This week, we're sitting down with Suzanne Massingill. Suzanne is the owner of Barefoot Model and Talent, an agency in Mobile dedicated to connecting actors and models with the companies that need them. Listen to this week's episode to learn about her story and how you need to be modernizing your business.
Suzanne Massingill: Hey, I'm Suzanne Massingill. I am the agency director for Barefoot Models & Talent in Mobile.
Marcus Neto: Yay. Well, we were just talking beforehand. Thank you for being here.
Suzanne Massingill: Happy to be here.
Marcus Neto: Yes. And so, we were just talking beforehand that we've run in the same circles for a long time, and so I'm very happy to finally get you in the hot seat, to kind of understand who you are, and more about the business, and just some of your backstory, so.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah, we probably know all of the same people.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, probably, so. But let's start there. So why don't you tell us a little bit about Suzanne, and where are you from? Where'd you go to high school? Did you go to college, married, kids? Anything that you feel pertinent to understanding who you are.
Suzanne Massingill: Okay. It's probably different than a lot of other people here, but I'm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Marcus Neto: Very good.
Suzanne Massingill: I went to the University of Alabama, and I went to high school and grew up, all in Fort Lauderdale, and then I met my husband at college, and we both went to Alabama. I graduated, moved to Atlanta. He graduated, moved to Atlanta. He didn't like it. He moved to Birmingham, but I stayed in Atlanta and I got a job as a casting director there. And then when it came to us getting married, we decided on Mobile.
Marcus Neto: Just like that.
Suzanne Massingill: Just like that.
Marcus Neto: It was like, "Hey, where can we go? Mobile."
Suzanne Massingill: Where can we go that we both know people, that we're not too landlocked, that kind of thing. So Mobile was our choice.
Marcus Neto: Okay. So I'm going to go back. What'd you study?
Suzanne Massingill: Psychology.
Marcus Neto: Oh gosh, okay. And what did he go into, if you don't mind me asking?
Suzanne Massingill: What did he go into? Like-
Marcus Neto: What industry or what business did he go into?
Suzanne Massingill: Here?
Marcus Neto: No, just in... Well, I guess-
Suzanne Massingill: He's always been in sales.
Marcus Neto: He's always been.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: So he's just in sales.
Suzanne Massingill: He's always been in sales.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Suzanne Massingill: Yes, so.
Marcus Neto: So it wasn't a difficult thing for him to say, "Hey, Mobile," and then just pick up and go.
Suzanne Massingill: Right.
Marcus Neto: Now, did you move down to start Barefoot, or did you-
Suzanne Massingill: I literally moved down because we were getting married. So I worked as a casting director up until the point of my wedding, pretty much. And then-
Marcus Neto: So it really was just a decision of, we want to be in Mobile.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: It wasn't like a job pulled you here, or grandiose-
Suzanne Massingill: No, it was like a, let's sit down, see where we would like to live, where we would want to raise kids, where we think we would both like. I liked Atlanta, he liked Birmingham, this was what we came up with.
Marcus Neto: So neither one of you got your choice, but it worked out, right?
Suzanne Massingill: That's what it is, it's called compromise, right?
Marcus Neto: Yeah, exactly. That's awesome. Well, tell us about your first job, and I always tell people it's like you flipping burgers, or sweeping floors or something. Tell us about your first job, and were there any lessons that you still remember from that? Speaker 3: What was your first-
Suzanne Massingill: Very first job was working in an ice cream saloon then.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Suzanne Massingill: And yeah, I guess it taught me how to get there on time, but I couldn't drive yet, so.
Marcus Neto: But I mean, were there any other lessons that came out?
Suzanne Massingill: I mean, definitely customer service.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Suzanne Massingill: The customer is always right. I learned that at that point. But definitely customer service and how to treat a customer. Thank you for everything. Just, you know.
Marcus Neto: It laid a foundation for understanding how to deal with people, right?
Suzanne Massingill: Yes.
Marcus Neto: And so we asked that, I asked that question often... I think I've used this illustration before and so fast forward 30 seconds if you've heard this before, but I've worked at a bagel bakery and I remember very much that the guy that was managing the bagel bakery was former Navy and he had a very specific way that he wanted the floors mopped. And lo and behold, when you work in a bakery, like yeah, that is the best way. And also I guess if you're swabbing a deck, it's probably the best way to mop a floor too.
Marcus Neto: And I don't know, I've always taken that with me because I understand now that with some things, even menial tasks, there is a very good right way to do things and that the attention that you pay to those details carry over into other aspects of your business. And so that's really kind of the motive behind asking that question.
Marcus Neto: But now how did you start Barefoot? I mean I, I get that you are a casting director beforehand, but that's very different working... I'm assuming that you were working for somebody else at that point in time.
