First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Artem Koker: We actually had to sell our house because money was tight and we felt uncertain if there was going to be another housing bubble like back in 2008.
It’s a bit interesting because I grew up moving all over the place, and by the time I hit 18, I moved through 3 different countries and around 13 homes total. So stability was something that I always treasured, and then COVID came along, and kind of shook it all down.
I think it’s all for the better, though, and we’re in a good spot now, thank God 🙂
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Arazo Media
Artem Koker: I was interning for a defense contractor, and it was really draining my creativity away, and I felt so dull. I didn’t feel like I was growing, and I felt like the same type of people surrounds me except for one really cool guy whose name was Nate.
He pushed me to grow and start my own thing. Later on, when I left that defense contractor, he became our company’s co-founder and CEO.
Our company is called Arazo Media, and in Portuguese, our name means ‘simply amazing.’ I got that idea because I was dating a girl from Brazil and was picking up a bit of the language.
How does Arazo Media innovate?
Artem Koker: We had to pivot to doing a lot more virtual services like web designs and Google / YouTube advertising. We’re trying to develop that into a core ability so that we don’t get hit as hard if something like that happens again.
We also are getting creative with cutting back overhead and expenses, so I’ve been able to cut back about 50% of what we were spending in the past, and it’s really bare-bones operation now, which is good on the financial side and will keep us alive.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Artem Koker: As a result of Covid, we lost about $58k just in contracts alone. The amount that we lost from regular business and partnerships that we’ve been developing over the months and years is even greater.
When it first hit, we basically lost about 90% of our revenue. The worst part was that we were not eligible for any government aid because we’re all contractors, so we were screwed for a while. Now it’s better because we can get pandemic relief individually, but some of our guys are still not able to get it, and it’s really hard on them. I personally haven’t gotten the $1200 check from the gov either, so it’s all over the place.
On the bright side, we’re bouncing back slow and steady, and we’ve also been working a huge COVID-19 documentary for the past 7 months that we will be submitting to 26 different festivals and trying to sell to Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, HBO, etc.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Artem Koker: Yeah, I mean, we had to cut back a lot and really dive into the unknown in terms of developing new products and exploring new business units like website designs and more advertising stuff.
Undertaking our documentary was a huge risk because it’s such a huge time consumer, and we are not getting paid for it. We’re putting our own time and energy and money into it with the hopes of selling. It’s a big risk.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Arazo Media in the future?
Artem Koker: I just have a ‘to do’ list for everything and take it one day at a time. I also try to focus on one task at a time and run in the mornings to get myself pumped. All that stuff really helps.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Artem Koker: There’s not really like four or five big players in our game. It’s mostly just different people who might be other smaller businesses or individuals, and there’s too many of them, honestly.
We just focus on being the best that we can and on growing as much as we can. That’s the best we can do at a time like this, especially.
Your final thoughts?
Artem Koker: Have faith in God and look on the bright side.