Meet Johnny Wu, founder of Media Design Imaging (MDI), a branding and video production firm.
So, what do you guys do?
We are a production studio that caters to independent filmmakers and companies ranging from small to Fortune 500. MDI was started by MBA-ers who have a passion for making video that brands an identity, be it corporate or individual.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I received a bachelor's degree in computer science with a minor in psychology in Panama. I went on to get an MBA degree at Cleveland State.
Back in 1998, while having lunch with a good friend, we thought of forming a company to do some media production work (videos and print). We would combine our talent -- he is a phenomenal photographer, I'm in business and marketing. We slowly built our client list up from mom-and-pop businesses to a few Fortune 500 companies, mostly through word of mouth.
We also produced our own independent films to hone our skills and challenge ourselves to think outside the box. In 2009, MDI moved from a home-based biz to its current location on East 40th
Street, where we partner with Creative House Studios and Sampson Carnegie.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
How simple, exciting and challenging it was.
What resources/organizations did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We participated in local nonprofit organizations such as Independent Pictures, OCA and others to further promote our business. We also joined the Northeast Ohio Performing Art List Server to promote within the arts and culture community. Understand the basic of marketing: Get your name or the business name out there, and slowly increase your client base.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
Because we started as a part-time business, we basically invested our own "extra" funds into the business until we built up our clients.
Where did you find your first employee?
We posted several internship opportunities through CSU. We took under our wing a communications major named Shawn Wickens, who is currently in NYC living his dream as a comedy writer with a book published called “How to lose your virginity.”
Who was your first customer and where did you find him?
Our first customer was Gary Yano, who paid us $25 for a series of head shots he needed for an audition for the "Double Dragon" shoot in Cleveland. Our first commercial client was Rascal House restaurant. Our studio was located on Euclid Avenue just one building over from the restaurant. I got to know the owner and he asked us to redesign their printed menu, which was used for about five years.
Our first large film client was a nonprofit organization, which hired us to produce videos PSAs. As logistic director, I had to fly every other week to Los Angeles, which helped shaped my understanding of the entertainment industry while gaining real-life industry experience in publicity and marketing.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
If you have the skill and talent to back up your work, Cleveland is easy. While there is a lot of competition within the industry, there's also a synergy of people wanting to help each other grow. There seems to be a great connection with other businesses that if one can’t handle the work flow, they recommend another who can. At the end, everyone wins.
What advice would you give to someone starting a company here?
If you have a dream, small or large, go for it. But be humble; there are people out there who made it because they kept themselves grounded and that helps push their businesses forward. In the new era of technology, social interaction is a must. You must have that one-on-one relationship with every client so they feel important and return. You'll find that being an entrepreneur in the entertainment business is really hard, and there will be times you'll have to eat less to survive. But at the end, you will know it’s all worth it when the result of your work is used by a client.
Can you share a funny experience with our readers?
I speak three languages, and at times I have to do interpreter work between two different languages. Once, I was hired to do interpretation for two businessmen and I accidently used the wrong languages on each of them. They looked at me puzzled until I realized that I messed up.
What inspires you?
The excitement of the process of building what the client wants. We love to break the mold, we love what we do, and knowing that what we provided to our client has helped increase their business puts a smile on our faces. We take pride of our work.
What’s next for you and your company?
The change of technology and they way of doing business is shaping our goal and business model. We have always provided, in addition to video production, marketing and branding services to our clients. But we never really branded that portion of the business.