Once again, I’ve decided to indulge in reflection about the last year (Previous: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009) … as I watch the sunrise (literally; it’s coming up over Prospect Park in my view from the couch as I type this :), I am realizing this will be one of the last times I enjoy this particular view from Prospect Park West, having closed on a loft purchase down the street just last week.
It’s been a really impressive year - this is a look at life in 2014. It’s going to be a long one … since this is for me, more than anyone, sorry :) The meanderings are divided between Professional and Personal, though often there isn’t much separation in the cast of each.
HO-LY-SHIT. As I looked out at our Carrot army of roughly 100 incredibly talented people at our Holiday Party a few weeks ago - which, by the way, we booked a wedding venue to accommodate our size - I was stunned. I got on stage to speak a bit to our staff / family (and again later, to accept a TOATEM - finally!), and could barely believe it. It was one of those rare, sobering moments when you can step far enough back from life to be humbled by perspective on it. We also looked like the four house tables at Hogwarts’ Great Hall, which was also pretty awesome. So what happened this year? A lot: a new office space, some incredible work produced, some impressive client wins, and some amazing maturing and transitioning for the company.
The office …
We started the year by getting an office space closest to the one we always dreamed of from the basement days. Moving from half the 12th floor at 45 Main St in DUMBO to the entire 11th floor allowed us to do some things right. We have a full, beautiful kitchen. We have call rooms themed to some of our heroes. We have a deck on which we have started an evening concert series, enjoying a great view and some regular grilling during warmer weather. We had the space to grow as we needed to. We celebrated our 9th birthday party, had our best Halloween party to-date, the best Carrotsgiving to-date, and plenty of game nights and other events throughout the year, all accommodated by the great space. We also had a very impressive collection of brands hosted - many of our clients striving for extra meetings at Carrot, opting to trade their more corporate-atmosphere offices for our sweeping views of the lower Manhattan.
Speaking of our clients …
We pitched a LOT this year. The entire company’s limits were tested (successfully), especially this past fall. But, the results were some incredible wins for us with some fantastic brands. Early in the year, we won a project for a campaign to help Save Elephants with The Nature Conservancy. We drove Teen Wolf fans crazy (with great success) for MTV. Our team captured Wilson’s Glove Day and Jadeveon Clowney at the NFL Draft. We began a series of strategy, content and even animation projects across American Express’ diverse offerings, including Small Business Saturday. AMEX has been an important part of our ability to grow over the years, so working closely with them has been an honor. We also won and began producing ad content and campaigns for iRobot (whose roomba enjoyed our R2), Cole-Haan and Uniliver’s Ice Cream brand portfolio (with office perks), as well as Caress.
A quick note on Caress: This was one of my favorite wins because it represents most plainly that Carrot has grown past the singular vision of “Mike and Chris" as founders: we are now pursuing (and winning) work that our increasingly diverse community at Carrot wants. Carrot has always been about that as a concept, and we chased some opportunities hard, when we could, especially when they were of particular interest to Carrot at large … but now we are truly living that. I don’t know the first thing about women’s products or providing them a voice in social (although, I happily admit I do love this piece that Lauren did); but, an entire team of excited and talented women (and men) at Carrot do, and that is freaking awesome. It is so cool to see people going and excitedly finding their opportunities, like these, and Carrot thriving for it.
We continued to serve Rolex as their social strategy shop (work I am closely and enthusiastically tied to … it remains my personal favorite brand in our client roster). I toured FB, Instagram and Google HQs with them out West and spent a few days outside of beautiful Geneva for winter meetings. We also just had a significant win in December that we have not officially announced … but let’s just say Carrot has a new auto client, and it, like Rolex, is one of the most globally-recognized brands. Our work with Target has grown immensely, leading to MORE great news that will be announced in January … but this year we did a significant volume of work for them, including one of my personal favorite creative campaigns of the year: Halloween Hills. We launched VICE News’ iOS app, working closely with the product and news teams at VICE in a sprint to coincide launch with the premiere of iOS 8. We have done plenty of work with VICE for new initiatives, and are just getting underway with some exciting stuff for their Rogers and Live Nation partnerships. We built Intel’s Make it Wearable site, and I even served as a mentor to some of the innovators accepted into the program. There was a massive kickoff at SxSW for AT&T’s Mobile Movement and we worked on content throughout the year for their tumblr - I also spoke about what made it tumblr’s most successful brand content of the year with our friends from the brand and VICE on a tumblr panel. Speaking of speaking, I discussed our previous work with Aurasma at an event to announce their newest platform release, and for a video promo filmed at SxSW.
I’m not big on awards in general (though we did win Best Social Agency again and were recognized by the DUMBO Bid), but I was THRILLED when we were named on of Crain’s Top Places to Work in 2014! This one matters most to me because it was largely decided by questions answered by Carrot’s staff directly. Our people said we deserved it. We have always maintained the importance of Carrot’s Brand and the experience at Carrot, but it is something I particularly care immensely about, so this was particularly rewarding for me :) On that note, excitement was soaring through the end of the year with the entire staff invited to VICE’s very exclusive and much-desired 20th Birthday party, where Carrot attended in full force.
