Sep 01, 2023

FlyteVu’s Incubator Model Allows Staff To Invest In Clients

Laura Hutfless, cofounder of Entertainment Marketing Agency FlyteVu

Business incubators have existed for more than 50 years, helping business owners lay the foundation necessary to succeed. By providing the right mentors, funding opportunities and resources, they help organizations excel.

Companies such as Dropbox and Airbnb are prime examples of companies thriving in incubator programs. The five-year survival rate for incubator clients has been reported at 75%, reducing costs by 40-50% of launching and operating a startup.

Laura Huftless, cofounder of FlyteVu, helps the next generation of mission-driven startups build a solid marketing foundation through the company’s latest, first-of-its-kind marketing incubator program, the FlyteVu Incubator. Additionally, FlyteVu’s incubator provides a unique investment model for its employees. Clients offer FlyteVu staff the opportunity to invest in the brand, allowing them to have a piece of ownership in the clients’ companies they serve.

“I never had an opportunity to invest in companies or brands,” Huftless shares during a phone interview. “I remember sitting at the big talent agency, and a lot of the older male agents would talk about their investments. I asked one time if I could get involved in a deal. They told me the minimum was $100,000. I was making $26,000 a year, so the answer was no; I couldn’t afford it. I stopped asking the question because I thought that wasn’t available to me. And no one ever told me otherwise. Starting this company, I wanted to make investing at low level, angel investing, an opportunity for my female and young staff so they would be given opportunities to learn about these investments and how they could make money so they can achieve financial independence.”

The first brand to join the incubator was an inclusive swimwear brand, Kitty and Vibe. Through the program, the company announced its first-ever celebrity investors and creative designers cohort: actress Zoe Colletti, entertainment icon Nicole Byer and Grand Slam Champion Sloane Stephens. After Kitty and Vibe graduated, Huftless and her team are focusing on the next company, Maker Wine.

“I was attracted to FlyteVu’s track record for talent deals,” states Cameron Armstrong, founder of Kitty and Vibe, over a Zoom interview. “We hadn’t done anything like that before. We wanted to build our first class of creative designers and celebrity investors.”

Huftless and her cofounder, Jeremy Holley, founded FlytVu in 2015. However, they structured their agency differently. Twenty percent of the company’s annual revenue is distributed into the FlyteVu Fund, which allocates back to local communities and philanthropies that the clients and staff choose. Since its inception, Huftless and her team have donated over $1 million. Additionally, they’ve worked with top brands, including American Red Cross, Amazon Prime and Victoria’s Secret PINK.

Laura Hutfless, cofounder of FlyteVu, speaking on a panel at CES, an annual trade show organized by ... [+] the Consumer Technology Association amongst industry peers.

Past projects that Huftless has worked on include the CLEAN Cause, partnering with Macklemore, bringing awareness and donating 50% of the proceeds to a sober living scholarship, and Under Armour’s Hype Headquarters. The event invited young girls, ages 8-12, excited about sports to get game-ready, featuring interactive experiences centered around sports, elite athletes and Under Armour gear. Under Armour is committed to providing young female athletes the tools, resources and access to break down barriers and find the confidence to continue their sports journey.

A few years ago, Huftless experienced a personal loss. She partnered with the On-site Foundation to help develop a trauma-informed therapeutic program called Triumph Over Tragedy. The program provides tools, support and a safe community for survivors of mass shootings to find hope and healing regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. She serves as the president of the board of directors for the Foundation.

“I became very aware of the trauma that happens as a result of gun violence,” she states. “Unfortunately, it’s something that isn’t going away. It seems to be snowballing, becoming a bigger and bigger issue and the lack of focus primarily now is on gun control. There needs to also be a focus on support for a survivor because it is pretty severe trauma that has ramifications not just to the individual, but families and communities too.”

Now, Huftless’ purpose carries over into the workplace, helping her employees expand their portfolios. Through the incubator, staff have the opportunity to invest in a brand’s fundraising round at a lower entry point than the minimum that would usually be required. The lower buy-in is a great starting point for individuals new to the investing world.

Laura Huftless, cofounder of FlyteVu, has created an incubator model that provides her team the ... [+] opportunity to invest in the program’s clients at a lower entry point.

“The unique opportunity to invest in the clients I serve has allowed me to foster deeper and more meaningful relationships with client teams,” comments Brittany Rashkin, director of publicity at FlyteVu, in an email interview. “When I have ownership in the brand, I am more invested and passionate, which in turn increases motivation to overdeliver on KPIs and succeed as a team. The employee perk model has also instilled an entrepreneurial mindset that I had not yet tapped into on my own before.”

As Huftless continues to evolve and expand FlyteVu, she focuses on the following essential steps:

“I did the work,” Huftless concludes. “I went to On-site myself and processed the grief. I did my own work to understand loss, grief, addiction and trauma. So I always say first do your own work. What has allowed me to thrive in life is the ability to see the purpose. Not the purpose in the event or whatever the trauma is, but finding a purpose or gift in the pain.”