Suzanne Massingill: I was working for somebody else at that time, but then after only a year of me being there, we flip flopped roles. She wanted to run the office and wanted me to do the casting for her. She just needed a break type thing.
Marcus Neto: Right. Just needed a change.
Suzanne Massingill: Right.
Marcus Neto: Well, when you moved here, how did you get started? What were some of the things that you remember about that process that stood out?
Suzanne Massingill: Well, it's not a big enough talent to have a casting director and just make a living full-time. So I decided that I would open... Plus a casting director calls on talent agencies and there was neither here. So I went to work literally as a secretary for a production company here and I was calling them to see if I could get my resume to him and nobody was answering. So I knocked on their door and they opened the door and I told them who I was and I said, "Since nobody's answering your phones, you need somebody." They're like, "You're right."
Suzanne Massingill: It was two men. Nobody was answering their phones, doing anything. And I said, "You need me." And they go, "We do. Come back tomorrow."
Marcus Neto: Yeah. You're hired.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah, you're hired type thing. Found a stack of bills this big, you know what I mean? It was funny, but I got them in shape after a couple of months and got everything organized a little bit and they knew I was there to meet clients anyways to answer the phone. I'm Suzanne and that way I could meet the advertising agencies and the people in the industry while I was there. And told him I would probably be there only a year and they were fine with that.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, they just wanted the help. And I guess give us a little bit, because we've had some folks from the film industry on the podcast, but it's been a while. What are you seeing now for film in Mobile? And I know you probably go beyond Mobile, but I mean, what do you see here for Mobile?
Suzanne Massingill: Well, I do see the industry growing in Mobile and that's great. I'll tell you one of the reasons why I feel like... We have great crew. We have a really knowledgeable crew here, which we didn't 10 years ago. So I feel like that's one of our best assets is that we have just got some good people working and it's all the same people usually working on the same movies and they just go from movie to movie.
Suzanne Massingill: And this year it got so busy that they had to bring people in because people were already booked on films for the year.
Marcus Neto: Oh wow. That's good.
Suzanne Massingill: Right. So it was great for everybody.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, It's just been very interesting to me because you kind of see the ebb and flow or the threat of what I guess the tax credits and stuff like that being taken away. And I don't think people understand just how much, how important that is to our economic development. We were recently over in New Orleans and there's a place as you kind of turn left to head and down into the city.
Marcus Neto: There's a place on the right hand side and I can't remember the name of it, but we thought it was a place where you go and buy old stuff from sets and stuff. And maybe you know the spot that I'm talking about. But anyway, we pull off the highway and we go in there and we're looking around and like, "Wow, this place is really cool."
Marcus Neto: And the guy comes up and he's like, "Can I help you?" And we're like, "Yeah, you know, we just wanted to check the place out." And he's like, "Well, we don't, we don't sell any of this stuff. This is all." I mean, he had every bit of 10,000 square feet and it was just stuff that was used on the Gulf Coast, not just in New Orleans but on the Gulf Coast for setting up for movies and shows, and stuff like that.
Marcus Neto: And so we'd immediately, the conversation changed from buying stuff to information about the movie industry and all that stuff in the area. And then we were just really surprised to find out the number of shows that are recorded on the Gulf Coast and all the movies that are recorded here and stuff like that.
Suzanne Massingill: It is. It's great. I mean, New Orleans would be, of course, like the hub, you know what I mean? And then Mobile's done well in the last few years. Now, Mississippi did lose some incentives. So their movies are struggling the last couple of years and they're struggling to come back.
Suzanne Massingill: Because it takes a while to gain back the people that have already gone other places. So we're lucky to have our incentives. Our incentives need to improve and they need to get larger, but we're lucky to have them.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, no, that's really cool. Now, do you remember the first deal that you made where you thought, "Hey, maybe there might be something to this?"
Suzanne Massingill: What kind of a deal? What do you mean?
Marcus Neto: Well, I mean, so you're either placing some people on a show or maybe modeling. You found somebody, I mean, that that moment, I think all business owners have that moment where they're like, "Okay, yeah this is good. I'm in the right spot."
Suzanne Massingill: I don't think I have a moment. I really don't. I kind of feel like I just moved into it and it was, you know what I mean? It was, it just kind of gradually moved into it. And I mean... It was well needed, a talent agency here because it's just organizing people for you to pick from. So it was well needed, but I mean it was slow roll for awhile just because the rates that I was moving from Atlanta coming down to here were so drastically different so that the poor talent was making nothing here, you know?
Suzanne Massingill: So I mean, we're up there now, we're close to Atlanta's radar or there, the same that they do now. I don't feel like there was a pivotal moment. I've always been steadily busy, you know what I mean? So I don't feel like there's anything pivotal that.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, totally fine. Now if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Suzanne Massingill: Know your market, know what you can sell, sell to the right people. Treat everybody great and don't... You never know who your next boss will be. So definitely don't burn a bridge.
