Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Holidays from Red Dream Studios


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Maskarade Multimedia

Based on Truman Capote’s famous 1966 masked ball at the Plaza in New York, MASKARADE 2009 will recreate a night of glamour and mystery following a black and white theme with everyone in masks. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 28th, 2009 at the Centre Sheraton Hotel in Montreal.

Sixteen years ago, Ron Farha found the courage to stand up and take off his mask. He was willing to stand up before society and say, “I have AIDS and I am going to do what I can to give back to my community.” With his courage, the Farha Foundation was born.

There are many people that are living with HIV and AIDS today who still live life behind a mask. There are children who must hide it from their classmates, women who must hide it from their families and men who hide it because of the stigma attached to these four little letters: A.I.D.S.

This year, Red Dream Studios was honoured to be asked to participate in the event by donating its expertise in the field of multimedia production. Large video walls will be instrumental in the evening presentations upon which content created by Red Dream Studios will be displayed. More information about the event can be seen by visiting the Farha Foundation's event page here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 6) - The Final Chapter

With my brother-in-law now in the process of cleaning up the gigantic mess that everyone who was previously involved in my real estate nightmare made, things were finally starting to look brighter. His first plan of action was to sort through all the contracts, the lawsuits, the errors, and establish a time line of exactly who screwed up, and when.

At the root of the problem was a bank (Scotia Bank) that issued an unconditional mortgage, only to retract it 1 1/2 months later. But by that time, we had already purchased our new house and were essentially locked into paying two simultaneous mortgages. From my limited knowledge, once a bank issues an unconditional mortgage, there shouldn't be any financing issues down the road, right? Right?

Second, was a real estate agent (mine) who did very little in tracking down the problems, fighting for my rights, protecting me, calling the bank to find answers, or dealing with the other agent in a pro-active manner.

Third, was a real estate broker (mine) who was untrustworthy, and acted in the best interest of his agent (mine), as opposed to the client (me).

Fourth, was another real estate agent (the buyer's) who kept promising things and failed to deliver.

Finally, was a buyer who kept stressing the fact that he wanted to buy my house, but did nothing concrete to prove his sincerity. Throughout this process, I took it upon myself to believe that this man was acting in relatively good faith. I was the only one who believed in his intentions, and the fact that he got shafted on the sale of his own home, was a situation that was not creating malicious intent on my side.

After the signing date had passed, we solicited the services of a lawyer to draft a "lawyer's letter" that would render the original Promise to Purchase null and void, and essentially claim compensatory damages from my buyer on an on-going basis until the house was sold. Believe it or not, the cost of carrying mortgages was going to amount to about $70/day!

We would only legally be able to resell the house if the buyer had acknowledged receipt of this letter. But tracking the buyer down was another issue. His agent was sketchy in giving us his address (be it at home or at work), and during this time, the buyer wasn't answering his phone so we couldn't contact him directly. So for about a week, we were on a manhunt. We even had the lawyer send the letter by bailiff, but even the bailiff came up empty-handed. Were we going to be locked into selling our house to this buyer for the rest of our lives?!?

Finally, a breakthrough. The buyer acknowledged the receipt of the letter to waive the Promise to Purchase via email, which was apparently enough to stand up in court, should we have resold the property and the buyer contested it was his all along.

With our freedom now restored, we listed the house back on the market (now for a 3rd time) at the beginning of August. Because we were now paying 2 mortgages, the goal was to obviously sell our house as quickly as possible -- and if lucky enough, even sell it for a higher price. Along the way, my brother-in-law's girlfriend had also become a real estate agent becoming the better half of a tag team real estate team. She had great vision when it came to home staging and properly decorated my now empty house. We also did some minor renovations to bring the house into mint condition. We were very encouraged, although, as luck would have it, selling a property in a supposed hot area proved to be a challenge.

It was now September, and our house hadn't had so much as an offer on the table, and of course, we were getting pretty antsy. Oddly enough, the old buyer was still in the picture. Despite being sued, and no longer legally bound to buy my house, his agent (who had gone silent for about 2 weeks) emailed my brother-in-law out of the blue stating that my buyer had received a verbal approval on a new mortgage (by the aforementioned Scotia Bank), and was still intent on buying the house.

Well, we've heard that song and dance before. Frankly, I was getting tired of being strung along. So we took appropriate action -- we demanded that the buyer sign a new Promise to Purchase and within it, he would agree to compensate me for all my damages up front. While a good idea in principle, it would take about another 3 weeks after that suggestion (as well as a personal meeting between my brother-in-law and my buyer's agent) to convince the buyer that this was the most logical (and legal) way to go. The buyer was fearful of being sued again, this time by my old realtor and old real estate agent for her lost commission on the botched sale. (NOTE: as of today, we still do not know if they will in fact sue or not). However, my brother-in-law was pretty convincing in that my old agent would not have a valid case (due to her massive amounts of incompetence), and we finally got a new Promise to Purchase. (At this point, ANY Promise to Purchase was a godsend). At the end of September, we all met at the property to sign all documents in person and to make sure that everything was legit.

One thing that reassured me was that you could see the look of regret and remorse in the buyer's eyes as I stared at him across the rented dining room staging table. By the end of the signing, he even apologized. While it looked like a pretty safe bet that the house would officially be sold at this point, what irked me was that I'd be incurring a financial loss over this whole mess -- at no fault of my own. With over $8,000 accrued in unnecessary staging costs, renovations, insurance, lost interest, extra Hydro fees, and of course, an extra mortgage, the buyer had offered only $2500 in compensation. With our hands tied, there was really no point in negotiating. I wanted the 100-ton monkey off my back, and I wanted it now.

By the end of September, the buyer officially got his financing. This time, the bank confirmed, reconfirmed, and reconfirmed the financing was in place, and it was just up the notary to request the funds. So we set up a signing date for October 6th, which just happened to be my son, Ethan's 2nd birthday. I took that as a sign of good things to come.

The morning of October 6th, my wife, my agent and I drove to the notary's office. We had a meeting at 10:00am. The obvious trepidation at this point would be whether or not the buyer would show up to the office to give us his signature and cheques. By 10:03am, and the buyer hadn't yet walked through the door. With a tremendous bout of anxiety setting it, I walked out of the office and took to the street. By 10:05am (the longest 2 minutes of my life), I spotted him out of the corner of my eye walking up the street towards my location -- and I quickly bolted back into the notary's office to make sure he hadn't seen me. A massive sigh of relief overcame me and I annouced to my wife and agent "he's coming."

By 11:00am, the deed was done. After several months of stress, anxiety, and harrowing ups-and-downs, my real estate nightmare finally came to an end.

As a final lesson in all this, I can only offer one piece of advice to someone who is buying or selling a home -- to surround yourself with people you trust implicity. Make sure that those working on your behalf know what they are doing, and that they've got nothing but your best interests at heart. And if you think the worst thing can happen, it probably will -- so prepare yourself for it.

PS: We are currently awaiting the results of an internal investigation at Scotia Bank for their negligence that was a catalyst to our situation. We decided that if we couldn't fully claim the damages from the buyer, we could do so from the bank. If the world works the way it should, we will get back all of the money we lost at no fault of our own. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 5)

With my brother-in-law now on a mission to destroy all evil-doings in real estate (ok, maybe just all the shenanigans that happened to us), things were finally starting to look positive. Over the course of a few days, we were able to determine very quickly just how negligent our previous agent was, and how with the right agent on your side, how smooth things should typically go when selling your home.

