In Conversation with Amber Allen of Double A Labs
Describe your business in a few words?
Double A Labs is innovative, experiential, collaborative.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
While working at Warner Bros., I recognized a gap in the marketplace for tech-forward, immersive, yet accessible experiences. I had wanted the freedom of building my own team and deciding the impact I would have on the world for a while, too, so decided to strike out on my own as an entrepreneur. Double A Labs was born from these two missions in 2013!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I worked in merchandising for Elizabeth Arden and Reebok, marketing for Disney, and managed sales and ran global gaming events for Warner Bros and built eSports for Riot. I’ve loved gaming ever since I was a little kid, but really learned how it’s an incredibly innovative and viable industry during my five years at Warner Bros. The business acumen I developed while rising the ranks of these brands has been invaluable while building Double A Labs from the ground up.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not explicitly, but I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. Right out of college I looked for corporate jobs because of the stability they offered, but I’ve always been a person who looks for different routes to success (another lesson from playing video games!) By the time I was 25, I had 60 employees working for me at Elizabeth Arden, yet people were telling me to slow down. I did the opposite, and worked even harder and continued redefining job roles to suit my vision of a thriving work community.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My marketing strategy was my reputation. The relationships and career I built over 12 years in turn built my company. I NEVER marketed Double A Labs, our work and reputation spoke––and continues to speak––for itself.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The number one thing no one told me about was advisors. So when I started Double A Labs, I didn’t know how to put advisors together, and I didn’t know about a line of credit. No one told me that when you’re doing great and are cash flow positive, it’s time to go to the bank and get a line of credit. I also didn’t have “official” advisors in the beginning, I got unofficial advice from various sources. But having formal advisors creates accountability for yourself, and gives you secure knowledge that you have a trustworthy, experienced board behind you to provide advice.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Reaching 3 billion screens with our projects in six years. But also leading Double A Labs’s tech division to 286% growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. That would be a feat at any time, but I’m especially proud that we did this while so much of the world was put on hold. It shows that our AR/XR experiences were in demand to connect casual gamers and tech users, and that we’re on the right path of using tech and visuals to educate and entertain all generations.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
A go-to interview question is, “Why are you passionate about [insert area they’re interviewing for]?” Having a vision statement, or a driving reason behind what we’re doing, has played a huge role in shaping Double A’s development. I look for people that aren’t just talented, but also dedicated to passing along their skills for the generation that comes after them. That shows that they’re not just looking out for themselves, but also aiming to make the world a bit better using their unique skill set.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since people are staying home more, our immersive tech experiences have become increasingly vital for companies who want to connect authentically with customers. Customers can’t go out to physical events anymore, so we’ve been creating virtual events that maintain brands’ messages, purposes, and images while letting people escape into new realms for a bit of mental relief.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I hope to continue making platforms that educate and entertain simultaneously, while partnering with more companies such as Disney that are constantly revolutionizing how we consume media.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
A change in mindset is one of the most powerful tools for self-evolution. Double A Labs could have panicked when physical events were shut down, but we pivoted to transform physical events into equally engaging virtual ones, really showing the power of AR/XR to blend physical and digital worlds. As a result, we’ve brought 21 additional people onto our team since March.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
How to get out of the reptilian brain and take a breath before answering questions, instead of relying on impulse. Take a second for cognitive learning, instead of lashing out or jumping right into a problem. Know when to take a beat and say, “I need a minute.” When I started having meetings back-to-back all day and running out of energy, I needed to learn how to slow my brain and reactions down so I could pace myself.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Lots of games that keep me connected with my friends and family. I like multiplayer games like Among Us and Overcooked 2 because I get to collaborate with other players on reaching a goal, whether that’s finding a traitor in a spaceship or cooking and serving food in a hot air balloon!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I’m not a fan of that quote because I LOVE WHAT I DO!! I integrate my work and my life because I love to, build, create, and tinker. My play is fast: I love a great adrenaline rush, and anything in life that allows me to do those three things. I create and build with my close friends, and we share ideas and strategies and have fun.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I adore funky designer shoes! Burberry and Prada have the coolest designs.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- I have to do my finance and legal meetings before noon so I can really focus.
- Twice a week I need to have a meeting with someone smarter than me, or to learn something new.
- Create a work environment that makes you feel happy! Fill your office space with personal touches that will make you smile and motivate you to continue, no matter how big the challenge you’re facing is.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means being daring, yet also wise. It takes courage to decide to forge your own path, and intelligence and persistence to achieve what you set out to accomplish when you started your entrepreneurial journey. As a woman, being an Entreprenista means empowering other Entreprenistas to have confidence in their voices and ideas, so that they’ll speak up for what they know is right, even if they’re called too ambitious or competitive. It’s about changing the narrative for female entrepreneurs so that ambition and competition are recognized as good traits, when paired with empathy and generosity.