Stronger Together: A Family In Business
Most parents have helped their sons and daughters with any number of school projects. But unless you’re Judy Gatena, they have not been asked to help build a company from the ground up as part of one.
In 2008, Gatena, now CEO of REP Interactive, a corporate and commercial video production agency, was posed a homework question by her son, Steve, then a public relations graduate student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles: think of a job that couldn’t exist five years ago and that could boom in the next five years. What would it be?
The answer was simple: with YouTube a recent startup and the videos being posted of low production value, there should be a company that makes professional, high-quality videos online. “Why don’t you go start that?” As with many homework projects, that “you” in short order became “we.”
“Steve didn’t have the funding to launch a company, but he needed advice on how to do it anyway,” said Gatena. “What started as a small block of time each week, about 20 hours, grew to 60.” That commitment forced a choice between leaving Abacus One, a computer and computer supplies company she founded in 1990, and mentoring a budding serial entrepreneur. She chose the latter.
With no formal business education or experienced mentors to guide her, Gatena had worked solely by intuition, hard work and hard knocks in building Abacus One. Pulling from the lessons she learned during that experience, mother and son tested the market to validate their business case. To avoid outside financing, they self-funded videos and did most of the work themselves. And, to teach her son about risk and how business really works, she negotiated equity in the fledging company in lieu of compensation. They used the same strategy in hiring partner Chris Carter to handle sales and marketing.
They launched Real Estate Productions (REP) in 2009 to produce top-tier real estate rental and sales videos for distribution via emerging digital platforms like YouTube. It soon would evolve into a full-service agency. Six years later, Gatena became majority shareholder when Steve sold his shares in REP Interactive to become CEO of Helinet Aviation and after that to launch pray.com.
Named one of Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies in 2016, REP Interactive now has three offices on both coasts and boasts a blue-chip client list of about 140 clients. Among them are the American Heart Association, Century 21, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Dermalogica Skin Care, Los Angeles Dodgers, National Institutes of Health, Red Bull, Sotheby’s International Realty and The Boeing Company. It also has a marketing partnership with Diversity Professional magazine.
Just like family
Many businesses tout as the reason for their success the sentimental claim that they and their clients are “just like family.” REP Interactive lives it.
“We travel the world with our clients. We’re connected to their people. We’re an extension of their brands,” said Gatena, who last year completed the executive education program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. “We fully immerse ourselves in the client’s business to understand why they do what they do, how that matters, and why it’s important.” That founding strategy helped REP Interactive win one of its first and largest clients, Coldwell Banker, one of the country’s most innovative and respected national real estate brands.
“Coldwell Banker took a chance on a small, entrepreneurial business,” said Gatena, whose first projects included agent success stories. “But the more we delivered, the more creative freedom they gave us.” And the more the trust driving that relationship grew.
REP Interactive has produced scores of agent and broker testimonials around the country, as well as the opening videos for Coldwell Banker’s annual business conference, videos for new product launches such as the CBx app, and live streams of thought leadership content from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It also produced a heartstring-tugging, award-winning documentary, “Owen and Haatchi: The Story of a Boy and His Dog,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIXoYHYEnkg) to help promote Coldwell Banker’s annual Homes for Dogs National Adoption Weekend campaign. The agency is the creative force behind the “World’s Most Expensive Homes” YouTube series, which has attracted more than 1 million views.
“We have a track record of being trailblazers in our industry with a long legacy of first-to-market marketing approaches,” said Coldwell Banker Media Director Lindsay Listanski, who has worked with Gatena and her team for seven years. “Having a sense of entrepreneurship is a core part of the real estate business. That’s also true of REP Interactive. We trust them to work directly with our agents because they truly understand our business and our network of 94,000 sales professionals across the world. In business, it can be rare to find a partner you can trust, respect and care for like you would your own family. For the past decade, the REP Interactive team has truly become an extension of the Coldwell Banker family and we couldn’t be more grateful to have them in our lives both personally and professionally.”
We travel the world with our clients. We’re connected to their people. We’re an extension of their brands.
OWEN AND HAATCHI: THE STORY OF A BOY AND HIS DOG»
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