After winning an Emmy for his “Follow The Dream” advertising campaign during the 2000 Olympic Games, Rudy Gaskins was inspired to make his own dream of owning a creative services business a reality.
To get started, Gaskins needed a plan and a business partner. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for the latter. He teamed up with his wife, Joan Baker, whose natural gift of connecting with people, Gaskins says, complemented his business savvy. Soon after, the couple launched Push Creative Inc., which specializes in advertising and promotions for corporations including broadcast and cable networks.
“Rudy is analytical and hands-on with the creative process, whereas I enjoy connecting with people and developing relationships with people that would lead to profound communication,” says Baker, who notes that the couple’s ability to combine talents adds to their business’ bottom line. “Joan creates a clearing for fun, thus allowing clients to be more at ease and relaxed,” Gaskins adds.
Located in New York City, the company has five employees and contracts freelance writers, graphic designers, and producers to serve clients such as American Express, ABC, Fox News, BET, and SpikeTV. Last year revenues reached $800,000, double what the company made its first year. Media ventures in the pipeline, say Gaskins, boost projected revenues for 2005 to $1.2 million.
After four months of operating as a home-based business, the duo entered into a barter arrangement with Image Group, an editing and post-production company. In exchange for office space, Push Creative commissioned its proprietor to handle a portion of its post-production work. The entrepreneurs accumulated $40,000 from their savings to cover startup costs for salaries, marketing materials, and travel.
“In the beginning, I had to get over the idea that we didn’t start Push Creative just to see if it would work, but for it to succeed,” says Gaskins, 44. As for Baker, 40, a working actress and an accomplished voice-over artist, managing her public relations role while becoming computer literate was not easy.
Another hurdle was the uncertainty of cash flow. In the beginning, Gaskins and Baker worked on projects without receiving a retainer. To rectify the situation, Gaskins and Baker now require their clients to pay either one-third or one-half of the project’s balance up front. In addition, a $50,000 business loan helped to further leverage cash flow.
Prior to starting Push Creative, Gaskins was executive producer for the creative department for the Food Network. A graduate of New York University, he worked as a documentary filmmaker for PBS, producer of advertising for ABC News, and vice-president of creative services for Court TV.
A $250,000 contract with Spike TV marked the turning point for Push Creative. The firm designed a series of 30-second spots honoring Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Confident in the Spike TV campaign, Baker entered it into various competitions, which resulted in the firm winning eight industry awards including first and second place in the 2004 Excellence and Multicultural Marketing Awards.
Push Creative is currently diversifying its services to include program development. Mutual