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By Shane• 29 Apr 2019
Wellington creative agency Wrestler has gone from strength to strength since being founded in 201? by Ben Forman and Kat Lintott. With Forman recently being named on Forbes Asia's 30 Under 30 list, we spoke to him about the capital's influence on his success, mistakes along the way and, of course, coffee.
So, 30 under 30 is pretty impressive. What’s the most amusing congratulations message you got?
Thanks. Most people are surprised I'm still 30, which is kind of stink. I'm like, 'how old do you think I am' and then they awkwardly laugh and look away. I'm guessing 45 haha.
Yes, age is always a sensitive topic!. Tell us about Wrestler. What is it exactly, and how did you get here?
Wrestler is a creative agency with a focus on human-centred storytelling. That means we make content that resonates with people on a pretty emotional level. We play in a range of different mediums and technologies, from video to virtual and augmented reality. If there's a story to be told and that helps make the world a better place, we'll tell the story in the best way that reaches an intended audience. We also create our own content across these platforms. We've got a mini-documentary series with The Spinoff called Frame, a VR experience that empowers your inner feminine through dancing with goddesses and a fantastical natural world for kids teaching them about sustainability and environmental protection.
The journey to getting here was relatively smooth. I started as a one-man-band doing video, that then evolved into a slightly more creative video with a small team around me, then we added VR, then strategy, then the team grew and we've been lucky to have some amazing, creative people help Kat and I on the journey. It's always a lot easier in hindsight! Seriously though, we have an amazing team of caring loving people and it makes all the difference.
How much of Wrestler’s success do you credit for being based in Wellington? What’s the capital’s secret sauce?
Interesting question...I think Wellington forces a certain way of working that is conducive of creative results. First off, it's too small of a town to be a dick, so everyone works really well together. Secondly, you only live in Wellington if you really want to be here. Let's face it, the weather isn't great so it's a conscious choice to be here and the ones who are aren't bothered by things like the weather, they set their mood and are in control of how it affects them. For that reason, I think we have a hardy group of interesting people keen to do great work. Growing a business with people like that is a dream!
It might be a dream, but everyone knows growing a business is never easy. What are some of the mistakes you’ve made that stand out?
Heaps! Too many to count, which is why I stopped counting. This is cliche, but I choose to look at failure as more like learning. Everything that doesn't work out is just a data point for what not to do next time. But to give you a good one, I once purchased a drone for $25K that was obsolete within six months. I think we made $600 off of it, lol.
And what did you learn from them? Surely there’s a way to always turn mistakes into positives?
From the drone thing it was; don't invest too early in new tech!! Wait until things have calmed down and the market is proven and the tech is more affordable. From all the other mistake, it's that you're never an expert. The world moves so fast that as soon as you think you know something, the whole game has changed. Be willing to constantly evolve. Be vulnerable to change learn and grow.
What’s your top business tip for all those aspiring 30 under 30s out there?
Cash flow! Honestly, it takes sooooo much stress out of the 20th every month. If you've got a few months' runway saved everything gets a little easier. Focus on building that up and as you grow keep topping it up. It changes everything, you can focus on the business and know you'll be fine for the next pay run. The distraction of not having cash is not fun and so stressful.
Where do you see the future of both Wrestler, and Wellington, heading?
We're going to continue to create great work for brands that are values aligned, constantly pushing our abilities in creative and production, hopefully contributing to a better world. We're also going to start making more of our own original IP across various mediums. In terms of Wellington, I think we've got something pretty special here, and I think people are going to start wanting more and more of our thinking, so the future is bright. Our greatest export should be our ideas, and I think Wellington has a lot of them!
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Wellington interview without asking you where the best coffee is in town. Where keeps Wrestler going?
This could get me in trouble as I'm friends with a bunch of the Wellington coffee brands. They kind of all have a time and place. I'm into Supreme, Flight, Acme and Peoples. In no particular order!