Rio Rocket is a multi-disciplined performer, voice-actor with exceptional vocal malleability, actor, presenter, motivational speaker and commercial model. Rio is also Official Speaker, Announcer, and VOG (Voice of God) for John Jay College’s Annual Commencement ceremony at Arthur Ashe Stadium. First and only motivational speaker ever hired for a production by Lowe’s Home Improvement. He is also a former competitive athlete, and highly-accomplished graphic artist, illustrator, designer, web developer, online marketer, and entrepreneur.
Rio starts off with the story how he evolved into a voice-actor and actor and then expanded into other areas like Voice-Of-God etc.
Rio’s entrepreneurial journey started off with a graphic design and Rio talks about how he used elance.com to snag the first paying customers. Rio talks about the importance of price, pitch, portfolio to get first customers.
Rio’s evolution into so many disciplines is gradual and it happened over a period of 20 years. He kept learning all the adjacent areas like SEO, video marketing, and branding.
Rio then goes into the mechanics of coordinating so many different things and how time-slicing is very important. As Rio is involved in many disparate things like acting and graphic design, he needs to make sure that that time management is critical.
As a person, Rio says he can’t stand still. He needs to keep learning, doing many different things. But having clear priorities like making sure that basic necessities are taken care of is key.Rio’s advice is to learn as much as possible about a topic, absorb everything, ask questions, and find mentors.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance, and possibilities. Today I'm excited to introduce a guest who transcends multiple disciplines. His name is Rio Rocket. Rio Rocket is a full service commercial graphic designer, web developer and branding expert. And needing a bigger mountain to climb Rio entered acting arena as a voice artist and has evolved to become a film and television actor. Hi Rio, welcome.
Rio: Hi Ramesh, thank you for having me.
Ramesh: Hey Rio, I have not come across a person yet on my podcast who has evolved so many domains. So, Rio in your own words tell me what you do now and, or where you're putting your focus on.
Rio: Well, currently I still am a full-service graphic artist, branding expert web developer. I still have you know, my business with digital marketing and online marketing. However, it also had, enables me and gives me the freedom and the time to branch out into becoming a more visual artists, using myself as the tool. So, film and television commercials, I’ve been able to successfully transition into that space without losing a step in my previous business.
Ramesh: Okay, that's great. So just to give us a glimpse of the breadth of the voice and acting things you have done. Can you give us specific examples of in a way we can see you or hear you?
Rio: As far as acting well, the best place to see and hear me is my website www.riorocket.com. I'm pretty active on Instagram, primarily Instagram. Vimeo, I do like to upload videos of work I’ve done on Vimeo and you know, I kind of do it all. I'm spread out between film commercials and TV. I've just filmed a pilot for a new streaming series called altar boy, which is now moving forward. And I think we filmed it about a year, year and a half ago, which is now moving forward in production and we're pitching it to a few networks. There's also a cooking show that I have that I just filmed over the summer, and its sort of a revolutionary new type of cooking show. I'm not at Liberty discussing details at the moment, however, that's also in production. But like I said, I do a lot. The VOG, which is voice of God of John Jay colleges commencement ceremony, they hold it every year at [inaudible] flushing, meadow park, Arthur Ashe stadium, a crowd of about 10,000. Not a big deal. But you know, I do some live events. I host the Katra film festival, which is a film festival in downtown Brooklyn. And I just, you know, I just try to keep myself versatile and agile, so I'm able to, you know, take on whatever is presented to me.
Ramesh: Okay, excellent. So, the agile entrepreneur so you, you embody that spirit there Rio. So, let's start your journey. I mean, you did not start as a singer or actor, a model. You started somewhere else. So, what was your first business and then how you started that?
Rio: I mean, my very first entrepreneurial act was when I was a child, I think it was five or six and you know, I would draw comic books. Okay. And you know, I drew a comic book and I remember writing 5 cents on the cover and you know, I have a cousin who lived with me and you know I pitched it to her, and she said she looked through and said, okay, I’ll buy it. And I took a pen and I wrote a two in front of the five and it's 25 cents now. She said how did that happen? I said, well, according to the law of supply and demand, now that you want it, it's more valuable.
