According to the Small Business Association, twenty percent of small businesses fail within a year of being started.
That number rises to fifty percent after five years. One of the key survivability factors in business is growth. If a company can identify a need, fill it at a good price and grow to fill the need more often, that’s a formula for making sure you stay on the right side of those SBA numbers.
Talent agency Chicago Talent Network, launched by veteran actors and agents Duane Sharp and Renee Ertl in the Spring of 2018, has crossed the one year hurdle with a bang. They’re expanding into Milwaukee.
The expansion, which will be known as the Milwaukee Talent Network, is an idea the pair envisioned for much farther in the future. It came about now because of a very big hint dropped by the Milwaukee production community.
In a recent 72-hour period, CTN was contacted by no fewer than four different people with the same suggestion: open a talent agency in Wisconsin. They had their first booking north of the border soon thereafter.
Curious about the agency’s plans for the Milwaukee market, I spoke with Duane about the expansion.
“Growing into a different market always comes with some risk,” he said, “because as the new kid in town, you have to convince people that you’re trustworthy. We think that process will be smoother for us since Renee and I have both worked the market for decades. We know a lot of people on both sides of the transaction.”
Many clients who think they’re interacting with Duane or Renee for the first time realize they’ve worked with them as actors or agents at some point in the past. And plenty of actors know them, too, having met them on previous jobs.
Interesting side note: Duane asks new talent to read my book about buidling an acting career in the Midwest.
How MTN is Different
I wondered how the new agency would differentiate itself from the legacy agencies in Milwaukee. Turns out the same way they do that in Chicago.
“We are good stewards to both our clients and our talent. Because of our experience as actors and agents, we can identify and avoid problems before they arise,” Duane said. “We want to make sure the projects have the right talent on set or in the booth and that performance and contractual concerns are addressed before production starts.”
From an actor’s perspective, those contractual concerns are where you want some help, particularly if you don’t have a union contract behind the job. As an agency that books only non-union work, Milwaukee Talent Network will provide the guidance that meets actors needs but still fits into a client’s budget.
“We are fair and flexible. Mutual sustainability is a key to long lasting relationships that keep all of us doing good work for many years. We know that in the current media climate – going beyond a one size fits all approach to talent and client concerns is key to long lasting relationships,” said Duane.
It’s been years since I worked in the Milwaukee market, but I remembered it as having a strong community feel. Duane sees signs that’s changed a bit, and MTN wants to play a role in bringing it back.
“Fostering a sense of community for Milwaukee talent is a chief goal for us. This market is deep in talent and experienced actors & models. We want to bring the younger and more seasoned talent together with our agency seminars and other functions to create a sense of pride in the market from top to bottom.”
My money’s on MTN still being around a few years from now. Word is the Milwaukee market could use a fresh approach. I’m happy Duane and Renee are the ones bringing it.