By: Stephanie Scott
Photos by: Deniece Griffin
Ashley Richardson and Nia Bentham are the co-founders of Totem Agency. Both recently graduated from Georgia State – Ashley, with a B.S. in Economics and a minor in Entrepreneurship, and Nia with a B.A. in Film and a minor in Theatre. Together, they are building a community of creatives to produce intriguing digital content for companies and brands.
“If there’s a need that your business is satisfying, then ultimately, you’re going to develop into something that is wildly successful.”
What is Totem Agency?
Ashley: Totem Agency is a visual marketing agency. We make creative digital content for small businesses and personal brands. I started the business because I’m in the creative industry and I wanted to find a way to network with like-minded creatives to build a portfolio. I felt there needed to be a system that was inclusive to people who weren’t really established yet. I wanted an inclusive space for creatives to be able to learn and grow together. Also, I found that small businesses don’t have the budget to make creative content like large corporations. I wanted to focus on meeting the needs of small businesses for an affordable price.
How does Nia contribute to Totem Agency?
Ashley: I met Nia while attending Georgia State. A few months after founding Totem, she joined me and we’ve been working on growing the business together ever since. I shared the vision with her and from there we developed our portfolio to share with potential clients. We really took time to develop our portfolio, our website, and our social media platforms. We had our official launch party at the LaunchGSU Student Incubator in Spring 2018.
Nia: I’ve been working on the framework, operations and the brand aesthetic of Totem Agency. We’re currently working on the sales and business strategy for the company.
How does Totem Agency make its revenue?
Ashley: We have two ways of making revenue. We have studio space that photographers and videographers can rent out to create content. We also make money from producing marketing content for companies.
Does Totem Agency have investors?
Ashley: So far, I’ve put about $1,500 of my own money. We also received seed funding from the Startup Incubation and Mentorship (ENI 4201) class here at Georgia State.
Nia: My father has helped out a lot, and we also received monetary gifts from guests at our launch party. Now, all the revenue that we make from clients and renting out the studio, we invest back into the company.
What did you learn from your ENI courses that has helped you with your business?
Ashley: I learned the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, and more importantly, how to receive constructive criticism and feedback. I learned how to communicate and network with people. Our mentor is Instructor, Ken Mathis, who taught the ENI 4201 course. His mentorship has had a great impact on us and our business.
What have you sacrificed for Totem Agency?
Nia: I’ve sacrificed living the life of a regular 20-something year old just coming out of college. I’m not going to events, parties, vacations or doing things that a normal young adult would be doing. I’ve sacrificed friendships and relationships. I wanted to leave the state when I graduated and move to New York or Los Angeles, but I’ve had to remind myself to stick with it and invest in my work with Totem Agency. I’m sacrificing now, so that later I will be able to go on vacations and enjoy the fruits of my hard work.
Ashley: I’ve sacrificed a lot of time. I’ve also sacrificed my financial security. For example, in order to put more into my business, I quit my job because I couldn’t do both. My other job was very time consuming and stressful. I didn’t want that to negatively affect my business. My relationships with family and friends also had to change. I can’t surround myself with anyone who is not as focused and driven as I am, because I don’t want to lose focus.
Where do you see Totem Agency going in the future?
Nia: It’s going to be a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
Ashley: It will. I would say there is a need for what we have to offer. If there’s a need that your business is satisfying, then ultimately, you’re going to develop into something that is wildly successful. We’re creative people that love what we’re doing. When you love what you’re doing, you can guarantee that your time isn’t going to waste. We’re constantly being seen by others, we’re constantly growing and building our brand. We’re destined to be huge.
Nia: We want to create a culture. I think people are very intrigued by who we are and what we do. When they see what we’re doing, they become more invested. I think in partnering with Georgia State, using our connections and resources, and opening our network to larger demographics, we’re creating a community.
What three things does someone need to be an entrepreneur?
Nia: Patience, integrity, and commitment. You have to be real with yourself – you have to know when you’re doing wrong, when you’re doing great, when to pat yourself on the back, and when to tell yourself to get it together.
Ashley: Passion, persistence, and accountability. Those are the pillars of being an entrepreneur. Once you’re passionate, then you’ll be committed, then you’ll be accountable.