(Photo by Lalita Clozel)
It was by a “lucky happenstance” that Overachiever Media founder Jason Nellis got to meet the youthful cofounders of Brilliant Collaborations, a neighboring startup also located at the WeWork Wonder Bread Factory.
Nellis was introduced in August to Jonathan Smalley and his sister Melanie Charlton through Kendrick Jackson, now an audience developer at General Assembly who at the time worked a couple of offices down.
They hit it off almost immediately.
“Both companies bring very different energies, very different thought processes, but they’re both complementary,” said Nellis. In time, they were pitching clients together, with Overachiever Media crafting the language and Brilliant Collaborations focused on branding and design.
After a few months of teamwork, they decided to take the next step and moved in together March 1. The team of five at Brilliant Communications now shares an office at WeWork with the three employees of Overachiever Media. Assigning desks initially took some tip-toeing and negotiating skills which, if you ask her, were mainly supplied by Charlton.
But now the office has a harmonious vibe, small jabs aside. “Jonathan continually eats my lunch,” said Nellis. “I would if he brought in good lunch,” quipped Smalley, who grew up in Aiken, S.C. Besides food, the team shares a liquor bar and their unofficial mascot, a dog named Cinna.
Overachiever Media, moved into WeWork Wonder Bread Factory in July 2014. At the time, it was a company of one and the partnership with Brilliant Communications had a scaling effect. It allowed Nellis to “deliver on bigger projects as one agency.”
Now, with younger recruits Meredith Whitfield and Christopher Breene, Overachiever Media still finds it helpful to have a bigger sounding board for its ideas. “We can think in a vacuum in one way,” but with other heads in the room “it can shift where it needs to go,” said Nellis.
The physical proximity to copy writers has also helped Brilliant Collaborations tighten its ad campaigns. “Our struggle was really big in the area of content,” Charlton said. Being able to “turn to my left and say hey Jason, can you look at that,” allowed the company to create “a message that’s cohesive across the site,” she added.
Brilliant Collaborations was founded in April 2014 by CEO Smalley, 23 and his sister, the COO and creative director Charlton, 26.
They began focusing on UI and UX but eventually branched out into branding. They’ve worked on local projects like the cme4me campaign, which encourages minority youth in D.C. to express themselves creatively. (You might have noticed some cme4me bus and trolley wrappers — that’s their design).
But they also have regional and national ambitions and have grown fast. “We went from being a family-owned startup to being an agency,” said Charlton.
The siblings also appreciated the support of a more seasoned entrepreneur. Before launching Overachiever Media in late 2013, Nellis, 31, had worked at rapid growth-stage Hulu and at PBS Distribution. “It is nice to have a fellow entrepreneur in this space,” said Charlton. “Knowing that you’re not crazy for thinking certain things or ways.”
When asked about the possibility of eventually merging, both sides seemed in agreement, too. “We don’t want to force anything,” said Nellis. But for now, he added, “Think of us all as Brilliant Collaborations or all … as Overachiever Media, whatever makes it easier for you.”
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