First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michelle McCormack: We are hanging in there, thank you. Staying positive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Casting Coin
Michelle McCormack: I started my career printing black & white for Annie Leibovitz. I then worked as a fashion photographer for the top fashion magazines and brands in the world, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Clinique.
After 5-years, seeing the writing on the wall, I pivoted my career into digital. I learned to code and eventually became a digital producer at global ad agencies producing campaigns for brands like Rockport, CVS, and Bank of America Rag & Bone, Sam Adams, Red Bull, Uber, etc.
In 2017, I became a leading voice in blockchain and wrote a cryptocurrency column for NY Observer. I have lived in 4 countries and 5 cities, and I’m an American and European citizen.
I’ve always been looking for a way to combine my two disciplines: fashion x technology to solve a real problem – I was looking for a really big idea – and in 2018, it hit me: disintermediation! Solve the talent agent issue… I had been on enough shoots to know there was something broken there: conflicting interests, entrenchment, power struggles, and more. I knew technology – specifically platform technology – could at least begin solving some of these big problems in elegant ways that made people’s lives better – artists and brands.
How does Casting Coin innovate?
Michelle McCormack: Technology and UX. We are constantly evolving our product based on real use cases. We are committed to getting smarter and more intuitive every day.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Michelle McCormack: In February, we had 3 major photoshoots with global beauty brands cancelled. We had to refund thousands of dollars of deposits while at the same time, realizing our prospects of getting more work/revenue vanished. As CEO, I took about a month and a half off; from mid-March to the end of April. We just stopped working. It just didn’t feel right. Then towards the end of April, it hit me that my company was in my hands – which no one was stopping me from trying anyway, and no one was forcing me to either – so I decided to go for it. My team and I came up with so many creative ways to earn revenue and keep our artists working – specifically remote photoshoots (where the brand sends clothes to the models’ house, and the model does everything: hair, makeup, style, and shoot themselves with a remote shutter control all the while communicating with the brand and our team via Zoom.
Another method our photographers used very successfully was “FaceTime” shoots where the photographer shoots the model on FaceTime and screenshots it. Some of the work is amazing; for example, our photographer Sydney Claire is so good, and celebrities hire her – like Bella Thorne!
Here’s one of Sydney’s shots of her:
BELLA THORNE SHOT BY SYDNEY CLAIRE
Finally, we also started to build a remote video casting app so brands can hold remote casting calls right on the platform. It was on our roadmap to build in 2021, but when COVID hit, we moved it up to the highest priority.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Michelle McCormack: Not really. Luckily, we have money in the bank, and our monthly burn isn’t too bad – we keep our overhead pretty low. 80% of our burn is on technology, and there was no way we were compromising there. If we have learned anything, it’s that you just have to keep your head down and work. Do the right thing – don’t cut corners – and everything will work out one way or the other.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Casting Coin in the future?
Michelle McCormack: Keep communicating – on Zoom or otherwise. It’s too easy now to become an island and not collaborate – I’m afraid that will severely weaken the company, so I don’t let that happen. Slack and Zoom are life/company savers. As far as the future, the best thing we can do is continue earning revenue and improving our product, and we are heads down committed to that.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michelle McCormack: Talent agencies, job boards, Instagram. We stay in the game and dominate by knowing, intimately, what our users want and need. Models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, global beauty brands, and fashion brands are our users. Our team lives and breathes this industry. I spend 1/2 my career as a fashion photographer here in NYC, and my team hails from Ralph Lauren, Fenty, Barneys, Elle, and that’s just the beginning. Casting Coin combines sophisticated technology with traditional fashion industry chops and better than anyone in the world. That’s how we compete.
Your final thoughts?
Michelle McCormack: You can nobly change the world in any industry (even fashion and entertainment!), providing you understand the space and your intentions are pure. Casting Coin is disrupting the fashion and entertainment industries by allowing brands to connect directly with artists. This is creating efficiencies all along the content creation supply chain never before seen in this industry – while at the same time unlocking job opportunities for artists based on talent and merit as opposed to nepotism.
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