On August 4th, when it was clear that our buyers (who were being sued for damages at this point) were no closer to fulfilling their obligations, we decided to put our home back on the market. We had had the original Promise to Purchase officially declared dead, so my buyers were no longer responsible for the house, but they were responsible to pay any out of pocket expenses I'd have to incur by carrying 2 mortgages.

Lesson 7: Always read brokerage contracts in full. It is also the law that the agent must clearly "walk through" the contract at the time of signing so that you understand everything being written (even if a similar document had been previously drafted).

In order to relist the property online, my wife and I had to sign a new document listing the price and granting the rights to list. When my agent presented me with the paperwork to sign, there was no mention that the document was a new brokerage contract -- which would extend her contract to us until December! At this point, I thought I was only signing permission to list the property online, not to continue working with a negligent broker for 6 more months... It was an error on my part for not thoroughly reading what I was signing (working on her guise that "you've signed this before, it's the same thing"), however, by law, she needed to explain to my wife and I what exactly we were signing. There was no way I was going to be held hostage for another 6 months like that.

Upon the advice of my brother-in-law, we decided to release hell. We called the broker directly and demanded either a shortened (1-month), non-exclusive contract with our agent, or to cancel what we just signed immediately.

Lesson 8: When the agent is a bad seed, the broker is typically the bad apple.

The broker's response was to wait 2 weeks before making up our minds, and then we'd re-evaluate the whole thing. In real estate, you have 3 days from receiving a copy of a signed contract to cancel it without any legal penalty. So what was going on here? The broker was trying to goad us into a lawsuit. Had we cancelled our contract 2 weeks later, we would have been totally lible for any commission our former agent would have lost should we have sold our house under a new agent. We couldn't believe this was happening to us. Not only was our buyer screwing us, but now our own agent was trying give it to us too? This whole situation was completely insane.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law, well versed in the anals of real estate practice, advised us on how to officially cancel the new brokerage contract by submitting a registered letter to the broker himself, as well as one to the Quebec real estate commission.

What would prove to be another error in a list of errors that we're still tabulating, we also found out that the agent indeed had the house relisted, but had left the OLD listing online as well, indicating that the property sold for $298,000. Had anyone decided to make an offer at that point, they would have been fully aware that we settled on that specific price -- so how could we have ever sold the house for more?

With a negligent agent now officially off our backs, we were able to look forward and open a new chapter in the process of selling our home.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 4)

With our home officially sold, and the cherished "Sold" sign now affixed to our realtor's signpost dug into our front lawn, we quickly signed away the condition that required us to sell our home prior to purchasing our much-sought-after new one. I've watched many episodes of the HGTV show "Buy Me" within 30 minutes, everything pretty much seems to go so smoothly. Everything works out. Both the buyers and the sellers (and the agent) are happy campers, the credits roll, and that's the end of the story.

Our story doesn't bode as well.

There was about a month and a half delay from the time all the paperwork was signed, to the time when we were supposed to meet at the notary to pass title to our buyers. This time was spent acquiring boxes, packing materials, and planning for the move.

Lesson 5 (about packing): Pack early. The more organized and clear cut you can be, the quicker the unpacking process will be (NOTE: We eventually settled into our new home within 1 1/2 days).

It was the end of June and there was a fair amount of time that had passed where we were in "radio silence mode." I hadn't heard anything from my agent, nor the notary, nor my buyers. I figured that this was pretty much normal. By the time June 28th had come around, and passed, things were still quiet. If you recall from my previous post, weren't my buyers supposed to have taken possession at this point?

Another week and a half passes by, and we are now into early July. By this time, it had occurred to me that something had gone wrong.

Lesson 6: Make sure your agent is proactive in adhering to deadlines.

When June 28th had passed, and we had not met at the notary, bells, alarms, and fireworks should have immediately gone off. Instead, my agent waited for almost 2 weeks before addressing the situation. At this point, my buyers were officially in breach of contract. It took a few more days to finally uncover the truth behind what was happening -- my buyer's own house hadn't sold, and were therefore unable to obtain their mortgage in order to purchase my home. We would later find out mid-August that my buyers were in fact mired in debt, further compunding the problem in obtaining financing.

So why hadn't my agent gotten to the bottom of this earlier? Why did it take several weeks before uncovering that my buyers were financially crippled? These were just a few of the enormous number of questions that we began to ask ourselves over the course of several weeks. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get any answers, and our own agent began to know less about the situation than I did.

Refusing to sit idly by, I began to make daily phone calls to my buyer's agent. This goes against protocol, however, I felt that my own agent wasn't able to get the information I needed. My buyer's agent, for some reason, also seemed more inclined to talk to me than my own agent -- for what reason I'll never know. Over the course of the weeks that followed, we began to hear confusing stories and melodrama, NONE of which ended up being true:

- My buyers home (a bungalow) is going to be sold in a matter of days. They're just waiting for the paperwork at the bank to finalize.
- The paperwork was final. We'll be getting our financing in a matter of days.
- The buyer's own a 4-plex and have actually sold it as well in order to provide a backup financing path.
- The buyer of the 4-plex is getting his mortgage approved in order to buy the property. It's just a matter of days.
- My buyer is working on paying off his debts. Once the debts are paid off, the bank will issue his mortgage to purchase my home.
- By August 15th, we will be meeting at the notary.
- By August 25th, we will be meeting at the notary.

As I write this, we still haven't met at the notary.

Of course, by now, my buyers had been sued for breach of contract, however, it was only suggested to me several weeks after the breach date that I proceed with a "lawyer's letter" in order to officially terminate the Promise to Purchase by providing a "rigorous date." Had my buyers not purchased my home by that date, we would be entitled to resell the home, and any costs associated with that would be borne by the buyer. This date was July 31st, ironically my wife's birthday. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be one of the worst birthday's for my wife.

On August 2nd, when it was clear that my buyers were in no position to buy my home, we decided to relist the property. By now, we had moved out and were in a delayed state of elation by being in our new home. It was difficult to celebrate with a 500-ton monkey sitting on your shoulders. We were mortified by the prospect of starting from scratch. It was as if the previous 5 months were a complete waste of time and energy.

By this time too, two auspicious events had transpired. One, my agent's broker's contract had expired, and two, my brother in law had just become and agent himself. This would turn out to be a fortuitous set of events that set the tone for the month of August.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 3)

It took only 4 days after the disastrous turn of event on the purchase of my home to see another offer come our way. The selling of our home was truly turning out to be a real roller coaster ride of up and down emotions (which, as of this writing, has yet to end). In what was another "meant to be" moments I'm trying to infuse into this whole situation, we actually signed a new Promise to Purchase with a new buyer that was willing to pay more than our previous offer -- $2,000 more.

Well, that was exciting now, wasn't it?

Lesson 4: Never get excited until the money is in your bank account.

As before, we had to wait again until the home inspection was carried out on our home, however, this time around, we didn't have to wait the arduous 7-day period + 3-day reply to get the confirmation of a sale. By now, the exposed basement wall was completely covered by a fresh new layer of drywall and paint, so there was no longer any evidence of the latent defect that my home suffered with.

The 2nd inspection of our home was a little more thorough (although I've yet to actually see the report). In the end, only one major defect was uncovered: the roof. The shingles on the back half of my roof, which faces the sun most of the day, were beginning to curl. The inspector estimated only a few good years of life left, and would then have to be replaced. As such, the value of my home suddenly dropped. In an instant, I lost the $2,000 extra that I thought I had gained with these new buyers.

We then received word that the buyers wanted to take possession of our home 1 month earlier, and effectively "rent" our house back to us until we moved into our new home at the end of July. So we signed an amendment that on June 28th, our home was no longer ours, and I would be living "mortgage free" for one month.

