I AM CEO PODCASTTech

IAM374- Founder Leads Media Agency with Motion Graphics

Podcast interview with Maria Rapetskaya

Maria is the Founder of Undefined Creative, a media production agency with a focus on motion graphics. She has built the company's reputation with clients like A+E Networks, NHL, NBC Universal and United Nations on good old-fashioned customer service and consistent execution on brand, on time and on budget.

Despite her Creative Director title, she stubbornly remains a hands-on creative in both design and production, doing what she truly loves on a daily basis. As a serious pay-it-forward give-backer, Maria is dedicated to volunteering and pro-bono work. As a mentor, she helps other creatives, especially young women, develop careers that accurately express their personalities and goals.

A near-native New Yorker, Maria lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a few plants, but escapes often –with 60+ countries under her belt and counting.

  • CEO Hack: Natural schedule – knowing when to break
  • CEO Nugget: Don't wait to do things until you're actually finding yourself in need of clients
  • CEO Defined: Setting the tone and being responsible

Website: https://www.undefinedcreative.com/

https://www.defineyourpath.co/


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Transcription

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Intro 0:02

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:30

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I hve Maria Rapetskaya of Undefine Creative.

Maria, it is awesome to have you on the show.

Maria Rapetskaya 0:42

Thank you so much, Gresh. Happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 0:43

No problem. Super excited to have you on. What I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Maria so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Maria is the Founder of Undefined Creative, a media production agency with a focus on motion graphics. She has built the company's reputation with clients like A+E Networks, NHL, NBC Universal, and the United Nations on good old-fashioned customer service and consistent execution on brand, on time, and on budget.

Despite her Creative Director title, she stubbornly remains a hands-on creative in both design and production, doing what she truly loves on a daily basis. As a serious pay-it-forward give-backer, Maria is dedicated to volunteering and pro-bono work. As a mentor, she helps other creatives, especially young women, develop careers that accurately express their personalities and goals. A near-native New Yorker, Maria lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a few plants but escapes often –with 60+ countries under her belt and counting.

Maria, are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

Maria Rapetskaya 1:46

Absolutely.

Gresham Harkless 1:47

Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I want to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Maria Rapetskaya 1:55

So I started my business by default. I had no desire to be an entrepreneur, I do come from a very entrepreneurial family, but entrepreneurial in the sense of just people who want it to be on their own schedules, doing their own thing with no balls. That usually meant some kind of failed gigs. Or, in the case of my mom, she just worked with private clients her whole life. So I started in post-production in New York City. I spent the first probably six or seven years of my career working with one design studio for about a year and then five and a half years as an art director in post-production.

It had a lot of pluses, but it had one major minus and that was two weeks of vacation a year and counting my sick days. Those were two things that I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing. So I went freelance, I quickly realised that too, was not the answer, because at least in my industry, freelancers were required to put in some crazy hours on day rates. So whether you stayed for 8 hours or 14 on your day rate didn't really matter, you got paid the same. Really, it was, in some ways the worst of all worlds. Because I had no say in the way things were run, I had no real role in how a project was going to be directed as a freelancer, but I was also the person who would get stuck doing the thing until it was done.

So there was really nothing else left but to start my own thing, which I did. I had my first company with a partner that we had for about five years together. Then I rebooted with a company I currently have, which is about nine and a half years old now. So I spent the first six months by myself trying to run everything from operations to creative to production and quickly realized that was practically impossible. Also, because I just somehow by some magic coincidence, the moment that I rebooted, I got some much more serious, much more steady clients.

So about six months out, I brought on a full-time executive producer. She and I ran things together with some freelance help for probably about five or six years and then finally we realized that freelance help was also unreliable. So we started hiring full time or so now we have two full-time staff besides the two of us. So we're four in total.

Gresham Harkless 5:00

Nice. Well, definitely a great day to hear the progression from you and your family, to what you're building and growing now. So I wanted to hear a little bit more on what do you guys do at Undefined Creative.

Can you take us through, I guess how you kind of serve the clients you work with?