Marcus Neto: Okay. Yeah, that's a good one. Because I mean, I think so oftentimes people are just real quick to, I don't need this anymore and they just walk away or how you end something.
Suzanne Massingill: Yes. How you end something. You know what I mean? Just has to be pleasant and good luck and thank you for everything. You just never know where your next boss is going to come from.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Absolutely.
Suzanne Massingill: Or client, you know?
Marcus Neto: Very true. If you look to the business world and it can be, it doesn't have to be Mobile local. I'm saying in the national international business world. What's one person that motivates you?
Suzanne Massingill: Oh gosh.
Marcus Neto: Maybe for somebody from the industry or something like that.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah. I mean, I would say the casting director that I used to work for in Atlanta. She would definitely be my biggest motivator. She ran a business, she had kids, she ran a big business and she and her husband worked together. He ran a payroll company to pay movies and she ran the casting to cast the movies. And they just treated everybody great. They were not out there flashy. They were not... They weren't uptight.
Suzanne Massingill: They were not people who you knew had very much, but they were just so smart about their businesses and what they did and the way they treated people and everybody loved them.
Marcus Neto: You could tell that they respected the people that they came in contact with.
Suzanne Massingill: They respected the people and it turned to gold. You know what I mean? It just did well for them. Very well respected people in there and then I learned a lot of that from I think her.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. No that's important. And are there any books or podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward in your business?
Suzanne Massingill: I listen to some podcasts but a lot of them are from casting directors and actors and that kind of thing to see what furthered them along, or how they got their start or something like that. Or just tricks of the trade. What casting directors do like. What casting directors don't like.
Suzanne Massingill: I listen to things like that, because I mean this business is ever evolving. So it's where I learn something new every single day, you know? So digitally, every, you know what I mean? Just technically everything changes and I'll be like, "Oh, we got to do that now."
Marcus Neto: You can't ever take anything off of the list of things to do, but you can certainly add a bunch more to it. Right?
Suzanne Massingill: Right. And there's just a new way to do things.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. I mean, just give us an example of one of the podcasts in case somebody is out there listening to this that thinks that maybe they want to be a better actor or-
Suzanne Massingill: Ryan Glorioso is a casting director in New Orleans and he has a podcast called... Is called Talking Like Normal People. And he named it that because he wants the actors to come in and stop acting, and do your lines like a normal person. So I think he gives his side of what and then he has actors come on who are successful in our market and working maybe east coast and west coast and give their tips just to tell people, don't make this mistake. This is what I did. I did it wrong. Don't do that.
Marcus Neto: Learning practical lessons from-
Suzanne Massingill: Yes. So I really like his cause he'll have a kid actor or a stunt guy on or somebody in their 60s whose been doing it forever, you know? And it's different perspectives from all sides of the industry.
Marcus Neto: Oh, that's really cool.
Suzanne Massingill: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Neto: Now, what's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Suzanne Massingill: How you treat people and to market yourself. I think people don't market themselves enough. I think that people think that if you're already known or established that everybody knows you and that's not true.
Marcus Neto: No, I mean even in a market as small as Mobile, I'm meeting people... We've known of each other for a long time, but literally after probably a decade of being kind of in the same circles, we're just now meeting. Right?
Suzanne Massingill: Right. And there's people that call me up and go, "Hey, I live in Mobile and I've been wanting to be an actor. I didn't know you were here." I'm like, "Well, I'm 24-years-old in business. How did you not know?" But that's what I'm saying.
Suzanne Massingill: I know people don't. Our summers are slow, so I spend my summers doing something. Redoing my website, sending out headshots, calling up marketing agencies that haven't called me in a while or literally people who have never heard of me.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. No, that's really good. And one of the things that I have kind of made my... I don't know. I don't know what the right terminology is, but this thing that I always do whenever I'm in front of a group is talk about the fact that people need to be marketing and advertising themselves. I think so many people go into business here in Mobile. Because it's not very difficult to start a business in Mobile. I mean, if you've got a little bit of money and you've got the ability to file a one sheet of paper to create an LLC, you have a business.
Marcus Neto: And I think those system came on at one point in time and said, "They're like 27,000 or 30,000 micro-businesses in Mobile alone." And so, but what they don't understand is that in order to grow the business and actually make it into truly a business, instead of just owning a job that they need to start marketing and advertising themselves.
Marcus Neto: And of course, we have an ulterior motive in that because we'd like to be part of them advertising themselves. But I think just even if you're not using BlueFish just doing what you're talking about, which is just grassroots or-
Suzanne Massingill: New business cards, it's a reason to get in your face, you know?
