Enjoying life on 'Crews Control'

From Maple Lawn to Hong Kong, Andrea Keating supplies camera crews for shoots around the globe

  • Andrea Keating, owner of Crews Control
Andrea Keating, owner of Crews Control
April 01, 2011|By Lisa Kawata

Andrea Keating was 27 and working for a creative staffing agency in Washington, D.C., when the economy took a turn for the worse. But instead of agonizing over her job security, Keating took control of her destiny and quit to launch a business of her own.

“I did it because in my gut I knew it was going to work,” says Keating, about her decision 23 years ago to start Crews Control, a business that provides local camera crews for corporate video shoots. Instead of corporations, advertising agencies and universities paying to transport and house cameramen, audio technicians and other support personnel from one city to another to shoot training and recruitment videos, Keating connects them to local crews, saving her clients plenty of money and headaches.

Now the Clarksville resident is riding high on a business that has thrived through buyouts and bailouts, when budgets are flush or flat.

“It’s just common sense,” says Keating, sitting at her desk in an elegant, spacious new office in Maple Lawn. “It doesn’t make sense to fly a crew across the country when there’s a perfectly good crew there already.”

Keating once dreamed of becoming the next Steven Spielberg, but instead focused her energy into transforming corporate videos into a multimillion-dollar holding (we’re talking 10-digit earnings) that has spawned several other niche businesses as well. Her client list includes Fortune 500 companies and multinational corporations.  
“Anybody you have in your kitchen pantry or your medicine cabinet is probably one of our clients,” says Keating, matter-of-factly.

It’s not unusual for a company in Germany to call seeking a crew in Hong Kong, or an ad exec in the United States to request a crew for a project in Bogotá, Colombia.

She controls it all with a small staff of women and a list of more than 1,000 crew people in dozens of countries who meet the most rigorous standards in the business — a minimum of 10 years’ experience in corporate video in multiple formats, speak English as well as their native languages, and own their own equipment.

Still, that’s not enough to stay on top of the industry. She also has to anticipate where it’s going next. Visual technology is a fluid and fast-moving world of multiple formats (27 of them), quickly evolving technology and cultural comprehension that most people would find daunting.

Thus the name Crews Control, Keating says with a laugh. She doesn’t trust anyone else to direct this baby.

Her can-do business instinct emerged at 14, when Keating and a friend set up a jewelry and painted pottery business (their own creations, of course) next to a neighborhood produce stand in her hometown of Glenn Dale in Prince George’s County. It lasted nearly all summer, she recollects, finally being shut down because they didn’t have a permit. From there it was lawn mowing, baby-sitting — always some job, says Keating. At the University of Maryland College Park, she thought her love of film (her favorites range from “White Christmas” to “Schindler’s List”) would lead her to Hollywood. But after graduation, Keating found herself growing a creative staffing agency, which represented producers, writers, graphic artists and others in the multimedia world. She lasted five years. (Five seems to be a definitive number in Keating’s life.)

“It was an opportunity to learn what I didn’t want to do,” she says. “We were like 7-Eleven. We sold a lot of little stuff. I wanted to do one thing really well.”

From her first endeavor she also discovered something else.

“I’m very much a systems junkie. I loved creating a good business model, a good work flow,” says the entrepreneur. “My husband teases me that I can’t see a hot dog stand on the beach without thinking about how I could make a better business out of it.”

Taking it to the next level

Originally, Crews Control was envisioned as a little home-based business that would enable Andrea to stay home and raise a family, says her husband, Jerry Keating.

The first three years, Andrea took no salary and hardly saw her spouse. They reconnected on Friday and Saturday date nights, “slapping thousands of mailing labels onto direct mail pieces with only the bribe of a pizza and a cheap bottle of wine,” she says.

“That’s the only way I could see her,” says her husband, a property manager for Montgomery County government.

He also remembers the day she looked him in the eye and said, “I think I can take this to the next level.”

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