Dave “Dabs” Johnson and his college professors didn’t always see eye to eye. When he told them he wanted to make social media videos for a living, they told him that wasn’t really a “thing.” Four years later, his company, Dabu Media, is closing in on its most successful year yet.
Dave, who considers himself an accidental entrepreneur, still can’t believe he gets paid to do what he loves.
“I didn’t mean to start this business. It was a school project, and the only reason I kept going with it was because it was the only way I could find opportunities to do my craft and make a living at it.”
With his diploma in Digital Communication and Media in hand, Dave contracted his services to a few local companies. He wasn’t always making videos – sometimes he was the production assistant, the grip or the driver transporting directors around. While working on the set of a large commercial production, he had an “a-ha” moment.
“These people are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on this commercial and, to be honest, me and my buddy could shoot something that’s 80% as good for $10,000 and it would be done more quickly and efficiently,” he says.
“There’s a gap between the highly produced and the amateur video and I’m going to fill that niche.”
Eventually, projects started to flow in. He built a reputation as a quality videographer – a “one man band” – who can shoot and edit video and turn it around in 24 hours. One of the videos he’s most proud of chronicled the efforts of the Red Cross in South Sudan and raised almost a million dollars.
Another video was part of a social media campaign designed to convince Jimmy Kimmel to drink a Caesar on Canada Day.
“I remember getting the call. ‘Hey, pack your bags, we’re going to LA!’ I had a $300 DSLR and a drone and away I went.”
He took jobs as they came but almost gave up on the business last year. He decided to join Communo on the recommendation of a friend, to give it one last shot.
“No one had ever taught me anything, especially about business”
“I was hungry for a mentor. I had no idea what I was doing. When I heard about Communo, I thought this is cheaper than tuition, so I’m going to try it and see if I can learn a thing or two.”
In the spirit of generosity, he volunteered a free video service to interested Communo members. Little did he know, his professional life was about to change drastically.
The CEO of Communo, Ryan Gill, took him up on his offer and the two of them hit it off. Dave volunteered to work on a video project for The Gathering, an international marketing summit held annually in Banff, AB.
He blew Gill away with his talent and the opportunity gave him exposure to other Communo members and big clients, who started calling and wanting to hire him.
Dave is now the full-time videographer for Ryan Gill Shares, producing daily social media video content for Gill’s vlog focusing on entrepreneurship, leadership and the startup grind.
“I got what I was looking for, a business mentor, and now I consider Ryan a close friend.”
What would you tell your younger self? – Go figure out who you are before you figure out what you want to do. I traveled around the world for 6 months before college and learned so much about myself.
What would we be surprised to learn about you? My dream job is still working on a ski hill shooting videos, it’s not to be working with big clients. I’d like to be fishing and snowboarding full-time. I’m a small town boy at heart.
Advice for Communo members? – Give your first job away free!