1,000 COSIGN’s: Meet Entrepreneur/Philanthropist Ani Sanyal
Ani Sanyal is a New York City entrepreneur. He began with a lemonade stand as a child, and would go on to random hustles as he got older. He fell in love with hip-hip (and skateboarding) at a young age, and particularly Roc-A-Fella Records inspired him to continue his entrepreneurship and to work toward becoming a global hip-hop artist.
“Green Street Records was my first real business, and it consumed every waking minute of my life for over a decade,” he says. “I started the label when I was 17 with a friend of mine and put every ounce of energy into it. I was a co-founder and the one responsible for all the day-to-day operations, from booking tours, planning releases, coordinating brand deals, executive producing albums and more. I lost love, money and friendships over it, but it allowed me to learn business, build relationships and travel the world at a very young age.”
Along the way, Ani was diagnosed with end stage kidney failure. “My battle with kidney failure put my entire life in perspective. Ultimately, there’s no amount of money or hustle that can save you when you’re in that situation, and I learned the hard way,” he says. And while the long days and late nights of entrepreneurship don’t always allow us the best dietary options, Ani has outlived doctors’ expectations by changing his lifestyle. “I’m very conscious of what I put into my body. Outside of eating clean and eschewing drugs and alcohol, I’m also really big on what I consume for my mental health; that means staying away from the traditional news media, going down rabbit holes on Instagram, et cetera. You have to take of yourself in order to take care of the people around you.”
In 2015, Ani was selected to speak at a TEDx. “It was an experience that allowed me to crystalize my story, share it at scale and remind myself of how powerful one’s narrative can be. I’m extremely grateful for that whole experience,” he says.
By the time Ani was in his mid-20s, he decided to take all he had learned from the music industry and quit the music industry. It was an unstable time, streaming was killing music sales, and he felt he hadn’t made enough money to take care of his parents. He looked toward marketing, as he already knew how to identify and segment audiences, how to drive engagement through content and how to create a conversion funnel. Anywhere there were gaps in his knowledge, he researched, or he relied on trial and error. “My younger brother and I put our heads together and decided to try to build out an [advertising/marketing] agency and three years later, GRC is growing at a scale we could’ve never imagined,” he says. “I thought starting a business was tough, but learning how to scale and grow is the real challenge. Being a real CEO with a team and responsibilities extend way beyond what I thought they did.”
As its first client, GRC (Green Room Creative) landed Juice Press, one of the most explosive startups in the food space in recent years. He was introduced to the company through his friend and the Juice Press’ CTO, Adam Smith. “During my first pitch, the founder walked in halfway through and started grilling me on a thousand different things. I knew the material and went bar for bar with him until he was out of questions. He called me at midnight that same day and told me to send him the paperwork in the morning. And that was our first GRC client,” he says. “Long story short: stay ready so you never have to get ready.”
Ani has learned both through experience, and from listening to other successful entrepreneurs. “Gary Vaynerchuck told me this a few weeks ago, ‘You should always be selling.’ You, or someone on your team should always be pitching new business or having conversations if you want to grow as an agency,” Ani says. He also stressed five tips for an effective pitch:
- Listen to the client to identify their needs.
- Organize your deck to speak to these directly.
- Show examples of how you think and problem solve.
- Include powerful case studies.
- Clearly outline the next steps.
Along with this, Ani says to those venturing out there, “Find your point of differentiation and go hard with that. Build an amazing team and don’t worry about anything except doing the highest quality of work possible. Don’t worry about who’s watching or how cool you look on Instagram; just work on delivering value for your clients.” He also advises every brand to tell their story, be consistent and to take risks. “Ownership is the only way for people of color to change our financial futures in this country. My advice is simple: identify what you’re good at and find a problem that you can solve with that skill set. The problem doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to exist at scale. In my case, it was using my understanding of culture and technology to improve how brands communicate to their audience. I would also challenge people to always bootstrap their idea. Keep your overhead low and use your own money first before taking on outside investment. Learning how to stretch each dollar when you’re young allows you to stay lean and apply those principles as you grow. ”
Ani now hosts a monthly meetup called “Idea Exchange,”a place for his fellow creative in NYC to meet and connect. “We bring together creatives from a variety of different disciplines and brainstorm and problem solve together,” he explains. “We’ve designed a workshop that allows everyone to be a leader and empowers the best ideas to rise to the top. The goal is to foster organic connections that help people find the missing pieces for their business or idea. We’ve done monthly events in both NYC and the Bay area, and are expanding globally in 2018.”
The “global” theme of Ani’s ventures comes from his summers spent in India as a child. “It showed me how issues like poor infrastructure, education and opportunities can cripple generations of people, especially young people. It felt wrong for me to have all these advantages in the first world, while my people struggled to meet their basic human needs. Given how much perspective I gained the country and its people, I know it’s my job to give back,” he says. “So far, I’ve been doing small givebacks in the community where we’ve given away cricket equipment and such to the kids. We’ve also been supporting non-profits, which work with the street children in the area, providing them with access to food, shelter, medical care and more. Long term, my goal is to create facilities that provide access to basic human needs, as well as launching initiatives in the microfinance and social entrepreneurship space.”
We #COSIGN Ani Sanyal for his fearless entrepreneurship, based on his flexibility to change fields and learn what is necessary to be successful, as well as for his philanthropic work.
But who does Ani #COSIGN?
“Thank you for this question. Here are the people that inspire me on a daily basis:”
Amir Abbassy – @blamethelabel
Craig Hackey – @craighackey
Mel P – @melpno7
Anik Khan – @anikkhan_
Travis Weekes – @trav_weekes
Thuan Tran – @onlunchbreak
Phil Pirkovic – @philpirkovic
King Pleaxure – @kingpleaxure
Sylvan Lacue – @sylvanlacue
Julian Mitchell – @allthingsmitch