Tamara Thompson is an award-winning documentary film director, entrepreneur and CEO of Serious Take Productions. She found her niche in video production by connecting through storytelling. She helps successful entrepreneurs and businesses to inspire through video. She left corporate America in 2012 and built her business and team generating multiple 5 figures a month consistently.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:01]6 – When Tamara left the corporate world, she left it to follow a passion—she turned a hobby into a career
- [02:54] – Tamara didn’t just roll into entrepreneurship, she went back to school
- [03:39] – Tamara produced a video for The Freedom Journal
- [04:15] – Value Bomb Drop – Video production allows you to connect, create, and inspire so don’t overlook the value of storytelling
- [06:34] – What is something you’ve changed your mind about in the last 6 months? “I realized that—if I wanted to get somewhere—I needed to start delegating more.”
- [08:28] – Everyone needs to cut their teeth as a freelancer
- [09:43] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment – “During the process of filming Inspired by Eleven, I ended up ignoring a client that was worth 85% of our income. Not only that, but my car broke down driving between Seattle and LA.”
- [14:45] – Sometimes you need to hustle to figure out what you need to do next
- [15:40] – Suck it up and do it—that’s what it means to be an entrepreneur
- [16:07] – What do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from your story?
- [16:13] – People, once they put their mind to it, can do anything
- [16:28] – Entrepreneurial AH–HA Moment – Figuring out how to build business relationships and connecting with people
- [20:20] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Stability of cash flow”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Say yes to success”
- What’s the personal habit that contributes to your success? – Persistence
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Trello
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Four Agreements
- [25:00]– Parting piece of guidance – “Stay true to your vision and keep taking action.”
- [26:54] – TheMasteryJournal.com – Master productivity, discipline and focus in 100 days!
Thompson: I am always ready to ignite, especially with you John.
Dumas: Woo! Tamara is an award-winning documentary film director, entrepreneur, and CEO of Serious Take Productions. She found her niche in video production by connecting through story-telling. She helps successful entrepreneurs and businesses to inspire through video. Tamara left corporate America in 2012 to build her business and teem it to a place where they’re now doing multiple five figures a month consistently. Tamara, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Thompson: Other than being a filmmaker, I’ve done a lot of cool things. I love golfing, just out there for all the golfers out there. It was funny, when I left the corporate world and I used to do film-making for fun. Basically, back when YouTube started it was all about fun and creating silly YouTube videos, and my family always convinced me to make a career out of it. I was like, “No, no, no, it’s a hobby, really.” Right?
It’s just a hobby. About four years after that after YouTube started taking off, I was like, “Man, I really should have jumped on that YouTube train,” and so I basically went back to school at The Art Institute of Seattle for digital filmmaking and video production, and then started pursuing my passion that way, by making a career and realizing that that’s what I was most passionate about at the time because I was in the fitness industry, which I love health and fitness, it’s important, but I’m a total creative as well. So, I was like, “How do I make working out creative other than functional training on a bosu ball?” So it’s a little bit on that side.
And I just really started taking off even more recently in the last 8 months with the business and then I moved down to California in the end of April from Seattle. I was born and raised in Seattle, and my partner, as well as life partner, Danielle, moved with me and we took that plunge and were like, “Here we go! Here we are!”
Dumas: Well I love your story, Tamara, and we’re going to get even more into it as we delve deeper into this interview but one thing that I do want to touch upon is that you were in a really unique situation, I mean, usually it’s the exact opposite for entrepreneurs. There you were recording these videos and your parents were like, “Yeah, make that a career, that would be cool! Funny videos on YouTube!” And you were like, “No, I’m going back to school. I need a serious job.” Usually, the entrepreneurs are like, “Mom, Dad, believe me, this little thing can work!” And they’re like, “What are you talking about? You should become a doctor.”
So you are definitely in a very good scenario with your family as far as support and you know, I’m sure when you ended up making the leap into now being a full-fledged entrepreneur, you’ve just had all of that support, that love, and that’s what we talk about Fire Nation, the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, because if you have that support, if you have that positive vibes and that energy around you, you can have such a better chance of really making it when you hit those lows, you’re not gonna quit because you’re gonna have those people there saying, “Listen, this is part of it.”
So Tamara, you are incredibly skilled when it comes to video and video production. In fact, you did an amazing video for myself for the freedom journal which we have on our YouTube channel and site. It’s absolutely amazing. We had so much fun, we went drone crazy! I was just like, “That’s what the top of my building looks like? That’s pretty cool.” But –
Thompson: I know, they wouldn’t even actually know that it was a drone until it actually moved, and actually realized you were on the top floor.