Other things …
Outside of Carrot, the Space Pirates-held investment in Fornino has continued to pay off deliciously. The Pier 6 location was PACKED this summer - apparently word of the sunsets, skyline views and open-air roof got out :) The pizza, booze and VIP treatment at Brooklyn’s best pizza was something special this year. We also saw our investment in Drty Socks get a web store up and running just before Christmas, and a successful partnership with Neat Dude. We were thrilled to participate in additional investments to be discussed at a later date :)
Oh, and life after acquisition (sorry, this is lengthy) …
It’s been 13 months since we sold the culmination of then 8.5 years of blood, sweat and tears. There is generally plenty of pessimism when it comes to sales and acquisitions of companies, particularly in the agency world. That is part of the reason we never quite expected to sell, and our rhetoric reflected that. But this has been different. The hope (and honestly, expectation) of that was why we did a 180 on the stance to begin with. VICE promised something different, and Carrot thrives on different. I won’t say the first year has been perfect - but then, we hardly are anyway, and neither is life. It feels sort of like what I imagine a new addition or adoption to any family feels like: a little uncertain, awkward and cautious … but underneath it all, good intention and optimistic hope. It’s starting to feel more like a family. Our big brother just has more tattoos and is twice our age, but we are rapidly learning to appreciate eachother, and I do not regret it for a second. VICE is so important to Carrot’s future, and I think we will absolutely continue to be an important asset to them in return.
Carrot has always evolved. Sometimes shifts are annually, sometimes twice a year, but these major shifts redefine what we do, and often how we do it, and seem to be critical to our growth in many ways. Staff has changed (though even with the acquisition, relatively little compared to the industry), and in our case, an enormous amount of growth. The volumes of people who want to join us is astounding and ever increasing. Maybe, because our why has not changed. Circumstances of work have, even our financial standing has, but I know the founders and many of the staff would not be here if the core of why they came here had been lost. That goes for me as well. The fact that we have attracted SO MANY incredible people this year leaves me stunned and humbled, though I can hardly take much of the credit for that. It’s people like Adam and Ryan who have their own reasons for being here and excitement for what they want to do with Carrot. Their whys. They have a vision for Carrot just as I do and I know Mike does, and while they may be different, they are not at odds. Brian, who enables and facilitates much of what we do from behind the scenes (read: not a place of overt glory)… his reasons are critical. The directors of the company, people like Andrew Tully, have grown their own armies with a mix of the orange cool-aid and their own spin on the recipe. I received an incredible thank-you email from Peter this afternoon, describing his excitement to come to work everyday, and more, for what he is going to do and what Carrot is going to do next. It was unsolicited and it speaks to the fact that Carrot is on a massive upswing. Our why has always been a mix of what we now call Hustle, Team and Adventure - born of excitement to explore, to do, to grow, to meet new people and new challenges. Why? It’s exciting. What we do and how we do it changes all the time. To some degree, it has to - nothing moves by standing still.
We are very close to 100 people right now. We may even be over it at this point. Yet, I know every single person’s name. It may sound silly, but I honestly want to. It’s important to me to have a reason to appreciate everyone who appreciates Carrot enough to invest their talent, time and opportunity here. I can’t help but respect everyone working here, because they are the ones who uphold our workplace of high standards and expectations. Those that don’t work well with our collective do not last long - and that is okay - because the expectations from even our early days as a band of hard working, passionate misfits, has evolved into an unspoken company policy. I realize this sounds lofty, but this is how I feel, and it’s how I see the company today. It is a place where it’s okay to be weird, and to express your interests. The people who showcase their passions proudly have made Carrot great. To be blunt, Carrot is a great place to work, and I am incredibly proud of that, and excited because it is only getting better as we are rapidly growing. It doesn’t make sense … but it just is.
I am truly grateful for the year we had. While fifteen or so years of poor posture have required me to focus on my personal health a bit, I have very, very little to complain about :) A big theme that began this year for me was discovering “how to be an adult.” At 31, I still feel like a kid in many ways (I hope that doesn’t change at heart), and probably due to the realities of living my own, self-realized version of the Neverland that is Carrot. But, now equipped with the means to explore a bit of growing up and figuring out life outside of Carrot, this year was an important one for development my and Beth’s lives together as The Petescia family.
Early this year, we decided to purchase a 200 year old farm house outside of Rhinebeck NY. We named it “The Burrow,” an appropriate Harry Potter reference to the Weasley family’s similarly patchwork but charming house. It even has a barn! After 8 months of excavating, demoing, rebuilding, scraping, painting, washing, and finally shopping, we have an incredible weekend escape furnished for relaxation with friends and family. We hosted our first Thanksgiving ever, and enjoyed the firepit late in the summer. It looks gorgeous in every season, but especially covered in snow (and the drive to it is quite scenic). Oh, and we got a great car for the journeys between the house and the city, and were able to make an actual dream of my Dad’s come true, too.
