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How Kelsey Davis built CLLCTVE, the multimedia agency taking over the east coast

When Kelsey Davis first founded CLLCTVE just a little over two years ago during her freshman year at Syracuse University, the first thing she noticed was that the agency’s success was causing her GPA to slip.

The Atlanta, Georgia native began pursuing video production back when she was still in high school. By the time she had started her college career, clients were already lined up. In an interview with Kulture Hub, she said,

“I was a freelance videographer on campus. In high school I had learned how to do video production. I was doing a lot of paid work, already had clients, and when I transferred to Syracuse, I started learning about equipment, how you couldn’t monetize off of it and how the university can’t pay students to produce. I was like nah, man, I need to find a way to get around that. So I created a company.”

The Television, Radio and Film major found that one of the biggest obstacles she faced was balancing her coursework and her company. When all of the absences from meetings, photo and video shoots, and conferences started to catch up to her grades, Kelsey decided to do something about it.

Rather than taking the traditional entrepreneur route and skipping all of her classes, Kelsey decided to argue with the administration at her school over accrediting her work. She explained her thought process, saying,

“My minor is in Innovation, Design, & Startups, I can’t be penalized for starting a company. A lot of the time I’m able to use my coursework, or manipulate my courses to identify specifically with what I’m doing in the company.”

CLLCTVE started on a much smaller breadth than the assembly it is today. Originally, it was Kelsey and her friends getting together to shoot, film and produce content.

Fun and simple, it has since garnered attention beyond the proximity of SU. Today, Kelsey bodies the role of CEO, with a team that has grown from a duo to a unified institution that operates between New York City and Atlanta.

Alongside Kelsey is her partner and co-founder Ryan Williams, a certified personal trainer who specializes in health and wellness coaching. While Kelsey focuses on expanding the agency, Ryan executes the title of COO by keeping the engine running through strategizing operations and managing the scaling team.

“Even that in and of itself, figuring out how to work within systems and create and strategize is a lot of what CLLCTVE does. It’s cool how Ryan and I are both able to do that, even in a classroom.

A lot of CLLCTVE’s team includes students. Utilizing clout and targeting social media, CLLCTVE helps build brands and teams for those looking to start their own project or seeking to monetize their work in the freelance market.

“Because we’re freelancers, we know what kind of direction we need, what kind of resources we need. Everyone who works for CLLCTVE has free access to master class, free access to Adobe and creative cloud. Because we’re a startup, we don’t have the financial resources that bigger companies have, but through our access of the industry, we can offer them things like that. A lot of times students in college need these things more than a check.”

Most of their clients’ work occupies a musical space. CLLCTVE has worked with visual artists, musical artists, music festival productions, personalizing video content for major corporations like Coca-Cola. Plus, other creative consulting agency brands such as Native North who they’ll be touring with this summer to Dallas, LA, and Jacksonville.

The work that will be put in the next two months is meant to prepare the team for their last year at the university, as they expand into a larger team of different skill sets.

“In the fall we’re starting a program, partnering with Syracuse University regarding our ancestry program in the school. Giving students the ability to not to sacrifice academic credibility to follow their passions. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to choose. I believe doing everything to satisfy your major and your company should be mutually exclusive.”

While it’s beginning to reach other locations in the United States, CLLCTVE plans to extend its mission all around the world. Their goal – “being the central hub for young black millennials creating original digital content, telling their stories and partnering with people who look like them”. Kelsey spoke about CLLCTVE’s plans for global expansion. She said,

“Eventually CLLCTVE will expand globally and partner with different universities in different markets. We want to be the catalyst for that new system, especially since school and classrooms are structures that have been the same for hundreds of years. As people are innovating, as companies are innovating, schools have to as well.”

For budding entrepreneurs and risk takers seeking their own ventures, Kelsey offers advice that may not be easy to digest but it contains the hard truths of success.

“A big thing is to just go do it. So many times we try to clean ourselves up first, or say we need to get our shit together. Nah, you’ve got to do it. Go out, release a product — it’s probably going to suck. Pray that it sucks, pray you get feedback, pray that you go figure out how to make it better. The first product you put out is never going to be your best product. If you wait forever to put out the first thing, it’s going to prolong the process. Put things out, go do it, make mistakes. The quicker that you fail, the earlier you’re going to succeed.”