Anyone who's ever wanted to become an actor can tell you: Hollywood's a tough town. But, that didn't stop a kid from New Jersey from setting his sights on Tinseltown and heading west to see if he could make it as a publicist to the stars.
That's exactly what Steven LeVine did. After running his public relations business from his bedroom in his parents' house, he moved to California in 2006 and started Grapevine PR.
Late last year, LeVine, who is now 30, was inducted into theYoung Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of only the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. BusinessNewsDaily asked LeVine to tell us how he's managed to build such a successful business at such a young age.
BusinessNewsDaily: Lots of people want to be a young, hip entrepreneur. Especially one that works in Hollywood. Can you give us an idea of how you managed to make it to where you are at such a young age?
Steve LeVine: It's funny you say that because I always wanted that myself when I was growing up. Although when I was much younger, I never thought about being an entrepreneur, but I was always being beckoned to that whole glitzy, glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, especially having grown up in a very small town. I knew that the entertainment business would be hard to break into, and it always seemed like the pushy, aggressive people only got those jobs. And since I wasn't like that, nor did I want to be, I never considered it an option. But I kind of like to think I snuck in the side door, and on my own terms. I definitely can't say it was a planned-out approach. It happened organically. It was probably my subconscious wants manifesting themselves in real life.
When I started grapevine pr, it wasn't my intention to be working in Hollywood as an entrepreneur. It was more about the freedom and the opportunities that entrepreneurship affords you, the fact that I had full control over my career, and the enjoyment of knowing that my hard work was directly benefiting and furthering my own business. These days it's more about realizing my vision of my brand and where I want to see it go.
BND: Did you have any "connections" to Hollywood that you were able to capitalize on? If not, how did you make your way in that field?
S.L.: I had not one connection to Hollywood when I started my company. It was very grassroots. Every relationship I have built here is the direct result of either another fruitful relationship, my accomplishments, or just putting myself out there. For example, one of my clients is an absolutely amazing musician, who also happens to be the long-time guitarist for the biggest pop star in the world, Madonna. The reason I am so lucky to be working with him is because the manager of another client liked what I did for him and recommended me to his manager. And that one came to me because he saw what I had done for another indie musician. It's kind of like the Russian Matryoshka doll. Inside one is another one and then inside that is another, and you get the point. But only its in reverse. Also, let me just clarify that I did start grapevine while I was still living in New Jersey, and in my old bedroom in my parent's house and I moved it out here two years later. When I moved here, I did already have some clients in Los Angeles.
BND: How were you able to finance your startup?
S.L.: To be honest, I started my business with literally only $500 in my savings account, which subsidized the cost of creating a logo, business cards, a printer, and any other supplies. I have never had any funding or investors. Of course it has taken a longer period of time and much more effort to get to where it is now, without funding, but I certainly have no regrets.
BND: What has been the hardest lesson you've learned as a young entrepreneur?
S.L.: What I have learned is just how lonely it can be - and how many people don't understand what it's like to be an entrepreneur. When I launched my business, I did so while working at my first job. By day I was an assistant account executive at a major PR firm, and by night I was the president of my own PR agency with a number of my own clients. It was very much like living a double life. I had to make a critical decision at the beginning of my career to either stay and give it all up, or leave and risk it all with no security or financial savings. During that time, I really had no support from anyone. My family was telling me I was crazy for going off on my own at such a young age, when they felt that working for someone else offered me stability. They would tell me I wasn't really an entrepreneur because I wasn't making any money. They thought I was throwing my career in the garbage. And most of my close friends would ask me each day if I was looking for a job, even though I had told them repeatedly that I had already started my own business. They didn't take it seriously. The hardest lesson I have learned is that you know yourself better than anyone else and sometimes you have to fight harder than you ever have in your entire life to make your dream a reality, even if you have no support from anyone else, because it will pay off and it is worth it in the end.
BND: What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur just starting out?
S.L.: Don't ever let anyone else tell you what or who you are or what you should be doing with your life. Only you know that. If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. And it will be a struggle, and it will take time, and there will be plenty of times that are not fun or glamorous in the beginning, but if you keep pushing forward with your vision, chances are it will become reality, and you will never regret any part of getting there. Also, never burn any bridges. And look for others who are like-minded, whether it's other young entrepreneur organizations, such as the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), or simply other mastermind groups.