It takes hard work, determination, and talent to achieve startup success, but getting an early break from a major business leader like Lord Alan Sugar can be a real game changer, as entrepreneur Ross Testa, founder of video and social media agency 3 Heads Agency discovered.
At school, Testa had no idea where his future career lay. While his friends pursued predictable routes into law, medicine, and journalism, he admits that his plans were non-existent. Everything changed when, aged 18, he decided to organize a charity week at school to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust after one of his closest friends, Ellis Haggith, was diagnosed with leukemia.
He says: “I was determined to make it a success, and it was: the campaign raised just under £5,000 in one week. We had support from a lot of businesses and celebrities, and the experience made me realize this was what I wanted to do as a career. I approached several businesses, offering to create content for their social media, and when one, a barber’s shop, got back to me, and I had my first client.”
He launched his video and social media agency while still at school, but at that stage wasn’t ready to commit to working on the business full time. He decided to go to university to study business management and run his agency in his spare time. Keeping all his options open, he also took a full-time job with Microsoft.
Testa, now 23, says: “I applied for the job at the start of my first year, and while I waited to hear back from them, my business starting to grow. When they offered me the job, I was caught between three amazing opportunities, growing my business, studying at university, and working at Microsoft. I wanted to continue with all three, so I was working flat out at Microsoft all day, and running my agency and studying for my degree at night.”
In the final year of his degree, however, the pressure to juggle all three became too much to handle. “Microsoft was amazing, and as an entrepreneur, I learned so much about how the organization operates and how the teams all work towards one vision, but I needed to focus on my business and the final year of my degree,” he says.
Then in 2018, aged just 21, Testa got his big break when he was asked to produce a video for one of Lord Sugar’s businesses. He had been working with Andrew Bloch, Lord Sugar’s PR agent and the CEO of Frank, creating video content for their campaigns, and doing everything from car launches with Volvo to World Cup campaigns for Clas Ohlson with John Barnes.
“My first opportunity to work with Lord Sugar was when Andrew arranged the press launch of 2017 The Apprentice winner Sarah Lynn’s business, ‘Sweets in the City’,” says Testa. “They needed a video to showcase both Lord Sugar and Sarah Lynn speaking about the products. We shot and edited it in in one day, before it was shared across press and social media.”
After giving it his seal of approval, Lord Sugar asked Testa to do some more work, including making videos for the launch of his investment company Amsvest, and for some of the businesses run by previous winners of The Apprentice: Climb Online, Hyper Recruitment Solutions, Dr Leah Clinics, and Ridiculously Rich by Alana.
Since then the agency has gone on to work with some leading U.K. brands, creating podcasts, managing social media accounts, and producing video content for the likes of Volvo and Champneys. Last year, it turned over £500,000, ($637,000), a 200% increase on the previous year, and this year, despite Covid-19, they are on track to achieve the same level of growth. In fact, the pandemic has been a driver of recent growth, as so many brands have focused on growing their online presence.
“Millions of people online watch videos every day, so brands need to ensure that they can engage with them in a much more interactive way,” says Testa. “Whether that’s through organic social media posts, retargeting social media adverts, or even online webinar conferences, we can help brands to reach as many people as possible online and convert them into customers.”
Several new clients have come on board during this period, including Jammie Dodgers, The Skinny Food Co, and Vitabiotics. The focus now is on enhancing internal processes and hiring new staff to help support growth and business acquisitions.
The business has also become a family affair, with Testa’s sister Jodie joining two years ago, and his dad Roy coming on board in July, which led to the company being given its current name, the 3 Heads Agency. “My grandparents came to the U.K. from Italy and our family name Testa translates into ‘head’ in English,” says Testa. “So now there are three ‘heads’ working together every day.”
To other young entrepreneurs just starting out on their journey, Testa’s advice is to ‘do what you love’.
“You have to have a passion for the service or product you’re offering,” he says. “You will face setbacks and challenges, and work long hours, and make sacrifices, so loving what you’re doing ensures you don’t give up. I’ve loved every minute of my journey and hope for the same for other young entrepreneurs.”
His school friend Ellis, for whom he campaigned so passionately, made a full recovery from leukemia and went on to become a basketball coach, and that, too, continues to influence Testa’s own outlook on life.
He says: “What happened to Ellis taught me that you have to take your chances and live your life to the full. Success is about hard work, commitment, never giving up, and not accepting any limitations as to what is possible. There are lots of other companies doing what we do, but as long as we are constantly pushing ourselves, we will succeed.”