Story 31

What truly matters when delivering WOW?

Hi, I’m Bogdan, the human being behind this issue of Upstairs. I am an entrepreneur, digital enthusiast, animal lover, traveler, former comic book writer, or, more simply, a jack of many trades. I’ve always been a fan of people watching (not just in a creepy real-world way) to try and understand their life’s story and put myself in their shoes. Maybe this is where my sneaker addiction comes from as well.


Speaking of life stories, let me begin by unraveling my personal origin story. Mine started on November 3rd in 1989, in Iasi, Romania. Yep, I was born just a few weeks before the revolution that saw the fall of communism.

When I was born, my parents were still both in University. My dad even had a full-time job, so my mom had, in some cases, used to take me to classes with her, so when you hear stories of wiz kids that go to college at 12 years old, please remember I was only a year old when I attended my first class 😅.

All jokes aside, it was a tough time for my family, but their work ethic and stride were clearly a big part of my upbringing. In the Apetrii family, we never back down from work and what we believe in.

Another essential building block in making me what I am today was the substantial influx of American pop culture (movies, cartoons, comics, etc.). The early 90s global marketing approach was strong enough for me that I knew more words in English than in Romanian by the age of five, and to this day, my inner monologue is in English (well, American English).

The American dream I was presented with, which, to be honest, not sure has ever existed, was all I wanted. However, I never had the goal of moving to the US or abroad, but the attitude and the way of viewing and navigating the world was the road map that I followed.

I strongly remember my mom telling me multiple times throughout my life that “you know you are in Romania, right?” but the fact that I always acted and guided my choices as if I wasn’t “stuck” is what made me achieve everything my way. I had a more boundaryless mindset even before the internet was my superpower.

Now that I have this little insight into who I am and what drives me to do things let me tell you about the responsibilities of freedom. Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” When I stumbled into the world of marketing and communication, of course, I researched the hell out of it and wanted to know all the ins and outs. The people at the top of the hill, the gatekeepers, and the shortcuts.

After deep diving, I came to a clear crossroad. If I want to achieve something in this field, scratch that. Something hasn’t ever been good enough. If I wanted to be one of the top hill guys, I either had to move or start an agency.

If you are reading this, I’m guessing you already figured out what I chose. After a failed agency attempt, a big chunk working freelance and a comic book writer, in 2015, Subsign started to take the shape of the agency I envisioned.

The funny thing about always chasing the highest point of your industry is that you can’t grasp that ladder’s height until you start the climb. Somehow, this being the case, a tiny agency from the border of the EU managed to get some international recognition and top 500 brands as clients in our first two years.

So far, this sounds like one of those amazing stories that people are invited to share more in interviews, and don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic and what we accomplished was hard-earned in an industry that doesn’t work on merit alone most often than not.

Getting back to a more personal level, all this entrepreneurial journey came with a cost that I didn’t have the foresight to anticipate. If you scroll a bit up, remember that my goal for an agency was to have groundbreaking campaigns, and we are doing that, but for myself, this came with the cost of being far more in the ins and outs of running a company than the creative work one would envision.

Be it tackling the ridiculously idiotic layers of birocracy to HR issues, this drained me of “creative juices” and had me at times ponder if all of this is even worth it.

We almost lost all we worked for in four hard years. It took a pandemic to reframe everything and make me realize that this is worth it, and maybe I was a bit ungrateful. That maybe celebrating the small wins because there was always one more step to climb, and then another is a sure path of turning passion into plain work.

Looking around the office now, I am happy that with the little resources I had at hand, I can see that I have a crew that loves what they do, is empowered, and has the choice to put their all and do it their way each time and every day. Like craftsmen, there is no point when you are an expert as there is room to push the edge further.

Our clients say that we deliver WOW, but to be honest, I get my recognition more from the team spirit than anything else. It is a true honor to be with them on this journey.

“Go alone if you wanna go fast, go together if you want to go far.” We still have far to go until this little agency in the corner of the map is standard in this field, so we go together.

After all, being alone at the top seems lonely and boring, so don’t forget to bring a crew and lift others on your journey.


Teams win championships,
—Bogdan

Contributors of this story: Bogdan Apetrii wrote this gem, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge of the development.

Bogdan Apetrii
A question by Bogdan, the author of this story:
What has been the essential factor that kept you going, regardless of the path?

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Alexandra
Alexandrasays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Architect and chief cheerleader

Dear Bogdan,  it is super refreshing to hear that other creative entrepreneurs have similar struggles.  „Be it tackling the ridiculously idiotic layers of birocracy to HR issues, this drained me of “creative juices” and had me at times ponder if all of this is even worth it. ”  I wondered the same thing many many times and I felt you managed to put things into a very insightful perspective. Gratitude and gratefulness are key, indeed. Thank you for that, congrats and keep up the good work!  

Thanks for the message Alexandra! Indeed working in creative fields comes with a unique set of challenges if you also are in charge of the day to day activities that come with operating as a team and legal entity. But being creative minds I am sure we can find solution, as long as we have the drive to power through and surround ourselves with the right people. 

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