Ok, so we were back to the $298,000 sale price that we thought we had a few weeks prior. Still not so bad, and we stood to make a $20,000 profit after taxes and commission. At least the house was sold.

Or so we thought...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 2)

After 40 days of our house being on the market, we had an accepted Promise to Purchase on the table. The buyer's had purchased our house for only $11,000 less than our original asking price. We were of course, elated and relieved. Then, anxiously waiting 7 days later (the maximum time permitted) it was time for the inspection.

One thing I should mention is that my house had unfortunately suffered from a latent defect that was revealed to me about a year ago. The original builders of the house had built a window in the wrong location in the basement, but didn't seal up the window properly when discovering their mistake. Thus, the concrete of the foundation and the now filled-up window didn't bond together properly. Over time, water would begin to infiltrate the seam of the window and leaked into the basement. I discovered this when the carpet began to get moist about 3 years after I took possession of the house. Needless to say, I had this repaired (and didn't bother suing), paid for by my insurance company.

Lesson number 1: Have your agent insist that the buyer's entire family NOT partake in the inspection process.

When the inspector showed up along with my buyers, other family member's showed up too -- most annoyingly, an over-protective, over-reactive mother. Before even stepping into the door, the mother began shouting things (within earshot of me) like, "what's with this bush? It's overgrown!" "I don't like that!" "What's with the colour of the paint?" These were obviously silly things, but annoying to hear -- particularly since her daughter had fallen in love enough with the place to want to buy it, and here she was ripping it apart.

So after the quickest inspection I'd ever heard of (about 45 minutes), the entire clan came downstairs and began to rip me apart. Well, to be more accurate, the shmuck of an inspector began to grill me in front of his clients about the fact that there was no GFI outlet in the bathroom. There was a concern about the basement, of course, but at that point, there were no tell-tale signs of any water-penetration. The bare wall in the basement was still exposed where the water was entering the house, but with the foundation having been properly repaired, injected with polyurethane, and no more water actually coming in, the wall looked like crap, but was fixed. A home inspection is a VISUAL inspection only, so the inspector could not comment on what had happened previously, but did nonetheless. I tried to defend myself by stating exactly what the insurance company had told me -- there was no significant damage to the basement, and nothing that should be cause of concern. There was also a healthy 10-year guarantee should the problem resurface.

Feeling attacked by an inspector and prospective buyers is not fun. I felt humiliated as well. And where was my agent in this whole debacle? Standing off to the side without saying so much of a word. Now I don't know if it was her job to step in an defend me, but it was obvious that the sale was now in jeopardy as was her beloved commission.

After waiting another anxious 3 days (the maximum time permitted), my agent received a text message saying that the buyer's have walked away.

Lesson number 2: Choose an agent who's sympathetic to her clients.

My agent relayed the tragic news to us in such a non-chalant manner, almost with a humourous tone in her voice, and even worse, around 9:00pm in the evening, that the phone call was almost worse than the news itself. Needless to say, we didn't sleep well that night. And the casual way in which she broke the bad news was even more disturbing.

The next day, the anger set in. I demanded to see the inspection report. What probable cause did the buyer's use to get out of their Promise to Purchase? By the end of the day, my buyer's agent's wife dropped off the inspection report. She was quite sympathetic to our situation, and sadly, much more so than my own agent.

The report was a complete joke. I was 2 1/2 pages long. It was filled with silly (albeit practical, I admit) recommendations, like "don't forget to lower your thermostats at night to save energy". However, this isn't the stuff that inspection reports are made of. Even I know this. And 2 1/2 pages?!? Not a single picture? Needless to say there was no valid reason for the buyer's to have broken their contract.

Lesson number 3: Go with your OWN instincts when selling real estate, not your agent's.

I wanted to sue, and I'm convinced that I would have won (I was later able to confirm this when speaking with the ACAIQ). This whole mess would have been over back in March. However, my agent persuaded me not to go down that road. Even scolded me a bit for even thinking along those lines. "If they don't want the house, there's no sense in trying to force them into it," I was told. So without so much as hearing the real reason for the buyer's to renege, they were forgotten. Apparently, these buyers were sadistic people who'd previously made 3 other offers on other properties, and ultimately backed away. We found out that day too that their agent had fired them. I guess we weren't the only ones who thought these people were insane.

What was even more comical was that there was no mention of the basement issues in the report. So it seems as though the buyer's listen to the mother as opposed to the inspector.

So we were back to square one, and were on the hunt for a new buyer, hopefully for one final time. This house HAS to sell. The next buyer WILL buy this house.

Or so we thought...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Real Estate Nightmare (Part 1)

So I've been pretty distracted for the past couple of months. For those of you who tune into my blog now and again, you may have noticed that I've been on hiatus. The real issue is that my family and I have been living in hell.

It all started back in February when on a whim, my wife and I decided to start cruising around Dollard-des-Ormeaux to look for what might potentially be our new house. We had decided that our previous home in the Bois Franc area, was getting to be a little tight, especially with my son Ethan being so vivacious. We were also fully aware that this was going to be a starter home for us, and had planned to stay in it for only 3-4 years. So that time had arrived.

It turns out that after only visiting 3 or 4 houses, we landed upon a true gem. The house ended up being exactly what we were looking for. Central air, double-garage, beautiful backyard, the works. And immaculate. The owners had also invested roughly $30-$40,000 in new windows, double insulation, and what not, in order to improve the house's energy rating. Long story short, we made an offer on the place about 3 days later, and after a bit of haggling, settled on a reasonable price.

Being the cautious guy that I am, we instated a clause specifying that we needed to sell our house first prior to finalizing the Promise to Purchase. We had 30 days to do so. And the race was on.

The first week we listed our property saw roughly 30 people dissect our home. The first open house we had saw roughly 75 more. The house had TONS of traffic, but no offers. 30 days was just around the corner and we were stressed. We were terrified at the prospect of losing our new home. "There'll be others" we were being told, but not to us. We wanted our house, and we just kept visualizing ourselves in there.

Then the 30 days passed. In the only good piece of news in this whole ordeal, the sellers had agreed to give us an extension, particularly since they hadn't yet found their new home. So this extension was granted for another 30 days.

It turns out that 10 days after we were granted the extension, we received our first offer! We were ecstatic, and mostly relieved, in that we were beginning to believe that our house just wouldn't sell. So the bargaining began, and we finally settled on a reasonable price. At that point, we were more relieved to have sold our old home, and that we were ready to receive our new one.

Or so we thought...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Red Dream Studios is Moving!




Monday, June 30, 2008

Turning your Vision into Reality

I recently attended the last session of the inaugural West Island Leadership Development program, an initiative of the West Island Federation CJA that aims to foster future community leaders by training us about fundraising, entrepreneuring, and community activism. Guested by Dr. Ken Robertson, Director General of Champlain Regional College, the focus of the session concerned establishing a vision, and learning how to set goals, prioritize, and meet objectives.

I found this session particularly interesting because the issues covered not only applied to your career path (i.e. where do you see yourself in your job, or how do you envision your company's growth 5 years from now), but also to your everyday life.

There are 2 fundamental conclusions that Dr. Robertson conveyed, which I found particularly poignant:

  1. Achieving future success is dependent on 2 things: the successful relationship building with others, such as your colleagues and friends; never forgetting to look back to see how you arrived to your current situation in the first place.

