Our start-up journey
Updated: Jun 9
Keyy Productions was borne of the need to tell stories. My husband, Rhys, and I are both trained actors and were both working professionally, but struggling to really own our trajectories. That’s the thing with acting - it’s a wonderful outlet for storytelling, collaboration, expression and creativity; but it’s almost impossible to really ‘own’ any sort of career direction. ‘The next job’ is almost always entirely in someone else’s hands and can be months, or even years out of reach. On top of that, the opportunities that do come by often aren’t the inspiring, storytelling opportunities that are desirable. Playing a device-obsessed, millennial journalist amidst a story about a nasty Alan Jones-esque radio host on the stage of the Sydney Opera House, whilst exciting and wonderful to be working there with such a wonderful group of creatives, isn’t really the type of story I wanted to be telling. And Rhys (my then fiancé) felt the same way.
So, we embarked on creating a new business that rolled our video and storytelling skills into one. Rhys has always been passionate about video - making films through high school and drama school was a regular hobby for him - so starting a video production company was an obvious endeavour. We took a year to quietly lay the foundations of our business while both working other jobs and saving money to buy high-end camera equipment.
We officially launched in December 2016 - in hindsight, not the best time to launch a new start-up. Things were very quiet until March of 2017. In fact, February was so quiet that we almost shut up shop and walked away then and there. Having booked next to no jobs in 3 months, it was during that month that I sat, every day, trawling through business groups on Facebook, to find anyone with a new or developing business. I would find their website, analyse it for video content and its marketing needs, and then reach out with a personal email about what we could do for them. It was 4 painstaking weeks, but it worked. In March, things took off and continued to soar until the very end of December. We finished the year with revenue of 6-figures.
It was a dream! A hectic, exciting, exhausting dream - with many hard lessons learned along the way. From our very first client promising us the world and then never actually paying her invoice, to BUPA commissioning us for 10 videos in the space of 2 months. We had experiences that left us utterly depleted and depressed (an elderly man took it upon himself to ridicule and diminish me to no end on set one day, after being so baffled that a woman could be running the shoot) and experiences that ignited us, forced us to rise to new levels of business and video marketing and left us babbling like excited children for hours after.
It was during this period of intensity that Rhys and I naturally found our roles within the business - while he filmed and edited almost every video we made last year, I produced and directed them, and added voice over where needed. There wasn’t time to analyse this - we just did what we knew best and didn’t look back! Our skills were being put to the test and we just focused on keeping our heads above water to keep up with the demand.
In January, we got married and took a much-needed month off. Towards the end of this time, Rhys began experiencing extreme anxiety at the thought of returning to the business. It had been an incredibly big year of work, and he felt fearful at maintaining the pace and volume of work. We returned from our honeymoon nervous about what the next phase of our business would be. As it happened, February, again, was completely quiet, as were March and April.
It was hard to escape feelings of uncertainty and fear at things being so quiet. This was a business that we created to feed our family and buy our house, and the first year had provided hope that these goals truly were possible. But the beginning of our second year was so quiet that we were forced to look at things differently. We spent those months restructuring our start-up in preparation for onboarding of new staff. We wrote our dream job descriptions and restructured things around these desires. We implemented an entirely new software system with automated workflows for team and project management, we completely re-branded, becoming Keyy Productions, we re-worked our whole website and pushed our socials, and we created Keyy Stories - a platform that tells the stories of great people doing great things through mini-docos.
[Keyy Stories is a passion-project. It’s something we created when we realised that whilst making corporate marketing videos is challenging and exciting, it lacks the kind of creativity and humanity-drive storytelling that we’re seeking. We spent June in Europe, working with two incredible organisations there, creating Keyy Stories that are deeply relevant and rooted in humanity. Our plan is to make more of these in Sydney and around Australia, and pitch them for sponsorship later this year.]
And that has been our journey so far. From absolutely booming, to near-nothing in bookings. We’ve learnt so much along the way. The down-times have forced us to develop a full-blown marketing strategy - no more relying on word of mouth and Facebook business pages. We’ve engaged Google AdWords, we are working on some big collaborations, and we are really driving our business forward. And our hard work is paying off. Things are really picking up again and now the next step is hiring a team - we’re almost there, but with employing staff comes an element of risk. It’s that step up to the next level that we’re still figuring out. I know we’ll get there soon - it’s just a matter of having all the right systems in place and finding the right time.