PODCAST: Four Winds Reflect on the Past 5 Years

Hear from Char, Keith, and Todd as they reminisce about their journey to the 5-year mark, talk about their origin story, and discuss what’s to come in the next big 5. Also, tune in to find out “Who is the Fourth Wind?”

FWC Founders from left to right: Todd Hallinan, Keith Bell, and Charlyn Villegas.

Full transcript of the Podcast below for our readers out there!

Charlyn: And we’re rolling, we’re here with Todd, Keith, and Charlyn the founders of Four Winds Creative. Hello you two!

Todd: Hello!

Keith: Hi Char, how are you today?

Charlyn: Really good! Considering that we’re turning five years old on May 13th, 2014, I thought it would be perfect if we had this opportunity to reflect on the past five years. So do you guys have any key moments that…as we reflect back on our history of Four Winds Creative…that stand out to you?

Keith: That’s kind of a loaded question. There was a lot of great key moments through the years. Probably the first hour after we became Four Winds Creative and officially started and we were given the world’s finest grill project. That was kind of like “oh, no shit. This is real”. That was kind of a fine and fun moment.

Charlyn: That was the most random project in our history I feel. Trying to fit 200 hotdogs on two grills that have been…

Keith: Welded together.

Charlyn: Welded together.

Keith: On a party trailer. It was a bizarre project, to say the least, but a lot of fun. Talk about the unusual.

America’s Finest Grill with a mural of George Washington holding a hot dog while riding an eagle. Talk about the unusual.

Charlyn: When we had to ask one of our artists to design a mural of George Washington riding an eagle while holding a hotdog, it really felt like a TV script at some point, but it was all real.

Keith: Strangely random.

Charlyn: Yep. How about you Todd?

Todd: Along with that project, I found it very comforting that we had only been in business an hour and business was already coming in. So that felt like that was a very good sign for the future, which has proved itself over time that we’ve grown and grown. The one that jumps out to me the most is when we were asked with three days notice to go shoot at Mammoth mountain and do a shoot with Chloe Kim prior to her glory at the Olympics.

Charlyn: Yes, Olympian gold medal winner.

Todd: That was a crazy last minute request that required all hands on deck and I was amazed how we pulled that together and even got in a site survey the day before up on the hill with a crew that we magically found through our contacts that had done stuff for Warren Miller. It was just an incredible crew and an incredible experience.

FWC Crew interviewing Olympian Gold Medalist, Chloe Kim on Mammoth Mountain.

Charlyn: Yeah, that was insane, I think that when Keith was texting me from about what is it 11,000 feet on a mountain.

Keith: I had never done an interview at 11,000 feet. I had done an interview in a bomb shelter before but never at 11,000 feet, now that was fun.

Charlyn: Or whatever height it was, but you were pretty high up there. In ski boots.

Keith: Ski boots and short sleeves because it was July and it was 71 degrees on the side of the mountain.

Charlyn: That’s right. Why were we shooting so many snow videos this one year but all in summer time? It was so weird.

Todd: That’s crazy.

Charlyn: It was crazy.

Keith: That’s so strange.

Charlyn: I’m going to say one of my most memorable projects just happened earlier this year. It was when they said let’s build a billboard and ESPN needed support for the college football playoffs and it was waking up at 3 AM to help news crews tell stories on top of this custom built billboard where the biggest fans for the college football playoffs were living for two weeks. That was incredibly random. I guess it wouldn’t be a key moment of history but if we are talking about just random projects that we get.

Keith: Talk about the unusual.

Charlyn: That definitely popped in mind.

Charlyn: One question that so many people ask us is how did we get our name, and who is the Fourth Wind?

Keith: Well, I’ve always thought that the Fourth Wind was the customer, so it takes the three of us, plus the customer’s vision and desired goals to create the direction for each project and helps us deliver each project. The origin of the name for me always had to do with kind of that navigation and nautical aspects, but that’s my personal feelings on it. So I am interested to hear what you guys think.

Charlyn: Well, I always tell people it is because the URL was available.

Todd: That is true.

Keith: There were several available though.

Charlyn: Right, right.

