Humor is subjective. But there's something about a cat holding onto a string telling you to "hang in there" that speaks to everyone.
bCreative co-founder and president Scott Gardiner and his childhood friend understood that. In the late '80s, the two hatched a plan. What if they combined their strengths creating humorous artwork and clever copy to create posters guaranteed to make people laugh?
They created a few posters to sell at local college bookstores and became an overnight success in the Washington DC area. In a few short years, they were the primary supplier of humorous posters to college bookstores across the United States.
"One thing led to another, and we discovered licensing. We realized we could take [the images we created] and grant rights to product makers," says Gardiner. "All of a sudden, we were making some good royalty revenues. The beauty was we never even had to touch the product."
Bitten by the licensing bug, they eventually sold off the poster business and focused on licensing the art produced from their two-man collaboration. That made for easy paperwork management and transparent com
But, when they changed their business model and shifted their focus to helping "tons of really creative people" from cartoonists to copywriters create work to build a robust licensing portfolio, they realized that effective management required more than basic business tools.
"We're a funnel. The ideas, content, and artwork are created on the front end of our business, and we're the licensee for that business," explains Gardiner. "Then we license it back out to the manufacturers and publishers as the licensor. It makes our back office a little more complicated."
Over the next ten years, they built a unique agency that allows them to connect artists with outside partners and collaborate in-house. Clients include For Better or For Worse, Jason Naylor, David Olenick, and LCT Creative, whose work can be seen across home, gift, stationery, apparel, and outdoor retailers worldwide.
To keep up with the skyrocketing demand, they experimented with digital spreadsheets and software vendors whose rigid and complicated interfaces made managing their business feel like a chore. After years of trial and error, they grew exhausted. They were sacrificing time that should be spent nurturing and supporting big talent on "back-office work"—an affectionate term they use for the mountains of paperwork, including agreements, approvals, and royalties that kept piling up.
A few years ago, Gardiner stumbled upon Flowhaven. At the time, it was a new and ambitious startup piloting a concept called Licensing Relationship Management. He decided to take a chance and see what an easy-to-use, end-to-end tool that put relationships first could do for his business.
The result? Happier clients, a more productive team, and loud applause from all corners of the business.
Some teams want to be the biggest in the game. bCreative wants to be the best.
"Our goal with Flowhaven wasn't necessarily to grow our business. We have an attitude at bCreative that we like to keep things lean and mean," says Gardiner. "We do a lot of collaborating on the creative and administrative ends. So having software that handles the back office, rights, and asset management side of things was super important for us to be able to run efficiently without having to add new people."
Flowhaven came into the picture when the team wasn't feeling like 'the best.' There were way too many moving parts, thousands of SKUs in the marketplace, and partners violating the terms of their agreements. Email threads and tagged spreadsheets weren't enough. Important details were getting lost in the mix, and it was apparent that the team was starting to experience the same collective burnout.
With less than five people juggling 30+ creators and a stable of licensees, efficiency wasn't just nice to have. It was the "make it or break" factor for any technology the company would consider. The promise of an intelligent solution that could make agreements and rights management and other administrative tasks hassle-free sealed the deal.
At bCreative, there are people on all sides of a licensing deal involved in drafting and executing an agreement, including the artist, the licensee, and the company.
Because each deal involves a unique work of art, the limitations and expectations for each deal are unique as well. So, having space where they could see all of the terms of their agreement laid out, including deadlines, restrictions, and important dates, had them feeling like they hit the jackpot.
The team relies on Flowhaven's agreement management tools to track expiring deals and zero in on specific schedules. When they log into the system, a customizable environment tells them when a deal will run out, if the terms of the deal have been met, and other time-sensitive information. For scheduling, the team can use dashboards to compare their position in the product pipeline to the timelines identified in the signed contracts.
Flowhaven's rights management tools have also been a saving grace for bCreative's management team. The system identifies territory and usage rights based on agreement data and filters information accordingly.
Based on the granted rights, the team can automatically distribute style guides and other sensitive files as well as easily verify that the work they are doing falls in line with contract restrictions. This allows their team to assess territory-specific programs more easily and avoid costly mistakes with partners.
