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5 Takeaways From a Thriving (and Young) Film Industry Entrepreneur

Courtesy of John Brooker

1. Age is but a number. At just fourteen years old, an entrepreneurial calling began to circulate through the veins of Jon Brooker's body. Landing a gig repairing broken or cracked iPhones, he steadily honed valuable customer service skills, a top-notch work-ethic, and a dream to one day open his own business. Simultaneously, ever-inspired by the film, Jon found himself grabbing unpaid internships and volunteer production assistant assignments in Los Angeles while his peers focused on the traditional aspects of high school like sports and parties. Many declined his offer for free labor; he was too young. Those who did, however, were pleasantly surprised by Jon's ability to anticipate needs on set, keep his head low and productivity high. His impact was quickly noticed, and he began to edge out much older candidates for coveted on-set jobs. In high demand, whenever he was not at school, Jon worked constantly, soon saving enough money to formally launch his own company, Grip Works LLC while only a senior in high school.

2. Find a need, carve a niche, and expand from there. Countless hours on set paid dividends for Jon in the form of a paycheck but also in the form of vital observation opportunities. One hidden blessing about being a kid on set was it opened up space for Jon to watch, learn, and properly understand the logistics of each shoot while the adults were engaged in conversation. There was ample time for conversation, as production was routinely halted due to lack of proper equipment. It was through this continual observation that he identified his niche. During production stoppages, Jon made mental notes of the equipment-in-absentee and began stockpiling them in his truck. As production resumed the next day, Jon retrieved his stored options, and problem solved in real-time, thereby shortening production delays. His demand skyrocketed--and he effectively transitioned from intern to employee. Each unique commercial shoot, music video or film production, provided yet another opportunity to expand his expertise and arsenal of problem-solving and time-saving tools. But there's only so much equipment one teen can squeeze into a vehicle, and after months of saving, Jon made his first large investment: a commercial truck. And Grip Works was born.

3. Create a business with intention, and room for evolution. Grip Works evolved organically. Jon was in the right place, at the right time, with the knowledge base and mindset to launch. But he was also extremely careful to properly farm and foster his niche. His commitment to delivering an unmatched product and service experience within the context of a larger industry kept him busy enough to earn a modest profit, yet small enough to guarantee the deliverables of his company. Too much too soon, he knew, could risk diluting the very product and service his customers relied on. Although he had the reputational opportunity to grow his company very quickly, he didn't, opting instead to add more equipment, trucks, and employees slowly.

4. (Re)invest in your future. It takes money to make money is a saying that hurts like no other when referring to one's own investment in their company. But that is exactly what Jon has done. Early on as a low-paid production assistant, he chose equipment and tools instead of shoes and spending money--a practice, at times, hard to master. But success within his niche was contingent on remaining prepared for a myriad of production hiccups, ones that new Air Jordans wouldn't solve. Another wrinkle soon appeared when it came time for Jon to make a decision: stay full-time with Grip Works to drive the dream, or attend film school to chase his goal to someday produce a feature film. The decision? Both. Now a full-time film student at one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, Jon splits his time between sets and lecture halls, balancing the obligations of a student with the responsibilities of a small business owner. Although it would have been easy to remain solely committed to Grip Works, Jon remains committed to evolution, both as an intellectual and company leader--fully aware of the symbiotic synergy between the benefit of film school on his company's success and vice versa.

5. Success is equal parts humility and hustle. Despite his tremendous skill and success, Jon faces new challenges every day. The most common? His age. Not old enough. Not experienced enough. Not something enough. These assumptions, though waning, have left a small indention on his shoulder. Some call it a chip, Jon refers to it as motivation. He draws inspiration from each opportunity to solve a production roadblock and help bring artistic expression to form with the perfect camera angle or lighting combination. Many of the opportunities Grip Works initially sought required membership within the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), yet qualification was predicated on a minimum age of eighteen and 30 days of certified union work. However, Jon quickly maneuvered around this roadblock by accepting a full-time assignment on a production run with a company with whom he had previously interned--a natural sacrifice to advance the larger goals of Grip Works. Age has little to do with his innate ability to anticipate client needs, maintain the utmost professionalism, and work tirelessly until every i is dotted and t is crossed. Grip Works' ability to look within and continually improve their craft and deliver the goods with reliable precision has made them a force in the film industry...and they're just getting started.

Who: Jon Brooker | Age: 19

What: Owner, Grip Works LLC

Where: Los Angeles, CA

Mantra: Greatness is not given, it's taken.

Connect: www.grip-works.com | @gripworks_llc