It’s really hard to believe that 21 years ago this week, I launched Anna Goodson Management Inc.
Time really does fly by quickly, when you’re having fun.
When I launched the agency back in 1996, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
My business plan was simple, I wanted to launch an agency that represented the best illustrators and photographers I could find. I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was at the time but I guess I was always one.
I started my professional career, working with my father in the family printing agency, that he had taken over from his dad. He was now grooming me to take over but it was not to be.
After working with my father for 5 years, I left the family business to pursue a career in advertising. I was drawn to the industry because of a TV show I watched at the time called, Thirty Something. Everyone in the show looked like they were having so much fun and I was all about having fun and working with creatives.
My career in advertising, started at bottom but quickly I worked my way up to having a great position with the agency. After spending several years there, I was starting to get bored and needed new challenges.
I had worked with an agent that was representing fashion photographers on several shoots for the agency and when he found out I was leaving, asked me to join him.
I loved working with photographers and producing photo shoots. It was the kind of excitement and fun I was looking for. I spent close to two years there but when the owner of the agency one day said to me, ” If you want a friend in business buy a dog” I knew it was time to move on.
I figured that this was a good time to start my own business and run it the way I wanted. I was young, passionate and ambitious. Money however, was never the motivation. I never really thought about it. Freedom was and I was excited to be my own boss.
My father, who was concerned about my wellbeing, told me that if it didn’t work out, I could always go and get a ” real job.”
Determined, I set out to launch my business. I tried to think of a cool and catchy name but after a friend’s suggestion, I went with my own name. I went to the bank for a small business loan but they turned me down and told me to come back with my father, but that never happened.
I ended up financing my business with Visa and living off credit.
I bought a black and white, 150 meg computer and a Motorola Flip phone that weighed about 5 lbs. Then printed some business cards and set out to conquer the world. The only thing missing now were illustrators and photographers to represent.
Almost everyone I went to see turned me down. It was a real challenge to convince artists to join my agency, but eventually I managed to bring a few on.
I now had a stable of 5 people that I was representing and and set out to bring them business. In the beginning, I would make so many phone calls to try and set up meetings that I started getting pimples on the side of my face. Then, I would run around the city showing potential clients their portfolios.
When I wasn’t on the phone, I was running around to agencies. I would show up and try to see anyone that would see me. Sometimes, I would even hang out in the lobby trying to catch the attention of passing art directors or creatives as they left the building to show them my books. Receptionists became my allies and many times would call creatives and ask them if they would see me. To this day I still remember all the girls that helped me out in those early years.
Very slowly, I was making a name for myself and the talent I was representing. I managed to bring on a few more artists and carried around more heavy portfolios.
It was at that time that I met a women who told me that what I needed was a website. ” A website, I said, what the hell is that ?” She explained and I didn’t understand anything but she convinced me I needed one for my business, so I got one. This was 1996. No one was online or at least none of my clients. Our site was up but no one really saw it or visited it back then. Funny to think back.
I had now accumulated quite a bit of debt but was not ready to give up. There were many times that I didn’t see even the twinkle of a light at the end of the tunnel, but I pursued on.
Each time I would go visit my parents for dinner, they would send me off with a doggy bag of Campbell’s tomato soup and several rolls of toilet paper. I was too proud to ask my father or anyone for money and wanted to prove that I could make it on my own.
I was working none-stop and wouldn’t go to the bathroom without my cell phone for fear I would miss a call from a client.
Friends, assumed that since I was working from home, I would be watching Oprah at 4:00 pm, which was obviously never the case. I was extremely disciplined and focused.
My perseverance and hard work started to pay off and business was starting to come in. Clients were actually starting to call me. I was slowly getting out of the red and into the green.
When I first started making money, I actually felt guilty because it didn’t really feel like I was actually working. It felt more like I was doing a hobby. Here I was having fun, I was my own boss, I was doing what I loved, I had freedom and I was making money. Doesn’t get much better than this.
The first thing I did was start to pay off all the debt. I had accumulated about $25k in total.
As the agency grew, I just couldn’t handle everything anymore and tried to find someone to come and help me out. I asked several friends but none of them were willing to leave their comfy paying jobs to take a risk and work with me.
Finally in 2000, I met Sylvie Hamel and asked her if she would be interested in coming on board. Sylvie had a very successful career in PR working with one of the city’s top firms but she was open to giving it a shot. We then hired a few more people over the next few years and the business grew. We had more artists and started getting known internationally.
Today, 21 years later, we represent close to 50 international illustrators from around the world, both established and up-and-coming. We no longer represent photographers and have since changed the name to Anna Goodson Illustration Agency.
We have a wonderful international reputation and work with some of the most prominent advertising agencies and design firms in the world. Today, the work of our illustrators can be found in the most prestigious magazines, newspapers and publishers throughout North America and parts of Europe.
A few years ago while pregnant with my second daughter, I became nostalgic and was missing working with photographers and the photo industry. I knew that I couldn’t represent photographers again because of logistics but I really wanted to work with them.
The entrepreneur in me came up wth the idea of a new business, MeatMarket Photography. It’s a high-end platform that would promote and showcase the work of commercial photographers and crew, without actually representing them. The site would only take on members who’s portfolios where curated. MeatMarket Photography would showcase only the very best to clients who know the difference.
The past 21 years have been a blast!
I’ve worked with so many amazing artists over the years and launched so many careers.
I made lots of friends and worked with so many wonderful and creative clients all over the world.
I’ve negotiated big budget international contracts and I’ve worked for FREE for many needy non-profit organizations.
To everyone who has crossed my professional path over the years, I want to thank you.
Thank you for giving me that first chance. Thank you to all the artists who trusted me with their careers and thank you to all the clients who we’ve worked with and continue to work with.