Today we’d like to introduce you to P. Blake Renda.
Hi P. Blake, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I am a native Los Angeleno born in St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, CA, raised in West L.A., grew up surfing south of the pier and playing volleyball with my friends, and graduated from The University of Southern California. I now split my time between Los Angeles, CA and Naples, FL.
My journey started while still attending U.S.C. as an intern at NBC Studios in Burbank, CA, in the local sports department with Fred Roggin. Then I was lucky enough to be offered a production assistant position with Fred on his nationally syndicated tv show “Roggin’s Heroes.” I spent five years on production and doing some acting bits for the MCA Universal, syndicated sports/video variety show. It was terrific. I loved every minute of working with the team and being on the lot.
I soon decided to make a career change. I went into law, joining the L.A. office of the national legal firm, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen, and Lowey P.A., as a Sr. Paralegal with aspirations to attend law school. A year into this position, the firm decided to open an office in Palo Alto, California, an area with a burgeoning venture capital and technology scene. Investing and entrepreneurialism were something I was extremely interested in. Thus, I immediately volunteered to transfer to the Bay area as part of the team to open the office.
It was 1994, and there was a ton of excitement in the air as the firm had a lot of clients in Silicon Valley, which allowed me to meet the executives, venture capitalists, and money managers investing in established and startup companies. I was immersed in the culture and loved every minute of it.
In early 1995, I met and befriended the Vice President of an old Wall Street firm called J. & W. Seligman & Company. This individual was tasked with operating a satellite office in Palo Alto, which would give the firm a presence on the west coast and in the heart of Silicon Valley. I expressed interest in interning for them in the early morning while maintaining my Sr. Paralegal position with the law firm down the street in downtown Palo Alto, they agreed.
Then one early morning, I informed them that I had quit my legal position. They said, ‘You did what?’. After the initial shock wore off, they called the New York home office of J. & W. Seligman to speak with Paul Wick – the Managing Director of the Seligman Technology Group. The firm agreed to hire me at a base position with a starting pay of $30,000 a year as a Research Assistant, substantially less than what I was making at the law firm, and effectively starting at the bottom. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave my job as a Sr. Paralegal, but I was very excited as I was in the industry I had always dreamed of, and I was with the best technology fund and manager in the country. Ha
Institutional Investor Magazine ranked me as Best of the Buy Side Institutional Investor within three years, and I was nominated again in 2004. After six years with J. & W. Seligman, I was hired away by American Express Asset Management to join an asset management team based in La Jolla, CA. At AMEX, I was the Head Technology Sector Portfolio Manager on a team responsible for $38 Billion in Assets under Management (AUM) and with the direct oversight of $16 Billion of those funds in technology, media, and telecom.
Like many do on the Buy Side of Wall Street, I left AMEX Asset Management to launch a boutique investment firm. The timing proved difficult with partner issues, the eventual housing market collapse, and the near global collapse of the financial system and markets. The Great Recession had begun, and the impact was felt far and wide.
In 2008, after residing in Florida part-time since 2000, I relocated full-time to Florida, consulting with a family investment office and in media until 2011, when I met the founder of a small Florida lifestyle skincare company. Over the next few months, I began to provide business advice to the founder, tapping into my investment and business background. In July of 2011, I was asked by the founder to join the company full-time, and I agreed. I spent the next four years plus as Chief Operating Officer and V.P. of Business Development, where I was responsible for sales, marketing, I.T., and H.R. For the first few years, I also delivered products to the stores weekly in the company’s van and helped sell the product on weekends at the local green markets. In addition, to bolster awareness of the brand, I came up with the idea to launch a regional health and wellness radio program I co-hosted with the founder. Everyone wears many hats when you are part of a startup, whether you are a founder or employee number 25. It is a team effort; I am passionate about business and very competitive, and I like to succeed.
Over these four and a half years, the company transformed from a two-store brick and mortar to a rapidly growing regional business and recognized brand. With renewed branding, operational procedures, logistics, and sales goals in place, top-line revenue grew more than 45% per year. The company expanded from two stores to 12, launched a J.V. in Japan, relocated into a 30,000 sq. ft. facility, and along the way, won multiple awards, including the prestigious Florida Retailer of the Year 2015 award from The Florida Retail Federation. In September 2015, I parted ways and focused on two new entrepreneurial opportunities I had envisioned.
While investing in public and private companies over the years and working as an entrepreneur myself, I had extensive experience working with marketing agencies and found those experiences frustrating. These experiences stayed with me and were the spark that lit my next endeavors.