Maria Rapetskaya 5:19

Yeah. So as I mentioned, I came from post-production, which, in my case meant working on TV shows. So I was doing branding for television shows, graphical support for television shows. My executive producer also came from a similar background, we actually had worked together in the past for a number of years. And so at the start, our bread and butter was still working with networks on TV shows. So one of my first clients was actually the Maury Povich show, they're still a phenomenal client of mine. We do a lot of work with NBC Universal, We've done a bunch of projects with them since on pilots, when the pilots get picked up, we get to do the actual graphics package.

Harry Connick Jr, was probably one of the most high-profile examples of that. So Harry, which was a show that he had for a couple of years, that was our work. And then lots have changed over the past 9-10 years. Now a very good chunk of the work that we do also includes network promos, including all sorts of digital marketing content. So whether it's explainer videos, digital promotion, or off-site, big-screen kind of stuff. Then we also do events. So for the last three years, we've been doing all of the screen graphics for the NHL awards, for example, we've done multiple events for the United Nations, such as the Equator Prize Initiative awards.

So we've been doing that since 2010, as well. So it's a really mixed bag. But primarily, what we do is anything from the very beginnings of a project, which would be scripting as necessary, the branding, the design work all the way through the end, getting people to do the sound mix, organizing sheets, if necessary, will produce the sheets if necessary. Legions span the whole gamut of creative production.

Gresham Harkless 7:31

Nice. Well, I definitely appreciate that. I was actually going to ask that I mentioned because it seems like obviously when you're watching the NHL awards, or whatever, or the Maury Povich show, or whatever it might be like you just think that all those things just happen. But I'm sure there's a process behind them. Touching on what that process looks like when I'm sure it's a lot more than it just being a snap of your fingers appearing.

See also  IAM660- Founder Helps People Put Learning Into Action Through Podcasts

Maria Rapetskaya 7:54

Yeah, well, I get a lot of blank eyes. A little bit less now because I think digital media is just so ubiquitous. But for many years of my career, when I said that what I do primarily is broadcast design, people would look at me blankly, and when I explained it would occur to them, that they know exactly what I'm talking about but they've never before thought about the fact that someone actually did that stuff. It just kind of appeared.

Gresham Harkless 8:26

It was all a part of the show. So it's great to hear. It's like a fairy tale. So there's actually a lot that it sounds like there's involved in that. So it's thank you for breaking down all those different pieces and aspects.

Maria Rapetskaya 8:42

Cool. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 8:43

I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. This can be for you personally, for your organization, but what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Maria Rapetskaya 8:58

I think with respect to the company, I think there are really two answers. Because with respect to the company, I think what really makes this company unique is I started this place from the perspective of lifestyle first. What I was aiming for was not a particular client list, it wasn't a particular number of yearly sales. It was I'd like to live in a relaxed, comfortable way that actually permits me to be sick and to go on vacation. So with that philosophy in mind, that's just kind of how the whole place was established.

So everything about the company has to do with finding people to work with who share this goal for themselves effectively, which you could say of course, will everyone shares this goal. However, in order to accomplish this we have to keep our overhead really low, as a small company that's just kind of focused on our mental and physical well-being, frankly, so to speak, so we're all remote. So every single person who is working with me has to be incredibly self-driven, has to be incredibly responsible, has to be able to get the job done without someone standing over their heads. And so there's this idea of working in your pajamas, which is amazing. I think many people want to do that, but not everyone can.

We've had plenty of times where we would, especially with freelancers, where we would very quickly realize that we're working with someone who can't function without someone standing over their shoulder. And that's just not the way that we work. And so I think the secret sauce for the company became really finding the people who get what we're after, who want this kind of a lifestyle, but who also understand the level of responsibility and hard work that goes into making this a reality. So I think that's just kind of the secret sauce for the company.

The secret sauce for myself is I fortunately think, from my own Saturday, have never thought to derive my sort of personal meaning from what I do for a living. I've kept those things very, very separate in my life so that my company is amazing, and I love it. I love what I do, but it doesn't define me. That takes a lot of the pressure off, and it keeps what I do light-hearted and fun. I know that nothing is eternal. At some point I'm not building IBM, this isn't going to be a company that lives on beyond me in any way. I do what I do for as long as the clients are here, and for as long as people want to work with us. And that's great. But there's really no huge pressure beyond that.

