Thursday, May 31, 2012
HBJ's Entrepreneur of the Year
Jonathan Holbrook makes movies, markets small businesses and builds winning computers
EVERETT — Only a few months after winning Videomaker magazine's national award for his new high-tech, high-end DVGear professional video editing and production equipment, Jonathan Holbrook is in the news again as the first winner of The Herald Business Journal's Entrepreneur of the Year award.
In different ways for different accomplishments, both awards recognize Holbrook's entrepreneurial spirit. He set his mind on a goal, creates imaginative products and services for the marketplace and bets he'll succeed despite the risk.
Long hours of creativity and hard work often pay off for the best entrepreneurs, like Holbrook. The price usually includes years of emotional ups and downs, fluctuating bank balances and constant tests of dreams, products, marketing skills, personality and fortitude in the public arena.
“It feels really good to get an award for something you've worked hard at, something you love,” Holbrook said. “It can be very discouraging at times. Being an entrepreneur can be hard on your marriage, too, even with a very supportive wife, especially in a recession. We should be thanking the other half, who puts up with her husband as a business owner. ... My first thought about getting this award was that my wife should be getting it rather than me.”
Having his own business has been a persistent dream since he was a boy.
“Since I was a child, I wanted to be my own boss. I love to call my own shots,” Holbrook said. “Even family members laughed at me and didn't think I'd ever do it. In 1990, I moved up here from Texas, where I was doing warehousing work. When I came up to Everett, where my dad was living, Everett Community College had a video film program where I learned studio video production skills and did really well with it. My dream then was to become an independent filmmaker.”
In 1996 and 1997, Holbrook learned more in a University of Washington video course and read books for everything he wanted to know or use in the field. Still, he wound up back in warehousing work and management while he kept chasing his dream. Then, with his wife working at Providence Hospital, where she's employed today, Holbrook found an opportunity to launch his business.
“First job I did was for a friend, a memorial for his mom and dad,” Holbrook said. “Both of them passed away within a week of each other. He wanted to capture a lot of memories and it turned out really beautifully.”
Later, he recorded weddings and worked to build his clientele. Soon he found himself doing a series of video promotions for Village Theater for several years. Later, he created a promotional animated video for State Roofing in Monroe, “The Happy Roofer,” and then linked up with Taiwan-based SportsArtFitness, an exercise machine manufacturer with U.S. headquarters in Woodinville.
“I went to Taiwan to shoot a corporate video of their production plant,” he said. “It was a wonderful opportunity. What I love about this work is that I get to meet all kinds of people and learn about a lot of new things.”
In the course of producing a variety of videos, Holbrook's talent and creativity was proven in his film “Customer 152,” which became an official selection for the 2004 New York International Independent Film Festival. Later, it was named the Best Feature of the 2005 Northwest Independent Film Festival and played in selected U.S. theaters.
He's also shot videos for Providence Hospital's hospice program, showing how hospice helped a couple struggling with Alzheimer's; created a promotional video for Doggy Haven Resort in Mill Creek that offers a full-service boarding and canine day care; and produced a business promotion for Crysalis Clinic of Permanent Cosmetics in Arlington, where owner Penny Rudy tattoos artistic beauty enhancements.
One of his latest ventures is videotaping business promotions that can be displayed on wall-mounted screens that customers can watch.
“I've got some of these video signage screens at Alexander Printing in Everett, as well as another Everett firm, BIT Consulting Group, which provides Internet Web sites and computer services. I often use them for my own needs,” he said. “Everett Naval Station has one they use to broadcast things like the commander's video reports. It's easy to change programs on the screen. It's not for everyone, but it fits a perfect need for many clients so I'm promoting them wherever I can so people understand their value.”
Besides Tall Taurus Media's video work, Holbrook promotes products of his DVGear division that creates and markets high-end computers for video editing and production needs, then also uses the powerful, sophisticated equipment for his own video work.
“Using my own equipment is a good marketing strategy,” he said, “and my newest product, the Apprentice video editing and production computer, was recently named Videomaker magazine's Best New Product for 2012.”
The award has drawn a lot of attention for Holbrook, who proved once again that even a relatively small entrepreneurial video producer and video editing equipment company can make big waves by concentrating on quality products, creative excellence and the needs of his customer market niche.
Not only did the magazine's test crew rate the Apprentice as the best new video editing computer in its field, it also noted that the powerful computer was just the low-end of a new computer editing trio from DV Gear that includes the Squire and the top-of-the-line DVGear Warrior.
The magazine's review noted that tests of the Apprentice were so impressive that even though the equipment is being released as an “entry level” choice, “Don't let (that) fool you, this computer delivers. ... This computer is a good contender against top-of-the-line video editing machines.”
Holbrook's success is as much in how he's structured his business as it is in his technological savvy with his video productions and his editing hardware.
“DVGear is a Web-based company, so even though we have an office in Everett (which also houses Tall Taurus Media), we've found that being Web-focused allows us to work with partners who don't have to be full-time on our payroll but they're still able to provide their special expertise to our clients,” he said.
Grant Eckstrom's BIT Consulting LLC, for instance, is an Everett-based tech firm that handles support requests for DVGear customers, as well as working closely with Holbrook on developing new DVGear hardware.
Striving for superior products with affordable quality at several levels of use has brought surprises even to Holbrook.
“Even the lower-end Apprentice model impressed us in our tests when we were building it with our IT guys,” Holbrook said. “That's what we wanted, a superior product with a good profit margin that will edit even real-time video and serve a wide variety of customers at a very competitive price.”
Locally, his video editing equipment also gets a lot of use in schools.
“All the area school districts know us and their video editing programs and studios operators love our products,” he said. “Many of them use our TriCaster equipment, which allows them to set up their own news studios and learn a lot about video. Watching the creativity of kids is really amazing.”
So far, business is picking up in 2012, he said, noting that “people are starting to get brave again and try new things. ... They also find out I'm not as expensive as they think I am. I'm an entrepreneur so I'm very creative and competitive ... and, unlike some of the larger studios in Seattle that charge a lot more, I don't keep the rights to my clients' programs. ... If they're paying me for a custom product, they should own it at the end. All I ask is to use it for my portfolio.”
He said he knows “it's hard to make money as a creative person” who is basically marketing his ideas and talents, but he loves what he does and sees how important it is for helping other people.
“You have to open your mind to your clients, do what you think will help them, but don't fall in love with your own work because you need to take a lot of direction and criticism sometimes to do what the client wants ... but have a good time doing it. It helps that I don't take myself too seriously, too,” Holbrook said with a chuckle.