    Personally, I'm completely turned off by arrogance. I distate people who are so arrogant, they feel it necessary to belittle you in order to maintain their level of arrogance. This applies to people who do not feel it necessary to even speak to you if they feel you have nothing to contribute to their lives in any way. This also applied to people who have success dumped into their laps by either being born into a successful family, or marrying into one. People like that often develop a hoity-toity attitude which just completely sours my grapes. Thus, the true measure of success, in my opinion, is summarized by the first point.
  2. The "finite" vs. the "infinite"

    Invariably, when trying to build yourself up, someone along the way will try to keep you down, either literally, or by verbal criticism. It's therefore important to never allow the finite to influence the possibilities of what you can do.

    For example, a violin has 4 strings and is 12" long. This is finite. However, for several hundreds of years, composers have been using the violin to create an infinite number of combinations of music, and are still doing so today.

Just think what you can do when your vision isn't hampered by the bounds of reality...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Creating a Personal Brand

One question I'm often asked by entrepreneurs is how to create a "personal brand" to better market oneself to others.

What you're basically asking is how to "productize" yourself. Meaning, if I went to a supermarket, and found a picture of you on a bottle, would I buy it? And furthermore, would I drink from the bottle?

Find out what makes you, you. What makes you unique. Mitch Joel, a marketing guru I've had the pleasure of listening speak, would dare you to find your "it" factor. What makes you stand out in a crowded room of billions of people asking the same question, all trying to make a buck.

Why is that only a handful of people in the world have procured the most wealth the world has to offer? It's because they've found out what it takes to unlock that something magical and get people to believe in what they're all about.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Being Unique as a Graphic Designer

I was recently asked the question about being a graphic designer, "Other than serving a niche market, how do you differentiate yourself from other designers or small design shops?"

Graphic design is a saturated field. But the bigger problem lies in getting recognized and hired in a flooded field of talent.

I find that graphic design is very much like acting -- you're only as good as your last performance. However, in addition to raw talent in what you do, what will set you apart from other designers is customer service.

Graphic design unfortunately suffers from a bit of a "bottom-feeder" syndrome in that everyone believes they can be a designer, but few actually can. With that said, the dollar figure attributed to graphic design tends to be quite low.

So to distinguish yourself from the pack, you must cater to your clients uniquely from the rest. Be good to your clients, treat them with the utmost respect, and they will respect you.

With respect comes repeat business.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Free Ways for Entrepreneurs to Network

In browsing through the internet today, I stumbled across a great resource for discovering groups of people with common interest who meet, yes, in the real world. While social networking is becoming more and more popular, meeting with someone face-to-face still ranks extremely high, if not appearing on the highest rung on the successful business ladder.

I've complied a short list of best resources for entrepreneurs to network (in no particular order):

  1. MEETUP.COM: Meetup Groups meet face-to-face to pursue hobbies, network, get support, make friends, find playgroups or even change the world. What's interesting here is that while you can still meet and chat in a virtual world, the true power here lies with the ability to meet with the people you connect with in a real-world setting. So chances are while you've plugged your services online, you're way ahead of the game when meeting with potential clients at a later date. There's already that sense of familiarity... And yes, very often these group meetings are free.
  2. LINKEDIN.COM: LinkedIn has been around for several years and has begun porting several features from the more common social community websites. The advantage of LinkedIn is that it's geared to drive more "professional" connections as opposed to social or friendship liaisons. LinkedIn also has a Q&A feature which lets you position yourself as an "expert" in your field depending on the number of questions you answer from the public and of course the quality of your answer. The trick is to always leave a link to your website as part of your signature. The disadvantage of LinkedIn is its lack of a portfolio feature, so if you're in a creative field, it difficult to directly expose your work.
  3. FACEBOOK.COM: The most popular kid in school, Facebook provides a means of uploading and displaying our portfolio within a dedicated company group to which many of our contacts have willingly joined. As a result of our continued perserverance and belief in social marketing (and quite frankly, one of the best "free" forms of networking available to us), we've managed to connect with people that helped us secure projects with clients we would not have normally had the opportunity to work for -- case in point, SoftImage and Bell Canada.
  4. BLOGGING: Red Dream Studios has a company blog, yes. It's used to expose what's going on at our company and showcase new designs as they are released, but to also educate about design and web practices, and how to use social media marketing to expose your company digitally throughout cyberspace. I think the real power of blogging isn't in the blog per se, but connecting it through various portals that index and scour blogs for relevant content such as Digg, Technorati, and StumbleUpon. By building communities who are "fans" of what you blog about, you inherently increase your relevance in the online world, and therefore that of your company's offerings.
  5. BEHANCE.NET: Behance is portfolio/networking site for creatives. While there are others out there, this is one of the more ingenious ones. Not only can you expose your creative portfolio here, but it's also a warehouse of tips, tricks, links, and lets you collaborate on projects with other creative gurus around the world.
  6. YOUR OWN WEBSITE: I hesitated about putting this one in because you typically have to pay a little for the server space to run a website, but it's of course a primary way to get your business known to the public. In short, if you're not on the web in this respect, there's very little hope that your business will succeed.
  7. CLASSIFIED ADS: I find this a last resort to soliciting business because it's a little altruistic in my opinion. The most obvious choice here is to post a free ad on Craigslist in trying to promote your service offering even though it's a more ommon practice to ask for something on Craigslist.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it's a few good ones to get you started. If you have any success stories you'd like to share, please feel free to comment.

Visit my Meetup Profile here.
Visit my LinkedIn Profile here.
Visit my Facebook Group here.
Visit my Behance.net Profile here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flaming Hot Rod Text for Rez Rides

Ever since my fascination with Star Trek as a wee lad, I've wanted to be on TV. I was just discussing this with my lifelong friend turned Hollywood director, Michael Greenspan. When we were in elementary school, we did a lot of role-playing together and we're convinced it set things in motion for him to end up in film school and me doing my shtick in video production and editing.

While I knew my path would never lead me to appear physically on TV as an actor, I had the pleasure of witnessing a logo I designed appear as part of the title sequence for the second season of Rez Rides, a Quebec production that airs weekly on the APTN network. It was quite a thrill!

For the second season, the original logo (also designed at Red Dream Studios) was revamped to give it a classic hot rod treatment -- flaming tracer stipes painted over a hard, red glossy body. In fact, two versions of the logo were created -- the first was a pitted, mottled and rusted steel gray version, complete with spot welds, which after a digital painting, sanding, and buffing, transitions into the final version of the logo, the premise being, "bring your rusted crappy car into Mad Mohawk's autobody shop and walk away with a killer set of wheels." The transition effects were created by our partner, Rev13 Films.



The first pass of the logo showing Rez Rides in a "before" condition.

Creating the logo was actually straightforward. The basis of the logo is the word "Rez Rides" written in the font "NiseHotRod" upon which various textures of flame decals were applied and masked around the letters. The flames themselves are also font-based, letting us easily scale up our design to conform to an HD resolution, the format in which the show is produced. The rest of the look is achieved simply by using Photoshop's own built-in style effects, although to get the proper highlighting and texturing, mutiple copies of the logo layers were assembled and composited using different transfer modes to get the final result.


The second pass of the logo showing Rez Rides in an "after" condition.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Getting Noticed in a Crowded Room

Red Dream Studios recently completed the design for a full-page advertisement spread that will appear in the upcoming edition of the popular bridal magazine, "Let's Get Married," which features a plethora of ads and editorials covering all the components of a wedding. With this catalog getting bigger and bigger every year, designing an eye-catching ad that distinguishes you instantly from the rest of the competition is the greatest challenge.