Ramesh: So, you were hustling from pretty early on.
Rio: Right. I didn't even realize what I was doing, but yeah. Yeah. I did understand the concepts pretty well as a child. And as I grew up, I tried several things, but I always seem to settle back into the creative space. So, I did put myself through college. I've got a couple of degrees and we don't want to start a graphic design business, which eventually evolved into a, you know, a lot more than entire umbrella of digital marketing and visual markets.
Ramesh: So and then I think when I read your story and you have a very interesting story of how you got started, because for many entrepreneurs, I'm not talking about when you want a child, but when you started your graphic design or any business like that, the first challenge is getting your first paying customers. So, I think you, how did you get your first paying customers? What did you do?
Ramesh: My first hanging customers who weren't related to me or family. I found a site called www.elance.com and basically it was a site for freelancers, and you know, those who provide a digital marketing services, graphic design services, things like that. And I said, you know, this is a pretty good way to kind of build a brand up and start a business. So, I actually did that while I was in school. I did it as I was going to school. Every time I came home with more knowledge, more information, I just simply applied it to the business. So, it just simply fell into place. You know, I would, I would bid on projects and I would just try to undercut the guys who are more experienced. And until someone said, okay, I’ll give you a shot. And that was my first paid client that I didn't know previously.
Ramesh: Okay. I see. That's where I was getting to. So there seems to be so much competition there, but you already talked about it. You priced it. Right. So, to say, to get your first customers.
Rio: Right. You have to price it according to the quality of work and service you can offer versus the lack of experience you have in regard to your portfolio, you know, luckily you have to have a great portfolio when you're in a visual marketing business. Luckily, everything I did for either someone I knew or in school, because you know, you're getting projects and when you go to college, I just slipped right into my portfolio. So, I had a portfolio. Yeah. And you know, that worked out for me. Otherwise, if I didn't have a portfolio, I would probably have to work for free until I did.
Ramesh: Nice. Excellent. So basically, you're talking about the portfolio, having a portfolio pricing it, right. It doesn't have to be pricing it low but pricing it. Right. And then I think that the other thing that you also advocated was having the right pitch to this potential customer like a putting it in the right way. So that they pick over others, right.
Rio: Right. In your pitch, confidence has to come through. Professionalism has to come through. You have to explain that. If you can conceive it, I can achieve it. There is no boundary that you know, your imagination as a visual artist. There are no boundaries. It's boundless. Whatever's going on in the client's mind. You just have to be able to translate that either on paper or digitally and assure them you're going to get the best service you've ever experienced. I will revise this until you are absolutely satisfied. So, you are guaranteed to be happy at the end of the project. And if the price is right dough and those two things connect in the client's mind, they're going to give you a shot. It's just going to happen.
Ramesh: Yeah. That's what the price page and the portfolio. And that's a fantastic way to put this together. So now you started and then now you got hooked onto this freelancing and making money through these kinds of projects. So how did your business evolve from there?
Rio: You know, that's a good question because the internet got more sophisticated and as it did, I just learned more and more about what could be offered. And you know, I guess there was a lull initially, right? You know, I remember sometimes just sitting there and just, you know, projects would just come in and I'd be doing other things while they came in. I wouldn't be as hyper aggressive as I was when I began. Then there came new ways to do things. WordPress for example, which is one of the most popular web developments and a blog publishing platform. When that came around, I realized I had to learn it. I realized I had to learn how to market with video on YouTube, social media marketing, things like that.
Ramesh: I see. Okay. So, then you started growing your graphics and web developer business. I mean but at some point, you evolved, you went beyond that and how did that switch come?
Rio: I think it just, it happened over a long period of time. I mean, it evolved very, very slowly.
Ramesh: I see. Oh, it does not, as a sudden somebody discovered your talent and said he put you on the stage or something like that.
Rio: No, I mean, everything. This took about 20 years to play out. It was very gradual. The internet evolved very, it evolved rapidly. We say rapidly but evolved very slowly. It's not like you woke up one day and there was something there. It was kind of like you had to hear about it first and then had to become popular first and had to become supported by an online community or the developers just wouldn't have the money to keep it going. So, once I knew something was going to be there, then I got aggressive with learning it. I learned SEO, I learned WordPress, I learned e-commerce, video marketing, so on and so forth. And then I just bundled all these things together and said, okay, now I'm full service. You come to me, now I can brand you from almost from a blank slate, from nothing at all. Just an idea. I can create a company in about six to 12 months in that shorter period of time.
