If you’ve ever hovered over a restaurant table full of food that has just arrived and attempted to take the perfect Instagram shot, you know photographing food is no picnic.
But to Brian Lee, the founder and CEO of Label 428, it’s just another day at the office. We caught up with him to learn more about how he got his start, and to learn some of his recipe for success.
The best piece of advice I ever received: The best piece of advice I ever received was to focus on having an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset – to focus on driving revenue/making more money instead of cutting costs/saving money. This advice was given to me in the context of personal money management, but it’s made a significant impact on my approach to business as well.
Someone I look up to is I look up to is Elon Musk. I love his legendary work ethic and his ability to stomach huge risks. He’s tackling problems that will benefit the human race as a whole and I think it’s cool that we share an interest in all things science. If I wasn’t working for myself, I’d find a way to work with him.
First thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I read the news on my phone before getting out of bed. It may not be the healthiest habit, but I like to get a pulse on what’s going on in the world. Then I’ll listen to podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience or the radio before stepping into the office. All this content every morning helps me formulate ideas and find opportunities for our clients on social media.
I couldn’t do what I do without My team. They’re like family to me. And beer. You can’t forget about beer.
Tell us more about what you do.
I’m the CEO and founder of Label 428, a food creative and social media agency based here in Toronto. Recently named a Canadian leader in Social Media and Content Marketing by Clutch, our team helps restaurant franchises and CPG brands with all things social media and content production. Most of my days are spent managing day to day team activities, brainstorming creative and building relationships with prospective clients.
What made you want to start your business?
I wanted to start this business because I love all things food! To be honest, I never fully realized this passion when I first started. I just knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life behind a lab bench or pursue a career using my life science degree. In hindsight, the pieces were all there – I grew up working in my parents’ bakery and I worked in restaurants my whole life so I knew a lot about food and the unique challenges restaurants face. The free food only sweetened the deal!
What advice would you give to someone looking to learn more about the social media industry?
The biggest piece of advice I’d give is to not go to school for social media marketing! This is a fast-paced industry that will most likely outpace any university course out there. You can learn everything you need to know simply by using the apps, watching Youtube videos or taking free online courses for higher-level functions like making Facebook ads. Your money is better spent on taking prospective clients out to lunch.
What is your mission in your career?
My mission with Label 428 is to have it become the best food marketing agency in Canada, but my broader mission in life is to grow multiple businesses that involve my other interests as well. Although Label 428 is my main focus, I want the freedom to explore different interests down the road. An example being vertical farming, I think it can improve the quality of food in urban areas and simplify the logistics of feeding our growing city.
How can I get into the social media industry? What are the steps?
The great thing about social media marketing is that it’s relatively easy to get into. First, you need to download the relevant social media apps, use them yourself, study what brands are doing and come up with a vision and a strategy for how you think things should be done.
The hardest part is finding clients, but you can do that by simply sending an email or walking into a small business that you like! You can offer them a free trial or a test period and focus on doing whatever is in your power to over-deliver. You can’t think about clearing a profit when you’re just starting out. If you’re good, the money will come. One of the first clients I landed was a popular mom and pop restaurant in Kensington Market called Rasta Pasta. Within 6 months of managing their Instagram, their sales grew by 30%.
What type of person or personality is suited for what you do?
At the moment, I think the person best suited for this role is someone who is open-minded, resourceful and empathetic. I’m finding that running a company is all about people management nowadays. If a team feels like they’re doing meaningful work and they’re in a work culture that actually cares about them as individuals, they can do some amazing things. So I’d say that personality traits that benefit the team as a whole are best suited for this role.
Can you share 3 tips for being successful in this career?
1. Be active on your own social media. For example, if you’re not using Instagram personally, then you shouldn’t even think about managing someone else’s!
2. Focus on growing your clients’ sales instead of their Follower/Like counts.
3. Take risks. Every brand is on social media now, there’s a lot of white noise you’ll have to do even more to get noticed now.
Tell us a secret about your job. You do not need a degree or years of experience to excel in social media or content production. You can become an expert relatively quickly. Having a vision and getting clients is the tough part.
Anything exciting coming up?
I can’t say much on the matter, but we’ll be opening up our operations to the US. Stay tuned!