After a short phone conversation, I was immediately impressed with Jesse Alex and how he's transformed his creative agency, Brand Fiend.
Jesse fully embraces the unique chain of events that prompted him to jumping full-time into his own company, he focuses on creating a dynamic company culture among his staff (which are spread across the country), and he is keen on leveraging the lessons he's learned to help others.
In this interview we talk about Jesse's story, his keys to success, why the Cowboys are having a great season, and why you just can't do it all yourself!
"Efficiency is something that comes over the course of time. You’ll get knocked down more than you thought you would."
As we always do, we start off all these #SchemerHighlights the same - tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’m Jesse Alex, 28 years old and born and raised in St. Louis MO. I played basketball all my life including one year of Junior College. I got into design back in 2008 when two of my closest friends and I ended up at The Art Institute of ATL where we studied Graphic Design. I learned just a tad of web design in school but majority was self-taught, spending hours and hours in front of my computer, perfecting my craft. While in college, I worked for a company doing something media management. I’ve worked for two pretty well known brands in Marketing and Advertising before becoming a full time “schemer”! But Brand Fiend wasn't the first thing I tried to start. Back in 2010 me and my friends started an online magazine called Popular Mag Online. In 2010 we also started what we thought was a Graphic Design business called Kreative Ambition. In 2012 I re-branded the whole idea of an online Hip Hop platform and called it Music Villain. It took trying all of these things to understand what I really wanted to do, then came Brand Fiend.
If you were to describe who you are and what you do in one tweet (140 characters), what would that tweet be? Who is one person you would want to Retweet you?
We’re a creative Branding Agency that helps brands tell amazing stories through strategy, design, social media, email marketing, and more.
Let me get that re-tweet from the legend, Gary Vee! Founder of Vayner Media, one of my favorite speakers, and author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!
So before we dive into your business, I have to admit your website is CLEAN, it was an experience going through the site - so kudos! What do you love most about being in the design space?
Thanks, man! Much appreciated. I’m always tweaking my site so it’ll probably be a little different the next time you look lol. I love the process of telling a clients story, from start to finish. Whether it’s the initial strategy, logo design, website, or helping a client tell their story via social media. It’s all a process and it’s not always easy but I love a challenge.
You definitely have a unique story on how you made the "jump" from corporate life to full time entrepreneurship. Can you share a little bit about this experience, and how you knew it was time for you to work for yourself?
I never seemed to fit the corporate environment and I started to realize that in 2014. But I continued to try to make my mark in the corporate world until 2016, when an incident happened and I realized it was just time to make the “jump”. While working in Marketing & Advertising for a very prestigious News company in the Dallas area, I was basically put in a position where they made me chose: Them or Brand Fiend. Reason being, is because they started to look at me as competition being that they owed companies that did logo design, web design, and social media management. It was a shocker to me because they knew about Brand Fiend for a long time, but I feel as if all things happen for a reason. For them to even tell me, a 28 year old man that started this company basically out of my living room, that based on my work, website, etc. that I was competition was almost a compliment. While working there, I couldn’t think about anything other than Brand Fiend, I knew it was my passion. That was just the push I needed to get out on my own and see what this entrepreneurship thing was truly all about.
If you could change one thing about that situation which led you to being a full time entrepreneur, would you?
NOT. ONE. THING
The culture around Brand Fiend is very unique, almost edgy, but does scream millennial generation. How do you preserve this culture, especially with your design team being based all around the country?
Here at Brand Fiend I strive to create a culture of fun, innovative, young, and passionate creatives that can help tell our clients amazing stories. I want to create an environment where people can wear different hats and their ideas are taken into consideration. Being that everyone isn’t in Dallas, communication is key. So emails, team meetings via Video Chat, etc. are all important. I’m working on ways as we speak to help build on the team chemistry. Right now our team consists of these amazing individuals: Aqweela Green, Mason Hylden, Lamar Johnson Jr., Raquel Grant, Vanessa Veloz, Miranda Mabery, and Maxie Taylor.
Up until about 4 months ago I was doing pretty much everything alone. So having a team is something new for me that I will continue to get better at just like anything else. Also just like anything else, it’s a process. It’s tough. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t but by this time next year, I’ll be a lot better at it.
So Brand Fiend's tagline is "A Digital Forward Branding Agency," what do you mean by digital forward?
Everything in this world is moving towards digital. Whether it’s how you consume your media, your daily communication, and more. “Digital Forward” promotes that we’re innovative and equipped to handle your branding needs in today’s modern world.
What has been one of the best clients you've ever worked with as a creative agency? In addition, what are some of your favorite brands?
All of our clients are great! They all have different stories to tell which is what I love the most. We’ve worked with brands such as: Noki Baby, a custom baby bottle adapter as seen on Oxygen. Jermain Todd, Owner of Mwanzi Co., a nationally recognized furniture maker as seen on New Balance, American Family Insurance, and more. Barbershop Books, a nationally recognized nonprofit geared towards helping boys identify as readers, as seen on CNN, TODAY, and more. These are just some to name a few! We’re also in the middle of working with a co-working space set to open in my hometown of St. Louis, so that’ll be pretty cool.
As far as my favorite brands hmmm, that’s a tough one as well. I’ll have to say Bleacher Report is one. I stay updated on sports a lot and they put out great content. Apple of course, almost all of my products are by them. Nike, Cole Haan, and the Lakers are a few more. I’ll have to say this year I’m becoming a fan of the Dallas Cowboys brand as a whole, with them having this great season and Tony Romo finally being out of the lineup (no offense).
We talked about learning from others, and the importance of telling your story, especially lessons learned along the way. What would you say has been the biggest lesson you learned in starting Brand Fiend?
You can’t do it all by yourself, nobody can. Without that clutch corner 3pt shot from Ray Allen, LeBron doesn’t win his 2nd ring. Just saying. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Where do you see yourself as well as Brand Fiend five years from now?
Five years from now, man that’s tough! I can’t believe it’s been two years already so far. But in 5 years I hope to be known as one of the top Branding Agencies in Dallas with clients all over the world. I see myself having a physical office where our team of creatives can thrive together.
A "Work Hard, Play Hard" philosophy is fundamental to The Scheme Team; outside of Brand Fiend, what are some of your hobbies?
I’m pretty laid back! I’m a big basketball fan so during NBA season I’m watching or attending games a lot. Other than that, I enjoy going to concerts, music festivals, comedy shows, spending time with family, traveling, Top Golf, smoking hookah, going to a bar, binge watching a good TV show, or just kicking back and having a good drink. Basically just enjoying the simple things life has to offer.
The whole idea of scheming is turning your dreams to reality as efficiently as possible – what advice do you have for anyone who is currently looking to reach their pinnacle?
It won’t be easy at all! Being an entrepreneur isn’t pretty by any means. Efficiency is something that comes over the course of time. You’ll get knocked down more than you thought you would. You just have to keep learning how to get up, and learn from whatever it was that knocked you down.
What are your three keys to success?
1. Work relentlessly.
2. Believe in your come up.
3. Never, ever give up.