Prior to launching Dragon Horse Agency in 2015, Patrick Blake Renda, Founder, Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Partner, spent the better part of two decades in various industries including law, finance, venture capital and skincare. After a run that included stops in Silicon Valley, as part of a team managing $16 Billion in technology assets for J & W Seligman & Co. and then with a team managing $38 Billion in AUM for American Express Asset Management, and growing a local skincare company to unimaginable heights, Renda shifted his attention to creating a business of his own. The story behind his entrepreneurial journey demonstrates the importance of determination, purposeful action, lean startup mentality and leveraging available resources.
“My journey started with NBC right after graduating from The University of Southern California,” Renda said. “I spent a total of five years working on-air and behind production as a producer for a syndicated sports show called Roggin’s Heroes. After that, I made a career change and went into law.”
Renda became a Senior Paralegal and joined a law firm in L.A. When that same firm opened an office in Palo Alto, an area with a burgeoning venture capital scene – something he was extremely interested in at the time – Renda immediately volunteered to transfer to the Bay area.
“It was 1994 and there was a ton of excitement in the air,” he said. “We had a lot of clients in Silicon Valley, which gave me an opportunity to meet the executives, venture capitalists and money managers investing in these startup companies. I was totally immersed in the culture and I loved every minute of it.”
In early 1995 Renda met and befriended the Vice President of a Wall Street firm called J&W Seligman & Company. She was operating a satellite office in Palo Alto, which gave the firm a presence on the west coast. For the next six months, Renda interned with the firm as a Research Assistant. He conducted research, sifted through notes and made stock recommendations from 4:00a.m. until 8:00a.m., and then walked down the street to his day job as a Senior Paralegal. One morning, in the fall of 1996, he made a decision that would change his life forever.
“I walked in and told my boss, Carolyn, that I quit,” he said. “She said, ‘You did what?’. After the initial shock wore off, she placed a call to New York to speak with Paul Wick – the Managing Director of the Technology Group. She was able to convince Paul to give me a job for $30,000 a year as a Research Assistant. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave my job as a Paralegal, but I was really pumped. I was with the best technology fund in the country.”
Within three years, Renda was ranked as a Best of the Buy Side Top Money Manager by Institutional Investor Magazine. After six years, he was hired away by American Express Asset Management to join an asset management team based in San Diego. At AMEX, Renda served as Head Technology Specialist/Sector Portfolio Manager on a team responsible for $38 Billion in Assets under Management (AUM) and the direct investment of $16 Billion of those funds.
In 2008, Renda relocated to Naples, FL. He spent a year working as a consultant before meeting the founder of Naples Soap Company, where he was asked and agreed to join the company. He spent the next four years as Chief Operating Officer and VP of Business Development, where he oversaw everything from sales and marketing to IT and HR. Over his tenure of four and a half years, the company transformed from a two store brick and mortar with a misrepresented brand to one that was vibrant and more high-end. With renewed branding, operational procedures, and sales goals in place, top-line revenue grew in excess of 45% per year. The company expanded from two stores to 12, established a 30,000 sqft facility in Lee County, won multiple awards from various chambers of commerce and earned the prestigious Retailer of the Year award from The Florida Retail Federation in 2015. By September 2015, Renda parted ways to focus on two new entrepreneurial opportunities he had envisioned.
“While at Naples Soap Company, I worked with a lot of marketing agencies and found myself pretty frustrated with the results and the level of service,” he said. “As a result, we made the decision to bring that work in-house. When I launched Dragon Horse Agency, it was basically the existing in-house marketing component to Naples Soap Company that I spun off.”
Renda continued, “The focus – and the main differentiator – from the beginning was to create a firm that offered business strategy consulting and marketing services under one roof. Business strategy and impactful marketing go hand-in-hand. To have these services available through one company is very unique.”
In the early stages of forming Dragon Horse, Renda brought onboard Julie Koester as a Co-founder and Managing Partner. Koester is well-known in the Naples community for her work as the founding Chairwoman of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. She also brought to the team an impressive background with a Doctorate (a.b.d.) in Public Health from Columbia University, and experience as an owner/operator of her own retail business.