Yeah, so that's what I got for you.

Gresham Harkless 12:22

Nice. Well, I definitely appreciate that, because both of them go back to being able to be an artist with a paintbrush, to be able to figure out exactly what you want because you've been able to build the business according to how exactly you want it. But also, correct me if I'm wrong by building the business exactly how you have wanted it, also has allowed you to attract the right people who are able to also have those same values, one, and two, probably even more so probably able to execute on those values as well.

Now, I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app book or habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Maria Rapetskaya 12:23

I think originally that answer would have been I figured out what my natural schedule actually is, when I like to start working, and when I need my breaks, and I stopped fighting it, which was definitely something that became possible.

Gresham Harkless 13:26

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I love both of those hacks. Obviously, I think it helps me at least to make sure I get ahead of the day before the day gets a hold of me, which often happens. But I think just being able to stay in tune with those things, as you kind of touched on before is just kind of important overall. So I think those are great CEO hacks.

Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. Or if you could hop into be a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Maria Rapetskaya 14:02

The first thing I would tell my younger business self is don't wait to network. Don't wait to build contacts. Don't wait to do business development until you're actually finding yourself in need of clients.

Gresham Harkless 14:18

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Maria, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Maria Rapetskaya 14:31

It means setting the tone for this ship and keeping myself responsible for the ideas that I've sort of infused this company with.

Gresham Harkless 14:42

I wanted to thank you again for the time and pass you the mic so to speak, and see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and listeners know and then of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

Maria Rapetskaya 14:54

So I guess the one thing I would say is to get creative with how you run things and we've definitely had some bumps along the way There was one year when two of our major clients, one we lost and the second one was the NHL, they went on a major lockout. So we lost a good chunk of our income for that year and basically the course of two weeks. And we had to get very creative as to how we were going to survive.

Gresham Harkless 15:24

And now people that want to follow up with you, Maria, what's the best way for them to reach out to you?

Maria Rapetskaya 15:30

Email. maria@undefinecreative.com. Check out the website. Yeah, that's the best possible way.

Gresham Harkless 15:38

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Maria. We'll have those links in the show notes as well. I appreciate your time, and I hope you have a phenomenal day.

Maria Rapetskaya 15:46

You too. Have a good one.

Outro 15:48

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating. Grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co.

See also  IAM1999 - Life Coach Shares About Overcoming Adversity and Empowering Others

This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

Intro 0:02

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:30

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I'm Maria Rapetskaya of Undefine Creative. Maria, it is awesom to have you on the show? Great.

Maria Rapetskaya 0:42

Thank you so much, Gresh. Happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 0:43

No problem. Super excited to have you on and what I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Maria so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing. Maria is the Founder of Undefined Creative, a media production agency with a focus on motion graphics. She has built the company's reputation with clients like A+E Networks, NHL, NBC Universal and United Nations on good old-fashioned customer service and consistent execution on brand, on time and on budget. Despite her Creative Director title, she stubbornly remains a hands-on creative in both design and production, doing what she truly loves on a daily basis. As a serious pay-it-forward give-backer, Maria is dedicated to volunteering and pro-bono work as a mentor, she helps other creatives, especially young women, develop careers that accurately express their personalities and goals. A near-native New Yorker, Maria lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a few plants, but escapes often –with 60+ countries under her belt and counting. Maria, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Maria Rapetskaya 1:46

Absolutely.

