From $80K In Debt To $1.2M In 4 Years With A Video Production Company

Published: March 2nd, 2023
Trevor Rappleye
Founder, FranchiseFilming
from Houston, TX, USA
started January 2015
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Trevor Rappleye and I own Franchise Filming, a full-service video production company that helps franchisors and suppliers across the country drive leads and win more clients.

The flagship product we employ is our VIP membership model, designed to provide clients with a world-class customer experience. The output is the delivery of professional video content, delivered on a monthly basis, but without the typical production hassles. That means there are no travel costs, no hidden fees, and no cost overruns, and clients receive fully edited, completed videos in as little as five-to-10 business days.

Our primary customers include brands, vendors, and suppliers of the franchising industry, all of whom benefit from the inspiring video content we create for a variety of uses. We routinely shoot and produce videos such as franchisor and franchisee testimonials, case studies, marketing content, training sessions, instructional support videos, commercials, and even blooper reels.

At FranchiseFilming, we pride ourselves on adhering to the three tenets of our VIP Membership Model:

  1. No travel fees - we handle scheduling, travel, and logistics
  2. No scripts - just authentic stories told by real brand representatives
  3. No long waits for delivery - videos are edited and delivered in 10 days or less

FranchiseFilming was founded in 2019 and, since that time, the company has experienced an astonishing 3,200% growth rate. As the founder of the company, I went from $80,000 in credit card debt to $1.2 million in revenue in just four short years.


It’s better to be No. 1 in a small niche, than No. 50 in a big one. You become the go-to resource quicker that way.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I guess you could say I started my career early on. I began filming when I was 12 years old - filming videos on my parent’s oversized, shoulder-held VHS camera. I’ve been in love with filming ever since.

I filmed wedding parties from 2010-2015, eventually scaling my burgeoning business to over 100 engagements a year by 2016. But it was a very low profit and a lot of work. And the brides never came back - so all that work didn’t exactly lead to recurring client work.

In high school, I worked with KBFT TV - our student-run television network, where my passion picked up. At 17, I was working as an intern at KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento. Around that time, I found the first of my video companies, We began filming corporate events, and small business videos in 2015 and fell into franchising in 2019.

Around that time, CorporateFilming picked up its first franchising client, Go Minis, shortly thereafter. In all seriousness, we fell into this path — but we also took the risk of breaking into a new niche that was severely underserved.

Going into franchising, I didn’t know the difference between a franchise, a franchisor, and a franchisee. I didn’t understand the business model, and I felt like a real newbie. But I slowly learned how the industry operated, and I was ready to conquer.

Go Minis recommended we attend the industry’s largest trade show - the International Franchise Association’s Annual Convention. The franchising industry is worth a combined $820 billion, but I was worried about personally covering the $1,500 registration fee. But this investment would pay off in spades - and I knew it the minute I walked through the convention floor. It was my ‘Aha!’ moment!

Of the thousands of franchise brand exhibitors at the IFA Convention, less than a handful had any visible video content in their booths. And those that did have videos that were so terrible, I had to force myself not to cringe when making conversation. I didn’t just see a wide-open opportunity, I saw the chance to become the leading service provider in a niche industry.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first service.

A big part of evolving as a business - and as an owner of a business - is listening and learning. As well as doing your homework on the value proposition you have to offer. My story is no different. Thankfully, I had my father and a business coach who offered me great advice - which I took. The two most memorable takeaways were:

  • It’s better to be No. 1 in a small niche, than No. 50 in a big one. You become the go-to resource quicker that way.

  • The 80/20 Rule. In business and life, 80% of our success comes from only 20% of our activity. By focusing on the 20% that works and generates revenue, any business venture can skyrocket with growth. Our 20% activity was the franchising industry — and now it’s become 80% of our focus. Hence, our tremendous growth is tied back to our niche focus, our talented team, and the passion our brand has for the story.

To refine my business model, I spoke to many franchisors, always asking the same question, “...why weren’t any brands using video? All this money allocated to marketing departments, but no video?”