Dumas: I know it’s so crazy. But one thing that I really admire about you is that expertise that you have, so give us two value bombs in the area of expertise that you have that you think Fire Nation should know, because we’re not all experts in the area that you are.
Thompson: So, my whole purpose is really to connect, create, and inspire, and that’s what we do through video production with Serious Take Productions. So I always tell people it’s really important to evoke through storytelling, right? And I think storytelling is really starting to pop up right now with a lot of speeches and things like that and the more creative you get with your visuals plus adding the inspiring content – that’s where it is right now with video. And some people, they pull out their cell phones and they snapchat and everything else – I know you snap all the time John, I watch the jail derant, so there’s ways to make that creative too, but being able to actually prepare what we create with our brand name trailers is really to capture – like, we storyboard with our clients, and we add certain things like motivating or inspiring music.
I think that’s really key to creating a really professional video because if it’s a voiceover, like yours was for the Freedom Journal, we did a voiceover, we added that creative overlay of visuals that really strike what your mission is with the Freedom Journals. So to be honest, I just really think that when you are creating a professional trailer for your brand, it needs to be crisp, clear, and concise with your mission, and then being able to really have that expert or yourself, be able to go out and find that evoking music that really touches people, so they really automatically just wanna learn more about you, they automatically just want to work with you. They’re like, “How do I find out more?” That’s the vision from actually creating an enticing video like that.
Dumas: I can tell you straight up having come back from Podcasts Movements 2016, and every one of those conferences had a different theme; so 2014, 2015, 2016, all different themes. But the theme, by far, for 2016 was storytelling, and telling stories within your podcast, and it’s really cool to see that you’re saying the same thing within videos as well, and then Fire Nation, that clear, crisp, concise message that you wanna get across, that’s so critical as well to be mixing in that story with that message. Now, Tamara, you are always – your fingers are in the pudding.
You’re always walking the walk; you’re talking the talk. What something you’ve changed your mind about thought in the last six months. Like what’s something that you used to believe about video recording or production or just something in the entrepreneurship world that you now think differently about?
Thompson: Well it’s funny that you just said that, where I was like, I dip my hands in everything, because I wear many hats, but it got to the point where I realized that a lot of people were saying, “You gotta keep – you gotta focus on that one thing Tamara,” and I’m like, “But I wanna do this, and I wanna do this,” and doing specific things, and I realized I’m really good at multi-tasking, but if I wanted to get somewhere in my business, I had to start delegating more, and so we literally went from a team of like, three, to eight, within the last six months.
And then I started really realizing, I sat down with a mentor, and we really pulled out what it was that I like to emphasize with our clients and I realized the passion was there with the strategy and the storyboarding, and then I realized even though I’m really amazing at editing, I know how to shoot, I know how to direct, I love directing, but I realized I didn’t like doing the actual points of actual videography. Like, I didn’t want people to just see me as a videographer, because I’m so much more than that and I realized that even after I was doing that for years, I was like, “I actually don’t like doing the videography aspect.” So I was like, “Weird, huh.” So we started bringing on a team, and now we have three amazing videographers.
We have a couple of editors that we work with regularly, and just really delegating and finding that focus that I can turn around and Danielle and I, my business partner, we turned around and started putting process in place, and I was like, “Wow, is that all I needed, was to actually put processes that work?” And then it just starts growing and then from there we were able to start generating five figures a month consistently to generating over six figures in seven months, to really just be like, “Oh, okay, this is way different than like, a freelancer life.” I started realizing, “Oh, I’m an entrepreneur, that’s what it is.”
Dumas: So now, Tamara believes in delegating, Fire Nation. And listen, this is a process that we all need to go through. I mean, you need to be that freelancer. I had to do everything of my podcast before I could delegate certain tasks and certain priorities of my podcast. I mean, you actually have to have your hands in everything at first, just to start so you can become a master, or at least, really good at it so you know how to delegate it, so you know what exactly you want to happen, so you can make sure that your specific taste, your specific vibe, your specific swerve, is in on every part of your business and you don’t have to.
And now Tamara, she knows how to do all the behind-the-scenes stuff, so she knows when things go wrong, why they probably went wrong. She can correct things quickly. So there is that process, there is that journey that’s so key, but Tamara, specifically speaking about journey – I want to get a little bit into your journey, now, because you’ve had an aspiring one. You’ve had some ups, and some downs. I want you to share with us the worst of the worst. You’ve had some major ones, but what’s the most major. What’s your worst entrepreneurial moments? Take us there, tell us that story.
