Before 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, a 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 in production for the MCA Universal, syndicated sports variety show called Roggin's Heroes. After that, I made a career change and went into law."
Renda became a Senior Paralegal and joined a national law firm’s Los Angeles, California office. When that same firm opened an office in Palo Alto, California, an area with a burgeoning venture capital and technology 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 allowed me to meet the executives, venture capitalists, and money managers investing in these startup companies. I was 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, made stock recommendations from 4:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.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 early one morning and informed my supervisor that I had quit my legal position," he said. "She said, 'You did what?'. After the initial shock wore off, she placed a call to the New York home office of J. & W. Seligman to speak with Paul Wick – the Managing Director of the Technology Group. I was offered a base position with a starting pay of $30,000 a year as a Research Assistant, substantially less than what I was making at the law firm and starting at the bottom. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave my job as a Sr. Paralegal, but I was pumped. I was with the best technology fund in the country."
Renda was ranked as a Best of the Buy Side Top Money Manager within three years by Institutional Investor Magazine and nominated again in 2004. After six years, he was hired 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 oversight of $16 Billion of those funds in technology, media, and telecom. Mr. Renda left AMEX Asset Management in late 2006 to launch a boutique investment firm and the timing proved difficult as the housing market collapsed and so did the global financial system and markets.
In 2008, after residing in Florida part-time since 2000, Renda relocated full-time to Florida consulting with a family office and in media until 2011 when he met the founder of a small Florida lifestyle skincare company and developed a friendship. Over the next few months Renda, tapping into his investment and business background, began to provide business advice to the founder. In July of 2011, Renda was asked by the founder to join the company full-time and agreed. He spent the next four years as Chief Operating Officer and V.P. of Business Development, where he was responsible for sales, marketing, I.T., and H.R. For the first few years Renda delivered products to the stores weekly in the company’s van and helped sell product on weekends at the local green markets. In addition, in an effort to bolster awareness of the brand they launched a regional health and wellness radio program which Renda co-hosted with the founder. “When you are part of a startup, whether you are a founder or employee 50, everyone wears many hats and it is a team effort, I am passionate about business and very competitive.” Renda said.
Over these four and a half years the company transformed from a two-store brick and mortar to a rapidly growing business and recognized brand. With renewed branding, operational procedures, logistics, and sales goals in place, top-line revenue grew more than 45% per year. The company expanded from two stores to 12, launched a JV in Japan, established a 30,000 sq. ft. facility in Lee County and along the way won multiple awards from various chambers of commerce, and earned the prestigious Retailer of the Year award from The Florida Retail Federation in 2015. In September 2015, Renda parted ways and focused on two new entrepreneurial opportunities he had envisioned.
"While investing in public and private companies and working as an entrepreneur myself, I had extensive experience working with marketing agencies and found those experiences to be pretty frustrating," he said. " These experiences stayed with Renda and was the spark that lit the next endeavors.
Renda continued, "The focus – and the main differentiator – from the beginning was to create a firm that offered comprehensive business strategy consulting and marketing services under one roof providing a “one-stop shop” for clients. Business strategy and impactful marketing go hand-in-hand. To have these services available through one company 6 years ago was groundbreaking. Today, you are now seeing the larger, branded, consulting firms move into marketing and adopting the model we were first to market with."
In the early stages of forming Dragon Horse, Renda brought Julie Koester as a Co-founder and managing partner onboard. 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 an impressive background with a Doctorate (a.b.d.) in Public Health and experience as an owner/operator of her own retail business.
"Julie is an 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 on board with both ideas. Our partnership 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 company for almost two years. In July 2017, they took their first official office space, sharing an office in an executive suite.
In 2017, we moved into a slightly bigger office with enough room for us to have our own desks," Renda said with a laugh. "However, it was still pretty noisy if we were on the phone at the same time or having general conversations. We gave everyone a business card that said 'stop talking' on it to deal with that. 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 a good fit 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, Media Planning, Content Strategy, Public Relations, Digital, and Social Media Expertise, including Artificial Intelligence and more. They operate globally but still maintain a local feel for those 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. "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. It's not about winning awards or personal achievements; those are simply side-effects of a job passionately done. In reality, few should know about us. If our clients are successful and their clients don't know about us, we've done our job."
Today, Dragon Horse Agency is a multi-award-wining business marketing firm with clients who are local, national, and international.
When it comes to what he enjoys most about owning and running Dragon Horse Agency and Moxie Creed, Renda stressed the results and impact 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 a 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-Founder's 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 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 non-gender biased, meaning that they can and should be equally used by men and women. We are passionate about living life with "Moxie" and providing natural skin care products that truly help people look their best and feel their best – knowing those products are natural. Live life with Moxie, with Moxie Creed!"
When it comes to future goals, Renda shared the following. "Dragon Horse Agency is a culture built on excellence. Since our launch, DHA's goal has been to be an international business marketing services agency assisting entrepreneurs, small businesses, large businesses, and others in building great companies with great culture and a strong brand. 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. With Moxie Creed, we are building something slowly, something special, with purpose.”
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."