My Business Dream Story: Devante Blackwell, Director and CEO, Captivating Cinema
Work hard and have a mindset to serve
We’re talking with Hiscox customers who had a business dream and made it come true. Meet Devante Blackwell, Director & CEO of Captivating Cinema, an award-winning, full service film and video production company.
The dream started with mom’s video camera
Devante Blackwell always knew he wanted to be in film and television. “I love film, I love TV – I even love commercials. I wanted to be an actor. I would grab my mom’s camera and I would do a part, and then I would change clothes, and record myself playing another character. It would look like two characters talking to one another, but of course, you could see that it was me the whole time.
“Over the years, I tried to figure out how I could make my videos better and how I could make my short films better, and I kind of fell in love with the behind-the-scenes process of how films are made.”
Despite his love for film production, Devante knew it could be a challenging way to make a living. So he took a job in construction.
“Before I started my own company, I worked at an oil refinery,” Devante said. “We did turnrounds, 87-hour weeks. When I began to think of starting my own production company, I was able to use the income that I was getting from the oil refinery to come up with the capital to start my own company.”
Believing the dream could become reality
Knowing that he couldn’t produce videos on the side while working on an oil rig, Devante knew he had to jump in with both feet.
“I started the production company on my own. I just kind of went out on a limb and believed that it would work out.” Devante needed to be able to provide the staff necessary for each project, but didn’t want to hire a lot of full time employees. He found he could staff on an as-needed basis to meet the needs of each client.
“We work with independent contractors. If you need a crew of six, we come together with a crew of six. If you need a crew of 50, we come together with a crew of 50. We do it based off what’s needed for each individual project, and based off the budget.”
It’s important to know what you don’t know
“The thing I didn’t quite expect is that, with a normal 9-to-5, you need 40 hours a week to work. If it’s your own business, you really need 90 hours a week to get your business of the ground,” Devante said. “There’s more to it than just the craft of whatever you’re doing. There’s the marketing aspect, there’s the business aspect as it pertains to cash flow and things like that. You can’t just focus on the talent that you have. That was the thing that surprised me the most – how much a business the business is.
“One of the main things I wish I had known about starting a company is the way cash flow works. When you work for a company, you get a consistent pay check. But when you’re actually running the company, you have the ups and downs, the slow sides of the business, that you don’t see when you’re just an employee. Whenever you have a ton of business, you have a ton of income coming in, you have to manage those finances so that you’re able to make it through those slow times.”
“Look at something like the pandemic. We’re getting better now, but there was a very slow time when you saw everything just stop. And you have to have those finances just kind of ride you through times such as that. Even if it’s not as extensive as a pandemic, there are slow periods.”
Devante knew he needed to learn a lot about how to manage his business. So he turned to a valuable national resource – the Small Business Administration.
“I did SBA classes he said. “They provide a lot of resources, mentorships and classes to teach specific things. That helped me a lot with cash flow and business management.”
Gear your mind towards hard work
We asked Devante what advice he would give to someone who has a business dream of their own.
“The main thing I would say to someone who is just starting out is to try to have some capital put aside as you launch the business. You’re going to make mistakes, so have that set aside,” he said. “Also, gear your mind towards hard work. I hear a lot of people say, ‘I want to start my own business so I don’t have to work for anybody.’ The thing is, when you start your own business, you work for a ton of people. Every customer that you have, every client that you have, is your boss. So be prepared to work hard and have a mindset to serve.
“I’ve noticed that our success has come from us serving others, not saying, ‘We are our own boss and let us show you how it’s going to be done.’ It comes from us listening to our clients’ needs, listening to what they want to do and figuring out how we can make that happen in the best way possible.”
Protecting your dream
Devante has been a Hiscox customer for many years, and we asked him what that means to him.
“Having Hiscox insurance for my business has been a blessing,” said Devante. “Certain jobs that you do, especially the larger jobs, require that you have a certain amount of insurance. So, first and foremost, having Hiscox insurance has allowed us to work in bigger arenas because I’ve had that insurance that larger companies require.
“We started the company in Louisiana and have been working there the past ten years. (In 2020) two major hurricanes, Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta, hit directly where we were, within five weeks of each other. They devastated our company, and, if I remember right, 95% of the city had damage to its structures. But I was able to talk to Hiscox and file a claim, and they gave us everything we lost as it pertained to the business. The process was very smooth – it was a very quick process and the adjusters we spoke to were very friendly and very helpful. And something that would have been very devastating wasn’t as much so, because of Hiscox.”
His proudest moments
Over the years, Devante has worked on a lot of projects. He told us about some of the ones he is most proud of.
“One project we were fortunate enough to work on was a TV show for Disney Channel called Invisible Sister. A stock researcher looked at our website and saw the type of projects we film and the quality of our work, so we got the call. For our work to be held as having the quality to be included in a Disney Channel movie – I felt as though that was a great accomplishment,” Devante said.
Another project was a labor of love for the community.
“I got a call from a marketing company that we work with. In the midst of the pandemic, the owner wanted to do something to really motivate the community, so in the midst of the devastation, we went into places to show how the community is still coming together and how we’re all in this together, fighting to see better times. That was a project I really loved doing because, you look on the news and see the job losses and the death tolls and all that. But we were able to show how, even though we were all working remotely and doing things in a way that felt separate, we’re still all in it together.”
To learn more about Devante Blackwell, visit Captivating Cinema’s website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo.
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