DRONELIFE is excited to announce a new collaboration with drone attorney and business expert Enrico Schaefer, of Traverse Legal, PLC and Drone Law Pro. Welcome to the second edition of From the Ground Up: a podcast series designed to help drone businesses level up and grow. Enrico Schaefer will interview drone businesses from around the country to identify key steps to succeeding in the industry.
In this episode, an interview with Cher and Terry Brown, documentary film makers at KEVA Creative.
ENRICO: Welcome to Drone Law Pro Radio. This addition From the Ground Up where we interview real drone pilots, real drone service providers, making it happen in the field as commercial drone service companies and drone pilots making a difference on the ground as this new and emerging market continues to grow.
Today, we are fortunate to have the co-owners of KEVA Creative which is a company that is specializing in documentary film making and adding drones to their service offerings. Getting those drone shots to add to the other footage that they are capturing and offering a really good high-quality output to their customers. Today, we have Terry Brown and Cher Brown, who are co-owners of KEVA Creative, and they are really at the beginning of their business model in many ways but they have got big plans, they are making it happen right now doing drone services for real customers, getting paid for it and generating some really interesting footage. You can go to their website KevaCreative.com. They’ve got a great website, and you can really see how much skill they bring in cinematography and photography to the table because the work on their website shows that there is a lot of thought and a lot expertise going in to the footage that they are producing for customers. I love what they got on their website. It says, “We don’t just reach people, we move them through compelling and inspiring visual stories as a video production and documentary film company. KEVA Creative believes powerful visuals evoke emotion that drive deeper and more profound engagement.” You can see here yet another example of a drone service company that is really adding drones to what is a broader more compelling business model. In this case, the business model is video production and documentary film making and KEVA Creative is doing that at a very high level. Without further ado, I like to introduce Cher Brown, who is one of the co-owners with her husband of KEVA Creative. Welcome to the show Cher.
CHER: Thank you, it is great to be here. Thank you.
ENRICO: Why don’t you tell us a little bit before we get to Terry? Why don’t we go through your background and as I understand it, you are actually one of the Part 107 pilots there, and that makes it really interesting because you are one of the very few women Part 107 pilots we’ve got in the business and of course everyone is looking to grow the demographics here and to bring more women in to the commercial space. Tell us a little bit about your background and how it is that you came to be a co-founder of KEVA Creative.
CHER: I started about twelve years ago with professional photography. That was something I did as a hobby and while I was still in the corporate world, and had a lot of fun with it, but it’s definitely my area of passion, especially anything nature. I’m there. When we had learned about the possibility of getting a drone and what some of those images were, I became fascinated. I am Part 107 certified. I am really proud to be part of this small minority of women who really do see the opportunities that we have. We are on the ground floor right now and there is so much room here, especially for other women. I am hoping somebody who is listening, who may be on the fence, not sure where to go and how to do it, but believe me, you can get online, you can connect with another women: they are open, they are receptive. That is basically how I got started. It was not anticipated that I would be the pilot in our family, but it is how it all worked out. I am thrilled and I couldn’t be happier.
ENRICO: A couple of things that you said which I find really important. One, is you use the word “passion”. I talk to hundreds, thousands of drone pilots through the years, and some of them call and say, “Hey, I want to get in on this new thing, I want to launch a drone service business”. And when we get to the question of why, sometimes the answer is more about the drone rather than the underlying business model, the underlying activity. You brought passion for photography in as your foundational element to want to be involved in this business. I always tell these drone pilots, if you do not bring something to the table more than a drone, your chance of success is really low. You’ve got expertise in photography and of course that is what drones do. They capture great photographs and video and I think that obviously is just one of many tools you bring to the table in order to do the work, in order to come up with the finish product. How important do you think passion was to your ability to kind of get KEVA Creative off the ground and get it to where it is right today?
CHER: Passion is the thing that actually fuels this business. Our dream, where we want to go. Our goals and everything is built around our passion. Terry is an outstanding, gifted writer, he is also a photographer and that is how we both kind of got involved with all this drone stuff because through our photography. However, if you don’t have this burning passion and desire, it is going to feel like you are working a job. We wake up in the morning and we couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled in our lives, because we are working in an area that fulfills our needs to express ourselves artistically and we do that. This is definitely an area that we have passion in. That drives us that keeps us going.