Our loyal client, Arrt, the company name for the make-up duo comprised of Anna Montesi and Rina Patel, retured to Red Dream Studios to create the most compelling story of their service offering with the least amount of rhetoric possible. We chose to push a minimalistic approach with very little verbiage, focusing more on the allure of the photo, the vibrant company logo, and of course, the make-up.



The end result, a fresh advertorial that distinguishes itself from among its competitors who typically rely on straight-forward boxiness and designs that are anything but en vouge.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Spa Treatment for SpaCushion

It's been a hectic month at Red Dream Studios, but we're finally back on the Blog scene. One of the more recent website deployments we've completed was for Kami Gallaher at SpaCushion. The award winning innovative SpaCushion is the most stylish and comfortable cushion available on the market.

What's also remarkable for us is that this makes the 4th client we've catered to from the New York area who belongs to a group of female entrepreneurs known as Ladies Who Launch. We're extremely proud of the fact that we cater mainly to entrepreneurs, and in fact, at least 3/4 of our clientele is composed of women entrepreneurs. I believe Ladies Who Launch has a good few thousand members across the US and Canada, so lots of potential business to come our way :)


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Kid Tested. Mother approved: GymMini gets a makeover.

With apologies to Kix cereal, it's sort of the way we feel today with the launching of the new website for GymMini, a playground/gymnasium/party depot establishment in the Bois Franc area of Montreal. GymMini was established in 2007 by a Cindi and Daniel Becker, who decided that all the other gyms in the area just didn't make the grade.

Building and designing a 2-floor toddler housing is a daunting task, to say the least, which is then compounded by trying to staff it and populate the day with fun and engaging activities, such as music, dance, and creative arts programs. So far, the gym has been a resounding success, but GymMini's online presence was unfortunately put on the backburner.

Red Dream Studios was brought in to finally give GymMini a website that matched the playful, vivid decorations and mural paintings of the building's interior. Not only did the site have to look good, but of course, it had to be functional as well. In an effort to reduce incoming phone calls, several online forms were added which would enable parents to register their children in various classes, to discover specials and promotions, to learn about party offerings, and even have an opportunity to submit photos of their children having fun at GymMini.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Branding Ink Blot Design

I've blogged before about customer loyalty and how one of the most important factors in a prosperous business is to maintain excellent service and safeguarding your integrity among existing clients. No truer is the case with one of our clients, Arrt.ca, a pair of extraordinary make-up artists who typically apply blush to blushing brides and bridesmaids.

One of the founders of Arrt.ca, Anna Montesi, decided to launch another venture, pursuing a longtime passion of hers -- creating and design custom event and party invitations. Anna returned to Red Dream Studios to help her develop a corporate identity for her new company, Ink Blot Design (and yes, we will be producing the website as well). With the company name alluding to all sort of inherent designs, Red Dream Studios produced the following corporate identity and developed a series of business cards in a mere couple of days. Talk about drive-thru entrepreneuring...


With this logo, we obviously played upon the ink blot connection and modified a typeface that we found on the font website DaFont, called The Great Thunder. The background splatter is a composite of several paint splatter brushes that we obtained courtesy the Photoshop resource website Brusheezy.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Marketing your Business on Zero Dollars per Day

This week, Red Dream Studios was in the fortunate position to be featured in 2 blogs talking about the benefits of using online social media networks to promote your company and its services. Because we spend little to no money on mainstream, traditional advertising programs, free services such as Facebook and LinkedIn have become popular means for us to promote ourselves.

The way in which we utilize these services were promoted and spoken about by Doug Williams, a Blogger, Business Consultant and President of the Web Marketing Company Doug Williams and Associates. Doug is also the author of Biz Blog Marketing, and is currently writing a follow up book in which Red Dream Studios will be featured as a case study of marketing on zero dollars.

Andrea J. Stenberg has over fifteen years of experience as a journalist and marketing professional and this week published a blog about how Baby Boomers use Facebook for marketing their small business. Although I'm in theory part of Generation X and not a Baby Boomer, Andrea wrote about how we have had success using Facebook to reach clients they wouldn’t have normally been successful at approaching using traditional means, such as SoftImage and Bell Canada.

We're very humbled by this recent attention but of course, we're always available to chat by the digital fireplace.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Virtual Networking, Working Virtually

Happy Easter, everyone. Since it's technically a holiday, we shouldn't be working, right? But that's the beauty of virtual networking. It works for you even when you're not.

Today I received an email from a potential client in New York who stumbled into an existing client, Christi Smith from PFF Entertainment, makers of the board games Pervartistry and Sexy Slang, at a networking function. This potential client mentioned to Christi that she was looking to produce a website and was soliciting referrals. Christi graciously recommended Red Dream Studios, afterwhich, the client emailed us for a quote immediately.

I find this fascinating:


  • Most small companies would not be in a position to take a day trip across the contient just to meet with a potential client who has a modest budget to dedicate to their website.

  • Most small companies would not be in a position to attend a well-todo networking function unless they were directly invited, particularly if their industry of work is already represented within the networking group.

  • Because of our previous relationship, and ultimately, Christi's customer satisfaction, she acted as a virtual salesperson (or champion) on the behalf of Red Dream Studios.

  • Christi "sold" our services at absolutely no cost to Red Dream Studios.

  • Christi was able to meet dozens of people, and in an unsolicited manner, act as spokesperson for Red Dream Studios, in a situation where we would never have been able to directly interact with all these potential clients.


So all this to say is that virtual networking works for you virtually all the time, when you least expect it to do so. And this proves that customer satisfaction is among the highest priorities in the entrepreneurial handbook.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gabbing 'bout Social Media Marketing

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ernesta Rossi, partner with Advantis Communications Inc., a marketing and PR company based in Markham, Ontario. We connected because I had answered a question of hers on the social networking site, LinkedIn, of which I've been a member for several years now -- and have only recently discovered a hidden networking power behind it, the Answers feature.

LinkedIn has typically been a resource for executives and business people to connect and network. For example, I recently have been connecting to former colleagues in order to keep them updated on my goings-on, particularly the fact that I'm now running my company, Red Dream Studios as a full-time venture.

Ernesta, and her company, are conducting a presentation this week on whether or not companies were using social media marketing tools to advance their businesses. She spotted the answer to a question that was posed to over 1 million LinkedIn professionals, to which I answered the following:

"As a small company, with a limited/non-existant budget for traditional, mainstream advertising, my company, Red Dream Studios, is using social media marketing as one of its primary ways of presenting its services, portfolio, messaging, and securing new clients. We've been relying principaly on LinkedIn and Facebook (and of course our own blog).

While LinkedIn provides us with exposure to the executives, Facebook provides a means of uploading and displaying our portfolio within a dedicated company group to which many of our contacts have willingly joined. As a result of our continued perserverance and belief in social marketing (and quite frankly, one of the best "free" forms of networking available to us), we've managed to connect with people that helped us secure projects with clients we would not have normally had the opportunity to work for -- case in point, SoftImage and Bell Canada.

Moreover, we've encouraged many of our clients (who are they themselves entrepreneurs) to use social marketing for their businesses. Since many of the media they expose on these sites has been created by us, we've been able to begin a sort of viral networking, exposing our works to way beyond traffic that visits our portfolio website, or to our clients directly. So in effect, our clients become virtual sales champions for our company and has resulted in propogated business."
Ernesta decided to contact me directly and we had a wonderful chat. During her presentation, she will be repeating much of what I've told her and will of course be referencing Red Dream Studios by name (another example of virtual networking). And what's even more exciting is that while we were talking, she happened to be perusing the Red Dream Studios website and based on our services, considered using us as one of her suppliers.

