We love to celebrate innovative startups on the Twenty Mile Club and The Clerkenwell Brothers are every bit as creative and stand out as you could hope. Brothers Cass and Nick started unofficially in their local area of Clerkenwell approaching businesses to see if they wanted video and photography and it wasn’t long before the jobs at hand started getting bigger and bigger. Cue being approached by Aircharge to do their international ad campaign and the guys knew they were onto something truly great- you can watch the video here!It wasn’t long before two became three and they bought in Propercorn’s marketing manager Faraz, as their third founder. In the last year they’ve worked with more and more exciting brands, with special nods to Whole Foods UK, ITV, Little Moons, Oppo and Little Miracles! Just how easy is it to build a creative agency and keep the momentum up? Find out here.
Cass Horowitz (CH)
Nick Horowitz (NH)
Faraz Aghaei (FA)
CH 1991 NH 1989 FA 1991
Clerkenwell, London (obviously)
The Clerkenwell Brothers.
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do on leaving?
CH: Not at all. I left Bristol University to do a Masters in Journalism. That lead to 2 years freelancing in political broadcasting. Freelancing meant I had about 6 or 7 jobs across the two years so there was never really a clear-cut path.
FA: Absolutely not but I feel that the UK education system is geared up for that. Not many people actually end up doing the profession that they studied (much less so than a place like Germany). That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.
NH: Yes and No. I knew I wanted to work in the Film/TV industry but wasn’t exactly sure in which part of it that might be. For a long time, I was torn between producing and directing. I was advised to study something I enjoyed at University rather than anything film/TV related, which is why I studied History and Chinese. Generally, a well-known film school is a better shout than a University if you want to “study” film as they focus on practice over theory.
What is The Clerkenwell Brothers and when did you launch?
The Clerkenwell Brothers is a creative agency specialising in production, brand identity and brand awareness. We launched a year and two months ago.
How did the idea for The Clerkenwell Brothers come into motion?
CH: It all started with me and my brother (NH) going door to door in our local area in Clerkenwell. We knew the area well and were able to capitalise on the number of independent businesses that were keen to stand out. Our initial work focused on video and photography, often shooting and editing over the weekends and returning to our jobs on Monday. What started out as small budget jobs quickly grew as our clients kept coming back for more.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling?
CH: Being a startup agency with young founders it was initially a challenge to get businesses to take a risk and go with us. However once people started to see the quality and creativity of the work, then our age became less important.
Have you tried to raise investment?
We’ve never taken investment.
Any pearls of wisdom you could give others looking for investment?
Only do it if you need to.
When did co-founder Faraz Aghaei come on board and what has that meant for The Clerkenwell Brothers?
CH: Faraz coming on board is what launched the agency full-time. One of our original clients (Aircharge) had allowed us to pitch for a much larger chunk of their business. For this we needed some marketing and brand experience that me and Nick didn’t have.
FA: I’d been at Bristol with Cass and we met up again and got chatting about the Aircharge project. I’d had 2 great years as a brand and marketing manager at Propercorn but decided I wanted a new challenge.
NH: Getting Faraz on board also attracted a lot of food and drinks business, his experience at Propercorn was invaluable.
What roles do you all take on within the Clerkenwell Brothers?
Faraz works as an art director, Cass as Copy Writer and Nick as head of Production.
How big is your team in total and what advice would you give to anyone managing a team for the first time?
CA: We’re seven in total. Hiring is probably the most important thing you’ll do as a startup. When you don’t have a budget for big salaries finding driven people with energy and a willingness to learn is important.
Have you got business mentors?
NH: Not formally. We’ve taken advice from our parents as well as people in the industry. Rosie Arnold and Peter Clayton come to mind as early mentors.
Who do you seek out for support and advice (if not a mentor)?
CA: Often if we can’t do something we google it.
Do you ever doubt yourselves?
All: All the time.
How are you marketing The Clerkenwell Brothers?
We have never done any marketing as all of our new business tends to come from referrals. That’s the value of being honest with clients before you start and making sure you always do the best work you can.
How do you think The Clerkenwell Brothers differs from the competition out there?
FA: We were one of the first agencies to offer a full-service agency for startups. As a result, we’re used to being very quick and responsive to client’s ever-changing needs. We also have far less barriers between the client and the creatives.
Is there anything (in hind sight) that perhaps you wish you had done differently?
CH: Perhaps used another name – turns out Clerkenwell office space is fairly expensive!
FA: The founder in me now would say ask for more advice from people who had run agencies before. However, at the same time, that initial naivety at the beginning went a long way. We approached things with a new perspective, which was refreshing for the brands that ended up working with us.
NH: I’d have taken more time to perfect our model ever so slightly. You’ll never perfect it completely (only real-world learnings can help you achieve this) but having a solid idea of what you offer and how it will all work, will help you to sell yourself much better at the start.
Anything you would tell yourselves then, that you know now?
CH: Don’t panic
FA: Don’t panic
NH: Being afraid of failure is a real waste of time.
(incidentally we answered these questions separately)
What’s a typical day for you working on The Clerkenwell Brothers?
The best thing about this job is the variation we get from day to day. We work across such a variety of clients that we might go from making a video for Whole Foods to designing a travel brand for European Travel Ventures or shooting Ice Cream for Oppo.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
CH: I constantly panic about being late to things.
FA: Find people to set up a business with that have different traits to you. Doesn’t answer your question (apologies).
NH: I can be quite skeptical at times, which is a good and bad thing I guess. I definitely believe it’s good to have your guard up and to step back from situations in order to analyze them in isolation, but being too doubtful can slow you down to the point that you miss opportunities.
Any fuck ups along the way?
CH: We were about to launch the UK’s first ever pick and mix mochi bar in Whole Foods for our client Little Moons. The day before the launch Faraz cracked his skull playing football. Standing outside Whole Foods on High Street Ken with a mini saw chopping at a bit of wood I realised I should’ve kept up with his plans for the build. We’ve now learnt to be far more collaborative to avoid things like this happening again.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up The Clerkenwell Brothers?
FA: It has to be when we got applauded half way through a pitch for the people behind The Yacht Week and The Ski Week. We were pretty certain at that stage that we’d won the competitive pitching process.
CH: Upgrading into our new offices on Clerkenwell Road complete with meeting room and twice the space. It was a really big moment having literally 6 months ago had no office at all.
NH: Hiring someone for the first time. The first serious step; a step towards it being bigger than just you.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
FA: Don’t. We don’t want competition thanks.
CH: You may be good at selling in to clients and saying yes to jobs but being good at what you do will make you successful in the long-term.
NH: Take the leap as early as you feasibly can. There’s a long road ahead of you, with much to learn along the way.
What do you think is next for The Clerkenwell Brothers in the coming next year?
All: We want to keep growing our team. We have some really exciting new brands launching this year, including new branding for vegan food provider Spice box. We’re also excited to start working with Cano Water and on PR for Little Moons.
What’s the dream?
To run campaigns that are remembered and to build a company full of clever, creative people.
Finally if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
CH: Something political
FA: Working in another agency.
NH: I’d still be doing what I’m doing but as a freelance. When you’re lucky enough to make your avocation, your vocation, you don’t change that for anything.
Just For Fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
Not being 30
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…
We don’t look
The Twenty Mile Club is….
a great idea!
Head to the Clerkenwell Brother’s website here