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Dolphin Entertainment Company: The Transformation Story Of A Talent Agency Into A Multi-Media Magazine Company – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Owner & CEO, Robert White…

October 10, 2019

For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.”… Robert White

Robert White is the owner and CEO of Dolphin Entertainment Company Inc. Dolphin Entertainment encompasses a wide variety of media services, from publishing an array of magazines to talent management. In fact, the company’s foundation was in the talent management category until the models that Robert was photographing responded to a question he proposed to them: what was the one thing that would make them feel they had “made it” in their careers? Their response: being published in a magazine. So, a can-do kind of guy, Robert set out on a mission  to get his models in published in print. But unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. What did his tenacity cause him to do? Well, start his own magazine, of course. Nothing legitimizes like print magazines and Robert was fully aware of that.

Today, Robert has several titles under his belt with a partnership lined up to produce another. And while digital really fascinates him, at the moment he’s doing print and digital products, and according to him, seeing amazing success. From Splash Magazine to Savoir Faire, Robert has the beginnings of his own magazine and media empire.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Robert about his company and his magazines. What follows is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a true entrepreneur, Robert White, owner and CEO, Dolphin Entertainment Company.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Dolphin Entertainment got started: For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.

On what role he thinks a magazine plays in this digital age: It’s a tough one, because I’m in the modeling world and 95 percent of the subscribers to my magazines are digital subscribers. And I want them to be digital subscribers, but the industry itself has not let go of the fact that if you’re not in print, you’re not legitimate. It’s a weird vibe in the entertainment industry, and so I’m trying to fight through that. We also like a one-off, kind of on-demand print option, but the idea is that digital is more of the role that I want to be in. But I’m fighting against something that’s not ripe for change yet, there’s not a welcoming vibe in the entertainment industry for digital magazines. People think that if you’re an online magazine or if you’re on an online website, you’re just not legitimate and that’s what I’m fighting against. But I think maybe three to five years from now, things will change. It’s not going to change now, but in three to five years, I think it will.

On launching another magazine called Luxury & Entertainment: One of the cool things about the publication world that I like is the people that you get to meet. A very cool PR company reached out to me to give me a lot of content, some of their really high profile people that I publish come from that PR company, and they want to create their own magazine. So, they called me to ask about the process and about what they needed to do. I told them that I didn’t have time to teach them everything that I had learned in six years, but let me help you with this product; what do you want it to be like? We discussed some options and some business ideas, and Luxury & Entertainment was what we settled on.

On what he is offering on his digital platform that looks or feels different than the ink on paper: There are so many cool features. What I like about digital is that there’s no limitation to the creative side right now. You could definitely go out and do some research and see a lot of col things that can happen with digital. One of the biggest collaborations that I’ve seen recently was Wired magazine and Adobe got together and did this very cool, kind of virtual –based magazine. They built it together and I read a lot about how they did that. The idea that you can embed videos or that you have click-through links on ads and stuff; you can put music in the magazine. I do articles about different musical artists and we have direct, playable click options in the digital publication. You can listen to their music right then and there. If you don’t know who they are, just click play and you can listen to them.

On his biggest stumbling block: I think my biggest stumbling block was the learning curve. We’re in a modern-day age where digital magazines and content and getting people involved in your brand is extremely hard, because everything is available to everybody on the Internet. And you’re competing for space and that’s so hard. If I was only putting out print products, I could name 100 magazines that would be my competitors. But because I’m putting out digital products, there’s thousands of magazines that are my competitors, so the things that I have to strategize about the most is overcoming the learning curve and figuring out little details of stuff that I don’t know about the industry still.

On telling Authority Magazine that it’s lonely at the top and whether it’s still lonely: Oh my gosh, yes. (Laughs) I have this really good analogy of that to throw around often: it’s all about climbing the mountain. And everyone wants to be at the top, but they don’t realize that when you get there there’s not room for a lot of people there. And so, it’s a lonely place when you start climbing really fast, but I think that my strategy is that I always want to give back, my success should be shared.

On anything he’d like to add: We’re going through some changes right now. Savoir Faire was a brand that was supposed to fix the problem and the problem didn’t get fixed. Long story short, we had Splash Magazine for five years and we were getting some advertisers who said, which Splash was all focused around swimwear, they didn’t really want their ads around swimwear models, basically. So, we changed to the Savoir Faire brand. So we had this GQ/Esquire men’s lifestyle type of brand and we could go with it more fashion-based. And all of those advertisers that wanted to change, they still didn’t come onboard after we changed. (Laughs) So, I took a gamble and it didn’t work out.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: Honestly, I think it’s that playboy term. I think people see me in that light. I’m kind of a playboy type of guy because I’m around beautiful people all the time or I’m always taking photos of people and I think that’s a persona that people have put on me and sometimes you just have to play a character as though you were in a movie. But the real me is a very relaxed, very chill guy. I like to have fun; I’m a little flirty.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: It depends on what night of the week it is. I’m not a big drinker, so Monday through Thursday, I’m probably catching up on a Netflix show, trying to relax around my house, maybe even cleaning my house, doing some domesticated things because I am working all day, I’m non-stop. On the weekends I don’t mind going out and having a beer or two with some friends.