Thompson: Well, you know, I’m gonna go back a bit, just to our journey with a little film you might know, John, called Inspired by 11. So those of you that don’t know, John was featured in Inspired by 11 and we created this documentary film where we interviewed eleven top experts from around the world, and we – I did my research and we figured out who was popular within their niche and I found people like John, and Pat Flynn, Michael Parrish DuDell, the founder of the Shark Tank book, lots of cool individuals: Allison Maslan, Vince Reed, and during that time was when I was, really, had already started building Serious Take in a specific point that was really getting momentum there.
But during that time I was really focusing, and this is really wrong to do, but I had a major client which took up over 85% of our business, and everyone knows you need to have your income in different baskets of things, right? And so we ended up – it was the same week that – we were not, this was not, this was almost like, three years ago. We were in a point where I was using credit cards in the business, and trying to grow, and we didn’t have a lot of income coming in at the time, but I was like, “I’m going for it! I’m still going strong.” But I guess I saw myself more as a freelancer. But we lost that major client at the end of August, and we were let known the month before. And during that time was when I literally had the mindset of, “Well, you know, it’s cheaper for us to drive from Seattle to L.A. Yeah, let’s do that! Let’s save money!” I don’t know where – I don’t have this mindset anymore because I’m like, “No, just fly. Just fly.”
So we did this whole road trip to go down and film interview Michal Parrish DuDell, the author of Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business, and this was for the interview, one of the interviews, “Inspired by Love” we’re wrapping up production for that in September, so still a couple of months to get that done, and it was really one of those points. It was really so hard. I was literally like, “Oh my gosh, I’m splitting payments of things between credit cards,” and that’s embarrassing to be at a hotel and say like, “Yeah, can I put this on two cards? Oh I’m doing this because I wanna get points on both of these cards, yeah, that’s it.” Because you’re embarrassed, right?
A lot of people are afraid to show those embarrassing moments, but before we got to even L.A., before driving, my car broke down in the middle, like right on the border, I’m like pulling up to the “Welcome to California” sign, so I’m stuck in the middle of Oregon and California, and my car is steaming, and I don’t realize that my radiator pump has a slash in it, and I was like, “Alright.” So we’re googling stuff, we’re like, “We got water, like we’re gonna make it.” So we google and we’re near Yreka, up at the top of California, and so I look at it, and we’re seven miles from a gas station, so once the car started cooling down a bit we literally started to like, coast down the hill, the car is like steaming, we roll off the exit, we roll into the gas station, people are looking at us funny because my car is just steaming.
I go in I’m like, “Yes, I got the last coolant.” I go in, we put the coolant in, and then we realize there’s a slash there, and I was like, “Oh wait.” And it’s a Sunday night, so nothing’s open in the area. So I go into this, like, Fight or Flight mode, and I’m frantically calling towing companies, and then basically I was like, “okay, so I have to do all this information, like figure out where the nearest rental car place is, to the nearest hotel, like, can the tow truck drop my car off because I can’t drive it to a shop, which one’s gonna open tomorrow morning, how am I gonna get a car, you know, we have to get to L.A. within the next 24 hours for this interview.”
And you know it’s funny, because many people would have been, like, “You know what, I’m gonna call Michael up and say ‘Let’s postpone this’ or ‘Let’s cancel this,’ “ but Danielle and I just pushed through it and the next morning we went to the rental car place, got a car, moved all of our camera gear across, like, we had to go, call the car – just stupid, weird stuff that happens that we’re grateful that it happens because of that story but we literally left and drove all day down to California, got in at about 2 A.M. and we had to interview him and have everything set up by 8 A.M.
And it was so hard, though, because we literally had like basically no money in our account, and then we literally had to turn around and drive back up and pay for car repairs and everything, but when these things and these moments happen, from the depressing point of just losing that client to thinking like, “Oh my gosh, we should just quit,” like, we didn’t. But those things happen all the time and then you have to hustle to figure out what to do next and I hated that feeling, but that tended to happen quite a lot in the beginning, but our journey ended up being okay, obviously, now.
Dumas: Well Tamara, this is crazy because I’ve known you for quite a long time now and I consider you a friend and we’ve hung out at multiple conferences, you’ve been into my home to do filming multiple times, and I never knew this story. This is kind of one of the cool things of you know, when you really break it down at Fire Nation and just have people share their stories, the connections that can happen, and you know one thing that I wanna say that I’m taking away from this, Tamara, is a lot of people would have just quit at the Cali border.
