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This post was written in anticipation of MKT, an entrepreneur event hosted by my employer, Horizon Media. The event took place on December 15.

I’d been working at Horizon Media for a few months when I heard the story of how the company’s CEO and founder, Bill Koenigsberg, started his ad agency back in 1989.

Koenigsberg was his early twenties, fresh out of college with a marketing degree in hand, when he went to work for a boutique media buying agency in Manhattan. (When an advertiser wants to buy space on a billboard, in a TV show, or on a website, it typically uses a buying agency to negotiate the price and purchase the ad for them.)

It was meant to be a temporary gig until he found something better. But he had a knack for the ad business, and ended up working at his first agency for six years.

He was doing so well, in fact, that the president of the agency promised Koenigsberg a car as a reward for his hard work. But when it came time to actually give Bill the car, the president reneged. Bill was not happy. When a headhunter called him with a job offer shortly after, he took it.

Koenigsberg eventually parlayed that job (from the headhunter) into an opportunity to buy the company that would later become Horizon Media, which he still owns today.

A small business in a big business’ body
Horizon Media is the largest privately held media agency in the world and boasts a client roster that includes GEICO, Capital One, and Burger King. With nearly a thousand employees across its New York and Los Angeles offices, it’s no mom-and-pop shop.

So it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Horizon’s office culture leaned towards the corporate end of the scale—by which I mean a stuffy, serious workplace straight out of Office Space—considering its size and the brands it reps. But it doesn’t.

Instead, Koenigsberg and Horizon have gone in the other direction when it comes to office culture.

Philanthropy is a major part of Horizon’s identity, forging partnerships with City Harvest, 96 Elephants, NY Cares, and Toys for Tots. Employees are empowered to host charity happy hours on The Terrace, our outdoor space which includes beer taps, with the proceeds going towards important causes.

In late October Horizon invited 75 first graders from a local elementary school to trick-or-treat in our offices. Afterwards the company treated the kids to lunch and surprised them with costumes the agency and its employees had purchased for them.

Horizon employees are also afforded myriad perks—many of which are unheard of at most companies—not to mention everyday use of its gorgeous office space. But at Horizon the extras go beyond happy hours or company sports teams or World Cup viewing parties.

At Horizon’s SoHo office it’s not uncommon to find Stephen Hall, Horizon’s chief marketing officer, in The Dunes—Horizon’s cavernous all-purpose space—interviewing guests like baker and Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel, or Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe co-founder Matt Besser. This past September renowned film director Robert Rodriguez stopped by for a talk as part of Horizon’s Hispanic Heritage Month event series.

MKT
In December Horizon will host MKT (pronounced “market”), inviting entrepreneurs to set up pop-up shops in The Dunes and sell their products and services. Businesses run by Horizon employees and their families and friends get first priority, after which vendors from the local small business community like Brooklyn Renegade, Union Square Holiday Market, The Market NYC, Scoutmob and Etsy populate the remaining spots at MKT.

You might be asking what a local marketplace of entrepreneurs selling their wares has to do with planning and buying media, i.e. Horizon’s area of expertise.

Business is Personal is intangible,” says Hall, referring to Horizon’s company tagline. “You have to experience it to believe it.”

Hall points out that every media agency is constantly trying to differentiate itself from the competition to land its next big client. But an event like MKT, he says, “turns words into action.”

The idea for MKT came from Leena Danan, Horizon’s VP of business development. “We started MKT as a celebration of entrepreneurship on [Horizon’s] 25th anniversary.” December 2014 marks Horizon’s third MKT event in two years. “This year,” Danan says, “we had multiple referrals both internally and externally, so we are thrilled that employees and past participants are excited to see MKT succeed.”

Horizon Side Hustle
Several Horizon employees have used MKT to showcase their talents outside of their day job.

Meeting and events specialist Brandon Smith, who raps under the name SMTH (pronounced “Smith”), has performed his songs at several Horizon events, including MKT.

“The second I get out of work it’s just straight to the studio, or straight to a shoot,” says Smith. “Every free minute that I have, I just put it into my music.” The music videos for SMTH’s songs, “Ticket to the Moon” and “Last Straw,” have been featured on MTV.

Alex Pagano has really taken Business is Personal to heart, running events for Horizon during the day—including MKT—and running her own business, Look Sharp Events, by night. Pagano recently organized her company’s largest event yet for beer brand Stella Artois, the “Butcher, Baker, Belgian Beer Maker” series kick off in New York City.

Des’ Sweet Treats was founded by Desiree Walker and her daughter, Shayna, who works in human resources at Horizon. Desiree found baking therapeutic while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. “I began playing around with a simple bread pudding recipe to create a variety of flavors,” she says. “My family and friends were my taste testers since my taste buds were off. … The rave reviews received were encouraging and many people began to suggest that I make baking more than a pastime.” Des’ Sweet Treats has attended every MKT event since it started.

External MKT-ers
Brooklyn-based TGT (pronounced “tight,” as in keeping it tight), founded by entrepreneur Jack Sutter, is one of the most exciting new entrants in this year’s MKT.

“I came up with the idea for TGT because I hated using a bi-fold [wallet]; it wasn’t the product for me,” says Sutter, who was at one point using a broccoli rubber band to carry his money. “I knew there was something better.

“I really had a need for this wallet and I kind of had a vision for what it could be,” says Sutter.

After producing some prototypes using scrap leather from a furniture store, Sutter took to Kickstarter—an online platform for crowdsourcing creative ventures—to fund production of his wallets on a larger scale. His funding goal was $20,000. He has raised $317,424 from more than 7,500 backers.

Sarah and Carlos Perla run Made with Nachos, a t-shirt company out of Brooklyn. The Perlas are design school grads who design all their own shirts, and hand-print them in their home studio. They shared the story behind their unique company name:

The name Made with Nachos came about one night when Sarah was cooking dinner. She asked Carlos if he could taste that “special ingredient.” Knowing she meant “love,” he responded with a wink and a smile “What…nachos?” and from that day forward they described things that made with love as Made with Nachos.

The Karako cousins, Michael, Sean and Daniel, are the founders of the reversible tie company Flip My Tie. The Karakos are the sons of the founders of Karako Suits, established 32 years ago in New York City, so men’s fashion is in their blood. They are participating in MKT for the first time.

Sean Karako says he was inspired to start a fashion line while watching ABC’s Shark Tank, the hit reality TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to big name (and big bank account) investors. “I saw all these entrepreneurs bringing great ideas and I thought to myself, our fathers have built such great relationships overseas that we should take advantage of it.”

Meanwhile another tie company is making its second MKT appearance. Davor Anic is a former TV producer in Europe with a master’s in fashion design and technology, who moved to the U.S. and started his own tie brand. Anic says he chose to specialize in ties because Croatia, where he’s from, is the “homeland of neckties.” (It’s true. I looked it up.)

It’s a great thing that a company like Horizon Media encourages entrepreneurship—not unlike the kind that Horizon itself was built on. But at the end of the day they still have a media agency to run.

“If everyone [quit Horizon and] did their own start-up we’d have a problem,” Hall jokes, “but we want to create an air of opportunity.

“MKT is like an open mic night,” he says. “If you’ve got some jokes or you can carry a tune, here’s a stage.”

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