Keith: That was one of the ones we liked the most.

Charlyn: There were several available. That is quite funny. And then I remember we were going through our logo creation process, and we all decided on the sailboat because we love being the guide, or the wind that carries projects to life, and so we thought wow it would be so great if Four Winds Creative had some sort of…

Keith: A vessel…or the vehicle…

Charlyn: Had a vehicle, or a boat theme like a sailboat, and we all loved it. Then when we polled our dearest, closest colleagues, and friends they all thought “You look like a company that does nautical designs. For boats.” And that’s where we realized okay well our brand is very important.

This alternate FWC logo design was discarded after the Founders received feedback that it implied that FWC created graphic design for boats.

Charlyn: What about you Todd?

Todd: I mean there are lots of rumors out there and people have said “Oh is there’s some secret investor behind us or a silent partner, and there’s definitely none of that.

Keith: Or is there?

Todd: (Laughter) No secret fourth partner. It was just all was kind of around the nautical theme of guiding and helping people go in the right direction and that’s what I liked about that name.

Charlyn: Being very much like a navigator and navigation.

Charlyn: What would you both say, because we don’t have a secret partner that we’re revealing at this point, would be the recipe for our success then? Because it is unheard of that a company as small as ours with these big projects that we just detailed at the beginning of this interview, what would you say is our secret recipe for success if we did want to divulge something today?

Keith: I think it’s always making sure we have fun doing what we’re doing. I think that because we enjoy what we’re doing and people see that and want to work with us. I think it has everything to do with the fact that we’re having a good time and so people want to have a good time too.

Todd: I think a lot of it too comes with the strengths of the three of us and that we recognize each other’s strengths, and we know how to play to those strengths and utilize those strengths to help our customers and help our business. I think that has really helped catapult us forward.

Charlyn: Very good answer. You are absolutely right. The comradery between us, the collaborations, really knowing each other for many, many years before starting Four Winds Creative.

Keith: That helped a ton.

Charlyn: It definitely helped a ton.

Charlyn: Great do you guys have any questions?

Todd: I think a lot of people don’t know the whole origin story, and I want to paint a picture for everybody of the three of us meeting at a pizza parlor for the first time to talk about this crazy idea of starting our own business.

Charlyn: That’s right.

Todd: We started talking and just everything seemed to start clicking right away, and the timing seemed to be really good for everybody, and it seemed that it just came together unbelievably easily. Then all of a sudden the stars seemed to align and it was amazing how easy it seemed to come together and that we were all willing to just jump.

Charlyn: Absolutely. Did you always want to run your own business?

Keith: I have run my business before this one so I wouldn’t say always. But there is something to be said about owning your own destiny and driving your own direction without being forced not to pursue the vision that you see as obvious. I’ve worked places where it’s very stifled in pursuing the things that were obviously the right direction to go and so it’s nice not to have that in place. It’s nice to be able to do what I want to do. It’s nice to be able to see where the market’s going and pursue it. I wouldn’t say that I’ve always known it was going to be this way or always wanted it to be that way, but I’m very comfortable with it being that way. How about you?

Charlyn: I actually didn’t know about running a business at all. I think at one point when you both asked me to be a business partner I was like, “I think I’d rather just be an employee, I’ll work with you guys anywhere.” But I didn’t see myself as a business owner, but now I can’t see myself looking back because it is such an incredible feeling of freedom. Being able to create the brand with you both was amazing. Being able to hire people…finding people like Eva who isn’t here today because she’s out sick, unfortunately, but just nurturing and feeling like we all care about the environment of learning, and teaching, and just growth. That’s not something you find everywhere, but we were able to build here.

Keith: The people are important.

Four Winds Creative Team photo taken with the New York production crew sent to their San Jose office to film for an A&E documentary series called, “The Employables” scheduled to air on May 15, 2019 at 10pm PT/ET!

Charlyn: Would you say there was a scary moment in our history or some kind of biggest learning that you’ve had that you might want to share with people who might want to start their own agency?