They would have been like, “It’s a sign from above,” like, “I’m not meant to enter California.” And the scarcity mindset sets in and they would have just tucked their tails between their legs and scampered back home and they’d be miserable in some 9-5 job or some, you know, just something a lot less than what their dreams were that set them on their journey in the first place, and you didn’t do that. You realized that this was crappy and you weren’t trying to pretend that it wasn’t and you know, you were just saying, like, “Man, I gotta suck it up and do it. Like, this is tough, but this is what it means to be an entrepreneur.
This is part of the game that I ‘signed up for,’” and fast forward to where you are today and in the last seven months—you’ve made six figures, I mean Fire Nation, it doesn’t come overnight. It doesn’t come without struggles. It comes with all of these things, but you realize, it is part of the game, it is part of the journey, and Tamara, what do you want to make sure that Fire Nation gets from your story?
Thompson: Once they put their mind to it, it really is about their mindset and changing that, and I learned that more through masterminds and joining groups and networking things, but I wanted to throw in something really quick that I had kind of an “Aha!” moment – it was actually right before when I actually started filming. The film was actually how I figured out how to connect with people, and even Allison Maslan, she was in Inspired by 11, and Vince Reed, they say this all the time, “If you don’t know Tamara Thompson, she’s – we also call her ‘The Connector’”, and so my “Aha!” moment was figuring out how to build the relationships and really like, “Oh, I get it!” Like, we did a lot of things, like, back in the past.
Dumas: Well, reveal your secrets, girl! Stop dancing around the subject! What, what’s the secret?
Thompson: So, so, yeah, it’s more about building the relationships and connecting and doing things for free at first just to, to really get – so people can see what you’re all about, you know, because there’s people out there earning lots of money, that, there’s no reason why they need to hire you, right?
Dumas: Yeah, I’ll break in here, I’m a great example here, I mean, you know, I didn’t need that Freedom Journal video trailer that you were gonna do – it would have been a huge benefit to my business. But you said, “John, that’s something that I want to do for you; I wanna show you our work, I wanna give you thanks for you opening up your home and being part of this film,” and you did that, and now you know, it’s on my site, whenever people come to me, I’m like, you know, for recommendations of video production and people I’m like, “Well, I know somebody that’s great and here’s an example of their work, you know I’d be happy to intro!” And that’s part of what you did by putting in that initial free effort.
Thompson: Exactly, and that’s what’s important because a lot of people have that mindset. They’re like, “What? I can’t do anything for free!” a,nd I’m like, “Well, why not? What’s it, what’s the point if you don’t do something and show people what you can do –“
Dumas: Yeah, and what’s the alternative, too?
Thompson: Yeah, and we’ve build partnerships through that, and it was funny how I actually reached out to you. I used – a few years ago I was using Twitter more as my vice, and people, like, sometime laugh at Twitter or whatever, but that’s actually how I started connecting with influencers back on a different project for an artist’s encore web series I directed. I started reaching out to singers that were on shows like American Idol, NBC’s The Voice, X-Factor, and when I realized that I could actually, like, touch these people that were seemed to be out of reach, and I was like, “Oh, well, they’re Tweeting me back, and they’re following me” and stuff like that, I started actually at that point watching Shark Tank, and The Profit with Marcus Lemonis—he’s he’s my favorite—and, so, it was funny, I now have Laurie Greiner from Shark Tank following me on Twitter! She only follows six hundred people –
Dumas: Which is nothing, by the way!
Thompson: Yeah, she has a million followers! But it’s finding out the strategies on how to get people’s attention, connect with them, and offer them something of value – even if you have to do it for free at first – and then build partnerships with these people in the future. That’s basically what I’ve learned.
Dumas: I mean, Fire Nation, these value bombs are not going to stop once we hit the lightning round, but we’ll take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors!
Dumas: Tamara, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Thompson: Oh yeah, baby!
Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Thompson: Oh, I would definitely say like, the stability of the cash flow, you know, when those people always feel like you need a, a job or, say, “just over-broke.”
Dumas: Yes, J-O-B!
Thompson: Yeah, that was – that was the one thing that I think that, that after that I was like, “Eh, nah, I can do this, I just need to start hustlin’!” doing what I needed to be doing to bring in some money, you know?
Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Thompson: Allison Maslan, in the film, she just had to say, “Say ‘yes’ to success.” I loved her line where she was like, “I’m just gonna figure this entrepreneur thing out or I’m gonna live in my car.” And I resonated with that. Or, I would say, you know, thanks to Dory from Finding Nemo, when she’s like, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” That’s the way I feel sometimes.
