Real Talk About Money with GWTL Productions Founder Denayja Reese
Money has always been a taboo topic. At Mogul Millennial, we believe that when we avoid the important conversation around money, it becomes a silent tool for oppression. It’s hard to learn about something when you’re discouraged or scared to talk about it, and as a result, cannot really learn in order to grow. In our new recurring series, All About the Benjamins, we’re taking it THERE. We’re challenging entrepreneurs to give us the tea on their financial reality—how much money they’re making (or not making), if they are profitable, how they were really able to launch their business, and so much more.
In this edition, we caught up with Denayja Reese, the Founder of Girl With That Laugh Productions (GWTLP), an Events and Music Video Production company. Continue reading below to learn more about her company, how she was able to launch her business, and how she was able to reach profitability status with her company.
- Company: Girl With That Laugh Productions (GWTLP)
- Industry: Media
- Business launch date: 2016
- Cost to launch business: $7,500
What is Girl With That Laugh Productions?
We are an Events and Music Video Production company. We work with Brands, Agencies, and Creatives to produce work that resonates with and enriches our communities. We create in the Music, Media, Fashion and Professional/Personal Development Industries in Los Angeles, New York City & Atlanta.
I decided to launch my company after realizing that by doing so I could empower other Black women in production. I spent 3 years producing tech conferences where they were always talking about “diversity and inclusion” and it made me realize that I wasn’t taking up that cause in my own industry so I started GWTLP to disrupt the production industry with badass Black women/women of all kinds.
How much money did it take to launch your business?
I launched years ago when I was freelancing and I mostly spent money on my website, Quickbooks and business travel. Then, I started paying assistants and other partners to support client projects. Then, last year I invested a hefty amount into a sales platform (big mistake). Upon my launch in 2017, for a website update and Quickbooks for a year $300, I invested $7,500 in the sales platform. I would say after 5 years of doing this, we’re in the growth phase and I’ve spent about $15K on the aforementioned investments.
In the very beginning, what were your startup costs? Were you paying yourself a salary then?
I did not start paying myself a salary until this year and that’s because (I’m going to keep it real here) I just honed in on profitability and the company makes enough money to pay me.
I was always sort of freelancing and putting money into the business to invest back into the business. I would have 3 retainer freelance clients with all of the money from 1-2 of them be for the business. We’ve also used profits for our projects, overhead, taxes, and payments to freelancers. Some months are always going to be better than others but we’re getting stronger every day.
How much did you all make within your first month in business? What about your first year?
The first month $2,500 and the first year, $20,000.
Do you remember the first time you made your first sale or partnership?
My first sale was actually a disaster. The event was really bad and I got so drunk after I was sick for days. I learned SO MUCH from that experience and I still have flashbacks to that event just before we do anything. I’m always like “it can never be that bad again!” haha. Partially because I’m 5 years older and I can’t drink like that anymore.
Are you all profitable? How long did it take to get to this point?
We became profitable at year 3 but it has taken time to be consistent with that, which is why I don’t have my full team yet. We’re getting there through increasing our retainer and overall rates, honing in our niches (events and music videos) and doing a lot more marketing/PR over the next 6 months to a year. We’re also producing our own events starting in 2020, which I am increasingly excited about.
Where is your revenue coming from? How has this changed since you first launched?
When I first launched, everything was project-based and people were only hiring me. Now, I’m able to be hired along with my team and we only take retainer clients with a 1-3 month contract minimum.
How are you all doing with your revenue goals? What keeps you up at night when you think about this?
I have a specific revenue goal in mind and am pouring all of my energy into reaching it. What keeps me up at night about it is finding clients that are in alignment with our values/goals and partners for the kind of projects we want to produce.
What are you looking forward to in the near future that’ll help grow your business?
I’m currently raising money to produce our flagship events next year which include our awards show/fundraiser launching in January, our mixed-media cultural festival in June and our 2nd annual fashion industry professionals conference in October. We’re looking for investors, brand partners and sponsors for all three starting next month/into Q4.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
What is one thing you wish you would’ve known about money upon launching your company?
If you’re investing in something, it should NEVER, EVER be a shortcut. There is no shortcut for doing the real work and that’s where the success comes from. If you’re thinking about investing in a shortcut, invest directly in yourself and in resources that will support your work instead. Hopefully, I just saved you at least 5 racks. Also, there is the money you need to make to sustain your life and the money your business needs to make. There is a difference, know her.
What money advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs that are thinking about launching their company soon?
- Decide how much money you want to make personally, then quadruple that.
- Get a damn accountant because the IRS don’t play.
- Money doesn’t make your company successful so decide what does, then the money will come.