Ramesh: Excellent. So, with so many things happening, like you're doing, acting, modeling, singing, and then also doing the branding and the website. How do you split your time? Like do you say within this week, 20% is this, and then another 20% is this and the remaining 60% is this. How does it work?
Rio: So, you know, I fell into acting sort of by mistake. I didn't even realize that I was getting into acting. I just wanted to do a voice acting. I like doing, you know, characters, so on and so forth. And then from suggestions and encouragement from my colleagues, you know, they said, you should go in front of the camera. I said, okay, I’ll give it a shot. I loved it. And it's something I never imagined I could be doing and that was probably against me doing it more than anything else cause it just seemed very complicated and different and just a little bit too different from what I was accustomed to. You know I thought I had some kind of knack for it and I really love doing it. You know, when you do graphic design, when you build websites, you are not on the computer 18 hours a day. When we talk about actual time screen time, you don't need more than four to six hours screen time. Anything more than that, you'll go blind. Absolutely. So, and there has to be days when you no, don't even look at the screen that much. So, you would need things to do with the time that you're not on, you're not physically sitting at the screen. So why not study a script and then go out and audition for a role? It doesn't actually take away from any of your time at all. Your time is really requested. There are no percentages. Your time is based on how much work you have. So, I mean, I know it's, it's easy to say, okay, 40% on your laptop and 60% here. And honestly, it just depends on how much work you have at that moment.
Ramesh: Okay. So, let’s just to get an idea then, you're an established artist and then designer and then I don't, it doesn't seem like you're struggling for business. So, at this stage of your business and what you're doing, what are the challenges that you're facing?
Rio: I think the biggest challenge is to stay efficient and stay adaptable to now today, if we were to speak about 2019 things are changing rapidly. You wake up and something has completely changed,
Right? Facebook could be gone tomorrow. Instagram is suddenly more popular than anything else, or Snapchat, tik tok, whatever it is. So being able to adapt on the fly is the biggest challenge. I don't have much of a challenge with time and time management. That's not my challenge. It was in the past. It just isn't today. It's how can I still continue to grow at the same rate and be just as motivated and aggressive as I was 20 years ago. It's finding that why every day when you work, wake up that purpose. Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of today even? Do I have something important to do today or is today just, am I waiting for some? And you can't ever be waiting for things to happen. You have to affect the world and make it occur in response to your actions and your thoughts and beliefs.
Ramesh: Okay. So, let me talk a little bit about the business side. I mean there's the work side in terms of customers and all it's happening fine, but how do you manage the business-like accounting. Figuring out are you growing year over year, do you rely on some outsource, like outsource some of the work? How does it work? If you could just talk a little bit about the operations of your business. Well, so that's different with every business.
Rio: Well so that’s different with every business, right? You know, if you have a good relationship with your accountant or your tax attorney, you should already have those things in place.
Ramesh: Are there any tools or things that you use that I mean the listeners can benefit from and said, okay, I have not heard about that.
Looks like that's a good one.
Rio: You know what? Among everyone I speak to, I can't seem to find two people to agree on a method or tool. It's just, it's almost like, I don't want to mention anyone's, what anyone does because then it just, there's always other people that it just does not work for them. There are basics such as having like a profit or loss statement, a P and L statement.
Ramesh: QuickBooks, you know, the Google analytics or you know, things like that.
Rio: Yes. Things like that. But when, you know, I mean, when you have good profit margin, if you have healthy profit margins, I mean your growth should always be steady. I mean, if your profit margins are narrow, you're going to have problems at some point. I wouldn't even recommend getting involved at anything that doesn't give you some space for a healthy profit. Cause the minute you slow down, that's it. Like you're in a negative, right?
Ramesh: Yeah, exactly. So, let's talk a little bit of about Rio Rocket as a person. So, I mean you're doing multiple things, so there must be some drive, the motivation and then probably inspiration from something or somewhere. So, what's driving you? I mean, when are you getting the motivation to and try out these things and wanting to go into new spaces?