Gresham Harkless 1:47

Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I want to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Maria Rapetskaya 1:55

So I started my business by default, I had no desire to be an entrepreneur, I do come from a very entrepreneurial family, but entrepreneurial in the sense of just people who want it to be on their own schedules, doing their own thing with no balls. And that usually meant some kind of fails gigs. Or, in the case of my mom, she just worked with private clients her whole life. So I started in post production in New York City. And I spent the first probably six or seven years of my career working with one design studio for about a year and then five and a half years as an art director in post production. And it had a lot of pluses, but it had one major minus and that was two weeks of vacation a year and counting my sick days. And those were two things that I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing. So I went freelance I quickly realised that too, was not the answer. Because at least in my industry, freelancers were required to put in some crazy hours on day rates. And so whether you stayed for eight hours or 14 on your day rate didn't really matter, you got paid the same. And really, it was, in some ways, the worst of all worlds. Because I had no say in the way things were run, I had no real pole in how a project was going to be directed as a freelancer, but I was also the person who would get stuck doing the thing until it was done. And so there was really nothing else left but to start my own thing, which I did, I had my first company with a partner that we had for about five years together. And then I rebooted with a company I currently have, which is about nine and a half years old now. So I spent the first six months by myself trying to run everything from operations to creative to production quickly realised that was practically impossible. Also, because I just somehow by some magic coincidence, the moment that I rebooted, I got some much more serious, much more steady clients. And so about six months out, I brought on a full time executive producer. She and I ran things together with some freelance help for probably about five or six years and then finally we realised that freelance help was also unreliable. So we started hiring full time or so now we have two full time staff besides the two of us. So we're four in total.

Gresham Harkless 5:00

Nice. Well, definitely a great day to hear the progression from you and your family, to what you're building and growing now. So I wanted to hear a little bit more on what do you guys do at Undefined Creative. Can you take us through, I guess also how you kind of serve the clients you work with?

Maria Rapetskaya 5:19

Yeah. So as I mentioned, I came from post production, which, in my case meant working on TV shows. So I was doing branding for television shows graphical support for television shows. My executive producer also came from a similar background, we actually had worked together in the past for a number of years. And so at the start, our bread and butter was still working with networks on TV shows. So one of my first clients was actually the Maury Povich show, they're still a phenomenal client of mine. We do a lot of work with NBC Universal, we've done a bunch of projects with them since on pilots, when the pilots get picked up, we get to do the actual graphics package. Harry Connick Jr, was probably one of the most high profile examples of that. So Harry, which was a show that he had for a couple of years, that was our work. And then lots have changed over the past 9-10 years. And so now a very good chunk of the work that we do also includes network promos, includes all sorts of digital marketing content. So whether it's explainer videos, or digital promotion, or off site, big screen kind of stuff. And then we also do events. So for the last three years, we've been doing all of the screen graphics for the NHL awards, for example, we've done multiple events for the United Nations, such as the equator prize initiative awards. So that we've been doing since 2010, as well. So it's a really mixed bag. But primarily, what we do is anything from the very beginnings of a project, which would be scripting as necessary, the branding, the design work all the way through the end, getting people to do the sound mix, will organise sheets, if necessary, will produce the sheets if necessary. Sorry, legions spans the whole gamut of creative production.

Gresham Harkless 7:31

Nice. Well, I definitely appreciate that. And I was actually going to ask that I mentioned because it seems like obviously, when you're watching the NHL awards, or whatever, or the Maury Povich show, or whatever it might be like you just think that all those things just happen. But I'm sure there's a process behind them. Touching on what that process looks like when I'm sure it's a lot more than it just being a snap of your fingers appearing.

Maria Rapetskaya 7:54

Yeah, well, I get a lot of blank eyes. A little bit less now because I think digital media is just so ubiquitous. But for many years of my career, when I said that what I do primarily is broadcast design, people would look at me blankly and when I explained it would occur to them, that they know exactly what I'm talking about it but they've never before thought about the fact that someone actually did that stuff. It just kind of appeared.

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Gresham Harkless 8:26

It was all a part of the show. So it's great to hear. It's like a fairy tale. So there's actually a lot that it sounds like there's involved in that. So it's that thank you for breaking down all those different pieces and aspects.