On what keeps him up at night: I would say just success in general. In the other magazine article that I just released, I mentioned something and I’ll mention it with you again, I have this really big pressure that I put on myself a few years ago and part of that is the change, not only with my company having this amazing growth, but the change in genealogy or the family tree in my family completely.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Robert White, owner and CEO, Dolphin Entertainment Company.

Samir Husni: I did some research on your background; you fell in love with music, went to Nashville from age 16 to 20, and then you went back to New York, worked at a newspaper, became unemployed, but suddenly Dolphin Entertainment started. You first started it as a talent agency and now you’re also a magazine publisher, a designer and a marketer. How did all of this happen?

Robert White: I’ve always had a creative bug, so I’ve always been able to create art and write and have those abilities. I can think back to my college years or even high school, and people would say, you’re such a creative writer and you write so well. Songwriting was my first love and that took all of my talents in, so I was in Nashville for a little while, then I moved to New York.

And when I moved to New York, I was still writing music lyrics and poems, really getting into a lot of creative writing. Then in 2013, I was working as a salesperson for a newspaper publication, and I kept on banging heads with my sales manager, we just had two different paths that we wanted to go to get sales. Finally, I just said this job isn’t for me, I had way too much creative energy that needed to be released and I knew I had to find another way to do it.

So, I actually quit that job and was able to get unemployment. And from unemployment, there was a program that was released in 2013 in New York state where you could actually start your own business and be on unemployment at the same time. You had to go through some stuff, you had to write a business plan; I had to get a business coach at one of my local B.A. offices. So, I went through that process and basically it gave me some freedom to be able to focus on what I wanted to do.

For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.

So, I started taking their photos and putting them out all over, sending them to all the big names in the publication industry. And we kept on getting no’s or no response at all, people just weren’t interested in the people that I had. Finally, I said there is always a way to do this, you can either bust your way through the door or you can sneak around the back and go through the window. (Laughs) So, we decided that we were going to sneak around and build our own magazine.

Originally, it was Splash Magazine and it was the first brand that I ever created and that was in 2014. And it was basically a glorified, very creative newsletter and all of my talent was in there and that was pretty much it. And I had a lot of talent at that time, probably 60 or 70 people I was working with. I had lots of content and we were always doing photo shoots and putting people in

Then eventually the outside world starting reaching in and saying that they really wanted to get into this magazine, it had started to grow a little bit and everyone was seeing it. So, that’s when we started to take outside submissions and from there it kind of expanded, it went from a lot of no-name people to now we’re actually publishing a lot of entertainment stories from people who are very well-known in the music industry and the acting world, and now in the modeling world too. We’ve expanded quite a bit, but that’s how it all started. It’s a really great creative place for me to create and release. I love designing and I love the writing; I write some of the stories, but not all of them. That’s a really cool release for me and kind of why it all switched into the publication world.

Samir Husni: That combination of all of the talents you were working with telling you that they wanted to be in a magazine and then you publishing a magazine, what role do you think a magazine plays in this digital age?

Robert White: It’s a tough one, because I’m in the modeling world and 95 percent of the subscribers to my magazines are digital subscribers. And I want them to be digital subscribers, but the industry itself has not let go of the fact that if you’re not in print, you’re not legitimate. It’s a weird vibe in the entertainment industry, and so I’m trying to fight through that.

There are some really good success stories that I know of, like one of my favorite magazines that I actually subscribe to is Foundr Magazine, without the “e.” It’s 100 percent digital, they really are. And then they have a print product too, but they’re huge for digital. I want that same format, we’re actually revamping and changing stuff with our publication to do 100 percent digital someday and completely wipe out the idea of having a print copy sent to anybody.

We also like a one-off, kind of on-demand print option, but the idea is that digital is more of the role that I want to be in. But I’m fighting against something that’s not ripe for change yet, there’s not a welcoming vibe in the entertainment industry for digital magazines. People think that if you’re an online magazine or if you’re on an online website, you’re just not legitimate and that’s what I’m fighting against. But I think maybe three to five years from now, things will change. It’s not going to change now, but in three to five years, I think it will.

Samir Husni: I understand you’re launching another magazine, Luxury & Entertainment?

Robert White: Yes, one of the cool things about the publication world that I like is the people that you get to meet. A very cool PR company reached out to me to give me a lot of content, some of their really high profile people that I publish come from that PR company, and they want to create their own magazine. So, they called me to ask about the process and about what they needed to do. I told them that I didn’t have time to teach them everything that I had learned in six years, but let me help you with this product; what do you want it to be like? We discussed some options and some business ideas, and Luxury & Entertainment was what we settled on.

