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Daron Jenkins, Founder Of Scene PR: “Entrepreneurs Are Like Artists, They Follow Their Passion”
Creative entrepreneur Daron Jenkins shares his journey, he's the founder of Scene PR, NYC Film & Finance and NY Film Loft. As a film enthusiast and avid entrepreneur, he is always looking for interesting people to connect with.
We go in depth with inspiring entrepreneurs from around the globe. What motivates them, how did they accomplish their success and what business challenges keep them awake at night? Read what they have to say about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and most of all, what it takes to succeed.
"I think the most interesting business connection I have made so far is Russel Wong, one of my favorite actors. Russel is a big Asian actor, he's done a lot of Hollywood movies, played in the hugely popular 90's series 'Vanishing Son' and has acted with Jet Li in 'Romeo Must Die'. I actually hosted a film release event for Russel so I got to meet him. That really kicked off my whole 'Scene PR thing' and it was huge for me. Because meeting someone who was bigger than life for me at the time and turning that into a real life relationship was the best inspiration for me to start my business."
When asked if the film and entertainment sector makes entrepreneurs value people in a different way, Jenkins answered with a fully mouthed 'yes'; "I think when you're in the connecting people business like I am, you tend to listen to people in a different way. As an entrepreneur I'm mostly interested in trying to understand what kind of knowledge a person carries with them, how connected they are and how valuable they can be as a resource for other things. Even though I try not to be like that, it's just the way it is, it's like a reflex. And that feeling is a plus and a minus in one."
"In a way you can almost compare being an entrepreneur in this industry with being a celebrity; just like celebs, entrepreneurs sometimes have to re-evaluate the personal relations that they have. It happens that people you consider friends show interest in you solely for business purposes. You've got to have a great personality about it because it can be deceptive, time consuming, and sad at the same time. On the other hand, there are of course many people in the business who are genuinely interested in you as a person."The path to success is rarely smooth and straight. When asked what entrepreneurial business lessons he learned along the way, Jenkins answered: "This business has taught me a lot about people. Film is really a 'me first' industry. I'm sorry to say, but it's true. For example, I've recently had some personal relations who've tried to use me to get into the film business. They thought they could take advantage of the situation and that hurt me in a lot of ways. But I also understand that it's just business and you've got to take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes your business relationships change your personal relationships. It's just the way it is."
"And of course having the right group of people around you makes all the difference. It's the most important thing. You are the sum of the parts you hang out with. So I always tell entrepreneurs and young creatives they have to surround themselves with people who are much smarter than they are. Even when they think they have the smartest business idea ever. Because when those smarter people start gravitating around you, then you know you're going in the right direction. It's for a reason they're listening to you. Get smart and passionate people around you who are interested in what you're doing on the same level as you are."
"Take Mark Zuckerberg for example. If he surrounded himself with a bunch of lazy dudes who didn't care or weren't interested, Facebook would have never happened because he couldn't have pulled it off by himself. No matter how much he'd like to believe he could have. Without that core group of people he worked with it would have really been a tough thing to do. You can't do it alone and I don't think that doing it with the wrong people will get you where you want to be in business."
So let's say you have surrounded yourself with smart people. To what extend should you make yourself replaceable within that group of people and in your company?
"I used to tell everybody who I worked with that they better made sure I wouldn't fall down the stairs or anything, because if I did, 'it's over – you guys are screwed'. I think that was both a good and a bad thing for me. A good thing because it made me indispensable and a bad thing because it made me indispensable. Meaning, I have to be there all the time, doing everything, always involved. And I think that's not a good process."
"That's why later on me and my partner at New York Film Loft made sure we were both involved in everything. So should one of us 'fall down the shaft' the business doesn't go away. And I think people should do that as well when they're starting their businesses. It's good to be indispensable, but it's better to be diverse. Often people don't fully understand that the business needs to grow beyond themselves. They can't be the business and the value. Investors aren't going to pay for you to live. They want to know that in case something happens to you, the business is still viable. I think that's an important thing. And as an added bonus it will also help with organization and the continuation of the company."
You're involved in multiple companies; Scene PR, NYC Film & Finance and NY Film Loft. How do these companies interact with each other?
"They all work together actually. Scene PR is at the center of it all. It's a film promotion company and a platform for successful entrepreneurs in the film business to pass along their knowledge. It also serves like the glue between my companies. I want to help entrepreneurs get better at what they're trying to do. So we create opportunities like panels and events where someone starting out as an entrepreneur can get connected with those who already made it."
"NY Film Loft on the other hand is a co-working environment for people working in film, television and digital media. A place where those industries can be innovated by creatives, storytellers and producers. You can see it as an incubator. Obviously it's always difficult to find money for the kind of projects these people want to realize. So that's where NYC Film & Finance Forum comes into play. An environment where financiers and creatives can find each other, mostly via crowdfunding based campaigns. Finding small budgets under a million dollars for films is almost impossible. It may surprise you, but the truth of the industry is that it's far easier to find five million dollars than for example five thousand. We try to bridge that gap and in the end my main company Scene PR is all about the people and so it functions as a network. It pulls in the people and the assets for for NY Film Loft and NYC Film & Finance Forum to function on a higher level."
And how do you make a living out of this?
"That's the magic. I've always done something on the side. Even when I started Scene PR, I didn't do it for revenue purposes. Literally, for the first six years or so there was really no revenue coming in at all. It was me being a reluctant non profit in a sense. If you think about it I was bootstrapping everything. I really got in it to help people. Using the Scene PR brand has always been a way for me to connect and build a network of people and recourses. And that's working out fine."
"You know, I'm an entrepreneur. And entrepreneurs are in some perspective just like artists; they follow their passion. And if that means you don't make a dime out of it at some point, then so be it. I know artists who make a lot of money from their work by selling their paintings, but a lot of others don't. So they have something on the side or a paid job to make ends meet, but in the meanwhile they're doing what they love and that's what counts."
"They always tell you if you're going to be an entrepreneur, do something you love. And I fully agree with that. But some entrepreneurs get into it with the mindset to get rich. Then it doesn't work out and you didn't even have a good time. Others get into it just because they want to help and they end up making money. I think that's because they're doing something that they love."
You're a multi-entrepreneur who runs various companies. Where does your entrepreneurial heart lie?
"In the film industry. That's why I launched NY Film Loft. I love film and I really want to help transform the film industry itself. There's a lot to be done in bringing together the community."
"I work with a lot of young indie filmmakers for example who have great ideas, but don't understand the business. Not only the film industry business, but business in general. They just don't have a clue. All they know is that they have this unstoppable need to create this film they have in their mind. But very often they don't even know where to start. So they need money, people, knowledge and networks to transform their ideas into actual films. But almost always they don't have the recourses to make it happen. And that's where I think I can do a lot by tightening the community."
"As an film entrepreneur and with my experience in the business, I want to transform the industry into a more focussed environment. And the industry needs that. At the moment the film industry is stagnant and everybody's just recycling ideas from old stuff. It's my mission to help these young minds become the filmmakers we need them to be…"