Creative entrepreneur translates clients' passion into inspired brands

Joel Halpern is a Partner and Director of Strategy for Loaded for Bear, a Memphis based full-service creative agency specializing in strategic brand development, design, interactive, and PR. Based in Cooper-Young and founded in 2012, Loaded for Bear's six person team serves 15 to 20 clients at any given time. 

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What is your background?
I grew up in Midtown and graduated from White Station. It was there that fine arts "found me." I went on to Memphis College of Art and studied in Aix-En-Provence France at the Institute for American Universities Marchutz School. I also spent two years off and on in Paris at École des Beaux-Arts. While in college I started working for St.Blues Guitar Company. It was at St.Blues where I began my lifelong love of brands and communications.

Bryan Eagle, the owner of St.Blues taught me a lot. In 2006, I moved to NYC and started working in a small music marketing company. It was an awesome job, but the salary sucked, especially for NYC. I then went into real estate marketing for high-end residential properties in Manhattan. In 2008, my wife and I moved to Darien, Conn. for a job with a qualitative and quantitative research company focused on families. I learned the value of research there. I also learned when it should be ignored. Eventually the economy caught up to the company and they had to downsize, so we had the decision to make: do we stay in the volatile New York job market or try something new? We had made many trips back home and we decided to move back to Memphis in late 2009. We saw all the amazing things happening and wanted to be part of the positive change. I began working as Creative Director for three television stations owned by Newport Television (ABC, CW and FOX16). Two years later we launched Loaded For Bear…and I haven’t slept much since!
What led you to launching Loaded for Bear? 
When I was Creative Director at the stations, I had worked with Michael Carpenter on a re-branding project for one of the stations. He was so talented and smart, that when the idea came up about starting an agency, he was the perfect person to work with. We had noticed a gap in the market here for a small, full-service, hyper-creative agency. So we just launched with one project in 2012 (Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team) and everything else fell into place. We’ve been in our space in Cooper-Young for three years now. We just signed a new lease to expand and take over an additional 1,000 sq. ft. next door. It s a cool space that has offices and open work areas. We’re not on top of each other, but we can easily collaborate, which is key in a creative business. Open work spaces look more like a silent disco than a collaborative environment. 
What is your favorite Loaded for Bear project? 
Everything we work on is exciting. However, there are two that are especially close to my heart. Crosstown Concourse is the first. I grew up in the shadow of that building and it has been an amazing experience to work on a project that perfectly embodies the state of our city and its future. The other is Musistic. It is a tech startup that works in the music space. LFB works with them, and I am their active Chief Marketing Officer. So I spend a lot of time with them. They're poised to make a real splash globally and solve remote collaboration issues for recording artists. It is exciting to work with a company so full of potential.

What inspires you?
Passion inspires me. When we meet with a new client or potential client, it is incredible to hear the passion that comes through. Regardless of service, there is passion within everyone we work with. As Head of Strategy for the agency, I get to turn that passion into brands or campaigns. 
What are the pros of launching and operating your own creative business in Memphis?
I would say the best part of launching and operating a business (creative or not) in Memphis is so much yet to be done here, so there are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs. We are big fans of both the local AAF chapter and the Creative Works Conference. I wouldn`t say we rely on them for our success, per se, but it is inspiring to see the creatives in Memphis showing up in such big numbers. We consider ourselves fortunate to be part of that movement and in such amazing company.
What advice do you wish you had from the get go regarding starting your own business? 
STOP WAITING! There is no better time than now to go for it. 
What does the future hold for Loaded for Bear? 
In addition to world domination, we just want to continue to work with passionate people on projects that inspire, both in Memphis and beyond. Memphis is home and we love it, but we definitely have our eyes set on some very unique and exciting partnerships that would expand our creative footprint well beyond the 240 loop. 

Read more articles by Amy Hoyt.

Amy Hoyt is High Ground News' Community Engagement Specialist, which suits her love of Memphis and its inhabitants. 
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