My Animation Passion Led Me To Starting A $480K/Year Business

Alex Safavinia
$40K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
10
Employees
Explainer Videoly...
from Kuala Lumpur
started August 2011
$40,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
10
Employees
551K
alexa rank
2.6K
followers
617
followers
market size
$37.4B
avg revenue (monthly)
$34.3K
starting costs
$11.7K
gross margin
93%
time to build
210 days
average product price
$4500
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Twitter, Instagram, Canva
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
9 Tips
Discover what tools Alex reccommends to grow your business!
social media
productivity
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Start An Explainer Video Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Alex Safavinia, the CEO and Creative Director of Kasra Design, also known as Explainer Videoly. My company produces custom animated and live-action explainer videos for corporate clients, enterprises, startups, and nonprofits. We’ve produced videos for some of the most amazing brands around, such as Shell, Visa, Panasonic, League of Legends Wild Rift, IATA, Ogilvy, Tokio Marine, HP, and many more.

We first started our operations in Kuala Lumpur with a small team. Due to the increase in demands, we expanded our team size in less than a year. In the first year, we were working on 1 to 2 projects every month, and it increased to 3 to 4 projects a month in the second year. This year, we expanded to Singapore (Explainer Videoly Pte. Ltd.) to better serve our international clients. As of today, we have completed more than 700 projects, with over 400 clients from around the world.

my-passion-in-animation-led-me-to-starting-a-480k-year-business

When we started, we generated around USD70k in the first year. As of today, our revenue increased to more than half a million dollars per year. With the opening of our Singapore office, we foresee that it will reach a million dollars in 2 years.

my-passion-in-animation-led-me-to-starting-a-480k-year-business

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

My background is in Creative Multimedia and Motion Design. Animation has always been a subject that fascinates me.

After completing my studies in Creative Multimedia, I saw the opportunity to start a business that offers what inspired me best – animation.

When I started my animation production business, explainer video was still a relatively new concept as most businesses were still skeptical about the idea of using animated videos to promote their businesses. At that point, I knew that animation would have a good future since it is a medium with many styles and possibilities. You can turn any idea or concept into animation, it’s limitless.

Make sure you are going to do things better or different than the current competition that started before you. Your goal must be to improve things from the customer’s point of view.

The initial phase was rather challenging as I did not have much capital to invest into business tools, large offices (we operated from a SOHO), and proper marketing. We started reaching out to different companies through email marketing, sending tons of emails daily to shout out about the things we do. Our initial target audiences were startups and tech companies as they were the ones who were familiar with explainer videos and the benefits they could get in building brand presence.

Looking back, I think that those sleepless nights were worth every second.

Take us through the process of designing your digital services.

We sell digital content, or I would say digital goods. The process of creating our ‘product’ involves many stages. We usually start with the script, which sets the foundation for us to develop the visual ideas at a later stage. At the same time, we will also identify the style to use for our clients’ videos. Everything we do is created from scratch, customized according to our client’s requirements and branding.

Next, we will do sketches to illustrate the ideas we have for each scene of the video, followed by a detailed fully illustrated storyboard so our clients can see each scene of the video before we animate.

my-passion-in-animation-led-me-to-starting-a-480k-year-business

The challenge that most of our clients have, is identifying a style of video that resonates with their brands as they do not have the creative capacity and training to do so. There are also times that some clients are unable to picture the outcome of their video. That’s why we do things by stages to ensure that our clients can visualize what they will be getting and to set their expectations right.

Describe the process of launching the business.

To be honest, I just jumped straight into it by creating the website, all by myself. We didn’t have a ‘launch’ when we first started. My initial strategy, as mentioned earlier, was to raise awareness about the services we offered through email marketing. And it worked. We targeted startups and tech companies that we found through different directories and sources online. Our emails were mainly to introduce what we do. We also provided links to our portfolio as it was important for those receiving our emails to see the quality of work that we produced.

We also focused on our social media channels such as Youtube and Vimeo channels to showcase the great things we do. It took us 6 months to see some real results, where steady streams of orders started pouring in, from new clients and many referrals from happy clients.

Make sure to have enough funding for at least 6 months or even a year. It takes time to get a steady stream of clients, so you must have enough until you get there.