A very odd coincidence, but once again, a prime example of how social media marketing can result in connections with new clients and projects without direct solicitation or mainstream advertising.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Promoting your Business with Google Maps

Google has a great (free!) feature that I just recently learned about and have exploited to gain rank within Google searching. Within the Google Local Business Center, you can enter the name, coordinates, hours of operation, and other interesting tidbits about your business to help customers find you on Google Maps.

Here's how it works:



Use the Local Business Center to create your free listing. When potential customers search Maps for local information, they'll find your business: your address, hours of operation, even coupons to print out and bring to your shop.

When all the information is filled out, you will get a confirmation postcard from Google in the mail (how cool is that?!?) with a PIN number to confirm that you are who you say you are. Finally, searching for your company on Google Maps will present a wonderful listing about you and your company. There's an an option to post reviews of your work, which will hopefully help to solicity even more clients to your door.

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Executive Class for Place Versailles Apartments

Red Dream Studios recently completed one of its nicest site deployments to date (or at least we think so) for Appartement Place Versailles, a large apartment complex in the heart of Montreal, right next to the best shopping center in all of Quebec (Place Versailles).

For this website, we used an executive approach for the design to accentuate the prestige of the building and the units available for rent inside, with a burgandy red, beigy gold, and light gray colour palette. To give the website an unfettered look, the content is relatively sparse, to the point, and clean overall - after all, the main point is to showcase the photos of the building and to drive visitors to apply for a lease online.

The site features bright photos and enlargeable floor plans of all the unit types available for rent.

Having had ownership of the building for over 30 years, we convinced the proprietor that it was certainly about time to showcase the property online in order to start branding it as a successful business.



For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rolling out the White Carpet for michaelgreenspanfilms.com

Daring to be bold and different, Red Dream Studios opted for a complete whitewash of the website for award-winning Hollywood director, Michael J. Greenspan. The website, a great departure from most websites that are cluttered, full of information (that may or may not be read), is purely simple and to the point -- to drive the viewer to see Michael's films.

Michael expressed his desire to be different from other showreel websites out there, because let's face it, if you conform, you're hardly going to get noticed. We therefore went with the KiSS method (Keep it Simple Stupid) in order to deliver the goods without clouding the message. Michaels films are also displayed using Adobe Flash's .FLV technology, providing, in my opinion, one of the best balances of file size vs. image quality. After all, some of Michael's short films are available for viewing in their entirety from the website.



For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Red Dream Studios featured on LogoDesignLove.com

Red Dream Studios received some surprising news today as its blog banner was featured and short-listed in the award category for "Best Design and Photography Blog Logo Designs." I'm not exactly sure what the overall prize is, but it's sure flattering to be nomiated with 19 other designs from among hundreds of original entries.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sensational Branding

Another company got its image courtesy of us at Red Dream Studios today, with Sensational Bites benefiting from sensational branding. Shant Kancachian is the proprietor of a gourmet baked goods emporium who wanted to convey freshness and pure goodness in his image rather than blatant baked goods icons such as cookies, brownies, and so forth.

With a sleek and clean interpretation (and with a great colour to boot), the cherry was chosen as the icon of choice which spoke most to Shant's inner self. We chose a handwritten font as the main script for the company name to highlight its whimsical nature, alluding to the fact that Shant's work appeals to your every "sense." The tagline was then written in a bolder, more classical script with a bright orange colour such that it pops from the rest of the logo.

The business card design is shown below:

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Web designers learn to stand their ground

The following story from the Financial Post caught the attention of one of my colleagues at Avigdor Technologies. It's been reposted here since the content hits very close to home for Red Dream Studios, a company that typically gives back, or provides work to start-ups at costs much lower than your average multimedia development company...

Hang a shingle and open a business and what do you get? Clients, hopefully, but no matter how few or how many there are at the beginning, there will inevitably be some who will be problematic for a young business startup. Trent Haus and Jason Orban learned that lesson first hand.

Eager to please clients who retained their service when they opened their multimedia design company, they found themselves putting in many hours for free. "You don't want to disappoint your new clients, but you get to a point where you're getting mad because they're asking for more and more and they don't want to pay," says Mr. Orban, who, with Mr. Haus launched OH! Media three years ago. "We had to learn to be able to say, 'No, we can't do that.' "

Mr. Haus agrees: "It really hurts the bottom line. You don't even realize that until you step back and talk to someone else about it."

While opening a business is a challenge in itself, Mr. Orban and Mr. Haus had already been through the metaphorical ringer: As Web designers for a Saskatchewan film company, they had witnessed five rounds of layoffs before they were let go.

Through their work at the film company, they won a national award last year for their Web site design commissioned by Verite Films for the popular teen show, Renegadepress.com. Verite Films also produces the popular sitcom Corner Gas. It has transferred its business to OH! Media, and is the duo's flagship client.

Still, when Messrs. Haus and Orban started out on their own, they needed to diversify and build their client base.

After being laid off, Mr. Haus enlisted in a course through Canada's Employment Insurance program that offers training to start a business. There he learned about CYBF. OH! Media applied, was quickly accepted and was assigned a local accountant, Sandra Jackson, as mentor.

In their first year of business, Mr. Haus says they gleaned advice from Ms. Jackson as they became encumbered by a few really difficult clients.

"They were larger clients and they wanted things yesterday and were asking for things and we would keep on giving and giving," he says. "In the first year we were eager to please everybody. We thought that if we made one client angry, they would tell everybody."

Ms. Jackson helped the designers stand their ground. "She told us just from her own experience how to deal with clients who aren't paying."

Early on in her own business, she had to learn how to draw the line. "Realizing you can't be everything to everyone all the time is perhaps a difficult thing to accept," she says. "However, to succeed at your business and be able to provide excellence to your customers, you have to be able to accept that you may not always be the right person for the client, even if you know you can do the job.

"It's not a failure to decline a client. I look at it as a success because you know more about yourself and don't waste the client's time or yours by trying to be something to them that you cannot. It is also easier to be more particular about whom you accept as a client as you get busier and know that there is work out there and you will be able to attract it and keep it," Ms. Jackson admits.

The advice she gave OH! Media came from her own "school of hard knocks."

She advised Messrs. Haus and Orban on how to teach clients to understand the value of the services, which in most cases, they "really do come to appreciate.

"Others can be fired," she says, "Once that is done, it's amazing the relief you feel. It makes you stronger and more confident in yourself ... to say no if that is what is required."

Daryl-Lynn Carlson, Financial Post Published: Monday, February 11, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Toys and the Internet

As the annual American International Toy Fair in New York comes to a close, one of the largest internationl toy fairs, I'm sure concerns over product safety will have loomed large considering how 2007 was the year of high-profile recalls of China-made products that hurt U.S. toy sales.

As an estimated 15,000 buyers from 7,000 retailers will have converged at the Jacob Javits Center this week, and you'd think with a weakened American economy, more and more people are moving to games and toys in order to brighten spirits.

Toy makers also are confronting the impact on costs of the rising price of labour and commodities, the appreciation of the Chinese currency.

So one thing that springs to mind is how does a toy maker captilize on profits, good press, and create a buzz factor?

It's now more commonplace that toys have their own website tie-ins, if not about the manufacturer, but the specific toy itself. An example is with one of our clients, PFF Entertainment, who will be exhibiting their brand new board game, Sexy Slang, at the fair. PFF Entertainment is the innovator of the board game Pervartistry, which in short, is "Win, Lose, or Draw" for adults -- however the game is so much fun that hardly anyone ever loses. Sexy Slang is a spin-off of Pervartistry in that all terms are guessed through charades rather than through someone's attempt at raunchy stick figures.

