Steven Le Vine is a young and motivated entrepreneur working hard for his success. At only 30 years old, Steven has already built a very successful PR company that represents celebrities, businesses, and large organizations from it's offices in Hollywood, California. Steven was recently inducted into the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) – an invitation only organization comprised of the country's most promising entrepreneurs under the age of 35. The Apex Society also awarded Steven the “Power 30 Under 30 Award” which is a big accomplishment for any entrepreneur. Steven has been written up in numerous publications including Entrepreneur, Under 30 CEO, PRWeek, and the NBC Today Show website. He's also been in contact with Forbes magazine about potential write-ups. Steven has already signed on over 100 clients and represents celebrities including Danny Pintauro (From Who's the Boss), and Project Runway's Jack Mackenroth and American rock artist and Madonna's guitarist Monte Pittman. Steven is extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and enjoys sharing what he's learned with others.
Steven graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in communications. Steven always had a passion for entrepreneurship and saw himself working in Hollywood someday with big name celebrities. Following graduation, Le Vine began interning for a woman named Sylvia Allen, who is also a mentor in his life. While working for Sylvia, Steven's father introduced him to a jazz musician who needed publicity for an album. So, Steven decided to create his own company on the side and named it GrapeVine Promotions. A logo, business cards, and stationary were printed up and the new business was ready to start rolling. After his day job, Steven would spend the evenings escorting his new client to red carpet events. Following his position with Sylvia, Steven was offered a position with a larger PR firm in New Jersey. He began scoring top-tier clients who were written up in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. The firm was impressed with his success, but Steven didn't feel he was being appreciated enough for what he was bringing to the table.
In February of 2007 Steven became impatient with his opportunity for advancement, re-named his company to grapevine pr, and began sending information to people he wanted to represent through his own company. Soon, a big New Jersey newspaper picked up Steven's story, and it landed on the front page of the business section. The next day Steven's boss called him in and gave him an option. The boss told him to either give up Grapevine and keep his job, or keep his company and leave. Steven told them he had worked to hard to build his company, and that he was going to go out on a limb and run grapevine pr full time.
At 24, Le Vine was now a full time entrepreneur. His friends and some of the family thought he was nuts. But they knew he was passionate about what he was going to do and that things would most likely turn out okay.
It has been five years since Steven started grapevine pr, which now represents over 100 clients, ranging from film makers to musicians, swimwear brands, and charitable organizations in the US and internationally. With his success at such a young age, Steven has been inducted into many entrepreneur organizations and has been invited to speak at various events and colleges.
Le Vine told Think Entrepreneurship, ” I guess there's something to be said about trusting your gut, and it's paid off.”
In addition to our article on Steven Le Vine, I had the chance to ask him a few key questions about his business. Below are his responses.
1. How did you get the idea to start your business?
If you would have asked me even a month prior to starting my own business, I would have squarely said my idea wasn't a possibility. I didn't believe in myself enough and thought it was something that only those in their middle age had the ability to do. Now looking back, I would say that I got the idea because of two main reasons. The first was that it happened organically and almost accidentally since I took baby steps at first, until I felt comfortable enough. Second, the fact that I'm a major control freak, and didn't like that my own career was out of my control. I am also very independent, so I needed that excuse to be able to work, but do it on my own terms.
When I began Grapevine I had $3,000 in the bank as a college graduation gift from my grandmother. I only used about $500 of it to finance grapevine. Even five years later, I still work on a bare minimum budget. I'm lucky that in PR there aren't many overhead expenses like most other industries have (inventory, machinery, warehouse space).
We've never used traditional advertising. What we have done is produced marketing collateral, such as postcards to promote our business. We've utilized PR and social media. I would say our most effective form of generating exposure and new business is without a doubt referrals by other clients.
I did have a partner from 2007 to 2010, but he has since left the company to pursue another venture. However, he still handles various grapevine projects that come up. I also have an outstanding executive assistant, a superb copywriter and editor, and a fantastic intern.
The toughest part is being taken seriously, both by those around you, and other businesspeople. It's fine to have a difficult project or situation because I'll figure out a way to accomplish it, even if it means spending more hours and educating myself. When you are turned down or not taken seriously simply because of your age, there's no way to change that. I can show them all of my accomplishments and outline an effective strategy, but if they don't believe I'm capable because I'm younger than most other business owners, there's not much else I can do.
Running your own business takes a lot of discipline. You can't run a solo operation and expect your business to survive, especially in this economy without sacrificing most of your social life and working yourself to the bone. When you start your own business you have to make choices, some of which will be sacrifices. There are some things you will gain, and some things you will lose. It's a balancing act, but if you work hard enough, the things you will gain are enormously rewarding.
I'd ultimately like to keep Grapevine as an agency rather than a large firm. In five years I'd love to have more employees and get to represent even more edgy/creative brands. One brand in particular that I would really enjoy getting the chance to represent would be English Laundry.
7.) What do you have in the works?
I'm currently writing a book which I began in June, and hope to have finished next year. It will discuss young entrepreneurship and taking risks. What I hope to achieve with the book is to help other young adults, especially recent college graduates. I want to help find the courage in themselves to chase their passion, whether that is by starting a business or simply doing what they enjoy. I believe everyone has something truly remarkable within themselves, and that some need to be given the courage or opportunity to share that with the rest of us.
To learn more about grapevine pr, visit www.theprgrapevine.com, or follow the company on Facebook or Twitter @grapevinepr.
Article written by Pete Sveen