ENRICO: We represent founders in the tech space and have since 1992, and so we totally get that as well. As we deal with all these thousands of different business models (drone and non-drone) that comes through our law office, it is sometimes hard to predict based on the idea who is going to make it. It is much easier to predict based on the founder’s passion for their idea as to whether or not they are going to be successful. Some of the biggest flyer ideas that ever came through our office that have ended up being companies worth millions of tens of millions of dollars, they got there based on the strength of the passion of the person who is executing the business model. Terry, let’s talk a little about your prior background. Cher mentioned that you are in at the ground floor, which I try and empathize all the time that it is still a new and emerging market and there is very limited market demand. We are waiting for the phones to start ringing off the hook like a regular business and that is just not going to happen overnight, and it’s going to take time for customers to realize the possibilities and to want to proactively without you having to tell them what a good idea these drones might be for their purpose that they are actually seeking that out. What is your background Terry that you brought to the table in launching KEVA Creative?
TERRY: I think the one of the main things to remember is an evolutionary process and that is what from my standpoint, I started studying this way back in the 70s when things were still pre-digital and had a career in business and then that translated in to a second career in journalism, public relations and corporate communications. It was during that journalism stint, that I started doing multi media journalism beyond just the writing and the photography. It got me back involved with the film work in the digital world and that just opened my eyes to a whole new vision of what was possible from a creative standpoint. It really helped evolve my storytelling skills, and as I continued through the public relations aspect and then in to corporate communications, I had the opportunity to work with one of the largest hospice organizations in the country. To be able to be their lead storyteller and to move that storytelling from text base to a visual base through our documentary film work, I had the opportunity to leave that. That naturally progressed in to KEVA Creative being formed in January of 2017 and, at that time, I was still involved in the corporate process. Cher had left her corporate job, and so we kind of put it all on her shoulders to help build the business or lift the business off the ground. One of those things that we blindly did was during my corporate work realizing there was some opportunity to add a visual element from an aerial standpoint even within the hospice industry that would really differentiate what we were trying to do. So we, like I said, naively bought a drone and had no clue what we were getting in to, and I was in a position where once we did, we found out that there was this thing called Part 107, to be a commercial pilot, to be able to do the work that we were wanting to do, and I just was not in the position to take it on and thank god Cher went after it with the passion that she had for the first I would say 10 years of our life. She never went anywhere without a camera. It was just part of everything that we did and once she put a drone up and she saw a different perspective, camera gets left behind now because the drone was with us constantly. That is truly where her passion has taken her.
ENRICO: Terry, one of the things that you mentioned which takes me by surprise, which is the use of drones with regards to a hospice organization and obviously we think of dirty, dull and dangerous jobs, and how drones are better way to do those types of activities. On the other side of the coin, is the fact that drones are a really good way to do something better visually storytelling, etc. How in the world do you incorporate drone footage into work product provided to a hospice organization?
TERRY: Well, I think first is it helps establish a sense of place and I think that translates into just about every single thing that we do. It just really opens the doors to establish a sense of place and the other thing is even though we used it a lot where safely, but it is in as tight as we can safely get it or hand hold which is another whole world for us, especially in the documentary film world. But to use that to either draw in, go toward our subject, make it more intimate or to start intimate and pull out, it is all that visual storytelling, it’s those things that we use cinematically that’s been done with maybe dollies or some type of gimble work in the past, well this opens up a whole new world. I think one of the things first, I don’t know if you have seen the film, but it was a complete film done with an Inspire and they used it both as a hand held and with flying it. Once I saw that behind the scene footage, it opened up our whole world as to how to incorporate this beyond the standard way of using a drone. That has been especially important with our documentary film that we are currently working on.
CHER: We are using our drone in a no-fly zone, and we are not flying our drones but we are using it. I use the Mavic Pro. I have mounted it on a hand-held stabilizer and I can go all over that area without launching it and get this visual footage, and it is a lot of fun. It helps you to develop new shots. The creativity that you use to come up with all this new stuff that is half the fun for us.
TERRY: You can see that on our website. We have a short piece about the documentary that we are working on if you don’t mind my going into that, but the film is called Equus Furus and it is about the wild horses of Shackleford Banks and it’s the part of the Capelook National Seashore. We had to apply for a film permit and go through that whole approval process but one of the stipulations was we could not launch a drone from the island. Instead of hindering us, how asked ourselves how can we use that to our advantage and that is what we have done using it the way we do on the island.
ENRICO: Interesting. Documentary film making obviously is taking the idea of telling a story to a level that I think we can all understand. You go to a documentary, there is a point, some cases it is not so much a plot, as it is telling the story that is already there. As you integrate that approach with digital marketing campaigns and establishing a brand story for your clients, you really pushing and are articulating what I think some drone service providers miss which is it is not about flying the drone. It is not about getting an aerial shot of the house from above, if that is all the drone pilot is doing, then they are really missing the opportunity to tell a story and the brand could be a literal brand, a product name, a company and the story behind the that company or it could actually just be a commercial property or residential property that someone is trying to sell to attach a story, a visual story to that can be extremely powerful. Why don’t you talk a little bit about that aspect of your business model which I think it actually makes you unique in the space?
