Monday, May 7, 2012

Member Insider: L7z Group



If you are technically "slow" like me, you might be somewhat daunted by all the technologies available to grow your business.  How do you decide what to put online, what to put on a mobile app, and what information is of most value to your clients?  Fortunately, Jeremy Bellman and Gonzalo Araya of the L7z Group have boiled the art and skill of using progressive media down to a science, and know how to help you thrive in today's global market. Join me for this fascinating interview with co-founder Bellman who explains why "DSM" communications are vital in today's world, how Barack Obama's 2008 election changed the face of marketing forever, and the three down-home qualities that will help you succeed in any world. 

Damon L. Jacobs: 
Tell me about the services that
L7z Group provide.
Jeremy Bellman: We are digital, social, mobile, ("DSM") communications.  We offer of strategies focused around social media applications and platforms.  Ultimately our core sweet spot is the mobility we bring, which is text messaging and mobile phone apps.  We play in two spaces.  From the marketing aspect we play in the space of the customer experience.  How can these technologies enhance the customer experience?  Or we play in the other arena, on the backside, where it could be all about employee engagement.  How do we utilize these technologies to make our employees more efficient, more engaged with the company, and how can we help them better do their jobs?  How can we support whatever initiative the brand may have through DSM?

Damon L. Jacobs: For those of us that are technically "slow", what are some examples of this that can help us understand what you do?
Jeremy Bellman: Right now we are working with SPI Marketing on the Facebook application for the Absolut Outrageous campaign.   Absolut vodka is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year of being out in the GLBT community.  That would be an example of using social media.  For mobile, the NGLCC is a perfect example.  We are releasing an NGLCC mobile app. We sat with them and developed an initiative about how to connect people better. From the corporate partners, to the certified suppliers, to affiliate chambers, it’s all about connecting.  We are really excited about that.  As for a full, robust DSM roll out, we partnered with Neil Cerbone Associates on a program for US Bank that is all about strengthening the client relationship.


Damon L. Jacobs: How did you get interested in the DSM business?
Jeremy Bellman: I started my first business as an entrepreneur at age nineteen.  It was in technology, infrastructure related. 

Damon L. Jacobs: How does one get the idea to start their own business at age nineteen?
Jeremy Bellman: I come from a long line of family businesses and entrepreneurs.  I knew early on I didn’t want to go the corporate route; it’s just not for me.  Even in college I had professors who had side businesses and were coming to me for technical advice.  Now I know what a huge compliment that was, though I didn’t understand it then. 

Damon L. Jacobs: How did L7z Group come about? 
Jeremy Bellman: One day several years ago Gonzo (Gonzalo Araya) and I were wondering what was coming next in technology. We were thinking, “where’s technology going next.”  He started rattling off concepts about text messaging and how brands could use text messaging effectively to communicate with their audiences.  This was back in 2007, before the Smart Phone was the norm.  Then between 2007-2008, Obama’s campaign was tech heavy and using social media and mobile apps to communicate.  That changed our business model.  I can’t say the success of our company is due to Barack Obama, but I can say that that was a huge case study for global brands to see the power of DSM.

Damon L. Jacobs:
L7z Group became one of the first Certified Diverse Suppliers back in 2009.  You were certainly ahead of the curve.  How did you decide to become Certified back then? 
Jeremy Bellman: Gonzo and I were out to dinner one night.  We were at the table, and he was on the phone speaking to his mom.  Next to me I heard these two gentlemen talking about this NGLCC thing, the Chamber of Commerce, and certifications.  I thought, “This really sounds interesting, what is this certification thing?” I had no idea there were certifications for LGBT businesses.  I turned around and said to them, “Not that I was eavesdropping on your conversation, but I totally was, and how can I get more information about this?”  Those two guys happened to be Richard Oceguera and Thomas Koveleskie. 

They followed up with us, and gave us a ton of information about NGLCCNY.  I think Gonzo and I were both a little bit skeptical.  I mean, we are in New York; there are a lot of business groups.  Time is limited and as business owners we wanted to find the right organization.  We were looking for something professional that puts a unique spin on our business. Then up pops the NGLCCNY and Certifications.  We did our homework and decided to give it a shot.