"Before Flowhaven, we were organized enough where we knew how to find things, but not organized enough to be as efficient as we'd like it to be," he adds. "Flowhaven has allowed us to be more productive on the administrative side and then be able to then more quickly and efficiently get files out to our clients when they need them."
Scott reports that "Flowhaven has helped us a lot with quick and easy access to reports and information related to royalties and rights management."
Royalty management was the greatest source of stress for creativity because their small team was tracking thousands of products across spreadsheets. That made it difficult to track revenue in real-time and stay aware of payment deadlines. It also limited leadership's ability to verify that royalties were calculated property and, in turn, deliver accurate earnings reports and payments to artists.
"One of the advantages of our model is that it gives manufacturers and publishes a wide selection of content through a single agreement," explains Gardiner. "We can't just assume we're getting the correct royalties from our licensees. We have to accurately report those back out to the appropriate artist and creative people. Our reputation depends on it."
Now using Flowhaven, it takes seconds for the team to upload and validate royalty reports or create custom reports and share them with the people who matter. Leadership can track royalty earnings overtime to make more informed decisions and reevaluate partnerships where needed. They can also process extremely complicated royalty data, including FOB pricing, sublicensing or direct sales.
As a result, the time the team spends managing royalties has decreased by more than 75%.
"Just this week, I needed to generate a list of licensees for a specific brand," adds Gardiner. "Within minutes, I had the report in hand and made some critical decisions based on the information in the report. On one screen, I could see when the license terms were over for that brand and how much we had earned in royalties from sales of the brand's licensed products by those licensees over the past four quarters. In the past, it would have been a lengthy and burdensome process to come up with those dates and numbers."
If that weren't enough, the LRM system also helps them stay proactive and solve accounting hiccups before they even happen. With the Flowhaven tool, the team has the power to make projections based on different royalty rates to decide which one fits best and schedule payment reminders ahead of time to ensure payments arrive on schedule.
Because they can stay laser-focused on royalties with little effort, they've been able to minimize risk and keep their partners accountable. Recouping licensing royalties in full has also made it easier to accurately assess brand health and see where additional resources are needed to ensure products and activations reach their full potential.
Because licensed art is so easy to copy, the number one concern for art licensing businesses is security and brand protection. They want to be sure that the creators are compensated for their work and that images aren't used for anything other than their intended purposes.
Flowhaven is built on Salesforce, the world's #1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. That means that anyone who uses Flowhaven has access to the system that limits exposure of data to the users that act on it, offers customizable security controls for sensitive data, and monitors accounts for inappropriate usage. For added protection, Flowhaven does not store your data or make copies of files. It simply hosts the information you need for as long as you determine.
"One of the huge things we looked for in Flowhaven and got excited about is the stability of the Salesforce platform that it runs on," adds Gardiner. "It alleviated all risk in terms of the homegrown software component and offered top-notch security. You can't get a more stable platform than Salesforce."
Security may have sold bCreative on Flowhaven, but superior customer experiences stole its heart.
Flowhaven's Customer Success team is trained to help users customize their tool around their unique needs and is available 24/7 to lend a helping hand. Celebrated for their' service with a smile,' the Customer Success team includes dozens of dedicated professionals with a genuine interest in ensuring that each and every person experiences the maximum benefits of the Flowhaven suite.
"We keep talking about the great customer service we've received from Flowhaven," shares Gardiner. "When you're dealing with thousands of SKUs and digital images and the combination thereof, getting data organized properly can be challenging. I can confidently say that the around-the-clock access to customer service and friendliness, and dedication of the team to solve the problems has been tremendous. To say we're appreciative is an understatement."
With a streamlined process, the team at bCreative is able to prove they're the best a what they do. Thanks to Flowhaven, they're taking smarter approaches to small teamwork, simplifying back-office work, and ultimately making the process of creating humorous content to light up the world quick and efficient.
Don't let all of this new Flowhaven knowledge fall by the wayside. Head to our demo booking page and let our team know you have questions to help you get started.