TERRY: It really does. That is, it is on our business card, we are not there as a video production company or even a documentary film maker, our business card states visual storytelling. We incorporate that into every single aspect of everything we do.
CHER: We also tell our clients up front when we talk about it, because there is definitely a demand for drone footage. Our clients, they want it and expect it, but what we have to do up front is to manage their expectations and let them know that we, through our creative flow, we are going to tastefully integrate those drone images into the story line. It is not going to be a 15-minute drone video, it is going to be a tastefully integrated drone footage that is going to be incorporated into your story. I think that works better. In fact, we always tell them less is more. You don’t need a lot; you need the right shot. There is a lot of thought that goes behind that. We talk a little bit about our preflight operations, I mean that is where the thought goes in to all this.
TERRY: The more we can do and that is a big a part of being film makers. Your shoot, your filming is going to go such much better and such much easier if you have all that preplanning done in advance. We spend a great deal of time in creating shot list and studying the scouting area, we look at angles of the sun, best times of the day, where the sun is going to be at any given point in time during the day. We incorporate all that information, as well as all the preflight stuff that goes in to operating the drones safely, ethically and commercially.
ENRICO: We are talking to Cher and Terry Brown from KEVA Creative, and we have already talked a bit about how your pre-Part 107 experience. The expertise you already had when you started your drone company that you’ve incorporated into your drone service company. That is something where we are always evangelizing as well. You need to have expertise beyond the drone even if it is just being one of the top drone pilots and then you need to potentially partner with other people who have expertise in order to put together a product for the customer that is going to be really compelling that is going to provide ROI. What you guys have just mentioned is really something that we talk a lot about from the safety standpoint, the nuts and bolts of preflight operations, on specific types of operations, and how preflight planning is a big safety item. I know you guys do that, but you have also mentioned something that sometimes gets overlooked which is preflight operations are also the only way to thoughtfully get the shots you need with the lighting that is going to make it compelling at the right moment, the right time of day and if you are going to be getting that storytelling and that great shot as oppose to a shot, you need to really think about preflight operations. Just give us the nuts and bolts, you are going to do a shoot, it is going be a hospice, you are going to do the facility, you are going to show people that this is a warm and caring facility, etc. What would be an example preflight operation that you would do in order to make sure you are getting that compelling footage?
TERRY: Let me change that just a tad. We are located on the lower part of the southern part of the Outer Banks which means there is a lot of military operations that go on in this area so with that in mind, for all of our clients, we definitely have to, there is a lot of areas where you can’t fly, or there are times of the week that we can’t fly, so that is where Cher comes in and looks at not only the scouting aspects, but goes in and looks at those nuts and bolts pieces that then allows us to fly in those areas.
CHER: Sometimes you have to call someone on the military base, talk to someone in the tower, find out when they are hot or when they are cold, that is really important. You want to notify them you are flying in the area. If you have a regional airport, you are going to talk to them. If I am going back to your example. You said, let’s say a hospice community wanted us to have some real shots. We would not wait until the day of the shoot. We are going to go there ahead of time and I am going to launch my drone. Well first of all, I am going to clear that I can fly in those areas if not I am going to get the FAA’s approval. Then I am going to go and I am going to actually launch my drone. I have actually personally had a situation where a regional airport and DJI for some reason designated a five mile no-fly zone perimeter around it even though the FAA said we could fly there. Unfortunately, we had to go back through the DJI deal and have an unlock code that was customized for me so that I can now fly in that area. I don’t want to arrive on the day I am supposed to be there and find out that something, a fluke happened and now it is a no-fly zone. That’s part of our prep work. We are also going to scout the area, make sure there are no obstacles that are going to prevent me from launching and getting the type of shot that we want to get.
TERRY: Or if there are, what we need to do to work around that.
CHER: Yes, we could maybe set it up a different way and work with the client to let them now, but I never arrive blind. I am fully prepared. I am probably overly prepared. One last thing I want to mention, I got one of those silly neon yellow vests that I identify me as a professional or certified drone pilot. I think that really helps with the crowd control because anytime you go out and you are flying, you are going to attract people. Drones are a people magnet that sort of helps us to control that.
