Ronn Richardson has his Masters in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University and has worked with brands such as IKEA, Blackberry and Revlon. But, that was only the start for him. With business partner Daniel Calderon, a year ago, he launched Four Thirty – the ultra modern creative agency that has got everyone on Instagram drooling over each new campaign they’ve produced in the last year.
Four Thirty collaborates with the best of the best visual arts freelancers to help creative brands really tell a visual story. Read on to see how Ronn took the leap from the agency world to founding his own company – and some lessons on entrepreneurship, personal branding and aesthetics that are not to be missed.
Name: Ronn Richardson
Profession: Co-Founder & Creative Director, Four Thirty
When did you decide to open up Four Thirty and how?
I initially had the idea to start my own agency in 2012, while I was working at an agency in DC and pursuing my Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown.
Although, I was determined to leave the 9 to 5 life behind, I knew I needed more practical and formal experience before I took the leap.
After moving back to NYC and working for brands like IKEA, BlackBerry and Revlon, I had the confidence and experience I needed to launch Four Thirty.
In January of 2015, I finally left. Nine months later, Four Thirty was born. I took that time off to do more research, solidify my plan and create the website, branding and social and marketing strategies.
How do you develop the branding for a branding agency? Your website has a very stylish, professional design. How important was that in the early planning stages?
With a background in communications and a passion for aesthetics, developing the branding was quite easy. I knew exactly how I wanted the brand to be perceived, but knew that I needed help bringing it to life.
I worked with a few talented individuals (some are on our roster) to develop the logo, brand materials, guidelines and visuals.
As you can imagine, this was one of the most important aspects of launching our company. A strong and compelling brand is essential for every company, but it should be at the top of the list for any creative agency!
What attracts customers in terms of aesthetics?
Depending on your brand's positioning, your aesthetics can be relatable or aspirational. Prospective customers either want to see how your product or service fits into their everyday life, or imagine how their life will improve and evolve after purchasing your products.
Know your customers and give them what they want.
How did you develop your skills managing both the creative and business side of the agency?
While I'm involved in all aspects of the business, I'm mostly responsible for the creative elements. My co-founder, Daniel Calderon, handles most of the business operations.
However, I gained most of my business and client management skills from my experience working in a PR agency setting for 7 years. I worked mostly on strategy and execution, but planning, operations and budgeting were also focal points of my roles.
Being able to wear multiple hats is essential for any entrepreneur. Even if you don't have the necessary skills, you'll have to learn them very quickly in order to succeed.
One of the most interesting things about Four Thirty is that it’s not just another freelancer group, but a business model that curates the best designers and photographers out there and ensures a great fit for every client project. Tell us a little more about how you realized the need for this service and how you developed the idea?
I realized there was a need for this business model while I was working on the agency side. I often needed to contract photographers or designers for projects, but didn't have an accessible and reliable resource to help make the discovery and connection process easy.
I would normally funnel projects to creatives in my personal network, then, one day, the idea hit me. I trusted every freelancer I recommended because I knew they had a strong visual aesthetic, and I was confident they'd be professional, reliable and create noteworthy work.
I was certain that if I needed a service like this, other brands, agencies and entrepreneurs would need the same thing.
Creating is great, but creating things people need is even better.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue the same career path?
Find a problem and create a business that solves it. I don't think there's a standard path toward entrepreneurship, but I do believe great entrepreneurs are amazing problem solvers.
You specialize in understanding each brand’s unique vision and goals and producing design that helps them achieve them. Do you have any piece of advice for bloggers looking to do the same with their personal brands?
Every piece of advice I'd give to a brand, I'd give to a blogger as well. Your personal brand is just as important as a business’ brand.
Every blogger has a different goal and objective, so your strategies and tactics will vary. You may be blogging to promote your services or products, or just to be an influencer and get products or services from brands.
Once you have your goals defined, creating the content that drives the actions you want your readers to take will be a lot easier.
What is one mistake you see influencers often?
Following trends instead of creating their own lanes.
It seems like every “influencer’s” content looks the same. There’s no originality, creativity or bars being set.
It’s so important to create according to your own standards and ignore what you assume people will think. You may not get a ton of likes at first (because people are slow to adapt to new and different ideas), but eventually, you’ll be known for being an originator and creating original content.
What advice do you have for producing your own high-quality social media content?
First and foremost, if you can’t take great pictures, find someone who can. Hire them or collaborate on content creation.
Once you have the photography piece down, plan your content and make sure each visual has a purpose. Most importantly, the individual shots should be strong, but make sure your overall feed (Instagram) has a flow that allows each image to stand out.
What does a “typical” day for you look like?
I’m a creature of habit, so 95% of my days are exactly the same.
Wake up. Meditate. Read the news online. Check emails. Get dressed. Skip breakfast. Hop on the train. Listen to music. Draft emails. Then get to the office and get to work!
Once i'm in the office, I’m usually sending client invoices and agreements, adding new portfolios to our site or making other site changes, planning campaigns or events and always brainstorming new ideas.
After work, I usually head straight home, cook dinner, then watch my favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu (w/ a glass of wine).
What fuels your creativity?
Traveling – because sitting still doesn’t excite me or get my juices flowing. One of the main reasons I left the 9 to 5 world behind was so I could travel, try new things, meet new people and create without limits.
From the moment the plane takes off, it’s like my brain goes into overdrive. I usually read or write during the plane ride, brainstorm on the beach or by the pool, and take pictures every step of my journey.
So there you have it. How are you going to implement this advice? Do you need to update your visuals or set clearer strategies and goals? Head on over to Four Thirty to get some visual inspiration, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
*All photos in this post are credit to Que Duong