I love the name, it’s very cool and very classy and the website is under development and hopefully the first issue of that magazine will be out in January. But I’m basically working hand-in-hand with a PR team in L.A. to build it. I’m kind of the builder behind the scenes and they’re getting all of the content, so they’re going to be a big part of it, it’s almost a partnership. We’re looking at possibly bringing on another company in Miami, Florida to help with that, so it’s going to be a three-way partnership. And that magazine should hopefully grow quickly.

I think I’ve learned a lot of mistakes that I’ve done with my own brands and learned a lot of lessons, if I can just implement them into that brand, it should grow pretty fast.

Samir Husni: I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe it’s a magazine if it isn’t ink on paper, we have to come up with a new name for this new world. As I look at your website and at your magazine covers, and at what you’re trying to do; what are you offering in your digital platform that looks or feels different than the ink on paper?

Robert White: There are so many cool features. What I like about digital is that there’s no limitation to the creative side right now. You could definitely go out and do some research and see a lot of col things that can happen with digital. One of the biggest collaborations that I’ve seen recently was Wired magazine and Adobe got together and did this very cool, kind of virtual –based magazine. They built it together and I read a lot about how they did that. The idea that you can embed videos or that you have click-through links on ads and stuff; you can put music in the magazine. I do articles about different musical artists and we have direct, playable click options in the digital publication. You can listen to their music right then and there. If you don’t know who they are, just click play and you can listen to them.

I like the idea that you can embed videos. I really want to go forward in this industry as taking advantage of all these new technologies in the world. There’s virtual reality and there’s foldable tablets and glass tablets that are coming out. There’s always cool technical things happening. And I kind of want to turn, especially my Savoir Faire brand, into the brand that travels with that stuff, so as technology advances my brand will adapt to those advancements.

As an example, I’d like to have my covers come to life with virtual reality. Or have very cool stories inside where people can be completely immersed into driving a car ad, or seeing a fashion runway show right in your living room, instead of having to see photos in a magazine. I think some of those really cool technological things are going to be what drags people to digital magazines in the future, because the experience is going to be so much more in depth than we can do with paper.

In paper, the one thing that I’ve seen that’s cool is different inserts that you can engage with like with 3-D glasses or something. But the digital world is so much more advanced and those products are going to be very cool things in the next three to five years. You can see it in TV now where people grab stuff and put it up on a wall and use their fingers just to touch it and move it. It’s all going to be embedded into digital magazines in the future.

Samir Husni: If you think back over the last six years, what would you consider the biggest stumbling block that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Robert White: I think my biggest stumbling block was the learning curve. We’re in a modern-day age where digital magazines and content and getting people involved in your brand is extremely hard, because everything is available to everybody on the Internet. And you’re competing for space and that’s so hard. If I was only putting out print products, I could name 100 magazines that would be my competitors. But because I’m putting out digital products, there’s thousands of magazines that are my competitors, so the things that I have to strategize about the most is overcoming the learning curve and figuring out little details of stuff that I don’t know about the industry still.

I build a magazine based off of my vision and my idea, but there’s still a very prominent status with certain magazines: this is the way that we do text; this is the way that we do certain layouts, and there’s a very uniqueness to that. And that’s the things that I’m trying to learn. I’m actually a cold-caller, I love to call people at random and get information. I’ve made phone calls to the biggest companies in the publication world and I’ve talked to some pretty incredible people on the phone about the publication industry and their belief on stuff.

I’ve called Hearst, Condé Nast, and I’ve been on the phone with Anna Wintour and a handful of other people, people that I really respect in the publication world. And I’ve gotten a lot of information from them about where they think things are going to move forward to, so I’m glad that I have that, because I think it keeps everything very interesting, but I think there’s still a lot to learn. And by the time I learn it all, there will be new stuff I’ll have to learn all over again. And that’s what’s unique about the publication world, there’s always something new.

 Samir Husni: You told Authority Magazine that it’s lonely at the top, is it still lonely?

Robert White: Oh my gosh, yes. (Laughs) I have this really good analogy of that to throw around often: it’s all about climbing the mountain. And everyone wants to be at the top, but they don’t realize that when you get there there’s not room for a lot of people there. And so, it’s a lonely place when you start climbing really fast, but I think that my strategy is that I always want to give back, my success should be shared.

And when I do get to the top of the mountain, where I see the top, and I don’t think I’m there yet, I want to be able to bring other people to that level. It’s very cool being in the publication industry because I have a little bit of magic power, I guess, because I can make people smile when they get published. It’s a really great feeling when someone reaches out to you and tells you they would love to be in a magazine, and then when you make that dream happen for them they’re legitimized.

