Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gio Toninelo, Producer and Creative Director at Rocket House Pictures, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Rocket House Pictures is a film and video production company, raising the cinematic bar one project at a time. We love telling stories that connect people beyond race, nationality, and beliefs. And we strive to make films that touch people and help to awaken hearts. I understand now that video production is not just a job but a memoir, and we are responsible for what we create, what projects we give birth to, and what lessons we leave behind. I believe as filmmakers, we have amazing tools to help the world, and it’s important to use these tools correctly. Even though we are based in Denver, we work with businesses and non-profits from all over the country.
Tell us about yourself
I have been a filmmaker and producer for roughly twelve years, but I have been a lover of the medium since childhood. As a kid, I consistently rented movies from our neighborhood video store, and my parents took me to the movies often. I also used to create toy theater shows in my bedroom (complete with posters, stage curtains, and theme music) for an audience comprised of my parents and siblings, who were usually forced to watch on a weekly base. After working as a graphic designer for several years and curating the Action Figure Film Festival (f.k.a. GI JOE Fest), an opportunity to produce my first commercial film came about. Being on set with some of the best crew in Colorado ignited the storytelling spark back. I started Rocket House Pictures because I noticed that for clients seeking good quality video content, there seemed to be a huge void between one end of the spectrum and the other. I wanted to fill a gap in the market by starting a company that could deliver high production value in a more efficient, less expensive streamlined way. Whether we are filming a movie, documentary, commercial, corporate video, or music video, there is always a story to be told. I feel that my job is to explore that out on screen in a way that is both cinematic and provocative.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This will seem small to most people, but switching our DSLR cameras for Full Frame Cinema cameras in less than three years in business (all paid in cash). That was a big deal for me. Another noteworthy accomplishment is our list of clients. It includes Pepsico, Crocs, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Yext, and the Colorado State Government.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Starting your own business can be very rewarding. But it’s definitely a scary challenge. I worked as a graphic designer for years. At the end of most branding jobs, once a website was created, most clients always asked for a video for the web. So one year, instead of giving them a referral, I decided to produce my first commercial video. And the rest is history. It wasn’t easy. Re-discovering my voice and style took some time. I wanted to make a living doing something I really enjoyed, and I found my new role to fit like a glove. I love telling stories, the surprise factor, and the connections they forge. Just keep in mind that if you’re going to make your business the success it deserves to be, you need to have the drive and confidence to keep it alive. Because sometimes, the difference between business failure and success is simply the passion for seeing it through. Then suddenly, those dreadful Sunday nights anticipating another week of watching the clock for a paycheck will be gone. But there are demands, and you need to be on top of things. After all, your success depends on your reputation.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
It’s hard to talk about this without sounding like a salesman (haha). The first rule of doing business is to build and maintain a good reputation. By exceeding our client’s expectations, they will always remember the experience of working with us. And because people are naturally inclined to reward positive actions, our clients will eventually tell everyone how great our videos are. That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Do (or make) good things, and good will come back to you.
Other things that help are:
- Offer our videos at a reasonable price.
- Have a quick turnaround.
- Have the right tools and knowledge to deliver your project.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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