Rep Interactive leads the way with video brand storytelling
When YouTube was still in its infancy and long before it became a staple in people’s lives, Judy Gatena intuitively believed that video could be a powerful platform for sharing information and promoting products and services. So, when her son approached her for a fun, business idea for his senior project at the University of Southern California, she suggested he film her vacation rental property so she could advertise it on YouTube.
“I thought this is a need in the market that I have personally right now, and it would be a great entrepreneurial experience for him. People need video, right now, to advertise their properties. I thought, by default, the experience for him would bring him success. So, my goal, at that time, was really just for him to get his feet wet, and get some entrepreneurial experience. I just didn’t know that it would morph into what it morphed into,” Gatena said.
Eight years later, YouTube is an online video behemoth with an estimated 300 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute and Gatena’s spark of an idea to help her son’s academic accomplishments has become Rep Interactive, an award-winning hybrid creative services agency and video production company that has created videos nearly 30 countries for Fortune 500 clients and government organizations.
Gatena helped found Rep Interactive with her son Steven and initially joined as president and chief operating officer in order to advise him as he grew his entrepreneurial endeavor. The company began with a focus on creating videos for the real estate marketplace but expanded to other markets as Gatena and her team began exploring using streaming video as a marketing tool. The commitment to the then-emerging technology paid off as Rep Interactive began receiving awards and recognition for producing Hollywood-quality video content that brings its customer’s stories to life.
The company partners with brands to understand their needs, develop creative concepts and scripts for them, and execute productions. All of its videos are edited in-house. “Brands trust us to understand what they stand for and what products or services they provide and convey these things to the world through video,” Gatena said.
Gatena’s entrepreneurial journey began more than 30 years ago following the birth of her son. When she founded Rep Interactive, she was actually still at the helm of her own successful company, Abacus One Computer Supplies; a company she’d built from scratch at the age of 25.
“I was a single parent living in public housing, getting by on welfare. When Steven was born, I was determined to turn my life around and inspired to be a better person. When my son was two, I took him to daycare at 5 a.m. every day during the week so that I could work a sales job at a printer ribbon company. To say that I had a drive to work hard and be his rock would be an understatement and at 23 years old, I was driven to become the company’s top sales person,” she said.
Gatena had several ideas for how the printer ribbon company could expand into different product lines. Unfortunately, her ideas fell on the deaf ears of her supervisors and the company’s key stakeholders. So, she decided to launch a more comprehensive printer supplies company that, eventually, thrived for over two decades.
“The growth was tremendous and I never looked back. In three months’ time, I exceeded the profits I had made at my previous company. Over the years, Abacus One did several millions of dollars of business. Being my own boss allowed me to stay at home and fulfill my mission in life, which was raising solid human beings. I had no idea how much they would change my life,” she said.
Under Gatena’s leadership, Rep Interactive has become the fastest growing video marketing company in America according to Inc. magazine—it is “an extension of brands’ marketing teams.” Going forward, the company intends to spread its wings a bit into another realm of storytelling.
“We are seeing tremendous success in docu-style storytelling this year. Audiences are responding well to authentic stories that convey the purpose behind the products and services they choose. So telling stories in an interesting and engaging way within the corporate realm. And being the best docu-style corporate media company out there.”
Gatena admits that her passion is to elevate other people or as her mantra states “we lift as we climb.” So, it’s little wonder that she’s one of the principals of a collaborative project to create one-of-a kind marketing packages for other diverse businesses. The collaboration is the brainchild of Nino Campos, supplier diversity manager for Oracle, who developed the idea when he noticed that many diverse companies weren’t making a sufficient impression on procurement managers and supplier diversity professionals in matchmaking sessions. Campos figured a better way to engage these decision makers was through video or something very creative and innovative. The capabilities presentations will be uploaded to an online marketplace through the Technology Industry Group (TIG), which is comprised of 30 major technology groups whose goal is to make sure they have diverse suppliers throughout their supply chains.
For a woman who’s spent most of her adult life excelling at entrepreneurship by building, not one, but two successful businesses from scratch, seeing other people succeed in business is what inspires her.
“There is nothing better than seeing other people excel at doing something they love. I am so fortunate to be in a position where I get to foster this and connect people in a collaborative way, where they add value to each other and to others. I don’t know how I got so lucky to be in this position, but it’s an honor. I am ‘living the dream.'”