The focus – and the main differentiator – from the beginning was to create a firm that offered a comprehensive business strategy integrated with a comprehensive platform of marketing services under one roof, providing a “one-stop shop” for clients. Business strategy and impactful marketing go hand-in-hand, and to have these services available through one company seven years ago was groundbreaking. Today, you are seeing the larger, branded consulting firms move into marketing and adopt the model we were first to market with at Dragon Horse Agency.
In the early stages of forming Dragon Horse, I brought in Julie Koester as a Co-founder and President. Ms. Koester brought an impressive background, including the Founding Chairwoman of a Florida-based Children’s Museum and a Doctorate (a.b.d.) in Public Health.
As the Founding Chairwoman of the Children’s Museum of Naples, Julie raised approximately $30 million for the museum and opened its doors 11 years later – an incredible accomplishment. When I approached her about the idea of launching Dragon Horse, she was very interested. Then I also mentioned starting a second company called Moxie Creed, a luxury lifestyle and skincare company. She was on board with both ideas, and our partnership began, like many Silicon Valley businesses, by taking out some notebook paper and drawing up our business plans.
In the first year and a half of our holding company, Veedor Holdings LLC, we worked out of Julie’s kitchen, self-funding the businesses and not taking compensation for almost two years. In July 2017, we took our first official office space, sharing a tiny office in an executive office suite. In 2018, we moved into a slightly bigger office as we grew, and this office had enough room for us to have our desks. It was pretty noisy if we were on the phone or working on a project, so we gave everyone a business card that said ‘stop talking.’ You were allowed to play that card once per day.
All joking aside, Dragon Horse’s disruptive agency model rapidly took hold, and soon, businesses realized Dragon Horse was not your everyday marketing agency. We vet our clients to ensure a good fit on both sides, and business strategy – and how that incorporates the client’s overall marketing strategy – is front and center. We are serious about whom we work with and the results we produce. We are now bicoastal with offices in Naples, FL, and Santa Monica, CA, providing a slate of complete marketing services and business strategies. We operate globally yet maintain a local feel and approach and our work speaks as if we were sitting across the table from that customer or consumer.
We must do the same thing for our clients that I did back in my investing days regarding due diligence, vetting, and analysis of the brands and businesses we work with. Not every day, you find a “marketing firm” generating 25-page master strategy business plans that cover every element of their business, head to toe, and then incorporate that into dynamic, impactful marketing. At Dragon Horse, it’s all about our client’s success. It’s not about winning awards or personal achievements; they are simply results of our commitment to excellence and a passionately accomplished job.
Today, Dragon Horse Agency is a multi-award-wining business marketing firm with local, national, and international clients.
For Dragon Horse Agency, I am passionate about collaborating and supporting our clients to build, grow, manage, and promote their businesses for long-term success.” I’ve been an investor and an entrepreneur in enterprises of all sizes; thus, I bring a unique perspective, skill set, and level of expertise. Strategizing with our clients and implementing actionable objectives is enjoyable and truly exciting for me. www.dragonhorseagency.com
For Moxie Creed, I share my Co-Founder, Julie Koester’s, passion for getting the most out of the products we experience daily and a healthy, active lifestyle. Moxie Creed offers unique, exceptional, and off-the-cuff products as well as bath and body. We all know the skin is the larger organ of the body, and what we put on our skin will have as much impact as what we put in our body health-wise. We offer a carefully curated line of lifestyle and bath products at Moxie Creed. We are passionate about living life with “Moxie.” www.moxiecreed.com
Lastly, in 2018 we launched Dragon Horse Publishing. We issued our first release in December of 2021 with the award-winning, exceptional children’s story of Toofer and The Giblet written by Paulette LeBlanc with old-world, hand-drawn, watercolor illustrations by Ukrainian Dmitry Morozov. This is the first book of the seven-book series. We are presently exploring development projects in Hollywood to bring Toofer and The Giblet to the little and big screen. www.dragonhorsepublishing.com, www.tooferandthegiblet.com.
In June 2022, Dragon Horse Agency opened our Los Angeles Office in the iconic 100 Wilshire Building in Santa Monica, CA. We felt it was essential for the company and our clients to be in the epicenter of the creative world in Los Angeles. When it comes to future goals, Veedor Holdings LLC’s company culture is a culture built on excellence where everyone is family. We intend to continue looking for strategic opportunities, growing patiently, and expanding into additional synergistic channels to our vision. We are building something carefully, slowly, and with a long-term horizon with purpose.
As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Be passionate about whatever it is you are pursuing. Have an open mind to constructive feedback but also know yourself and your goals. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
P. Blake Renda & Julie W. Koester image – photographer: Reagan Rule