Knowing the path to “adulthood” might mean considering a family at some point in the future, we made an effort to hit a few check boxes on things that we have wanted to do but could not previously. Beth and I stayed past the digital events in Austin for SxSW music with Robyn Trani, and got some sweet cowboy boots. A month later we got lost in the music of Jazzfest and ate (and ate, and ate) our way through New Orleans with John and Corissa (more photos here). Thanks to the generosity of our friend Ashley, we were treated to Star Wars weekends at Disney, a highlight of which included being front row for a show with Mark Hamill. We actually ran into instagram friend (and living son of Skywalker) Nathan, who was excited to show us a sneak peak on his latest project. Over my 31st birthday, we went back to Italy to introduce Beth to our family there and to meet a new addition to theirs, eating our way from Rome > Luca > Florence > Pozzilli > Amalfi (photos). We had an absolute blast again this year at The Gorge to see DMB (after a two year break due to life events on our end), with Beth joining us this year too for some incredible backstage perks and overall great times with our close friends Ryan, Melli and Maggie. I was slapped for the first time, in the lounge, as collateral damage from this. We even stopped in Twin Peaks for some damn-good pie on the way out, and ate / drank around Seattle. This fall we enjoyed the perfect Fall weekend at The Burrow and returned to Storm King Arts Center with our friends Jon and Cassy on our way back home.
Back in the city, there was a Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk, we saw Waiting for Godot / No Man’s Land staring our neighbor Patrick Stewart, and checked out the Bronx Zoo. I met Ron Perlman privately and he signed his book for me (thanks Kat!), Easy Street. Beth and I caught a Star Trek: TNG cast panel, and attended NY Comic Con this year in full Jon Snow and Melisandre cosplay (featured on Mashable!). In Brooklyn we grew our fur-family by one with the adoption of Captain Rex, thanks to Caroline who introduced us to musician and foster mom Sarah Donner (if you want to adopt a kitty, I’ll happily connect you). Beth maintained a roof garden on our apartment roof again this year, and we enjoyed some great meals and sunsets up there (and even got some work done). We caught a bunch of Nets games and got a complimentary preview our Islanders season seats (2015-16 season) with a game against the Devils, and Sat 3rd row for the Game of Thrones Experience, all at Barclay Center. We took up archery (with great success). I got slapped, again (this time by Robyn Trani). Beth and I dressed up for the Jazz-age lawn party at Gov Island and watched Fireworks in DUMBO on the 4th. We attended a member gala, White Party and a donor honoree reception at the new ice rink … all in our front yard that is Prospect Park (proximity which we found one downside to during a storm). This was actually our last Christmas at our Prospect Park West apartment… because on Dec 23rd, we closed on an incredible, unique and beautiful loft space a few streets away! After a terrible ordeal with incompetence from Chase (don’t use them for mortgages, please), we managed to become first-time Brooklyn home owners and are incredibly excited to move in. Oh, and it has a larger roof with just as grand a view! With some prodding from Ryan Mack (who also bought an apartment this year), we spoke to Pacey to get an education just in case we ever considered buying down the road … which previously we had not at all. Before we could even meet with her she had randomly come across a place that we had to see because, in her words, “[she thought] this apartment is absolutely you and Beth.” Clearly, she was not wrong.
We are excited about the apartment because aside from being incredibly unique and a perfect mix of things that Beth and I both love, all in one space, it can accommodate more than us. While we love to have guests over, this place will more specifically allows us to fit more of us, the type that Mike and Victoria have been pushing for ;) It was subtle at first, but at this point I think they are clear in their desire for little Michael (who is on track with Uncle Chris’ plan for him to learn the ways of the force) and his soon-to-arrive sister should have some little Petescias to play with, their age. And by play, I think Mike intends for them to eventually take over Carrot in our places. So, without knowing what the future will hold, our new home can and may at some point down the road accommodate a larger family :) What is great though - and this is just one reason I love my wife - is that 3 Bedrooms means that I finally have a room to display the impressive Star Wars collection I have accumulated over the last 30-ish years. It has room for the important stuff.
Beth requested edit: She is not pregnant.
Chris follow-up: DON’T FREAK OUT EVERYBODY, I am just saying that our new place allows us to think about those sorts of things … down the fucking road. STOP PRESSURING ME ;).
We made it out to a bunch of shows this year too …
At Jazz Fest:
Once again, my most listened to band was The American Dollar (running music), Lana Del Ray (guiltless pleasure), and Hammock. Top Artist, Top Album and Top Song stats provided by last.fm. Notable new (to me) music this year included The Antlers (especially this album), Hozier, Samantha Fish (Blues artist), and Chet Faker. Most of my listening, again this year, was done via rdio.
I also got back to reading a bit more this year … across the board in genres. Marvel Unlimited was key for catching up on comics, as was a massive Dark Horse sale as they lost their license for Star Wars to Marvel. Unbroken was a non-fiction highlight, with The Goldfinch and Star Wars: Darth Plagueis being (very different but enjoyable) fav fiction reads.
If you made it this far, impressive. It was a good year, and I look forward to 2015. It will be a big one :)