Going Against the Grain: Why a Recent Rutgers Graduate, Eric Fleming, Decided to Start His Own Company, Lion Five Studios

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Some people don't take no for an answer. Recent graduates are having trouble finding jobs, but others are taking risks and starting their own businesses.

Eric Fleming - Lion Five Studios

Lion Five Studios Owner, Eric Fleming

Growing up in a broken home, says Eric Fleming, 22, a recent Rutgers University graduate, "You kind of have your back up against a wall. Most of my friends came from great families and had a lot of opportunities I didn't. And there's nothing wrong with that," he explains. "That's just how the cards were dealt."

Fleming's father owns a contracting company, but the 2008-09 financial crisis introduced debt and bankruptcy to the family. "It wasn't the first time," he said, "I knew it wasn't the end of the world, but it definitely created some uncertainties. I recall working 2 to 3 jobs while attending school, for years. Other times I wasn't sure how I was going to pay for classes or next month's rent," he describes. "We always found a way. But it was a wake up call."

Today's job market for recent graduates isn't promising, but Fleming describes growing up quickly and being independent at a young age, "I've been an adult since I was 14. I had no choice." So when he decided to start his own company, Lion Five Studios, a digital marketing agency, "I don't think it came as a shock to most of my friends."

However, the Parsippany native had some reservations about the risk he was taking by starting a company. He talks about failure, saying, "Anything can happen. If I make it big, that's great. If not, what do I have to lose? If I was older and had a home or kids, I would never jump into something so uncertain," Fleming justifies, "but I'm young, capable, and motivated. Besides, it's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. I'm either going to find a way or make one."

Lion Five Studios is "a digital marketing and web design agency, serving all of New Jersey and New York," according to the company website. They brand themselves as a one-stop-shop for everything relevant to digital marketing, including: web design, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising campaigns, social media management, conversion optimization, competitor analysis, copywriting, business consulting, and more. You can read their full list of services here.

"I was a curious child, always taking things apart," he recalls, "and ever since I got my hands on a computer, I wanted to learn everything about it." Fleming goes on to explain how he started making small websites for friends and family. "Eventually, it snowballed into something so big that I ended up dedicating 30-40 hours a week to it, while at Rutgers. Now that I graduated, I'm ready to scale things up."

"Make no mistake," he clarifies, "it's hard work. Many people think I just work in my pajamas and cash checks. If you find a job like that, let me know," Fleming jokes. "I've spent years working on projects and building my brand. And ever since I decided to go full time, I've spent thousands on licensing my business, attorney fees, accountants, and other start-up costs."

He compares starting a business to fans watching sports on television, "Most people only see the end result; the highlight reels, and the flashy moves. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes," he explains, "like years and years of training, making sacrifices, and doing what most people would not. But they don't show that on TV. It wouldn't interest many people."

Fleming continues to expand his business, prospecting new clients in the medical field. "I have a lot of clients who are doctors, dentists, and plastic surgeons. I've found a 'niche' industry that I understand and can excel at. I never turn down any work, but I try to stick to that field and brand myself as a specialist," he claims.

The young entrepreneur has also been generating a lot of buzz in local media outlets, being mentioned in the Daily Record, Patch.com, and a few magazine write-ups. While it's humbling, he says, "It's not much. But it's a start." It seems he has his sights set a bit higher.

When asked what advice he would give to college students and recent graduates, he didn't hesitate to share. "In my short 22 years, I've been around a ton of people. I was never the strongest, fastest, smartest, or most talented in the room. But one quality everyone knows me for is my resilience. I never give up and I don't take no for an answer. If you want something badly enough, block out the naysayers and just go for it. If you can adopt that mindset, nothing will stand in your way. It's that simple."

Today, you'll find an enthusiastic Fleming working towards his goals of making Lion Five Studios a success. You can visit their website, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

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Eric Fleming
since: 05/2014
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