Flying by the seat of your pants. Figuring things out as you go.
These are not strategies that one generally thinks of when they think of successful, growing businesses.
Yet in the right sector, with the right idea and people with the right drive and motivation, flying by the seat of your pants can work; figuring things out as you go can become a viable business plan.
“We didn’t have any equipment. We did our first photo shoot, and then we bought our first Profoto strobe. We did our first shoot with the strobe and bought our second. Kept doing that for a year or two.”
That’s how Nico Scandiffio, one of four co-founders of Beyond Studios NYC, described the first days of the company.
The idea that would become Beyond Studios germinated between Zack Dawson and Scandiffio while attending Pratt Institute. They got to talking about the lack of opportunity to do the types of creative projects they were interested in, and the lack of suitable spaces in which to do them.
“There was just absolutely no support network,” said Scandiffio, “absolutely no infrastructure. None of those things that are really needed to create projects of scale.”
Eventually co-founder Zack Dawson came across a space to work out of down in Washington, DC. Scandiffio dropped out of Pratt and they both moved south — soon followed by the other two partners, James Emery and Evan Foster — bootstrapping together what would become a state-of-the-art photography and sound recording studio. In short order, Beyond became a full-service production house, offering not just space and resources but creative services as well, from pre-production to mixing and editing, and from web design to, well… beyond.
Then serendipity struck again. Two and a half years into building Beyond Studios DC, they got word from a good friend — from their Pratt days — that an artist collective he was involved with was going to close up shop. They had been working out of a 4,000-square-foot warehouse on Seigel Street, just off the Morgan L stop. Beyond proposed the prospect of taking over the lease.
“It was honestly an insane idea at the time,” added Foster, “We were looking at acquiring a space in New York maybe 6 months or 12 months down the line. But at the same time this tremendous opportunity was staring us in the face and we all knew it had to happen now.”
With a trusted team managing the day-to-day operations of Beyond’s DC studio, they packed their bags, headed back up the coast, and immediately got to work renovating what would soon become Beyond Studios NYC. One of their biggest goals for the new Bushwick spot was to replicate something that emerged naturally in DC.
“In DC, it’s a smaller creative scene,” Scandiffio said. “So we were able to establish ourselves as a hub… If you’re a photographer [in DC] you probably interact with us to some degree.”
The desire to maintain a sense of community with the local artistic scene is echoed by co-founder James Emery, though he has a focus on local music where Scandiffio’s sights are on more visual arts.
“All the music video content,” said Emery, “…kind of evolved into us creating a music series called In Studio Live,” an NPR Tiny Desk-style series featuring performances by independent, local DC artists.
“A huge part of 2018 is bringing that series to New York, giving local artists a platform, complementing a lot of DIY, underground local music scenes with an online platform,” Emery said. You can check out their live performance series at InStudio.Live.
While they may not have had a traditionally recognizable business plan, the guys behind Beyond Studios have the right drive and the right motivation. They’ve taken big risks at just the right times and, with a combination of luck and incredibly hard work, are building a unique, community-minded business in an increasingly corporatizing field.