Both these board games have their own dedicated websites (which Red Dream Studios has contributed to) that promote the game, let you order the game online, but also tout a line of clothing that contains some of the terms within the games. PFF has done a wonderful job at creating a buzz surrounding the game though online portals. And yes, there are YouTube clips of people talking about the game, playing the game, and having fun, and there's a MySpace page as well.

The interesting thing here is that PFF Entertainment, as a company, does not have a website. Rather, they've decided to dedicate their websites to the games themselves. It's the game that sells, after all, not the company.

All this to say that the internet is now a more powerful tool than ever in a marketing department's arsenal. If you're not using it effectively, it's game over.

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Branding Sara Kurtz Photography

Sara Kurtz is an up-and-coming event photographer who met with me because she loved the work Red Dream Studios did on another event photography, Dominic Fuizzotto. Not only did she want a complete redressing of her portfolio website, but after some talk, it was agreed that a new corporate branding would bring a measure of prestige, professionalism, and freshness to her image.

In talking with Sara, we determined that while it was important to convey that her company provided photographic services, we didn't want to overkill the point with a photograhic icon. We therefore made the logo "her own" by incorporating a dragonfly -- an insect that for her represented grace, beauty, and wonder. I naturally agreed to this because for me, injecting personal flavours into a brand is what makes the company adhere to the imagery the most.

In order to get the classical, professional look, we used a very scripted font, and in the end, placed the dragonfly along the path of one of the letter's loops to give the illusion that the dragonfly had traced the path of the lettering. In this manner, we were able to tie together the script with the icon -- one of the hallmarks of good logo design.

Sara's new logo is shown below:



For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

About Branding: "Be you because others are already taken"

Although he doesn't quite realize it, Mitch Joel, President of TwistImage, a digital marketing agency (and somewhat of a minor competitor to Red Dream Studios, although not really, but I digress) has been somewhat of a mentor to me. Mitch left the corporate 9-to-5 world several years ago to become a digital marketing guru, reknowned blogger and podcaster, and sought-after speaker who has shared the stage with former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Phil, and Anthony Robbins.

Several years ago, I sat in a very small room at YES Montreal to listen to one of his presentations about personal branding. His insights were compelling to say the least. It transformed me, and essentially helped propel my own desire to leave the workforce and become my own company brand. I too was then eager to start spreading the gospel of personal and corporate branding and have had the pleasure of being a guest speaker about the "art of entrepreneuring" last Fall at the very same YES Montreal.

So on this Valentine's Day, I will pay hommage to one Mitch Joel, by pilfering a transcript of an interview he conducted with the amazing Susan Bratton. Susan is the co-founder and CEO of Personal Life Media, Inc. a podcast publishing company producing 15 weekly audio shows and companion blogs on personal growth, relationships, longevity and spirituality for people on the leading edge of culture. I recently have had the honour of linking together with her on LinkedIn.

Here are some excerpts of Mitch's wisdom:

Susan Bratton: So I want to go back to personal branding. That’s a subject about which you speak. I would really love your advice for our listens who, in today’s world, “Who in business doesn’t need to have their own personal brand?” With things like the vanity experience of things like our Facebook pages or our blogs or our Pod Casts or whatever we might be doing. Tell us how to marry personal branding in today’s world with some of the technology applications.

Mitch Joel: I think a lot of the things to just clarify; a lot of people think I need a personal brand or need to develop a personal brand but that’s actually not really the case scenarios where the toothpaste is already out of the tube. It’s got a personal brand, it already is. What I tell people is, “If you’re not working on your personal brand, other people are for you.” And that’s really what it’s about. It’s about understanding who you are.

I know what happens. When I say personal branding I know people are going to thinks, “Oh he’s going to give me a bunch of tips and tricks to connect and it’s totally the opposite. And I think that’s why my personal branding message seems to be resonating with bigger and bigger groups.” Because what I’m trying to say to people is, “Find out who you truly are and what you’re really about; your values, your goals, beliefs.” That’s actually part one of what I talk about.

I have three conversations when I tell people what personal branding is about. The first one is your internal conversation. What are your values, goals, and beliefs? What do you stand for? Two is your one to one conversation. How do you connect that to people? And this is where it gets tricky because people think about networking and their elevator pitch. Those things are really important but they’re not good if they are not based off of your internal conversation or based off of authenticity. What I tell people is, if you’re really introverted and shy that’s fine. You’re goal is to actually connect with people who are like you. You’re goal isn’t to try and get you out of there because it doesn’t really work long-term. It’s not a good long-term strategy.

The third conversation, which is the one you are actually asking me about; is what I call the one to many conversation. Traditionally, marketers were the only people that could have a one too many conversations by advertising campaigns or they would do PR. So they would be able to connect their message onto millions upon millions of people. Now through the web and all these individual channels, people like you and I can express our personal brand or get our message out there to millions of people for practically nothing. It is things like blogging, and Pod Casting or social networking. You are absolutely right. They are amazing tools to connect.

But what you need to actually figure out is, “Where are the right communities of people I am trying to connect with?” Is it Facebook? Is it Linked In? Is it both? Is it one or the other? Or it’s a My Space page or maybe it’s not online social networking. It’s having your own domain and creating a blog on it on the kind of thing you are interested in creating. And that is really what it’s about. It’s about understanding that these three conversations are about marketing yourself. People say things like, “I’m not here to sell myself.” But we all are. All of us want to be better family people, better in our community, better at work so we can make more money and connect more. All these things are all about your personal brand and how it’s perceived out there in the quote unquote marketplace that I like to call the world.

I leverage these channels because they exist. They are very very powerful. Never before could I have met people who are interested in hard rock music, public speaking and digital marketing. But now I am connected to 1000s of people who like the exact same stuff that I do and we are intrinsically connected. It’s an amazing experience.

I would say, “Shame on the person who thinks they are too old for the internet or they don’t get it.” It’s so simple and it’s so easy to use that there really isn’t a barrier to entry at this point.

Susan Bratton: One of the things you have done a really good job with, a continuity around who you are with your “Six Pixels” moniker, and creating your Facebook groups. Let’s talk about Facebook groups and let’s talk about how you’ve built audiences for various things; blogs, Pod Casts, Facebook, etc.

Mitch Joel: Yes. I have a really different perspective on it. When people come and see I have over 1,000 friends or over 1,000 people in my “Six Pixels of Separation” Pod Cast as a society group they ask, ”Why? Why would you want to be connected to that many people?” It goes back to having a very early in the internet game, very early on. And what I learned, very early on, being a journalist and having content published all the time was that; I pretty much resigned my privacy. [laughs] It’s just out there. It is.

What I learned from that, in terms of the blog and Pod Cast about Facebook is, “I am actually a media channel. All of us have become media channel. Every time you post a picture in Facebook, every time you post a link, an event, a group, you are broad casting that to your entire network. That is your personal brand and that is your media. It’s who you are.”

So I actually use Facebook as a media channel. Like a TV station is looking to get audience members, I looking to get people that want to be part of my community. I am looking for people who are interested in digital marketing, digital branding, public speaking and those sorts of things. It is actually pretty easy. Part of the reason why it is working for me is because I’m a very community centric person. It’s not actually about me. It’s about the community. So what I actually do is act as a connector.
I think that’s probably one of my best gifts. I presume my parents gave that to me as a value or belief system. But my goal isn’t to get the benefit for me. My goal is to help two other people get the benefit from that. I think the dividends I’ll receive from serendipity and other things that will happen and what I call, “Givers gain” make it that much more powerful for me. So, I look at it really differently. My job and role in all of these online social networks is to help more people connect. And if they are doing it through me, then that’s just amazing.

