Spokane Journal of Business

Producing good Mojo


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-—Katie Ross
Mojo Lab LLC’s Chris Clifford and Clint Janson created these promotional materials for the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ STEP project.

Advertising and production house Mojo Lab LLC, of Spokane, is not only experiencing rapid growth for a year-old business; it’s having a good time while doing it. 

Chris Clifford and Clint Janson, principal owners of Mojo Lab, set out to start a business where they could combine their talents and have fun, they say. So far, the two feel like they’re succeeding.  

Mojo, which launched in May 2013, started out strictly as a video production business, Clifford says. Within about six months of business, clients began asking for more design work, he says, and the two decided to become a full-service agency. 

 “We’ve added three employees since then,” Clifford says. 

Besides the principals, the company currently has one full-time employee and two part-time employees. 

Its first-year growth has been encouraging, the owners say; it’s expecting to hit $1 million in revenue in 2014.

“In our first three months, our revenue was $12,000,” Clifford says. “By a year it was $500,000, and we’re on track to be over $1 million (for this year).”

Mojo occupies a 2,400-square-foot office on the second floor of the Buchanan Building, at 30 W. Third downtown. In addition to its main office space, Mojo leases a 2,000-square-foot studio and another 1,000 square feet of space in the building.

Mojo operates as a full-service marketing, advertising, and production firm, Clifford says. 

“If you can hear it or see it, we can do it,” says Clifford. 

Locally, Mojo’s clients include Churchill’s Steak House, Spokane Federal Credit Union, Truckland Inc., Inland Northwest Health Services, and Avista Corp.  It also signed the Spokane Tribe of Indians as a client this March. As the agency of record for the tribe, Mojo is responsible for the advertising for Two Rivers Casino in Davenport, Chewelah Casino, and Spokane Tribal Enterprises, as well as the Spokane Tribe Economic Program (STEP). 

One of the things that sets Mojo apart, Clifford and Janson assert, is its ability to take a project from start to finish. Janson cites his recent work for Churchill’s Steakhouse’s summer campaign as an example.

“I did all the photos, designed everything, and placed all the media,” Janson says. As part of the campaign, Janson shot the still photos for a brochure, including a shot of olives dropping into martini glasses. 

“I was holding the camera and dropping the olives at the same time,” Janson says. “It’s a good thing I’ve got long arms.”

“More importantly,” Clifford interjects, “Clint did that whole campaign on his own, from concept to completion. That’s what makes us unique.”

The duo also turned the STEP campaign for the Spokane Tribe of Indians around quickly, Janson contends. That venture was another concept-to-completion project. 

To deliver some large, yellow-painted letters needed for a photo shoot with community leaders for the campaign, Janson and Clifford set some assistants to an unusual task: drying the paint on the letters with hair dryers. 

“That was five days from concept to delivery,” Janson says. “We aren’t afraid of a quick turnaround.”

Clifford asserts that another of Mojo’s Spokane clients, Truckland, of Spokane Valley, has seen growth in its business since bringing in the agency. 

“After three months as their agency, they had their best month ever,” Clifford claims. “As of May, their numbers have surpassed last year’s.”

Both Clifford and Janson come from video production backgrounds. Prior to launching Mojo, Janson spent 15 years as an editor at another production firm here, Hamilton Studio. He also spent six years working at KXLY-TV here after graduating from Eastern Washington University. 

Clifford, on the other hand, describes himself as a “self-made man.”

“I didn’t go to college,” he says. 

Clifford opened his first business as a disc jockey at 19, he says, and played school events and nightclubs. He also owned a coffee shop in Spokane Valley for a few years before being hired at KHQ as a production assistant in 1998. After being promoted and working as a sound supervisor, Clifford left and worked in Los Angeles in the reality television and feature film industries as a freelance sound supervisor. He says his show credits include “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” “LA Ink,” “Super Nanny,” and “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Clifford met Janson while working as a freelancer for Hamilton Studio, where Janson was an editor. 

“I walked in the edit room one day, and we just started experimenting with other formats,” Clifford says. 

“And I thought he talked too much,” Janson interjects. 

The two decided to go into business together, and launched Mojo out of Clifford’s house with a single computer. 

“We started in a bedroom with an iMac, and I sold a tractor for startup money,” says Janson, who has a 30-acre farm in Elk and calls himself a hobby farmer. 

“Our first month’s rent here was spent from selling a baler,” he says. 

Nowadays, however, neither is selling off any hobby equipment to finance Mojo. Clifford says the company is almost completely debt-free; something he believes is unusual for a first-year company.  

“We just started … with a cheap camera and a positive attitude,” he says. 

That upbeat attitude, Clifford and Janson say, is part of their plan for both business and personal success. 

 “There’s no rocket science to our plan,” Janson says. “We saw the need in Spokane for what we offer. And we have fun doing it. Chris has a great personality; we just have a fun time.”

The duo also tries to bring their positive attitude to client interactions, Clifford says. 

“Clients don’t want to be in a dreary, ego-filled room,” he says. 

Janson agrees, saying, “I’ll often throw something out there (to a client) and then say, ‘What do I know, I just own sheep.’”

When trying to determine what to name their business, the name Mojo just popped into Janson’s head, he says. To differentiate themselves from businesses with the same name, the two added “Lab” and the company was born. 

Clifford and Janson do admit, however, there were some tight times when Mojo first launched.  

“We got some advice when we first started: say yes to everything,” Janson says. 

So that’s what the partners decided to do. Soon, Mojo was working on websites, media placing, billboards, advertising campaigns, and more. 

“When you work for another company, you’re pigeon-holed,” Janson says. “Here you can do everything … on a daily basis, I may be editing a commercial, placing media, running out to check billboards; we’re doing everything.”

Many traditional marketing and advertising agencies do a little production work in house and farm the rest out, Clifford says. 

“We were working with agencies, and we said, ‘Well, if they can do production work, then we can do agency work,’” he says. 

The firm prides itself on being able to help clients find solutions through a range of media channels, Clifford says. 

“On our website, we have a picture of a Swiss Army knife,” he says. “We all have to have multiple blades.”

The firm also adheres to the mantra, “no job is too big or too small,” and works with freelancers fairly frequently, which enables it to tailor its services to the client’s needs. 

“A lot of agencies are big boxes—you have 10 to 20 people, and that’s who you’ve got to work with,” he says. “We have a great network. We customize the team that works with specific clients.”

Clifford says that his previous and current traveling schedule allows the firm to network with freelancers around the country. 

“From me traveling around so much, our talent pool is all over the place,” he says. “Those are working relationships I’ve had for years.”

Looking into the future, the duo say they plan to continue grow Mojo along the path they started on—while maintaining the values they started with. 

“We never want to lost track of why we started this,” Clifford says. “We wanted to do it the way we felt it wasn’t being done. We want to have a good time and deliver a good product … honestly, in the future, I want local and national clients to come to Mojo and see that it can be done a different way.”

Janson says the company hasn’t set any major goals for its second year. 

“We want to grow, but at a rate that is able to still deliver quality,” he says. 

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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