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Atlanta Small Business Profile – Noah Hammer, Full Circle Lighting

[Original air date: 10/1/18]

On this week’s episode of Atlanta Small Business Profile with Ted Jenkin, Ted chats with Noah Hammer, CEO of Full Circle Lighting & Productions.


Ted Jenkin: Hey, this is Ted Jenkin, small business expert here at the Atlanta Small Business Profile on the Atlanta Small Business Network. I’m really excited today to interview Noah Hammer, who’s the CEO of Full Circle Lighting & Productions. The movie business is exploding here in Atlanta, so I thought it was a great idea today to interview somebody who’s actually in this movie business.

Ted Jenkin: I wonder, Noah, I’m just looking at this amazing place that you have today, and what you built. How did you even decide to get into the lighting business? When does one say, “I’m getting into the lighting business?”

Noah Hammer: I got into the lighting business because I actually have a love for theater. And I fell in love with theater and film when I was much younger and went into theater school. Studied how to become … Well, I actually studied everything, from costuming, to woodworking, to carpentry, and even wigs. And lighting was one of my fortes in that program.

Noah Hammer: And after I graduated, I wound up working for a company, first as a lighting technology, and then when they caught on that I had a degree in it, I became a lighting designer back home in Montreal. And then, after three years of working around in Montreal, working with Cirque du Soleil, I wound up looking for work in the United States and I actually got hired by a company here in the US who imported me here and I started working as a lighting designer here in Atlanta with much bigger productions and bigger shows. It was a great experience, coming to the US.

Ted Jenkin: I noticed you have a lot of equipment here, and I guess for some people that are thinking about getting into a capital intensive business, where I know lights are not cheap. How did you actually get this thing bankrolled, and basically, how could somebody at home think about starting this kind of business, where they have to buy a lot of equipment?

Noah Hammer: I actually wound up getting private equity.

Ted Jenkin: Oh, okay.

Noah Hammer: And then in wound up getting a partner who decided to invest the money onto me and into building this company with me.

Ted Jenkin: I mean, it’s really interesting you talk about partners because some people have to decide, “Do I go on this business on my own, or should I take on a partner?” How do you recommend dealing with partners? It sounds like you had an equity partner, but how do you have communication with them, and what would you recommend for people that are in a business now, and the best way to deal with partners.

Noah Hammer: Partnership is sometimes actually a really good thing to have. It gives you somebody in the background. Most people don’t understand when they start businesses, it’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of work by yourself. Having somebody else to watch your back kind of helped a little bit too.

Ted Jenkin: Right. Now, as the movie business has increased here in the state of Georgia, I would imagine that competition has increased. For a lot of people that are watching the show, that either run a business, or they’re thinking about getting into business, how do you stand out from a brand name perspective and what you do to make your lighting business stand out against other businesses when you compete for jobs?

Noah Hammer: It’s a service. It’s all about what service you provide to the film industry. We specifically light scenes. But if you want a concert scene or if you want a prom … Or one movie, we actually took the entire state capitol and turned it into a nightclub. That is what we do specifically.

Noah Hammer: A lot of the movie industry calls us only for specific scenes or theatrical tricks, and that’s who they want. They want the rock and roll guys, because we understand the effect they’re looking for, whether they wanted to make it look like water, or they want to make it look like beams are flying all over the place, that’s what we do for the film industry. We’re very different.

Noah Hammer: There are other lighting companies, but who are move developed for the interior shots, which doesn’t really require special effects.

Ted Jenkin: I always ask on this show … They say the dream is free and the hustle is sold separately. For a budding entrepreneur that’s out there, somebody who’s running a business, what’s the one thing that they should know, or what’s the one character trait they have to have to be successful in a business? Because everyone dreams about having one, but then making it happen is an entirely different thing.

Noah Hammer: It is. The problem is, is that whenever I get calls from people who talk to me about starting their own businesses, and, “How did you do this”, and, “How did you do that?” I always tell them the same thing, ” Are you ready to work 80 hours a week?”

Ted Jenkin: 80? Sometimes it is that much.

Noah Hammer: 80. It’s 80, it’s 85 hours. “Are you ready to work that kind of length? Are you ready to give up vacations and everything for five years?” Nevertheless, I might have had a private equity, the startup of the first year was very hard. I mean, I already had employees. I already had clients. From my working just as a designer for other companies, I was not as sales guy, but somehow, when I ran into running my own business, those clients followed me, because they didn’t care any more about sales people, what they wanted was, “Well, I want to work with the guy who knows this, who’s going to design it for me.”

Noah Hammer: Starting a business became very hard. I didn’t see my first vacation until five years. Starting your own business is not as easy as most people think. Everybody always talks … There’s a lot of bar talk. “Oh, I’m going to start my own business” and everything else.

Ted Jenkin: Bar stool entrepreneurs.

Noah Hammer: Correct. And they’ve got all the ideas. You want to start a business, you got to do what I did. You got to do what most of those … even the guys like Jeff Bezos did. You get in, you start that business and you give it 100%. You can’t work for somebody else while trying to build a business. If you’re not giving your business 100% of your time, it’ll never succeed.

Ted Jenkin: This is great stuff today, Noah. Thanks so much for coming on the program.

Noah Hammer: I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

Ted Jenkin: And thank you all for joining us with Noah today. Noah Hammer’s a great interview on the Atlanta Small Business Network. We’ll look forward to seeing you next week.

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