Iman Gadzhi is an entrepreneur, digital marketing agency owner, and founder of the world’s largest education company for agency owners, GrowYourAgency.com
After dropping out of high school at the age of 17, Iman has dedicated his life to reforming the education system.
In this interview, we chat with Iman on how he started his business as a teenager and was driven to succeed out of necessity, how he is now inspiring and teaching others to start their own digital marketing agency, how he is giving back funding schools in Nepal, and his advice on starting a business ...
Tell us a bit about IAG Media and Grow Your Agency?
IAG Media is a boutique digital marketing agency designed to be devastatingly-effective and bring fantastic return-on-investment for its clients whilst maintaining high levels of profitability.
GrowYourAgency.com is an extension of this, and teaches both beginners and established agency owners how to start and scale their agencies in a similar fashion.
Why did you start IAG Media and Grow Your Agency?
IAG Media started by accident: I started offering social media management to my local football team and combined this with my passion for content creation.
The agency evolved into its current state over a couple of years in different guises, but all with a small core team and the same aim to remain nimble and efficient.
The success of IAG Media did not go unnoticed and I was soon asked by friends and my small following on social media for informal mentorship. This led me to create an online course called ‘Six Figure SMMA’.
As more and more students found success with this program, I decided to form a standalone company as GrowYourAgency, as a platform dedicated to helping agency owners whilst also fulfilling my mission to reform the education system.
How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
IAG Media is a product of trial and (much) error: I’m proud to be able to teach students to avoid the same mistakes I made as a first-time agency owner.
I’ve been luckier with GrowYourAgency to have previously run a business in IAG Media and so have at least a basic understanding of fundamental concepts such as accounting, customer service and team management.
How did you validate your idea?
IAG Media was a business born out of necessity: from a young age, I was required to be financially independent and look after my mother.
I did not have time to validate this idea, and very much forced it into success.
How did you finance your project?
IAG Media - and indeed all agencies - require zero financing. To me, it’s what makes it such an appealing business model. It’s possible to start an SMMA (Social Media Marketing Agency) with $0.
GrowYourAgency, in comparison, is a thirsty beast that requires constant re-investment.
How did you market and promote your business when you were launching? What was the most effective strategy?
IAG Media was launched entirely via word-of-mouth and referrals for the first two years of its life, and later evolved into sales via outreach.
In contrast, GrowYourAgency in its earliest iteration relied heavily on my organic presence on social media, especially Instagram and YouTube.
How long did it take you to start getting the first results and see you could create a viable business?
Whilst I enjoyed a degree of success with IAG Media, I would say it took me at least two years of operation to fully service my clients to the degree where we could identify a clear-cut return ROI. This, in turn, led to greater client satisfaction and retention.
You started your business as a side hustle. How did you organize to work on your side project while studying at the same time?
I wish I could speak confidently on this but I can’t. In reality, I sacrificed a lot of my youth in order to focus on my business.
Dropping out of high school at the age of 17 allowed me to dedicate a greater amount of time at my agency but I still ultimately lost out on a social life during my younger years.
Being really young when starting a business can sometimes be an obstacle to convince customers. How did you work this out?
I always try and reassure my students, many of whom start agencies under the age of 18, that with competence comes confidence.
Agency owners are lucky in that, when they can provide a service that has a demonstrable ROI, most business owners don’t care how young they are.
What has been your business revenue progression?
In 2019, I was able to move past $100K in a single month with my digital marketing agency IAG Media.
What are the main ways in which you are able to monetize your business?
I’m not sure on ‘monetizing’ and have always been careful to protect my personal brand, rarely accepting any sort of paid promotions.
Although I am an affiliate for a limited number of softwares, I prefer to discuss and recommend tools I genuinely use.
Even with my clothing brand, GADZHI, I work hard to create a distinction between this and ‘merchandise’ from influencers. I consider this a stand-alone brand which I proudly wear myself and would do so regardless of the branding.
What are the most useful tools/platforms that you use for your business?
It’s no secret I love OURA Ring (sleep and activity tracker). I used to wear one even before they were a client of my agency but I now recommend them to all students, and IAG Media and GrowYourAgency team members receive one for free when they join the company.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
It’s a cliche but I love freedom. I’m personally not a fan of the ‘laptop lifestyle’ and struggle with my productivity when I’m without a home base for a prolonged period of time.
But I love that I’m able to set my own schedule and make my own decisions.
What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
In the past 12 months, I’ve gone from running an agency and education business virtually single-handedly to taking on multiple full-time staff members.
I’ve been lucky so far in having developed a fantastic team culture but I’m also conscious that with greater numbers, this becomes more and more difficult.
Company culture is an intangible but immensely-important aspect of running a business.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
In 2019, we made our first major donation to build two schools in Nepal with the Pahar Trust.
We hope to match and increase this contribution going forward, all whilst dramatically increasing the standard of service for our clients at IAG Media, and students at GrowYourAgency.
My lips are sealed on that last point but stay tuned.
How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building an SMMA business now? What would be the best steps to take as a beginner?
SMMA is the easiest business to start because it requires no outlay, capital, investment, expertise, or experience… just starting!
It’s always worth checking out the GrowYourAgency website which is full of free resources on how to start an SMMA.
But more important than anything else is starting.
I started my agency with no website, logo, or even a name. This is still possible.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
What's your favourite quote?
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.
Any good book(s) to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Reality Transurfing. It’s a terrifying prospect to read through but truly lifechanging.