By Eve Gumpel, California Business Journal
When Noel Ballou switched his major from Premed to business at University of California, Riverside, his live course was all too clear.
Applying for an internship at the Toro Company, he quickly informed his boss, “I’m not looking to stay here long; I’m looking to start my own business. I’m doing this to learn the corporate ropes.”
True to his word, Ballou left the company two years later to start a content creation company called Teez Agency in 2012 to help clients increase brand awareness and generate buzz about their brand.
Today, he and his brother, Waseem, run a digital marketing company that focuses on the food and beverage industry. Teez Agency is now Foodeez, which boasts 25 employees and heavyweight clients that include MillerCoors, Mazola and White Castle. “I think we’ll be about 60 people at the end of Q3,” Waseem predicts.
In the beginning, the brothers took on all kinds of products – kayaks, canoes, fishing gear, hiking gear, light bulbs. “We really didn’t have a center focus or strong value proposition to offer,” Noel says. “Our biggest value proposition at the time was price.”
Then, soon thereafter, they landed Tapatio Hot Sauce, their first food and beverage client. After snagging a couple more clients in the same space, they realized it could be a profitable niche market. “We decided to shift gears and focus only on food and beverage,” Noel says.
How does a small startup land clients such as Tapatio and MillerCoors? “All of our big brands have been cold calls,” Noel says. “We tell clients, ‘We’ve been looking at your digital media and we notice you’re not able to do a lot of video content or consistent photo content. And one thing we specialize in is high-quality content for a very cost competitive pricing.’“
Today, Foodeez’s value proposition is high-quality images and high-quality video production – along with having everyone in-house. “From day one, we didn’t want to deal with outsourcing and finding freelancers,” Waseem says. “We want to make sure we give our clients the best that we can. We brought it in-house so we have that quality and control.”
He adds, “Having it all in house allows us to maintain the quality. We hire people who are passionate about what they do, and we put them in the right places where we can see them shine and drive.”
Many of the big brands signing on with Foodeez had been working with big agencies. However, as Noel says, “With the shift to digital content, they are saying, ‘We want people who specialize in creating content for our industry.’ That’s where our niche has come into play.
“We’re starting to see a huge swing from working with small and medium-size brands to large enterprise accounts that want a company that specializes in their space.”
From its inception, Foodeez doubled its sales every year … until last year when it tripled sales. “This year we’re projected to do five times sales,” Noel says.
The brothers continue to aim for the stars. Companies they’d like to represent include Ciroc, Volpi Foods, Perrier, Goya Foods of California, Martinelli’s, Del Monte Foods, Hagendaz, Diageo Brands, Impossible Foods, and The Wonderful Company.
“We like to work with some of the brands that are up and coming — trending brands,” Noel says.
The brothers acknowledge that working with creatives has been a shift for them. “Noel and I are more analytical people: data-driven vs. working heavily with creatives. So it’s been a learning curve,” says Waseem, who handles the company’s creative division. “Every creative has their own unique vision and mindset on how they want to see you plan out a project.” His goal: “to make sure we maximize each of our creative’s vision.”
Hiring employees can cost more than outsourcing, but the brothers don’t mind. “You spend 80 percent of your day at work,” Waseem says. “We wanted to have a place you enjoy coming to. We want each of our employees to enjoy working here. Offering benefits, offering vacation time through our HR benefits program – it’s something we enjoy doing. We want to see how we can give more to our team every day.”
The brothers’ tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Noel Ballou and Waseem Ballou, Co-Founders
Teez Agency LLC / Foodeez
155 W Washington Blvd #1020 Los Angeles, CA 90015
http://foodeez.la/ / Tel: (323) 213-4489