The Story of Calvin Hamilton and His Journey to Provide Personal Branding and Digital Marketing Solutions
Calvin Hamilton is the founder of Engineer Influence, a boutique marketing and brand strategy firm. He specializes in executive personal branding and paid distribution services. Calvin’s marketing journey started in his teens when he worked in the Multi-Channel Networking Industry. Through hard work, he gained considerable experience and success helping online gaming content creators increase their viewership on YouTube.
Soon after, he went on to work for Gary Vaynerchuk, or “GaryVee,” as a Social Media Manager for VaynerMedia. By March 2019, Calvin was ready to leave VaynerMedia to launch Engineer Influence. As a young entrepreneur under 30, Calvin has achieved a level of success that many people only dream of. Even with his accomplishments, he knows he is never done. He is always looking for opportunities and ways to add value to the services he offers.
What motivated you to get started with your business?
Calvin: One of the biggest motivating factors that led me to start Engineer Influence was the lack of transparency and straightforwardness in the marketing industry.
There have been multiple occasions where I’ll have prospects, clients, or colleagues tell me that talking to marketing agencies is just flatout exhausting: things move slowly, no one is willing to explain why results can’t be guaranteed for certain projects, launching new campaigns or managing the agency’s operations can eat up hours of your week (even though you’re hiring them!), and it feels like most firms are more focused on how large of a service fee they can squeeze out of you than the actual project at hand. And while these frustrations certainly do not apply to all agencies by any means, I immediately saw a gap in the market for an agency that is as transparent as a company like Buffer, has seamless onboarding processes, offers innovative marketing solutions, and allows their clients to spend less time marketing and more time on product and innovation.
That said, I have spent virtually all of my time building the infrastructure, team, and processes to make Engineer Influence an agency that can solve those issues, specifically as it pertains to personal branding and media buying. Now, the journey hasn’t been perfect, and I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes and hiccups along the way, but I’ve never been more confident in our ability to deliver results, and I think my clients would say the same.
What inspired you to get into this industry?
Calvin: I stumbled into marketing by mistake.
As a kid, I was always very entrepreneurial and sought out new opportunities, but I never chose to “pursue marketing” or anything like that.
Simply put, when I was in middle school, I was passionate about video games. So passionate that I would spend 14 hours on a Saturday playing Call of Duty 4 until my thumbs were exhausted. You can say I had no life or that I was addicted, but as far as I saw it, I just really enjoyed playing games.
Around the same time, gaming content was starting to pick up some buzz on YouTube, so naturally, I figured I would try to start making videos of my own. A year or two into this newfound hobby, I learned that certain YouTubers were actually monetizing their videos through these third party companies called “Multi-Channel Networks.” For obvious reasons, I was immediately interested.
For the next two years, from the 6th grade until the 8th grade, my biggest goal in life was to partner with an MCN so that I could start making money from my gaming videos. After trying to start multiple YouTube channels, learning about best practices on the platform, and ultimately how to create better content, I finally grew my channel to the place where I met the minimum requirements for an MCN out of the UK. I was thrilled. I thought that I had just beat life and was going to start raking in the dough from playing video games and making videos. Man, was I wrong…
After my first month being partnered, I received my first paycheck of just over £4.00. As excited as I was to have earned some money from something that had just been a hobby, I was also bummed about how little my channel generated.
That moment ultimately led me to message the CEO of the MCN I was partnered with on Skype and ask him if there was any way that I could learn more about what he did. Surprisingly, despite being 14-years old at the time, he said yes, making me the first person he brought onto his team as a talent scout for the network.
From there, I spent nearly six years in the MCN industry and helped grow channels from tens of thousands of subscribers all the way up to hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers. Ironically, the entire time I was doing this, I never thought that I was building a tangible skill set that would set me up for a career in marketing; I still thought of most of my work as a hobby that I got paid for – that is until I was hired by Gary Vaynerchuk.
How do you differentiate yourself with your competition?
Calvin: Knowledge, experience, and transparency.
Despite being as young as I am, I feel like I’ve gathered a lot of experience having worked with some of the most prolific companies and entrepreneurs in the world. Now, that said, I am still fully aware that I am nowhere close to knowing everything. As much as I’d love to think that working for Gary or launching and scaling an agency that has worked with industry leaders gives me a “ticket to know everything,” it doesn’t.
So, when it comes to the work, I’m always willing to try new things and do my best to not let past experiences cloud my judgement and prevent me from shifting my approach.
What does success mean to you?
Calvin: Well, fundamentally, not only does success vary from person to person, but it also changes for each individual person.
That said, right this moment, success means building systems and processes that help me deliver a great service to my clients. It also means taking complete control of my day and making sure that I make time for the things that are important to me.
I think that it’s so easy to look at someone online and think about how “successful” they are, but the fact of the matter is that what makes them “successful” may not only be different from what would make you successful, but it may also not make them successful in their mind. It may be convoluted, but it goes to show exactly how internalized success really is.
If you’re like my old boss, GaryVee, you’ll say “success is happiness,” but I’m more of a believer that success is freedom to do whatever it is that you think will not only make you happy, but also successful at that point in your life.
What would you say are the biggest challenges when starting a business?
Calvin: For me, the biggest challenge when starting Engineer Influence has absolutely been patience. Because we’re trying to solve a rather multi-faceted problem, or set of problems for that matter, I’ve had to spend hundreds of hours building an infrastructure that can scale without sacrificing our service. That said, I’ve spent most of my time simply laying the foundation for the rest of the work that we’re doing, and foundational work very rarely garners any traction from the outside world.
So, for all of the hours that I’ve spent working on groundwork, I’m not pitching prospects, closing new clients, working on press releases, or doing any of the flashy things you see on social media, I’m just making sure that every client that walks through our door is going to have the best experience that we can afford to give them.
However, the sad reality is that because you don’t see as much traction as you’d otherwise like, it can feel like you’re not making much progress or that things are moving in the right direction; but in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.
How important is mindset when starting your own business?
When starting a business, there are always a lot of headaches to deal with and fires to put out, and everytime you address one of those things, no matter how frustrating, you have to do so in a way that sets a strong precedent for your team. So, if you’re in a bad head space, there is no way that you’re going to be able to achieve what you set out to do without risking your mental health or relationships.
What’s your advice for those trying to start their own business?
Calvin: Be patient with yourself, be obsessed with your product, and implement the pareto principle (80/20 rule) in everything you do. The vast majority of the things you do will be a waste of time, it’s a matter of recognizing it, and then taking the appropriate action to address it.
What are your next projects?
Calvin: I’m planning on launching a couple of projects over the next few months:
1) The Commute: Inspired by The Ascent, Visualize Value, and the ever-changing media landscape, The Commute takes insightful written-word content from all over the internet and turns it into bite-sized videos and audio clips that can be consumed on the go. We give authors added distribution and consumers the ability to watch or listen to their favorite content on YouTube or Spotify.
2) A cryptocurrency portfolio tracking app that allows users to look at their positions in different cryptocurrencies efficiently, in a modern intuitive display, and for free.
That said, the agency is still the biggest priority.
In two short years, Calvin has had the pleasure of working with digital celebrities and executives such as Ryan Serhant, David Meltzer, Rohan Oza, Jon Taffer, and Hubert Rhomberg. He’s also worked with companies like Extell Development, Drink Poppi, ScholarMe (YC S19), and Univision Communications. You can follow Calvin on Instagram @calvinsmind.