Marcus Neto: Business cards, sending out a postcard to people that you want to do business with. Making sure that you're going to the right networking events. Redoing your website or just creating new content for your website. There's all kinds of things that can be done that help increase your exposure and put yourself out there for people that may not either know you or haven't heard from you in a while or whatever. And those are the things that are going to bring in business.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah and I think people get complacent in their business and their ideas and all. And so I think that when somebody's on down the street has a new logo and a new sign outside, I totally notice it. I'm like, "Ah, they needed that update so bad." I notice all those kinds of things. Finally a new logo. You know?
Suzanne Massingill: I think that people get so complacent and of course Mobile is so traditional that they don't change things. And I could tell you how many times I would change things about the outside or just the appearance or just the little small things that are now 50-years-old in Mobile that I would be like, "God, it would be so cool if they did something different." Because they're younger people looking for things.
Marcus Neto: So you've been here for a lot longer than I have. Why is Mobile that way? Why is Mobile so stayed in its way? I mean it just feels like-
Suzanne Massingill: I think that a lot of them don't want more clients.
Marcus Neto: They're happy with the way things are and it's good enough. That's just the way it's going to be.
Suzanne Massingill: Yes. I think Mobile is like that. I mean-
Marcus Neto: I wouldn't disagree with you one bit.
Suzanne Massingill: We laugh, but even the people here are kind of still hanging out with their high school friends, which is great. You know what I mean? That's all fun. But it's like they don't need anymore, you know? And I feel like businesses the same way, they don't need anymore customers. Well, everybody needs more customers. I mean, how has their rent not gone up in 50 years? Really?
Marcus Neto: Yeah. No, I mean, I always say that if you're not as a business, if you're not growing, then you're dying. Because I mean, you can only go in one direction. You can either increase business or you're decreasing business. Nobody ever stays the same. We're not going to make $400,000 on the nose every year.
Marcus Neto: So you're either going to do $400,001 or you going to do $399,999 right? So I mean, you always-
Suzanne Massingill: You got to count on that bad year.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. I mean, so I don't know. I've always just kind of been driven by I need to keep trying to grow the business, otherwise what's going to happen?
Suzanne Massingill: And I like change. I like new things, you know?
Marcus Neto: I think a lot of people do.
Suzanne Massingill: Right, but a lot of people don't.
Marcus Neto: True.
Suzanne Massingill: You know? So that's what I'm saying.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, that's great. A lot of people don't. Okay. Yeah. You have a good point. A lot of people don't because obviously there... I mean, there are restaurants here that haven't changed and I love them. I go there every once in a while, but the Dew Drop Inn, it's been around for what? a 100 and some odd years or something like that. I don't think it's changed one bit since it probably opened up, but that's great. It's part of their charm.
Suzanne Massingill: That's part of their success, I think. You know? But in our business, we have to grow, we have to change, we have to evolve. We have to modernize. We have to. I mean-
Marcus Neto: In most businesses you have to do those things.
Suzanne Massingill: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Neto: So, but well, how do you like to unwind?
Suzanne Massingill: Half of my world, I work out a couple of times a week and I go out with my friends a couple of times a week. Yeah, I'm pretty social.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Unwind with the girlfriends, have a glass of wine, something like that.
Suzanne Massingill: Yeah and then the other days I'll go work out.
Marcus Neto: Pay pittance for the actual going out with the girlfriends.
Suzanne Massingill: Also, we've got kids and so I've got one still in high school and we're kind of football fans.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. That was fun. Now, tell people where they can find you.
Suzanne Massingill: Where can they find me? Like on my web?
Marcus Neto: Web, Facebook, whatever information you want to give out.
Suzanne Massingill: I've got a Facebook group, a Facebook page, Barefoot Models & Talent. I'm on Instagram that should be doing more often. And I have a stand alone office. People can't walk in my door, but they can certainly contact me anyway. And I hold new talent interviews every three to four months. I'm always again looking for new people.
Marcus Neto: Actually, do you have one of those coming up?
Suzanne Massingill: I have a new talent appointment starting in December to start out for the new year next year.
Marcus Neto: So is that something that they may need to make an... You said new talent appointment. So it's something that they need to make an appointment for in order-
Suzanne Massingill: Well, how they do it is they go on my website and I have a page on my website called Be Discovered and they follow the directions. You send me an email, show me what you look like, tell me something about you. Your height and send me pictures. The actors will send me their headshots and resumes. So I look at every single one that comes through and I called the ones that have a fit in my agency. Different looks, different times, you know?
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast to wrap up. Any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Suzanne Massingill: No. I'm happy to be here. I appreciate you having us. Nice to meet you finally.
Marcus Neto: It's funny.
Suzanne Massingill: The circle that we live in doesn't mean we always see people. I mean, with social media, we see people, but we don't face to face and me, I have clients 10-15 years I've never laid eyes on.
Marcus Neto: You never met them? No, that's wild. I am happy to finally meet you and so I'll just end with what I normally end up with is I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Suzanne Massingill: All right. Thank you.