And that’s what I love about the industry in general, but that’s what I love about what I do, it’s that people are excited and they smile and they share the content when they’re published with me. That makes me feel amazing, so I know I’m doing the right thing on that level. There’s a lot of financial goals that I have and some other things that I still want to reach, but I think getting to the top of the mountain, I know it’s going to be lonely, but I’m trying to find the right team to put around me so that I’m not sitting up there by myself.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Robert White: We’re going through some changes right now. Savoir Faire was a brand that was supposed to fix the problem and the problem didn’t get fixed. Long story short, we had Splash Magazine for five years and we were getting some advertisers who said, which Splash was all focused around swimwear, they didn’t really want their ads around swimwear models, basically. So, we changed to the Savoir Faire brand. So we had this GQ/Esquire men’s lifestyle type of brand and we could go with it more fashion-based. And all of those advertisers that wanted to change, they still didn’t come onboard after we changed. (Laughs) So, I took a gamble and it didn’t work out.

But I’ve seen a lot of changes with this brand that I like. There’s growth in sales, people appreciate the brand. We’ve seen more subscribers coming onboard almost every day now. And we’re starting to revamp it a little bit more even now. What I mean by that is Savoir Faire is a French word that to me means well-spoken. A lot of people thought that I built the magazine based on me and who I am, because those people feel like I’m well-spoken guy, a little bit of a playboy at times, or I have a lot of confidence in who I am. So, we’re playing off of that now.

We’re actually going to start a podcast that will be launching about some articles and things that are going to be released about being savoir faire and having the ability to have strong confidence. We’re going to launch some training courses and some stuff like that. But it’s all built around Savoir Faire and part of that magazine. I think that brand is going to expand very quickly in the next two years. We’re really expanding some really cool stuff.

And if anyone wants to know more about my perspective from the publication industry or about it, then they can listen to my podcast because that’s where I’m going to put a lot of information about the trials and tribulations that I have to go through as a publisher. So, it’s a little bit more of a behind-the-scenes look of being in this industry and not just putting out content that I think people will want to listen to. It’s more educational.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Robert White: Honestly, I think it’s that playboy term. I think people see me in that light. I’m kind of a playboy type of guy because I’m around beautiful people all the time or I’m always taking photos of people and I think that’s a persona that people have put on me and sometimes you just have to play a character as though you were in a movie. But the real me is a very relaxed, very chill guy. I like to have fun; I’m a little flirty.

But the idea is that I work really hard and people see this as maybe a glorified thing, but the truth is I sit a computer probably 12 hours a day working on content, networking, contacting people for the magazine and it’s a completely different lifestyle than what people think you actually live. It’s kind of like what you put on social media is what they’re going to see and I play that game. I want people to think that I’m that type of character, but it really is just a character that play. It’s not really who I am.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; looking at models’ pictures; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Robert White: It depends on what night of the week it is. I’m not a big drinker, so Monday through Thursday, I’m probably catching up on a Netflix show, trying to relax around my house, maybe even cleaning my house, doing some domesticated things because I am working all day, I’m non-stop. On the weekends I don’t mind going out and having a beer or two with some friends.

Here and there, I get to travel a little bit for my job, so there’s some of that around, but I come home and I’ve worked a long day and I’m probably just watching Netflix and relaxing. But the truth is, I don’t ever relax, my phone is always dinging and I’m very responsive to everyone that reaches out to me. Every message, every email, I answer it promptly. If it’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m lying in bed and my phone dings, I’ll probably respond to your message. I’m just not the type of person that put anything off for any amount of time.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Robert White: I would say just success in general. In the other magazine article that I just released, I mentioned something and I’ll mention it with you again, I have this really big pressure that I put on myself a few years ago and part of that is the change, not only with my company having this amazing growth, but the change in genealogy or the family tree in my family completely.

And I recently got really involved with my family history and wanted to know where we came from and what we were all about. Everywhere that I went to look at information about family, it was all about working 9 to 5 and being labor workers, and being in the factory, just whatever the case may have been. I just didn’t want that to be my future lineage with my children or grandchildren, or whatever. So, I wanted to put something in the family tree that would get people excited; like wow, I had a great uncle that owned a magazine publication and it was successful. I want some more content in my family tree history.

Part of that is taking on a lot of personal sacrifice that I take on. Family really suffers, friendships suffer, your health suffers a little bit when you focus so hard on this massive goal. And so there are things like that which keep me up at night, such as when am I going to see my doctor again and talk to her about working out a little bit more or this pain in my back. The other piece is just getting my growth to a point where I can be a little bit more comfortable financially, so I can focus on growing that magazine. And making sure that my lineage and reputation are both strong, because that’s what I really want when it’s my time to go. I want people to remember what I created and what I did for my family going forward.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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