It’s hard to believe it’s already been 14 years since I first launched AGM.
Back in 1996, I registered the name of the company, printed business cards, bought a cell phone and an old black and white 150 Mb Mac laptop. The only thing I was missing were artists to represent. I went out and contacted several local illustrators and photographers and most of them turned me down. I nevertheless kept contacting people and finally a few gave in and agreed to me representing them. I guess they figured that having me represent them was no worse than leaving their portfolio in the corner of their office to collect dust. No one knew who I was and, to be honest, I really didn’t know very much (if anything) about the illustration industry. I had worked previously at an agency that represented fashion photographers so my specialty was photography. In fact I did not know that illustrators existed – but don’t tell anybody!
So, I started AGM back in ’96 with a few local illustrators and photographers. I worked my butt off to get contracts. I used to run all over the city with a collection of portfolios. It was really tough and very discouraging but I kept at it. The rest of the time I would be on the phone trying to set up meetings. Around this time, I met someone who strongly suggested that I get a website up, but I had no idea what a website was. In my naïveté and lack of business experience I listened to her. I think at that time I was representing about eight artists in total. I didn’t have any money, so I basically put myself in debt to get the site off the ground as I had cashed in all of my savings to start the company. Fortunately, my parents were great and used to give me toilet paper and canned soup every time I went to visit, no joke. I guess that is why today I have empathy for all of those starting out in the business. I know first hand how difficult it is to get started, especially when no-one has a clue who you are. I remember going up to a well know illustrator and telling him that I wanted AGM to be an international agency. He basically laughed in my face, saying who would work with a complete unknown like me. In hindsight, I was so very ambitious back then that when he said that to me, it just made me want to succeed even more and I worked that much harder to prove him wrong.
For the next few years I worked from a second bedroom in my apartment. I made very little money and spent very little as well. Much to my friends surprise I did actually work (and no I did not watch Oprah in the afternoons). I worked hard and for long hours. In fact that is all I did for about 3 ½ years, never taking a day off or having a vacation. I used to make so many phone calls that I actually got pimples on the side of my face where the phone would rest. The fact that I loved what I did so much really helped. I was working really hard but I was also very passionate about what I was doing and what I was trying to achieve. I’ll never forget the first international job AGM got. It was for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. The budget was $150.00, I was ecstatic! Finally my hard work was paying off. A first job in the USA for little old me.
Fast forward 14 years to today, and AGM works with some of the most prestigious magazines, newspapers, advertising agencies and design firms from around the world. We have worked on several international advertising campaigns, as well as some of the biggest illustration campaigns ever done, like those by Lavalife and IBM. We’ve illustrated for shopping centers in Dubai and billboards in New York. We’ve received personal commissions from famous people such as the singer Prince and Yoko Ono. Our artists have won numerous international awards for illustration and photography, too many over the years to keep track.
When anyone is looking to commission original illustrations today, they think of AGM and this makes me very proud. The passion and excitement I felt back in 1996 is just as strong now, if not stronger. It’s been a hell of a ride up until now and I look forward to the next decade and all the great things to come.