When I started Antidote back in 2008, the business model I developed was to work with clients on a monthly retainer basis to provide brand consultancy, strategy, and design. Now, I mentioned previously that one of the things I no longer wanted to do was to do client servicing, mainly because I felt that there was little control on my part in terms of how the ideas I come up with and deliver to them are actually executed. So it wasn’t the ideal setup but I also felt at that point that I was not ready with the skills needed to create my own brands.
With the goal of creating as many brands as possible, I thought creating brands for clients was an acceptable compromise. I’d be able to create several brands, while also learning the other aspects of building a business around the brand. It’s almost like getting paid to take an MBA because I did learn a lot from pretty much all the clients I worked with for about 4 years. The diversity of the businesses I worked with in both product categories and business models really broadened my perspective and helped prepare me for what was to come.
Now, there were certainly several challenges in doing the work. Several of my clients are not so familiar with marketing, let alone branding so the process of educating them while on a tight deadline to develop concepts or plans for them was very difficult. Also, since most of my clients are SME’s run by families, I’ve often had to play the role of mediator between family members (both of which are my clients technically), both regarding the work and even regarding personal matters. There are days full of frustration, but as long as I was learning something, I was ok with “eating shit” as Garyvee would say.
However, what drove me to make a crucial change in Antidote is realising that for whatever reason, unfortunately, my clients are not aligned to the mission of Antidote to create brands that can reach other countries from the Philippines. It’s not for lack of trying that’s for sure. I kept preaching the importance of branding for the country, and that they’ll also make money doing this even if it takes a bit longer to get establish things. Most of them though paid lip service to that, worked on the new brand (but not at the full expression of the concept due to other considerations. And I can’t really blame them for their mindset of maximising their opportunities selling to the masses here. At the end of the day, it’s their business and their right to do as they please.
On the same token, Antidote’s mission is my mission. All the work I was doing was going to be for naught if none of those brands are inching their way to accomplishing the WHY of the company. Antidote was growing too in terms of monthly clients and billings at that time so the decision to pivot away from working with clients was not done lightly. But for me, maybe it was naive or idealistic, but I can’t give my best while also sacrificing my own goals. It just didn’t make sense anymore.
By 2012, I started informing our clients about this shift and that we won’t be renewing or extending our contracts with them past the end of the year or when their contracts expired whichever comes first. We’ve also launched Lagu at the start of the year in order to start transitioning us to creating and building our own brands. Some of our clients understood it, while some didn’t agree it was the right idea. It was also hard having to turn down several inquiries from potential new clients especially since we were getting inquiries primarily due to the work we’ve done already and referrals from our past clients.
But, aside from that, the decision actually energised myself and the team. In the years that followed, we’ve created more brands like Early Bird Breakfast Club in 2013, Spud Buds in 2014, and A-Game in 2016, and several more in the pipeline. Don’t get me wrong, things are still hard and managing our own brands comes with its own set of challenges. We’ve made mistakes along the way and stumbled from time to time. At the end of the day, what matters is that everything is on our hands whether we succeed or failed, achieving Antidote’ mission is completely up to us.