From orphan to the successful business owner and CEO of the award-winning firm Final Cut Media, Mike Daniel illustrates how the American Dream can still be achieved through dedication and determination.
Behind the Scenes
It’s an understatement to say that marketing in today’s exponentially changing digital arena is challenging. Where once a company’s focus was the sales pitch, Daniel explains that today’s buyer doesn’t want to be sold to – they want to be educated, entertained and informed. “The buyer’s journey has changed, with social media, search engines, and video taking the lead role in how and why someone buys.”
Headquartered in Modesto, Final Cut Media focuses on working with businesses and organizations that seek to establish and leverage a strong recognizable brand, and attract buyers and consumers through digital marketing and storytelling. “We specialize in creating brand loyalty through what we call “Calculated Content” – our approach to understanding a brand, its buyers, and developing attainable goals through content: websites, social media, video, and brand development.”
Final Cut Media has won over 50 awards for video production, digital marketing, creative and cinematography, a success that Daniel attributes to his stellar team of creatives. “It begins with understanding our client’s goals, pain points, and what makes them different. A brand is far more than a logo, tag line, and typeface. We believe a brand has a soul to it, and as influencer marketing has become prevalent, brands are influencers as well. It takes time, effort, and strategy to do it right in a very crowded landscape. We excel at helping organizations to that.” (FinalCutMedia.com)
“Coming Home” to Modesto
Daniel’s journey is inspiring. A Modesto-native, he was raised by his grandparents on welfare in South Modesto. “I was literally left on my grandparents’ doorstep at 3-months old. When they fell ill when I was 15, I ventured out on to my own.”
With little formal education, in the ensuing years he acquired extensive expertise as he worked his way up the marketing ladder in different creative and video production-related roles around the country. Highlights include Digital Marketing & Creative Director for In-Shape Health Clubs, Digital Marketing Director for Destination Marketing, and Vice President of Marketing for Dataprise, one of the world’s largest Managed IT Service Providers, as well as overseeing marketing for PMZ Real Estate at the height of the housing crisis.
In 2015, Daniel was approached to take the reins of Final Cut Media, originally founded in 2002 by Sam Kneiss and Dean Camara, both graduates of the Francis Ford Copolla School of Film, who had a dream of bringing world-class video to Dean’s home town of Modesto. The company produced content for the NFL, Livestrong Foundation, Sutter Health, and 5.11 Tactical.
Since then he has evolved it into a full-scale agency, growing from 2 to 12 employees. “The Central Valley is unique market in that we historically have a DIY mentality. But I have recently seen a huge pivot among companies in understanding that in order to succeed in marketing, it’s valuable to allow professionals to do that for you, and to act as both marketing and business advisors on your behalf.”
Daniel emphasizes that his company’s focus is on being connected to the community and helping to usher in a new generation of leaders. “Each year, we donate over $25,000 in cash and/or in-kind marketing, graphic design and video production work to events and organizations that as a company we value. This includes our yearly work for The ILL List Poetry Slam Invitational, Haven Women’s Center, Modesto On Ice, and countless other groups who rely on us to help tell their story.”
Daniel also serves on the Board of Directors for Haven Women’s Center, and American Leadership Forum, and is a 2010 alum of Leadership Modesto. In 2017, he was ranked as one of the Modesto Bee’s “20 Under 40”.
Reflecting on his journey, Daniel shares, “I feel that I am truly blessed to be able to run a business in my hometown – and give other folks a chance to do what they love. I clearly didn’t take a traditional path to success. I had many mentors along the way who saw something in me; each one taught me something about life, giving back, and being a part of a community. We joke that it’s the kind of “rags to riches” story, for lack of a better term, that was common 100 years ago, but almost unheard of today. But I believe it’s another example of the American Dream at work.”