“Julie is very academic and extremely well-read,” Renda said. “In addition, as the Chairwoman for C’MON, she raised approximately $30 million for the museum and opened its doors – an incredible accomplishment. When I approached her about the idea to launch Dragon Horse, she was very interested. I also mentioned the idea of starting a second company – a skincare line called Moxie Creed. She was onboard for both ideas. Our partnership literally started by us taking out some notebook paper and drawing up our business plans.”
Renda shared some of the early challenges he and Koester worked through including; a lack of space – they worked out of Koester’s kitchen for nearly a year and a half; having to self-fund the business; and not taking compensation from the business for nearly two years. In July 2017, they took their first official office space, sharing an office in an executive suite.
“When we added Edward Clay – our third partner and Chief Creative Officer – in October 2017, we moved into a slightly bigger office with enough room for all of us to have our own desks,” Renda said with a laugh. “However, it was still pretty noisy if we were all on the phone at the same time or having general conversations. To deal with that, we gave everyone a business card that said ‘stop talking’ on it. You were allowed to play that card once per day.”
All joking aside, Dragon Horse is not your everyday marketing agency. They vet their clients to ensure the fit is there on both sides and business strategy – and how that incorporates until the client’s overall marketing strategy – is front and center. They’re serious about who they work with and the results they produce. Their services include Industry Research, Operation Execution, Brand Strategy, User Interaction (UI), Media Planning, Content Strategy, Public Relations, Digital and Social Media Expertise, including Artificial Intelligence and more. They operate on a global scale, but still maintain a local presence and feel for those more accustomed to working with a smaller agency.
“We do the same thing for our clients that I did back in my investing days,” Renda said. “In fact, we’re doing business strategy as much if not more often than marketing. We just brought on a regional commercial and residential construction firm and completed a 15-page master strategy plan that covers every element of their business, head to toe. It’s all about our client’s success. That’s our sole focus. It’s not about winning awards or personal achievements. In reality, nobody should know about us. If our clients are successful and their clients don’t know about us, we’ve done our job.”
When it comes to what he enjoys most about owning and running Dragon Horse Agency and Moxie Creed, Renda stressed the results and the impact that each company has on its customers and how rewarding that is for him. “For Dragon Horse Agency, I am passionate about helping our clients build, grow, manage, and promote their businesses,” he said. ”I’ve been an investor and an entrepreneur in businesses of all sizes, thus I bring very unique perspective, skillset, and level of expertise. Strategizing with our clients and then implementing actionable objectives is not only enjoyable but truly exciting for me.”
Renda added, “For Moxie Creed, I share my Co-Founders passion for healthy, active living and that starts and ends daily with what we put in our bodies and our skin. The skin is the larger organ of the body. What we put on our skin will have as much of an impact as what we put in our body health-wise. That’s why, at Moxie Creed, we’ve created an exceptional line of organic, vegan, and all natural handmade skincare products that are not only effective but also healthy. We also wanted to make certain that our products were NGB (Non-Gender Biased) meaning that they can be used by men and women equally. We are passionate about living life with “Moxie” and being able to provide natural skincare products that truly help people look their best as well as feel their best – knowing those products are natural. Live life with Moxie, the Moxie Creed way!”
When it comes to future goals, Renda shared the following. “Dragon Horse Agency is a culture built around a foundation committed to excellence and since our launch, DHA’s goal has been to be an international business marketing services agency assisting entrepreneurs, small businesses, large businesses and others to build great companies with great cultures and strong brands. Dragon Horse Agency intends to grow our company organically and via acquisition as well as expand into additional channels such as creating and publishing content.”
What advice does Renda have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “As Marc Cuban said, ‘When you are an entrepreneur, you have to figure out how to kick your own ass before someone else does it for you’,” Renda said. “Be brutally honest with yourself and most importantly, know your industry and business inside and out. Live in the details of your business.”