The story so far…
As Nickel City Graphics approaches our 11th birthday (and a big announcement/reveal) on August 1st, we thought we’d take a look back at how we got to where we are. Nothing prepares you for a bold step forward like a trip down memory lane… yes, so you can have a good laugh (and maybe a cry) over the work, challenges and situations you’ve come through, but also so that you can learn some things about what worked, what didn’t, and who played a part along the way.
Maybe some other people can learn from your wins, losses, and lessons learned as well. That said, here’s our brief walk-through of the life of Nickel City Graphics so far. It’s been a heck of a ride. We hope you’ll enjoy it, and maybe even take something away from it.
Stage 1: “The Plan”
The Homebase: Neil’s apartment
The Equipment: Squeaky Wheel Rentals
The Situation: The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The original idea for Nickel City Graphics was to be a motion graphics and animation company servicing the video production industry; hence, the name of the company. You can see the type of work we had in mind with adjacent video playing featuring our original demo reel and first logo concept (Yikes!).
That was the plan, but as the work started to roll in, we weren’t able to find much animation and motion graphics work. Instead, we found more video and graphic design work, mostly for non-profits like Buffalo First and Green Options Buffalo (now goBike Buffalo). When that the plan went out the window and Nickel City Graphics was taking on all types of creative work.
The biggest splash Nickel City Graphics made on the design scene was designing the original logo for Flying Bison Brewery’s Rusty Chain Beer; a beer that, in its original form, supported the local bicycling community by donating a portion of its profits to Green Options Buffalo to build out the city’s bicycling infrastructure. See that logo in the accompanying image.
The early days were similar to many bootstrapped companies: working from home, using rented resources to provide whatever work Neil could manage to sell (or trade for, or give away for “exposure”). Good times!
Stage 2: “The Reality”
2010 – 2012
The Homebase: Elmwood Village Creative
The Equipment: Canon T2i, Rode Shotgun Mic
During our time at the EVC, we continued to adapt and add to our services offered. Mainly these services were whatever was needed–so we went from motion graphics & animation to web video, broadcast video, photography, graphics, design, web design, and even radio spots!
This unorganized expansion of services is the stage in the business lifecycle where you learn the difference between a plan and the reality, and that you “gotta do, what you gotta do” to make the business work. The problem with this ‘take all comers’ mindset is that projects and cash flow are hard to predict in scope and profitability and turning a profit is a crap shoot.
But it wasn’t all bad. Our evolution as a company was taking shape. As we were ramping up our video production services, we upgraded our from our rented gear to a Canon T2i, our move into DSLR video. The video quality from this camera was an incredible upgrade, and we started to turn our attention more toward video. Our featured video for this section, Why I Ride, is one of our early productions with our new gear.
Stage 3: “The Revelation”
2013 – 2016
The Homebase: 546 Studios
The Equipment: Canon 6D
The Situation: We moved into a studio/office space at Delaware & Allen that we shared with Buscemi Photography. We dubbed our space 546 Studios, and it was the host to a number of photo and video shoots as well as the Microbusiness Meetup.
We continued to narrow our services to focus on video. Well, at least services we promoted. We still did (and still rarely do) for top clients and friends some photography and design, but we focused our marketing and business systems on producing video. Specifically, we produced professional-quality web video at a price point that made sense for super-small businesses and non-profits as they made up the majority of our client base.
In 2014 we shifted officially to video production as our sole service offering. And with this shift, we began to upgrade our equipment. We swapped out the crop-sensor T2i with a full-frame Canon 6D DSLR, investing in better audio equipment and upgrading tripods and lighting. We produced the featured video for this section for the University at Buffalo School of Architecture’s Community Congress events.
Stage 4: The Positioning
2017 – 2019
The Homebase: 599 Delaware Ave, #203
The Situation: After a brief time sharing an office with RPM Productions at 701 Seneca St, we took a spot in the newly renovated building at 599 Delaware. A space developed by FIFTEEN that includes twelve individual offices aimed at housing small creative agencies. At 599 Delaware, we share space with companies like Incept, HMN Resources, and Driftwood.
The featured walkthrough video profiles the space and our ‘one office’ configuration. Since moving in, we’ve expanded to a second office down the hall. Affectionately referred to a ‘ Nickel City Graphics East’ – our new office space houses our production team and gear.
Business-wise, we have continued to tweak our focus from web video production to expand our video marketing services. We added video marketing strategy, planning, and execution services.
New spaces and new focuses brought on new clients, including working with great clients like ACV Auctions, Columbus McKinnon, and Uniland Development. We produced the featured video in this section for Columbus McKinnon with a combination of footage captured with the GH5, stock footage, provided footage and animation elements. ‘Your Partners in Motion Control’ is a branding video initially developed for a bi-annual partners meeting put on by Columbus McKinnon.
As our relationships with our key clients develop, and new key clients have come on board, our focus and positioning continue to evolve… but we’ll let you know what that looks like on August 1st!
Preparing for this blog post was a walk down memory lane; it was fun, nostalgic, and a good reminder of both how much we’ve been through and how much we have to be grateful for.
So thanks for reading, stay tuned for our big announcement on August 1st, and also thanks for being a part of our story and for all you’ve done for us. We truly appreciate our clients, our partners, and our community, and we hope you’ll join us through our next chapter… Onward!