In terms of financing the business, it was my savings. The initial costs were spent on the basics such as desktop computers, animation software, website hosting, electric bills, and so on. My partner and I were not receiving actual salaries, but we had a part-time illustrator who did most of the illustrations for the animation, while I did the animation by myself.

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

I would say the quality of service and the videos that we produced helped us to attract and retain customers. We got many happy, satisfied customers who came back to us for more videos, and they have also referred more clients to us. Instead of getting comfortable with our service quality, we kept pushing the envelope (in terms of technology and techniques) and competing with the bigger players around the world. That strategy helped us to have an edge over the thousands of competitors out there.

If you do tons of marketing but your service doesn’t leave a smile on your client’s face, you won’t get anywhere.

We also priced our services at an affordable rate to get more clients and gave discounts depending on our workload For referrals, we offered discounts to our loyal customers to ensure the continuity of business relationships.

We ran ads on Google and Facebook to attract new customers. To be honest, we felt Google was the best option as it did help us boost our brand presence and expand our client networks in different parts of the world.

In this industry, customer service is very important as we work with clients in all stages of production. Timely and respectful communication is part and parcel of the job. Meeting deadlines is also extremely important, so we always made sure that we delivered premium quality work, on time. I don’t believe in overpromising and underdelivering.

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

Today, our profits have tripled or quadrupled from when we started in 2011. Most of our clients are based in other regions mainly North America, Australia, and Europe. The production team is fully based in Malaysia, at this point. We have in-house copywriters, illustrators, 2D & 3D animators. My day-to-day job involves overseeing the creative part of our work, and if the schedules are tight, I will assist the team with animations. As this is an industry that constantly evolves, we also spend time on R&D, new technologies, and techniques to improve the quality of our services.

As mentioned earlier, we have set up a new company in Singapore due to its unique appeal as an international hub. I plan to move our main operations to Singapore in the next two years. And I hope with this shift, we will be able to attract more talents from across the regions as well as to attain more clients.

my-passion-in-animation-led-me-to-starting-a-480k-year-business

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

They say go big or go home. That’s not what we did and I am glad we didn’t. If we wanted to go big from the jump start, we had to get investors which meant sharing the business or worse losing the business if things didn’t work out quickly. I took the long road. While it took 2 years to see a proper revenue, it was all worth it. Since then, we expanded and improved without having a single creditor or investor. My point is, patience is needed when you start a business, especially in B2B business.

The second thing that I learned is the importance of marketing and good service. They work hand in hand. On the contrary, if you do tons of marketing but your service doesn’t leave a smile on your client’s face, you won’t get anywhere. Having satisfied customers is quite difficult, I know that. But if you don’t focus on it, you will have to rely solely on marketing. People are more conscious about shopping online and they check reviews. If they come across some negative reviews, they won’t bother contacting you in the first place. And that means you spent on marketing to have them find you, and then just to cut you loose because of some negative reviews.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Basecamp and Slack for project management. We like the platform as it is user-friendly as not all our clients are tech-savvy. It is also more efficient when we keep all communications on a platform to ensure that we don’t miss any important details during production. In our animation production pipeline, we use Adobe Suites, scripts, 2.5D plugins, and a couple of 3D software and 3D plugins.

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

As a creative director, the most influential place to get inspiration for me is creating blogs and magazines such as Motionographer, Stash Magazine, iLoveTypography, Dribbble, and Behance, to name a few.

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

Do market research first. Make sure you are going to do things better or different than the current competition that started before you. Your goal must be to improve things from the customer’s point of view.

Make sure to have enough funding for at least 6 months or even a year. It takes time to get a steady stream of clients, so you must have enough until you get there.

Pay attention to the image of your business. We re-branded 3 times within 5 years and every time, it worked very well for us.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always on the lookout for talented illustrators and animators.

The illustrator is in-charge of conceptualizing and creating unique styles for our clients, developing visual ideas for storyboards, and generally anything related to illustrations and graphic design.

The animator must know how to make the characters and objects move seamlessly using Adobe After Effects. We do appreciate a candidate who is well-versed with 3D software as well.

For us, a portfolio is of utmost importance. So, for those who are interested, they must include a link to their online portfolio or share their past work and assignments with us.

Where can we go to learn more?

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

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Alex Safavinia   Founder of Explainer Videoly Pte. Ltd.
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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