"Every seed WILL harvest."
Christian Benjamin is a Entrepreneur, Storyteller, and Partner at Story MKTG. Christian, launched his entrepreneurial career with 12.26 Studios after briefly playing for Washington’s AFL team, Tri-Cities Fever. As a creative agency, 12.26 Studios worked with companies and brands such as KitchenCray, YearUp, Women's Venture Fund, Tiny's Tequila, DJ Beauty & The Beatz, Madieu Williams, and Project Sierra Leone. In 2016, Christian teamed up with Micheal Morrow of The Status Brand and merged their businesses to launch Story MKTG.
Insights on Merging with Another Company
Tell us about 12.26 & The Status Brand before deciding to merge.
Well, I started 12.26 as a creative agency that worked on branding, web development and other visual services, but it morphed into more of a marketing agency, that developed campaigns and ads for startups, non-profits and other brands. The story behind 12.26 led our mission statement behind what branding really means.
The Status Brand was an agency based in Philadelphia, that focused on the experiential side of branding - ie. events, individual and in-person experiences with a brand, and social engagement.
What sparked the thought process of merging with another company?
Really, it was realizing how tough it was to grow my own company just using my own expertise and background and then having offices in WeWork, where I got to see lots of startups with multiple leaders, which I envied in a way.
Once Mike Morrow and I connected just as friends, we realized that we had very similar thought processes on the future of the creative and marketing fields and that we had both not been able to jump over certain humps in our businesses - his being the variety of clientele I was able to develop, mine being that scale of brands that he was able to engage.
What was the decision process like? How did you choose to merge with The Status Brand and launch Story MKTG?
First, we felt that we were so married to our own brands that both had such personal meaning to us that we tried to create an over-arching holding company where 12.26 & Status could run on their own. After awhile we decided that we were really stretching ourselves thin, and needed to come together as one entity in order to be most effective.
We came up with a few names, decided on the one that best fit our ethos (Story) and agreed on our approach, aesthetic and offerings, and went full speed ahead.
What has it been like going from being solo to a partnership?
It's very different. One person told me before I started to be careful because a partnership is like a marriage, which (though I'm single lol), I see to be true.
If you are really serious about a 50/50 split with someone, you are really dedicating yourself to his or her best & worst personal traits, work ethic and your finances are tied to that person. Also, your processes in terms of working on a project are likely totally different from his or hers, and you need to make sure you are clear on the best methodology moving forward in every aspect of your business.
What are the top three things entrepreneurs should consider when thinking about merging with another company?
Legal Paperwork. Make sure you have every scenario covered, both good and bad, legally before you start. Sit down with a lawyer and run down the whole gamut, from pay-outs to severance and everything in between.
Responsibilities. Who is doing what? Do you fully trust that person to commit to their tasks, without having to check up on them to make sure they are done?
Trust. How much do you trust your counterpart? It's one thing to like and agree with someone, but remember, your lifestyle is directly tied to another person now - do you trust them to make the right decision, even in tough times? How and why?