ENRICO: That is so true in thinking, acting, speaking as professionals that is the only way that drone service companies are going to get the professional level of pricing that of course the industry wants. When you got the kid next door going out flying a drone for cheap and a customer that doesn’t understand the difference between professional and nonprofessional services, that doesn’t understand the difference between the types of preflight activities that you guys do versus potentially a competitor who is just going to price it cheap and show up. This is a continuing issue for the industry. Professional level of pricing, getting customers to understand the value. What is it that you guys do in order to communicate the types of for instance preflight planning operations that goes in to your shoot in order to get the pricing that you need so that it starts to make sense?
CHER: That is a huge obstacle because there are so many people that either are flying drones themselves like real estate agents or they are not certified but yet they provide commercial drone services. We are shocked at the number of people that are yet out there. I think part of that is little accountability built into the drone enforcement at this point in time and hopefully that will change. I want the opportunity to bid on it, I want those jobs but it is an educational piece for us. We have to have the conversation right up front and we tell them, we have liability insurance to try take the responsibility in the event of an accident off from you and we will assume all of that. Things can happen. In that is why I made a decision also to go into the classroom. I do introductory drone courses, because I want people to hear the information, I want them to hear everything the right way, I want them to know there is a process in place and that every time you launch your drone and you put it up in the air, possibly with that I am going to be held accountable in some way, shape or form. I am going to have walk up people coming up to my jobsite and questioning me on accidents that they have witnessed, or irresponsible behavior by other pilots. It happens to me all the time.
ENRICO: That is funny that you mentioned the problem of the customer. I call it the customer problem. Customers for drone service companies and their pilots, they just don’t know enough to be able to understand all the different aspects of a drone operation, the post production work that goes in, all of the creative storytelling that you guys do as a part of your drone services that you provide. Until customers fully understand and appreciate that, this is more analogist to a lawyer or doctor doing a variety of different things in order to make you healthy or resolve your risk, or reduce your risk on a legal issue, that drone service providers also are professionals, and there is a lot more than just flying a drone. Educating the customer is perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle, I always believe that market demand will come when customers get to that certain level where they understand enough to where you are not having to educate them from the ground up. But they already know enough to understand that they want a professional grade service provider and what that means. The next thing I want to talk about is how to divide flight operations, sales, marketing, and CEO activities as your service business grows. You guys started a company, you have this business, and you have to run the business side of things in order to be successful. How is it as you grow and as you have your 3 and 5 year plan, how is it that you are intending to divide the operations, the sales, the marketing and true management activities in KEVA Creative?
CHER: Quite honestly, we jokingly say we are on duty 24/7. We handle everything between the two of us. It is all done in-house. We use QuickBooks. We don’t do our own taxes, we have a CPA for that which we absolutely need to protect us. We worked in corporate world long enough that we have got the skills to handle all of that. Yes, you have to be well-organized and manage different projects simultaneously. We are starting to finally get to the point we can are getting repeat business, recently we’ve had three different projects going at one time. It was really exciting but it is also pretty demanding but then again it goes back to that passion, that passion is behind you and it drives you. It just doesn’t feel like work.
TERRY: Another thing we did, we were originally down in Florida and we have parents that live here near the Outer Banks and who wanted to age there. We made the decision after doing due diligence on what was available in the area, from both a video production and a drone-based business operation that this was an ideal place to come because it was ripe for having work here. So, we made the decision to relocate this brand-new business in to an area, from everything on paper looked like it was a great place to come to but we got here, found out it was a depressed market. I guess there was a lot of reason why there wasn’t a lot of drone and video operations in this area. We constantly had to look at our market and advertising and demographics of our area and where we ended up doing a lot of work back in Florida from North Carolina and we tried to continue to establish our foothold here, so that we have a foundation, but we are constantly working out of our area, out of the coastal area of North Carolina. The other thing we have done, is expanding to markets where it is well established. One of those is a major film player in the state of North Carolina. I believe MGM has a major studio there. But because of the quality of our work, because of doing projects in those areas and other clients seeing the way we work, developing strong customer service skills and building that portfolio, we are able to get in to the market that should be somebody else’s to get and yet we have gone in and we have been able to get those jobs, and to continue to build those relationships and to get that repeat business which is really building up that strong foundation.
ENRICO: That’s great. We have been talking to Terry Brown and Cher Brown from KevaCreative.com. They are storytellers using drones as one of their tools in order to make things happen from the ground up. This has been an addition From the Ground Up sponsored Drone Law Pro and DroneLife where we publish them bi-weekly and we tell stories of real drone service providers out there in the field making it happen from the ground up. That is what the show is all about. We really like to thank Terry and Cher for being on the show today. Fly safe and make sure that you act, think and perform as professionals. Until next time, this is Enrico Schaefer and have a great day.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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