I guess what I learned in this 15 years of interviewing literally everybody in the music industry and entertainment industry is that creative people aren’t necessarily marketers and marketers aren’t necessarily creative people but in and of themselves they had a real uniqueness to them. Whether it was rap or rock or heavy metal or whatever it was, each person had a really, really, unique character. So you see if you tie that into something a nugget of truth or something. It’s a very obvious to me. It’s Oscar Wilde line. Oscar Wilde said, “Be you, because others have already been taken.”

It’s so true, when I teach digital marketing or I teach digital branding for clients all I’m asking is, “Others are already taken, let’s do something unique. Let’s try to stand out or not stand out. Maybe being unique is not standing out. And so I would say be you because others are already taken.”

To read the full transcript, click here.

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Power of Social Networking (Part 2)

Another fantastic example of the power of social networking came yesterday when a former colleague of mine from at Matrox Graphics Inc. requested that he and I be LinkedIn. I've been using LinkedIn for many years now and am approaching 200 business contacts, most of whom are clients, or those who represent potential clients.

After seeing his list of connections, I noticed another former colleague from Matrox that I wasn't yet connected to and decided to link with her. When she was working at Matrox, she was the one of the heads of the Marketing department, and sure enough, she was still in a pretty prestigious position at a different company.

She accepted my LinkedIn request pretty quickly, but the amazing thing was that she sent me a message asking me whether or not Red Dream Studios could fulfill a bunch of graphic design requests... Her company was looking to outsource to a new company. Could the timing have been any more right?

So I was once again blown away by the power of social networking and its ability to connect to new business opportunities. It's no wonder why convential advertisers are scrambling... At least in my company's case, I haven't been resorting to it (yet...).

View my profile on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nealcaminsky

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Power of Social Networking (Part 1)

Today was a remarkable day for Red Dream Studios. Our company doesn't advertise in the conventional sense, at least, we spend no money to do so. Instead, we rely on networking, sales champions (word-of-mouth), and more recently, social networking to get our message across.

Face-to-face networking is paramount for the success of any company. Nothing is more powerful than a handshake.

However, when this is not possible, such as when catering to a potential client hundreds of miles away, you typically need to rely on a referral. Such was the case with the company, Balance Integration. Through a word-of-mouth referral by an extended family member, Tali Gillette (who's husband is a client), Balance Integration, a New York-based company dedicated to improving the company-employee relationship, chose Red Dream Studios to provide an overhaul to its corporate website. Coming to it in a semi-state of flux, we worked with existing content and design, added some of our own touches, programming, and Flash content to bring the site to its final, launchable state. Succeeding and a relatively short period of time, the Founder of Balance Integration, Tevis Gale (Trower), had this to say about us:

"It's always a relief when you find someone who seems to GET a project without ever having met or spent time with you. Neal really GOT our project from the very start - even though we brought him in after several headaches/turned nightmares with other providers. He and his team delivered on time, within budget, and with no static in the tweaking of our site to perfection. Having never even spoken to him on the telephone, I have to say that they have mastered understanding product specs and communicating clearly pixel to pixel. We love our new site!"
Wow... What a compliment. This is truly a fantastic testimonial to our efforts, and once again why client relations is key to a successful partnership. We'd like to think that from this moment on, Balance Integration will be one of our newest sales champions...

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

About 30 & Counting...

Wow... In just a few short years, Red Dream Studios has either launched from scratch, or participated in over 30 websites -- which actually means, we've succeeded in placing 30 new companies online (the majority of which are still active today). We're very proud of this and hope that in the near future, we can continue to cater to entrepreneurs who need to either place themselves on the internet, or revamp their existing online brand.

Today marked the launching of a new company, Pinstripe Coaching. Pinstripe offers coaching and training to executives and is based out of the Toronto area. In addition to the website, Red Dream Studios also developed all of Pinstripe's brand and collateral, which includes the company's logo, business cards, and stationary.



To view the Pinstripe Coaching website, visit: http://www.pinstripecoaching.com/.

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Evolution of a Website

Designing, producing, and developing websites is a large part of our business at Red Dream Studios. Customer service, reliability and dependability is an even larger part. It is our advice to all entrepreneurs that relationships are built on 2 fundamental factors: Trust & Respect.

By adopting these principles, Red Dream Studios builds relationships with our clients, thereby adhereing to these famous quotes by T. Whitaker:

"It's not what you do, it's how you do it."
"They don't care how much you know, they want to know how much you care."
A case example of this happens to be with a client that has been with us since 2003. Aquatica manufactures underwater housings for digital cameras, as well as a host of other underwater photography gear. We approached them through a word-of-mouth referral and quickly landed the task of redesigning their online presence.



The original website, shown above, is a classic example of many design accidents:
  1. Inconsistent design throughout the page as well as the site
  2. Poorly flowing information
  3. Broken links
  4. Too much information below the browser's line of sight
  5. Bad navigation

So in 2003, we submitted the following redesign:



The 2003 Aquatica website made use of the latest web technologies and features: an ASP-driven dynamic catalog (for easy catalog maintenance), Flash-driven header animation of an underwater vista, a more appropriate colour palette that matched the company's offerings, and an overall cleaner, more sophisticated navigation system.

Having lasted 4 solid years, Aquatica returned to Red Dream Studios (there's that client relationship thing again) to provide a more contemporary web design for its company, in line with a slight shift in their product offerings and company's marketing direction.

In late 2007, the new Aquatica website was launched with the following design:

This design, which proves yet again that the clean, simple method usually works best, further refines the way Aquatica presented its products and services. The design focused more on the photographic results one could achieve by using Aquatica products, and sorted the Aquatica catalog into a more efficient manner. It still features a dynamic database and an interactive dealer locator map. The colour palette shifted away from the mostly blue/ocean theme to a more technical gray feel, in line with Aquatica's focus of being a more technically-oriented company, but we preserved elements of blue to still portray the company as offering products for an underwater experience.

For more information, visit Red Dream Studios.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Anatomy of a Corporate Identity

As a graphic and website design company, Red Dream Studios is often charged with creating most, if not all components of a Coporate Identity. This begins with finding the most effective way to brand one's company. Designing a corporate logo is one of the most challenging aspects of our work, as it involves creating an image for someone who you've most likely just met, or have spoken to only briefly over the telephone.

How does one convey the essence of the company or person when that person has had years of experience being who they are?

This time around, Red Dream Studios was fortunate enough to work with Michael Greenspan Films, the film company spearheaded by the award-winning Los Angeles-based director, Michael Greenspan. Michael is a one of my first friends, so having known him for about 30 years, the task of creating a new image for him wasn't necessarily as daunting as with some other clients. But the pressure was there to knock his socks off...

Michael, much like the films he creates, is bold, classical, yet simple. He knows what he wants. So the idea behind designing his identity was to convey a prestigious film company, harkening to the glory days of the silver screen. And of course, it had to be simple.



From a pure graphic design sense, the logo comprises all the elements: contrast in both colour and font, and simpicity. The contrast is used to draw attention to Michael's name and what he does. "greenspan" is brighter and bolder than either the "michael" or "films". We also chose to use an all lowercase style that is more stylistic and contemporary.

The business card is all black, which in itself makes a statement. With minial text, you can't help but read what's written there. We also opted for a double-sided card in order to minimize the amount of copy you'd see when looking at any given side. In order to immediately distinguish Michael's venture as a film company, we subtly added a stock photo of some film on the front side.

For more information, visit us at Red Dream Studios.