I listened carefully to their reasons for avoiding this area. Most were worried about associated costs. There were flights involved, lodging, and other logistics. Many others thought it took too long - sometimes several months - to get their videos produced. Almost all thought that video was too expensive of a proposition.

Using their insight, I knew I had to come up with a plan that addressed these concerns and fit with my go-to-market philosophies. And it had to be a pain point solution that no other competitor currently offered. So, in 2020 I developed FranchiseFilming’s key value proposition - the VIP Subscription Service. Here’s how it works:

Franchisors prebook for the year, reserving a certain amount of filming days and videos that they want at a discounted rate. This saves the brand a ton of time, resources, and money. We allow a franchisor to get content of their franchisees and customers on a national scale so that they capture the various stories within their brand, but with zero hassle on their end.

Just tell us where to go, and we schedule, film, and edit all of it. This allows us to plan far in advance on whom to hire, where, and when. The model asks very little of franchisors and franchisees, who are only expected to give up very little of their time for the videos.

That’s why franchisors and suppliers love to use us – it’s because we handle all the logistics and the scheduling. You want us to film in South Carolina? Utah? Seattle? Just let us know, and we’ll take care of the rest.

That’s it. That’s the VIP Subscription Service that sets FranchiseFilming apart from the competition. In the end, all we ask from franchise clients is an hour a month to hop on a monthly call.

It’s OK to ask the dumb question if you’re unsure - you won’t be penalized for it. Trying to bluff your way through it may work for a little bit, but you’ll eventually be exposed for the fraud that you are.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Even though FranchiseFilming had a solid value proposition and key differentiators that set us apart from other video production companies, the launch of our business still wasn’t exactly smooth. Mind you - this was back in 2020. As it turns out, trying to sell and set up onsite video production services during the advent of a global pandemic is a tad difficult.

Clients were understandably nervous about the process. I had to think of a solution. The big Hollywood movie studios and TV production crews hadn’t ceased to film. They simply followed the CDC guidance for their industry. That’s when I learned about onsite Covid Safety Officers. Their job was to make sure we followed all of the public health recommendations on set. It was an added cost that reduced my profit margin, yes, but it also allowed us to get moving so we could generate revenue.

After solving this problem, I hit the phones HARD throughout 2020. Up at 5:00 a.m. on weekdays, drumming up business. I was discouraged at times when companies complained of having no money for the video. Revenue was down everywhere.

But I remembered a motivating quote I once heard about Corporate America. ‘Budgets are like sinks. They always fill back up.’

But the launch was going slow. Only 5% agreed to a meeting to discuss the video. Most laughed off the timing of the offer. In franchising, I was an ‘outsider’ with no influence and no track record of success, which makes it hard to convince people you’re the right video vendor. I kept thinking.

I realized I had to convince and educate my target market. So I started making webinar videos to send to people as follow-ups. I was once told that people always go back to the ones who taught them. So I began to invite guests - and the focus of these webinars was not about selling - not yet anyway - it was about educating my target audience.

The biggest lessons I learned were about the value of resilience. In retrospect, I'm even proud of overcoming the obstacles I did. I had a single-minded focus. I knew I could succeed if I had half an opportunity. Eventually, I had that and more.

Your sales pipeline should always be full of prospects. That’s why they call it a pipeline.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Without a doubt, FranchiseFilming’s clients come back again and again because we simplify the entire process - we make it easy for them. We give them their time back. And that’s what’s most precious to these busy franchise executives who run these companies.

We under-promise, and over-deliver - every single time.

We never hit clients with nit-picky charges or surprise bills - we intentionally waive certain costs.

As for new clients, referrals have been the name of the game. My biggest clients were more than happy to recommend me to others. And franchising is a big industry, but it’s a small audience of brands and executives. It didn’t take long for word to get around that we offered something special. And brands are notorious for wanting to keep up with the competition. That also worked in our favor.

Today, about 50% of our new deals happen thanks to referrals from satisfied clients.

That’s not to say we don’t do brand awareness of our own - we do! In fact, we’re prolific users of social media. Every day, on LinkedIn and other channels, we’re advising on video marketing. We share data and statistics that reveal the power of this medium. We’re uploading videos from our current shoots - tagging our clients, and showing what goes on behind the scenes.

