When we sat down to talk to Jeremy Beyt, co-founder and CSO of progressive marketing agency ThreeSixtyEight, the country was in a similar position to where it was when he decided to start his own business. Back then, it was just after the Great Recession’s crash in 2008, and he was in commercial real estate.
“My job was really sad,” he told us over Zoom. “I was breaking a lot of bad news to people in terms of the evaluation of their property, and so what I started to do was, in a way to soften the blow … I was designing our reports to look really nice. I put really bad news in a really nice graph.”
Those nice graphs became popular among his coworkers, and they started asking him for design work. Though his work started out as “really horrible,” he says, eventually, “it clicked. Maybe I could make money doing this.” So he quit his job, made no money for a couple of years, and learned design, while he session drummed at night.
He admits that he and his partners were “young enough and single enough to not need any real money,” which helped them throw themselves at the business. And a few years later, they were able to rent an office three hundred sixty-eight feet away from another design firm, Big Fish – and as Beyt says, they had an idea.
“We were talking about, ‘Hey, we should merge instead of compete with each other, because we’re both in Baton Rouge,’” and they started Operation Three Sixty-Eight. With Big Fish’s access to larger, national brands, like General Electric, NASA, and Paramount, ThreeSixtyEight were able to find the gaps (or as Beyt calls them, “opportunities”) in their clients’ marketing, and fill those gaps.
Today, ThreeSixtyEight is an agency with national reach, though they also work extensively with local businesses. They’ve worked with businesses as diverse as Ochsner Health, Waitr, and Rakuten – and they were able to achieve that due to three main techniques.
“Number one,” Beyt says, “you have to know your purpose. … You have to take the time to define it and write it down and know it.” Knowing the business’s purpose is important to connect with investors, to differentiate with consumers, and to avoid burn-out, which is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur.
Secondly, Beyt and the other founders of ThreeSixtyEight had perserverance, what he calls “the most undervalued skill in any entrepreneur.” When ThreeSixtyEight started, there was a class of other web design companies as well, but as time went on, those shops closed, or merged with larger companies – but ThreeSixtyEight perservered and is still around today. Beyt says it took “five years to feel worth it,” so if you’re looking to start a business, be prepared.
Finally, Beyt stressed the importance of building a network – something he found particularly hard: “As a creative, as a marketer, I hate the idea of networking, I hate the idea of sales,” but eventually he was able to “drop the cynicism and skepticism, and just enjoy meeting people, and be truly curious in what they do … and inevitably, when they need your help, they’ll call.” Beyt credits his business partner Kenny Nguyen for teaching him that.
When we asked him for more advice for budding entrepreneurs, Beyt recommended writing to someone else in the field for advice and mentorship. In fact, he says, “the higher up an executive is, the more willing they are to mentor, because they get to a point where they understand the value of mentorship and leaving a legacy. Don’t be afraid to ask.” He still stays in touch with a mentor he emailed on a whim ten years ago.
He also recommended using the local library for events and for training. ThreeSixtyEight hosts a speaking event, Assembly Required, using the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s conference rooms, which are free for the public’s use. He also recommends the free Team Treehouse training to his employees who want to learn web design and coding.
The most important advice Jeremy Beyt had for new entrepreneurs, however, was simple: become one. “Baton Rouge needs entrepreneurs. There’s a big opportunity in Baton Rouge that a lot of people overlook, especially graduates. And I don’t blame them, because on the surface, it’s easy to leave.
“But here’s the thing – Baton Rouge, it’s like a Twinkie. It’s kind of boring on the surface, but when you bite into it, there’s a lot to love, in the middle. So give it a chance – there’s an opportunity there. There’s a lot of hunger in Baton Rouge, for innovation, for progress, for change … there’s a really big community of people right under the surface that are all really hungry. So there’s an opportunity for anyone that’s entrepreneurial, not only to be successful, but also to make a difference in the community.”
That’s what ThreeSixtyEight have done.