Starting a business slowly with steady growth is a story we hear from many of our region’s entrepreneurs and RAVE has a similar start. A creative advertising agency, RAVE began in 2006 in Athens, Ohio by Tobias Roediger and a friend. In late 2008, the pair moved the business to Columbus.
“After a couple of years we knew for sure that we needed to be in a bigger market to do the kind of work we wanted,” says Roediger, Principal and Creative Director. “Without realizing it at the time, we were essentially starting the business all over again.”
They started with a couple of personal computers, about $2,500 in working capital, and a couple of second hand desks; working out of Roediger’s basement on evenings and weekends.
Friends that had started their own businesses, and a lawyer that helped them set up the business structure, provided insights and advice.
“Really early on we did a small ’friends and family’ loan to help us over a growth hump,” says Roediger. “So far that has been the only loan or funding of any kind we’ve used.”
The move to Columbus brought them to Qwirk, a coworking space in German Village.
“It was a great place to get started but we quickly outgrew it,” he says.
They loved how walkable Qwirk was to the area’s food and coffee options, and do miss that some, although Roediger says “that’s starting to get better around our new location.”
The new office is less than 1,000 square-feet and is located near Franklin University.
“I walked in and liked it just how it was,” he says. “An open environment to foster collaboration -hardwood floors, exposed ceilings and brick- all things I wanted. I’d looked at a couple other places that were close but not ‘it’.”
Roediger feels the lack of individual offices provides everyone a chance to have their ideas heard. A fresh coat of paint was all that was necessary to get the space ready for RAVE to move in, “however we went a little crazy with the furniture process,” he says.
“Since we do creative work and have the tools, we actually took measurements of the space and put them in one of our 3D animation programs. Once I determined the IKEA furniture I wanted in the space, we modeled and placed those into the 3D environment as well. I wanted to visualize how this would work for us on a day to day basis.”
Finding people that fit with the RAVE culture is the most important factor Roediger considers when hiring people for his team.
“There are plenty of insanely talented people out there, finding the ones that believe in and will contribute to our core principals every day is a bit more rare and far more valuable,” he says.
Moving his business to Columbus is one of the best, although most challenging, decisions he has made.
“It was way harder than I ever imagined,” he says. However, he has found support and growth opportunities for his business and for himself professionally here.
“The Columbus community is full of amazing people busy dreaming, innovating and making,” he says. “Ideas are welcomed, art flourishes, there are incredible local restaurants, the startup scene is making waves, there are exciting professional sports teams… I could go on and on.”
He has found the Columbus Chamber of Commerce to be an invaluable business resource for RAVE.
“They consistently provide excellent advice, insights and connections,” he says. Being a member and a board member of AAF Columbus (the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation) has also been invaluable.
When Roediger’s business partner left to pursue a different career, it was a difficult time for the business, as Roediger suddenly had many more responsibilities.
“That was really tough,” he says. “All the things that he was great at I had to suddenly start getting okay at.” But he pulled through, and even when the economic downturn of a few years ago hit his company hard, he was not discouraged.
In each case of adversity, Roediger credits being able to remain flexible as the key to keeping on track in the right direction.
“I like overcoming challenges and looking for new, innovative ways of doing things,” he says.
Keeping a good amount of cash in the reserves is also key, and something he wishes he would have known when starting out.
“You can’t have too much reserve cash,” he says. “It helps you get through lean times, enables you to move quickly, and make bold choices that other people may not believe in or see as clearly.”
Roediger is on the lookout for pieces of art that will fit the aesthetic of the space.
“Having a beautiful, functional space is really important,” he says.
To learn more about RAVE, visit RAVEcreates.com.
Photos by Walker Evans.
Do you know of, have, or work in, a creative workspace and would like to be featured in this series? If so, please contact Anne Evans.