Dumas: Tamara, what’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Thompson: Well, as you guys can probably tell from this moment, I would say my persistence, because I’ve done a lot of – you know, I’ve gotten a lot of rejections, but it’s because I’m so passionate about what I talk about and, you know, I can shine through a call, e-mail, or in person, you know, I’ve turned rejections into interests, into “Yes”’s, and then I’m like, “Yes! Fist pump!”
Dumas: Fist pump! Tamara, give us an internet resource like Evernote with Fire Nation.
Thompson: My favorite – as we’re building a web team right now, I’ve really come to love Trello.com for keeping track of priorities and boards that you can share between your team members, computer – because I talked about process, and like, keeping track of progress and projects, so, that’s, that’s my go-to internet resource right now.
Dumas: What about one book? What would it be, and why?
Thompson: I’m not a huge reader, and people always tell me I need to read more. But I remember, I’m actually, I’m actually over five years sober right now, and the one book that I actually read, um, through straight through was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and it really touch home with me because I, I did battle through alcoholism through my late twenties and early thirties and, um, that book really just resonated with me and I went through a treatment center three different times before I actually took my sobriety seriously.
And being able to read The Four Agreements and really just live through them from being impeccable with your word to, you know, don’t take things, don’t take anything personally, to don’t make assumptions, I’m really – I used to make more assumptions than I used to. And then always do your best – that thing, that book really resonated with me at that point and really like started turning my, my life around, and my life’s just been a lot better since I sobered up and then I was able to focus on the things that were important, and then I really realized, like, where I could shine and how dominant I was, and, you know, just really, pushing forward and how driven I was, so, that book really did resonate with me. There, there’s a lot behind that, but that’s another story, though.
Dumas: Yeah, well, Tamara, thank you for even sharing that glimpse, because again, something that’s not easy to talk about was that subject as well as, you know, splitting credit cards at, you know, a motel. I mean, these things are not easy to talk about on Fire Nation, but when you’re open, honest, and transparent when you’re just being true to your story and sharing your story, which is really the overall theme of this interview, is storytelling – you’re just going to be connecting so much more intimately with people that matter. Now Tamara, I wanna end today on fire, so give us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Thompson: Yeah, I think the best way actually just to connect with me in general, I would just go to our website serioustakeproductions.com because once you automatically go we they actually have a free download for you guys to actually see Inspired by 11, the documentary, so you can actually see John in there himself! So yeah, just literally go to serioustakeproductions.com and it will pop up right there. Just enter your information and that download will go right through there. It’s a ninety-three minute film, and it’s built to inspire and really educate and motivate people to take action within their own niche.
Dumas: It’s an absolutely top-notch film, I remember the premier so clearly, it was in Encinitas, California –
Thompson: Oh, it was amazing!
Dumas: It was amazing.
Thompson: Such good feedback. We had almost two-hundred and fifty people fill that, that theater that night, that –
Dumas: It was a great turnout, great theater, great everything, and, uh, you got a little choked up Tamara! You got a little choked up on stage!
Thompson: I did! And I have it on video! I’ll probably post it someday.
Dumas: What is your parting piece of guidance?
Thompson: Stay true to your vision and literally just keep taking action. Like, I take action all the time, and I just work through things to make sure that, you know – I mean, we still have struggles, you know, we’re doing better with things; you know, the difficulty of hardships gets harder though as you grow your business and as hit different levels and different, you know, levels that you’re like, “Oh man, now I need to figure out this!” And there are things that you didn’t think of, like, beforehand, but, I just say keep going and keep taking action and, you know, and don’t be afraid to ask for help because I think people get to a point where they’re like either too proud and I have partnerships with people who I just call up and just ask them a question because I’m curious and I, I like their guidance on things, and it’s good to always have a mentor, that is key. Master-mining groups, networking, you know, find that mentor, somebody that you can trust, that can help you through those hard times as an entrepreneur.
Dumas: And, of course, keep on swimming.
Thompson: And, keep on swimming! Thank you, Dory.
Dumas: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with T. and JLD today, so keep up the heat! And head over to EOFire,com, just type Tamara, T-A-M-A-R-A in the search bar, her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today – best show notes in the biz – timestamps, links galore. Fire Nation, and of course, check out her site Serious Take Productions, great download for you, inspired by eleven, and yes, I am one of those eleven, it’s a great film, and Tamara, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we solute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
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