Maria Rapetskaya 8:42

Cool. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 8:43

And I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this can be for you personally are gonna be for your organisation, but what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Maria Rapetskaya 8:58

I think with respect to the company, I think there's really two answers. Because with respect to the company, I think what really makes this company unique is I started this place from the perspective of lifestyle first. What I was aiming was not a particular client list, it wasn't a particular number of yearly sales it was I'd like to live in a relaxed, comfortable way that actually permits me to be sick, and to go on vacation. And so with that philosophy in mind, that's just kind of how the whole place was established. So everything about the company has to do with finding people to work with who share this goal for themselves effectively, which you could say of course, will everyone shares this goal. However, in order to accomplish this we have to keep our overhead really low, as a small company that's just kind of focused on our mental and physical well being, frankly, so to speak, so we're all remote. So every single person who is working with me has to be incredibly self driven, has to be incredibly responsible, has to be able to get the job done without someone standing over their heads. And so there's this idea of working in your pyjamas, which is amazing. And I think many people want to do that, but not everyone can. And we've had plenty of times where we would especially with freelancers, where we would very quickly realise that we're working with someone who can't function without someone standing over their shoulder. And that's just not the way that we work. And so I think the secret sauce for the company became really finding the people who get what we're after, who want this kind of a lifestyle, but who also understand the level of responsibility and hard work that goes into making this a reality. So I think that's just kind of the secret sauce for the company, the secret sauce for myself is I fortunately hink, from my own Saturday, have never thought to derive my sort of personal meaning from what I do for a living. I've kept those things very, very separately in my life, so that my company is amazing. And I love it. I love what I do, but it doesn't define me. And that takes a lot of the pressure off. And it keeps what I do light hearted and fun. And I know that nothing is eternal. At some point I'm not building IBM, this isn't going to be a company that lives on beyond me in any way. And I do what I do for as long as the clients are here, and for as long as people want to work with us. And that's great. But there's no, there's really no, no huge pressure beyond that. Yeah, so that's what I got for you.

Gresham Harkless 12:22

Nice. Well, I definitely appreciate that, because it kind of both of them goes back to being able to be an artist with a paintbrush to be able to figure out exactly what you want, because you've been able to build the business according to how exactly you want it. But also, correct me if I'm wrong by building the business exactly how you have wanted, it also has allowed you to attract the right people that are able to also have those same values, one, and two, probably even more so probably able to execute on those values as well. Now, I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. And this might be an app or book or habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Maria Rapetskaya 12:23

I think originally that answer would have been I figured out what my natural schedule actually is, when I like to start working, and when I need my breaks, and I stopped fighting it, which was definitely something that became possible.

Gresham Harkless 13:26

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And I love both of those hacks. Obviously, I think it helps me at least to make sure I get ahead of the day before the day he gets a hold of me, which often happens. But I think to just being able to stay in tune to those things, as you kind of touched on before is just kind of important overall. So I think those are great CEO hacks. And now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And this is a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. Or if you can happen to a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Maria Rapetskaya 14:02

The first thing I would tell my younger business self is don't wait to network. Don't wait to build contacts. Don't wait to do business development until you're actually finding yourself in need of clients.

Gresham Harkless 14:18

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And so now I wanted to ask you my absolute favourite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote unquote CEOs on the show. So Maria, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Maria Rapetskaya 14:31

It means setting the tone for this ship and keeping myself responsible to the ideas that I've sort of infused this company with.

Gresham Harkless 14:42

I wanted to thank you again for the time and pass you the mic so to speak, and see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and listeners know and then of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

Maria Rapetskaya 14:54

So I guess the one thing I would say is get creative with how you run things and we've definitely had some bumps along the way there was one year when two of our major clients, one we lost and the second one was the NHL, they went on a major lockout. And so we lost a good chunk of our income for that year and basically the course of two weeks. And we had to get very creative as to how we were going to survive.

Gresham Harkless 15:24

And now people that want to follow up with you, Maria, what's the best way for them to reach out to you?

Maria Rapetskaya 15:30

Email Maria undefine creative.com. Check out the website. And yeah, that's the best possible way.

Gresham Harkless 15:38

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Maria. We'll have those links in the show notes as well. I appreciate your time, and I hope you have a phenomenal day.

Maria Rapetskaya 15:46

You too. Have a good one.

Outro 15:48

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

[/restrict]

Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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