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Meet John Bashyam of Warm & Fuzzy in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Bashyam.

John, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Our company was started by Andrew Jerez and myself. We were both visual effects artists and creative directors. Andrew had been freelancing for a long time in the advertising/music industries, and I had been doing a lot of direct-client work in the entertainment and music world. We both met at a large VFX studio working on high profile feature films (Marvel movies, etc.) and some early high-budget VR content. Eventually, we grew tired of the inefficient and increasingly stale work environment that came with working at a large studio and wanted more creative control. So, we made the leap to start our own studio – and Warm & Fuzzy was born!

Luckily we had enough freelance clients to sustain our business from the start without needing to take investors. For the first few months, we were working remotely out of our apartments, but that got old quickly. We needed an office space for collaborative reasons (and for our own mental sanity). So, we began the grueling hunt for LA real estate. After a few months of visiting every small office space on the west side, we settled on a cost-effective, yet semi-run-down place in Culver. We could see a lot of potential in it, though, and were able to slowly put some work into making it look nice!

Since we’re both artists, for the first six months or so, Andrew and I were doing a lot of the work ourselves – and on top of that, we were also teaching ourselves how to run a business. It was quite the learning process!

Almost two years later and here we are now. We mostly focus on advertising work (which is surprisingly more creative than film work) – and have worked with some huge brands like Facebook, Snapchat, Lululemon, Coachella, Apple, New Balance, NBC, and many more. Finally, now, we’re able to hire teams for projects and focus more on an overall creative direction and business development. We have anywhere from 8-15 freelancers in the office at any given time and five full-time staff! Still fairly small, but that allows us to offer close attention and competitive pricing to our clients. We’re growing steadily and hoping to expand soon! If you’re interested in seeing any of our work check out and don’t hesitate to reach out if there are any questions!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Any startup will have its struggles, but the general trajectory has been upward! Some things that stand out:

Since Andrew and I were both artists to start, we had to learn a lot from the business side. From legal agreements to finance to permits, we’ve had to learn it all. I can confidently say that I’m a spreadsheet master at this point.

The careful balance between projects, revenue, cash flow, and overhead is always a stressor. Up until now almost all of our clients have been through referrals. Which was really nice, but it also meant that we had no way of predicting cash flow. Luckily, it was never really an issue, but finally, we’re starting to do outbound sales so we can build more of a predictable pipeline. We’ve recently hired a VP of Monetization and an in-market sales rep to help expand the business and guarantee projects.

Being in the service industry means that there’s always an element of client management and maintaining a realistic scope of work. Most of the time, projects go very smoothly, but occasionally clients will ask for work that is way outside of the original agreement. Obviously, we want to do all that we can to please our clients, but at the same time, we don’t want the business to suffer. We’ve learned a lot about how to handle these situations. In most cases, clear communication up front can go a long way!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Warm & Fuzzy – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We’re a creative studio. We thrive at doing full CG animation work mostly in the advertising space, but really we like to think of ourselves as canvas-agnostic. Our skill sets are transferable to a number of mediums – whether it be VR, AR, live show visuals, branding, VFX, or full CG advertisements. Many of our clients come to us for our unique and somewhat dark style – and our attention to detail.

We have a core team of talented artists that are some of the best in the business. Since myself and Andrew are both artists ourselves, we can oversee projects from a creative/technical standpoint and understand exactly what the requirements are in every aspect. Rather than coming from a monetary/business perspective, we’re able to speak technically with our artists and receive a certain amount of respect in return. We generally work right alongside them! We pride ourselves in a fun and relaxed working environment that everyone can enjoy. We even play Fortnite at the end of each day!

Being a somewhat small studio allows us to give unique attention to each and every project that clients almost certainly will not receive from a larger vendor. And our flexible business model lets us expand and contract very quickly to meet the needs of any size project. Furthermore, without bureaucracy involved, we’re able to utilize the latest software and hardware and always stay at the forefront of innovation!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We’re looking to grow, but not too fast! We call it a responsible expansion. We’re still in the foundation-laying phase where we want to establish a rock-solid pipeline that can sustain a much larger company – before we become a much larger company. The main things we’re investing in now are:

Solid infrastructure. Make sure everything is running smoothly and capable of handling complex workflows. Too many companies have leaks in their pipeline that lead to inefficiency.

Outbound sales. Like mentioned earlier most of our clients come from referrals – which we’ve been very fortunate to have. This is nice, but it doesn’t give us any way to predict how much we’ll make and what kind of overhead we can take on. So, we’re putting more of an effort to go out and acquire business rather than waiting for it to come to us.

Emerging technology. We’re recently doing a lot of VR and AR work. So many brands and advertisers are looking to use AR as a medium. So, we’re making sure to stay on top of the latest trends and tech within that space. And also developing our own custom workflows that set us apart from the rest.

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