This weekly column is inspired by Tacoma Entrepreneur Network (TEN). TEN is an intercollegiate network of members in Tacoma designed to explore and build entrepreneurial careers, launched in 2011 by Professor Lynnette Claire. Entrepreneurship uses working knowledge from every background of study. For those who haven’t found their niche yet, are uncertain about what the future holds, or have a multitude of skills and nowhere to apply them, entrepreneurship could be the answer.
Creature Advertising is a creative agency focused on solving business problems for clients with ‘stories that move.’ Stories that move are simple ideas that provoke thoughts and inspire actions.
Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Jim Haven talked about all the inner workings of Creature and how students can share their creativity with the firm.
What makes Creature Advertising unique?
“While most agencies are focused on making better solutions, Creature is focused on making better problems. We call them beautiful problems. While that may seem counter intuitive it’s simply because we believe that all great ideas can only come from asking the right questions and developing incredibly unique and focused problems.
Einstein had a similar thought when he said if he had an hour to save the world he’d spend 55 minutes on the problem and five minutes on the solution. So, it is our insights and strategy blended with our creativity that makes us unique. And I think it also leads to the diversity of the work we’ve done and the fact that it is all very bespoke is evidence of that philosophy.”
How was it started?
“ [Co-founder] Matt [Peters0n] and I were working together in Amsterdam on a challenging pan-European launch for IT consultancy called Cap Gemini. It was the first time we had worked together, and it was by far the most challenging assignment we had faced in our careers. Matt and I had talked about starting an agency and it was at this moment we agreed that if we could crack this one, we would start our own company. We were able to realize that the one force that tied all of those interests together, including the company, was the economy. And since we were in a recession at the time (yes, they are like colds) the services Cap Gemini offered, in essence, allowed you to defy the economy. So that became the campaign: Defy the Economy. It was quite successful and Matt and I felt like every else would be simple. As the universe tends to listen, it was at that moment we heard that the Professional Bowler’s Association was looking for an agency in Seattle and was interested in startups as they didn’t have a lot of money. We got a meeting somehow, packed our stuff and gave it a shot. It kind of went from there.”
What inspired the creation of the company?
“Matt and I had worked for some of the best agencies in the world. So, we knew the smarts and strategy and effort it took to work on that level. But we also always believed there was a better way and that the great agencies were missing opportunities to free themselves from the boundaries that traditional media forms tend to create. At the time we saw an opportunity to take the best strategic thinking and creativity and create not just ads but experiences that invited consumers to participate rather than be forced in with lame, artless, emotionless messages. Matt and I wrote down a sentence then that inspired this thinking. It said the best media space you can buy is in someone’s mind. The only currency that works for that is a great, involving story.”
What does it look for in employees?
“Generally we look for people who have an entrepreneurial side to them. These are people who operate within the company as if they are running their own business, because in essence they are. People who are comfortable making decisions and choices on their own and aren’t afraid to fail for the right reason. A lot of the people who work at Creature do a lot of things outside of work that are inspiring as well. I love people who understand happiness leads to success rather than the other way around. But also I have to say we like to be around smart, people who can wield their intelligence with the proper bedside manner. Smart is good but arrogance is not.”
How can students find out more about employment opportunities?
“Well, we have a place on our website to inquire about jobs but we are also tuning up on social media and website to be better about making sure those are visible and easy to access. But just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean we’re not looking.”
Piece of advice for starting a business?
“First, understand why. And that’s not ‘we want to have the biggest grocery store in the world.’ It’s why do you want that. What is behind it? Read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and he will inspire you to define your why. Have a plan. Sounds dumb, but it’s true. And finally I think it takes really three things. Hard work, naïveté and luck. If you work hard enough, against your plan, you will find luck. But naïveté is the secret sauce because it keeps you from believing in failure.”
Best lesson from your college experience?
“College introduced me to people who were like me and those who were not. It’s a grand social experiment that has become important in a relationship business like mine. Yet it also allowed me to see a path for myself that I never would have identified on my own through talking to others about their points of few that were much wider than my own. But some of the best lessons I learned in college happened after college. Some of the things I learned started to make sense later in life when I found them by chance in context. Perhaps I had learned them, but I began to understand them. The biggest of those I think came from my writing classes.”
Anything else to add?
“Thanks for thinking of us. We love being involved with UPS and hope to have smart, creative, weird people knock on our door and help us make the next ridiculous idea.”