We want to make it look like FranchiseFilming is the greatest company in the world, and we’re having the most fun on the job possible. Both of these statements are true, of course, but to convince others does take social proof.

As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, scaling our company properly while managing costs, we’re going to continue to grow. Our commitment is unwavering. We’re dedicated to the quality of our product and providing concierge-level customer service for our clients.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’ve never done better as a company than at this moment. As we harness this momentum, we’re getting faster and leaner. And we’re always adapting our procedures - willing to innovate and try new things. We can’t stay stale.

As for the plans for FranchiseFilming’s future - our near-term goal is to double our revenue, staff, video output, and client roster. We’ve found that our most profitable projects are training videos - so we’re looking to concentrate more effort on this area. Refining our business model is an ongoing effort. We’re taking the industry’s dull Powerpoint training presentations and turning them into dynamic video sessions that engage, entertain, and impress.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Oh, I’ve made some big mistakes along the way. When I first got into franchising, I didn’t know the difference between a franchise, a franchisor, and a franchisee. As I later learned, the franchisee is the individual owner of the franchise concept (such as McDonald’s or ServPro), and the franchisor sells the rights to prospective franchisees to invest in their proven systems.

In my first big new business meeting, I came across as quite uninformed about this distinction. I kept trying to correct the person speaking to me, stating, ‘You mean you’re the franchise, right? Because franchisor just doesn’t sound isn’t right.’ As you can imagine, I didn’t exactly close that deal.

But I did learn a powerful lesson from the experience. It’s OK to ask the dumb question if you’re unsure - you won’t be penalized for it. Trying to bluff your way through it may work for a little bit, but you’ll eventually be exposed for the fraud that you are. Moreover, people will appreciate your attempt to understand their business model. Remember, they were once a newbie, too.

Another example that comes to mind involves complacency after initial success. I remember back in 2021, we lost out on a $100,000 deal that I was certain would close. So, I got complacent and stopped selling for weeks. That was a bad strategy. In the end, the prospect backed out, and I was floored. I‘ve since learned not to rely on one big sale. Your sales pipeline should always be full of prospects. That’s why they call it a pipeline. Until the check clears, a deal is not closed.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use a software suite called, an operating system with tools and processes that manage every aspect of our work. It integrates everything, which is helpful because we need to guarantee output no matter where we film or who’s doing it.

As for our turnkey process, we developed a 350-step checklist. Milestones are always met. If something does go wrong, we can find out what happened. When things get hectic, the system never fails to record the progress we’ve already accomplished. It’s all about completions designed to serve the client 100%. Using this platform has allowed me to expand my passion from videos and filming to operational management.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

One example that comes to mind is the book, ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,’ by John C. Maxwell. Chapter one is “The Law of the Lid,” which holds that no matter how good team members are, companies will never outgrow the CEO’s knowledge - because the leader is the figurative lid.

Another example is a book called, ‘Simplify,’ authored by Al Koch. In it, Koch talks about a simple premise - if you don’t simplify, you’ll never scale. Just strive to do a few things well - and do them well every single time. Always keep things in perspective - super simple.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

One piece of advice - there’s nothing wrong with being a one-man band - and working solely for yourself. But don’t be mad if you never scale up and progress. To truly grow your operation - if that’s what you want - you have to learn to delegate or you will go extinct. You have to let go, set up systems, and scale your operation. The best bet? Find yourself an extremely capable, part-time assistant who can at least handle your scheduling. This will give you back a minimum of five hours a week, which is 20 hours per month. All told, that’s two full business days.

And here’s a quote for all the entrepreneurial hustlers out there. ‘You’re not as good as you think you are.’ Guess what? Neither am I. Hearing this quote for the first time humbled me and allowed me to see a completely different perspective.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes! FranchiseFilming is amid a hiring blitz! We’re looking for video editors, videographers, and our first-ever full-time sales position - dedicated solely to new business development. In the end, we’re always looking for talented people - and thankfully, I’ve found that there are a lot of them still out there.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!