
What advice would you give to an up-and-coming entrepreneur?
Running a business is definitely not easy, and generating business from scratch is even harder. You’ll make many mistakes along the way, but hope to learn something from every one of them. It’s all about the attitude and how you handle your challenges.
My best advice, while cliché, has proven so true — it’s to never quit just because things are hard and to always pick yourself up when you’re down. I’d add to that by saying to build a team that is more talented and creative than you could ever be alone. If you have those things, combined with thick skin and a good sense of humor, you’ll continue to be successful.