Rio: You know, I think it's inherent and innate with certain people. It's very difficult to motivate someone who just generally has a lack of motivation. But if you can find it within, maybe have children, maybe you have something that you need in your life, whether it be a place to live, certain type of car, clothes or some of the situation that you want to be in. I mean, that has to be the thing you think about the most with me, I just don't have a pause button. I don't have slow motion button. I always want to grow. I've always wanted to aggressively grow and learn and move forward. They say people with my personality, they are progressive. You know, they cannot sit still. They cannot, they're not happy with the status quo. It comes from a very, yep. Inner place that's there. It cannot be taken away. I cannot, I don't know what being lazy feels like to be honest. And I think like if you can, whatever you need to find to get in that space, it's very healthy to be there. You know, if making money and having a business and being an entrepreneur is your goal.
Ramesh: Yeah, exactly. I mean some people they get laid off and said, okay fine, this is it. I don't want to do it anymore. I want to start my own. And people that are, some people are unhappy with you know what they're doing and then they quit and do it. So different kinds of motivations. But yours is in, you know, inherent something that your personality drives what you do.
Rio: Yeah, I think it's my personality. You know, they used to tell us when I was, when I was younger, go buy something you can't afford and then work like crazy to try to keep it. And use that as motivation. So, I don't recommend that, but at the same time, there is some method to that madness. You know, go buy the car you can't afford and just if you love that car, you'll do whatever you can to keep that car or, and I don't recommend buying cars. I don't recommend, you know, first make sure you have a nice place to live. But there is something about that that don't take on something that's huge and then try to hold onto it.
Ramesh: Excellent. So, Rio, last couple of questions. When you are looking back on your journey, more for reflection and more as something that too we can get out of things that you think you could have done differently. Are there any, I mean, don't look at it from a regret’s perspective, but more from a learning perspective.
Rio: That's a tough one because everything I’ve done has led me to where I am now. I think I’ve tried, I think I’ve tried it all you know, within the timeframe that I had, and I don't think I would've done anything different because it might have resulted in an outcome that wouldn't be beneficial to me today.
Ramesh: Correct. I mean, like for example, some people who I’ve worked for some time and then started the business one of the things that they say is that in a day should have done what they're doing now sooner. Right. Because there's always something holding us back and then say, you know, don't wait, don't hold back, you know, just go and do it. You can evolve and pivot that kind of stuff. Right. So, but for you, you've been doing things organically and one after another. That's great.
Rio: Yeah. I mean I wish I had the wisdom and the focus that I have now when I was say a teenager, but that's impossible. Because you need to be a teenager. A healthy teenager or you know, it's like, I think like if you immerse yourself in business too young. Although you will appear on the outside, very successful and as a prodigy, something will occur when you get old and you're feel like you missed out on your childhood.
Ramesh: Right on man, you're right on. I agree with Rio on that one. The last question. So as a piece of advice to other people who either want to start their own business or who want to grow their business things that, that you can offer. Advice. Yeah.
Rio: Advice, learn as much about the topic or niche that you're focused on as possible. I mean, literally make it, make yourself a sponge and from the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep, master what you do and also have some versatility. Be able to, you know, kind of shift to the left that to the right if need be but being a master mastery of what you do is usually what produces the, the results in the 1% that we were all looking for. There may be some luck involved, but luck is a product of hard work or you know, when preparation meets opportunity. So, it's really knowing as much as you possibly can about what you're doing. So, I would just say absorb everything possible, ask as many questions, find mentors, and find people who are ahead of the game or further down the road than you are and pick their brains. Until you start seeing the results you want to see.
Ramesh: Excellent piece of advice Rio. I mean that is fantastic. So be a master of, be an expert in what you do and then also have a, you know, the ability to pivot or to shift here and there based on what you see in the market.
Ramesh: Excellent. Hey Rio, thank you very much. So, I'm still live, I'm looking at a website and there’s so much that I could see their voice of God, it clearly comes across as Rio. Thank you very much.
Rio: Okay. Thank you for having me.