Todd: I think finding new customers is much more challenging than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be easy. Really the most of our customers have come from our network, our networks to our network. My advice to anyone who’s thinking of starting their own business is they need to make sure they have a really strong network out there that’s already existing, and if they don’t, they should build that network before they jump ship and start their own business.

Keith: I think scary moments for me come when we’re signing some longer-term commitment, whether that’s with a customer, whether that’s with signing for a lease or something and knowing that there has to be that flow of new customers coming in, there has to be a certain amount of income to make sure that we can pay the lease or pay the rent, etc. and knowing that we’re committed to it, and it’s make or break. Those are probably the scariest moments for me. It’s never really around the project because I mean I know how to do it when we enter into doing a project, but we always find the best solution or the right expert or learn how to do it and so it’s never project related. It’s more business related where my fear comes from.

Charlyn: I definitely learned a lot from the scariest moments of our business. That’s true.

Charlyn: So looking out now that it’s five years and looking at another five, my least favorite question that Todd would ask me in my one on ones.

Keith: Back in the day.

Charlyn: Back in Intel days, was “where do you see yourself in five years?” So looking out five years, what could that look like?

Keith: They’re both looking at me right now, both wondering what’s going on.

Keith: I think to find a new way to bring in new types of projects that challenge us and challenge the staff that we’re going to have as we continue to grow and as we add new capabilities, and new people I think that knowing what we want to do over the next five years is going to be driven by the passion of the people we bring in, and the areas that we think we can do the most good.

Keith: So I think that knowing exactly what we’re going to do in five years is really tough to say, but I think we’re going to be adding more services around projection mapping, I think we’ll be adding more services around location-aware video. I think we’re going to be driving more things that are immersive in VR and AR related. I think that we’ll be doing more automated quick turn style videos that might use technology, like AI, to help edit things on site when it’s a predictable sort of edit like an interview something along those lines. I think we’ll find ways to leverage technology to give our customer an edge over their competition by getting their message out faster, more efficiently, and I really see that we can kind of bridge that gap between communication and technology and probably do more and more of it in the next five years.

Todd: I think robots will be doing our job… joking!

Keith: Some of it.

Todd: It’s a hard question Charlyn. I think like Keith said I think we will continue to explore new ways of delivering content. I think there’s going to continue to be the commoditization of production, unfortunately, and we’re already seeing that we’re people are asking for talking head videos for $500, and it’s like really $500?

Charlyn: Just shoot on your iPhones.

Todd: And I think it’s going to be more important than ever to find those clients that value the value that you bring to the table beyond just the technology.

Charlyn: I think with the robots won’t can’t completely take over our jobs, but I think in five years production will get way easier to some respect. Technologies advancing to a point where they have AI editing. But there’s always going to be that human touch that you can’t emulate, that robots won’t be able to emulate. So with production getting easier in the next five years hopefully with equipment being more affordable, enabling our customers either to create their own content but really focusing our creative efforts on how could they tell their story. Is it a video? Is it an Instagram story? Should you be doing stuff on YouTube and adding more value where it comes to that video strategy?

Charlyn: I think video is such a powerful tool to spread a message and can be extremely impactful because you can reach way more people with the least amount of work, right? With social media the distribution of video being so simple through a text message or a FB messenger, there’s just so many ways that you can share videos now, we’re still going to be very needed when it comes to what does that look like? How do you stand out? How can our clients stand out from all the other messaging and content that’s out there, right? I also see us making our own content ourselves. So hopefully we have our script, our kick-starter horror film is already complete. It is already available on Amazon Prime or Netflix so that would be my ideal goal for us in five years.

Todd: I agree with you. I think we will be on project number three of original programming by the five-year mark.

Charlyn: Absolutely.

Charlyn: Cool anything else guys?

Keith: I think I’m fine, it’s been a good five years I’m looking forward to the next five.

Charlyn: Whatever it takes.

Keith: Whatever it takes.

Todd: I want to thank everybody who’s been so supportive to us over the years and has been rooting for us to be successful, and have been champions for us out there with customers. I just want to thank everybody for that.

Keith: I definitely have felt the love and really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Charlyn: We definitely wouldn’t be Four Winds Creative without you. So thank you!

Lights, Camera, Action.

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