The cutthroat nature of the commercial production sector is how Sarah Eolin first came up with the idea for Rocket Film. Instead of trying to match what other production companies were doing, this female entrepreneur decided that she wanted to change the game completely.
Sarah believes that instead of focusing purely on stress and competition, strong collaborations between industry professionals is the real driving force behind great work. This belief paired with the rapid changes taking place in the content creation and commercial production sector is what Rocket Film was built on.
We caught up with Sarah to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey to date.
What did you eat for breakfast?
Today, I had bacon quiche, because, bacon. I usually just have two lattes from my Nespresso machine that I love like a sister (sorry, actual sister!! I love you too!) and wait for lunch.
What’s your workout?
The 7-minute workout is my go to. Two years ago, I had a wash of insanity and ran (and trained diligently for) a half-marathon… and I keep saying I need to start running again. You know, I really need to start running again….
What picture is on your phone’s home screen? It’s my favorite picture I’ve ever taken. It was during an impromptu dance party with my son who was 4 at the time. He was putting on a hat (more Justin Timberlake style than Fred Astaire) and somehow it’s just a magical photo. I love how clearly in focus his eyes are, and I love that he’s wearing a shirt my mom got him from her 4-week solo trip to Australia that she was nervous to take, but turned into the best thing she’s ever done. There are a whole lot of things in this photo that is what makes everything right with the world.
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
Rocket Film is 7 months old. We work primarily in commercial production, branded content, and are starting to move into pure entertainment projects as well. The business itself can be very cutthroat, competitive, and stressful. Those three adjectives don’t inspire great work, but you can only hope to change the industry, if you change yourself first. So we started Rocket to change that paradigm. We always say we’re a culture, not a company. Our directors are collaborative, not competitive. We foster projects for personal growth and for charitable organizations we believe in. We believe good work gets good work. The external pressures of the industry are still intense, but with a strong company core, you feel less of it.
What do you see for your future?
I think the world of commercials is rapidly changing and how content is created is going to turn on its head. I think the lines of commercials and entertainment are going to blur, and that creativity is going to have a renaissance. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I want to push for that renaissance!
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
We have a roster of 9 directors, 2 EP’s, 4 sales representatives, an office manager and our outside accounting department. When productions come in, we inflate to 40-100 people.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
We are incredibly lucky and self funded. Mainly, by staying very very lean and not bringing on unnecessary overhead or “ego items.” I will give a huge shout out to my financial advisors Nancy and Margaret at NEED Financial Services, who are equal parts advisor, guru, therapist, and cheerleader.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
In the world of advertising and production, things are constantly in flux, and it’s extremely competitive– the very reasons why we love it and hate it! Getting the word out about the amazing talent we have on our roster and finding new client collaborations are our challenges and our opportunity. There’s so much “new” happening in this space that its a huge opportunity to shape what you think the future should be and pitch ideas you believe in.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame?
A moment that rings out to me is one that happened a few months ago. It was the start of a pre-production meeting and was sitting next to someone that I’d known since I was 21 years old when we were both the lowest of the low on the totem pole. There we sat, 19 years later as the owner of the production company, and the Group Creative Director of the agency. That old saying that hard work pays off truly did in our case, and we stayed friends and always looked out for each other. That means the world to me.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love being able to shape the company along with my partners in a way that I’d always imagined. I like only having myself to blame. I love finding new talent and having their ideas give me goosebumps.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
Honesty and fairness above all else. Without that, you have nothing. From your employees, to your vendors, to your clients, you’re only as good as your word and integrity. You lose that? There’s nothing left. Everyone at Rocket is tied to that core value. Seems like that should be a given everywhere, but sadly, it’s not.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
I don’t think I have a superpower… but I have learned over time to not sweat the small stuff, and to move on. Always listen and always try to see both sides of things. How is the client coming to this project? How is the director seeing it? The more people understand different perspectives, the better they work together, the better the communication is. and the better the work.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
I admire Reese Witherspoon and the film company she’s created, focusing on creating strong female lead roles. Her speech she gave a the Glamour Awards in 2015 when she called out the line in movies where the girl inevitably turns to the guy and says, “What do we do now?!” What do we do now??? (Pause here while all women everywhere shake their heads and tighten their fists in rage.) I love that she nailed what a bag of horse shit and lazy storytelling that line is. This is passive misogyny and has no place in the modern world. I loved “Wild.” I love “Big Little Lies.” I love her no nonsense attitude and steadfast resolve.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
The best thing is the support you get from other women. A group of women is a powerful force!!! I have wonderful mentors and confidants that are an amazing support system of honest feedback and sage advice. The worst part, is the passive misogyny. When you’re blindly looked over as people don’t realize “you’re the leader” even when you’ve been most obviously leading. When I’m out with male colleagues at a restaurant, the bill is always given to them, not to me (even when it was my name on the reservation, I ordered the wine… it’s MY name on the credit card that was laid down…) That bugs me. We had someone advising us when we were setting up the company who said, “I guess Sara will be Secretary of the company,” assigning President and Vice-President to the two men. Wait, because I’m the only female? It was said so matter of factly and without an awareness. It’s stupid shit like that, that just annoys me. It’s passively cutting me down as not being as important or having as much power, just because I’m female. Happy to say, me and my 2 male partners are equal, each holding the title of “Partner” … and the advisor is no longer with us.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
I hate to generalize based on sex. People are people and some are great and some are terrible. In general, I think the people who are patient, who listen, who stick to what they think is right and don’t back down are the best entrepreneurs. You need to have what I call the Kenny Rogers touch– know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
My dad was a treasure trove of sound bite advice. Everything from, “Don’t date guys who pick you up by honking in the driveway,” to “You can’t make dumb people smart.” But the thing I think of everyday and in every decision I make is, “The right decision is the one you’ll look back on in 5 years and be happy to did it.” I hate that he’s right. So often the easier choice is the one that works as a short term fix, but in the long term, makes things worse. Make the hard decision now, knowing it may be difficult for a moment, but so much better in the long run. I think about that when it comes to my son, too. Will working till 9pm make more of a difference than seeing him at night, reading him a book and tucking him in? In 5 years, which am I going to be more happy that I did?? It makes things crystal clear.