Starting his own business was ingrained in Tristan Minter from a young age. As a small business owner himself, Tristan’s dad always encouraged him to set out and work for himself. All that Tristan had to do was come up with a business idea.
The answer to that came when Tristan’s friend Tyson saw a Batman Begins billboard on the side of a local milkbar and thought how much better it would look if it was painted and part of the streetscape.
“We did some research and although no one was doing it in Australia, there was a company in New York that painted ads onto walls,” says Tristan. “So we thought, ‘If it works in New York, it’ll work in Melbourne.’”
The idea percolated for a while. Tristan had experience in running a business and Tyson had a background in sales, so all they needed now was someone who had a talent for painting.
“We knew a guy called Hamish in New Zealand who painted realism landscapes on canvas and he was keen to be involved,” says Tristan. “So we talked a real estate agent into giving us a lease on a very run down place, we scraped the money together and fixed up the building.”
Challenges and hurdles
The first thing the guys needed to do was show potential clients that Apparition Media could actually do what they said they could. So they picked adverts they thought would work well, painted all the internal walls of their studio, and made a portfolio.
“Brands are inherently risk-averse and marketing managers have been doing things the same way for a long time, so we really had to prove ourselves,” says Tristan.
Tristan describes their attitude to getting Apparition Media established as a combination of arrogance and stupidity.
“You don’t know how much you don’t know so you think everything will be fine,” says Tristan. “We just jumped in headfirst and figured it out along the way.”
Hard work pays off
Determination and hard work saw them through. After a year of getting set up they finally landed their first campaign with Coca Cola, who were looking to do something innovative.
“It just kind of aligned. We were just starting out and they were looking for something really different and interesting,” says Tristan. “And working with Coca Cola gave us credibility when we spoke to other clients down the track.”
After working with Coca Cola, work started to pick up for Apparition Media. To date they’ve worked with 68 different clients and painted over 240 walls. The work they do often gets a really good response from the public – much more so than a traditional billboard would.
“We did a campaign for the film Suicide Squad, and it just worked,” says Tristan. “The artwork was awesome, it looked really good painted and we got an awesome response from the public and online.”
Making a mark
With Apparition Media starting to pick up more and more business, Tristan and Tyson began thinking more seriously about how they were going to keep track of their finances.
“I kind of picked up the accounting side of things along the way,” says Tristan. “That’s where Xero is really good, it simplifies everything and allows you to learn as you go.”
But as business picked up and things became a bit more complicated, Tristan decided it was time to bring his accountant on board.
“We still do the bulk of the day to day accounting in house and work with our accountant on bigger issues, like how to become more profitable,” says Tristan. “Businesses can have a pretty complicated structure so having a really good accountant helps process that a lot.”
Now five years in, Apparition Media is starting to make its mark on the advertising scene in Melbourne, and keeping track of how the business is doing is easy with Xero.
Tristan and the team have worked on some awesome campaigns that really transform the Melbourne streetscape, from Zoolander 2 to World of Warcraft. But the highlight for Tristan so far? Doing some work for the Professional Golfers’ Association.
“Tiger Woods came down and signed the wall himself,” says Tristan. “That was awesome.”
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