Damon L. Jacobs: Would you say becoming a Certified Diverse Supplier has helped your business?
Jeremy Bellman: Without a doubt.  I tell everybody, and maybe I’m too blunt, “If you are a LGBT business and you’re not Certified, you need to be.”  It’s that simple.  Why not do this? There’s no reason not to do this.  It’s the most cost effective marketing you are ever going to spend. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What have been the advantages?
Jeremy Bellman: We’ve gotten a healthy amount of business from NGLCC and NGLCCNY.  But the biggest value has come from the relationships, which is not always measured in hard dollars and contracts.  We took it very slow, we met people, and out of it have formed partnerships with many of the other NGLCCNY members; we add value to them, they add value to us.  And some have become close friends.  Some say never do business with friends.  That’s just hogwash.  Finding other like-minded people that can compliment you as business partners has been the biggest value of the Chamber. 

Damon L. Jacobs: You have over fifteen years of entrepreneurial experience. How have you navigated disappointments and setbacks?
Jeremy Bellman: Maybe a benefit of starting so young was that I didn’t realize that it was going on.  Perhaps someone in their twenties may take more risks because they don’t have as much to lose.  I do go through hard times where I get bored.  That’s what I understand now: that when you get bored or discouraged you need to put a new spin on things.  Find something new to add. Find something new to keep it interesting.  When you keep it interesting for yourself then your customers are going to be interested. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What are the rewards of this work?
Jeremy Bellman: This may sound corny and trite.  But this business was founded on a relationship, mine and Gonzo’s relationship.  A lot of people ask, “How do you do it?  You guys live together, you’re in a relationship together, you have a personal relationship, you have a professional relationship, how do you two do it?”  We laugh it off and say, “First of all this is not for everyone.”  But the one of the greatest rewards is that being in business with your partner brings you to a different place and a deeper level.  It’s not always good.  It’s not all roses.  But the fact is we are so emotionally invested in our business and in each other that it comes out in our work.  What is unique about us is that all of our clients, vendors, and staff, are somehow connected to our business, and are personal friends.  So the reward is to be able to get up every day and spend time with our friends and build a business with the person I love the most.  You can’t buy that kind of passion. 


Damon L. Jacobs: There are a lot of people in the Chamber who are starting in their careers, or starting a second career and a new business.  What advice would you give to someone who is struggling?
Jeremy Bellman: Remember that every business went through what you are going through.  Every business was a new business once.  So whether you are a global company that starts a new arm, or a 'Mom & Pop Shop', every business goes through the same cycle.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.  If you remain humble, self-aware of what you don’t know, seek out individuals who do know, and then build a trust with those individuals, your chances for success are much greater. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What kind of individuals or companies within The Chamber would you like to help the most?
Jeremy Bellman: I welcome anyone who is aware that they need to fit DSM into their business model but not sure how.  I welcome those conversations.  Any firm that knows they need to incorporate digital, social media, and mobile apps into their business, but don't know whether to offer it to themselves, to their clients, or how to add value to their clients, I welcome those conversations. 

Damon L. Jacobs: If you could go back to that 19-year-old starting his first business and give him a piece of advice, what would that be?
Jeremy Bellman: Don’t be afraid to get out of your own way.  Sometimes as business owners we are completely passion filled. Sometimes that passion allows you to get in your own way.  Business owners can get tunnel vision.  Not because they are wrong, not because they don’t understand, not for any other reason except they are so focused.  They can forget that other ideas around them can add huge value.  Just a little spin on your concept can take your business to a whole new level. 

I also learned something from my mom at a very young age.  “Be sweet, be kind, be good.”  Then even if you make a mistake, everyone will come out holding hands. Let me tell you, that is key to everything. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to grief and loss, HIV related concerns, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com. An initial complimentary consultation is offered to NGLCCNY members, or people who are referred by NGLCCNY members.

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