Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Feature Story

Connecting Disciplines: A Creative Business

Brandon Hoe (Daytime MBA ’05) establishes a media production house that leaves behind the traditional video parameters.

Brandon Hoe
Brandon Hoe
January 26, 2012

By Dana Magliola — This article was originally published in the Team Fuqua alumni magazine.

Brandon Hoe (Daytime MBA ’05) always had the drive to make a deal. At one point in his childhood, this self-proclaimed marketer-at-heart realized that his own home offered commercial opportunities. Taking full advantage of his newly-discovered niche, the 9-year-old organized an auction. With a modest audience of buyers consisting solely of his younger brother and sister, he turned a profit and moved some serious merchandise; specifically, his clothes, shoes, and toys.

But making money is not all that he cares about. Hoe has a number of diverse and dynamic interests, including photography, motorcycle touring, competitive dancing, and playing drums in a band. This part of his nature proves to be both a blessing and a burden, making it challenging to find the perfect role. He’s always been interested in the psyche of individuals, as well as the behavior of groups. This took a backseat, however, to the behaviors of electrical currents as he completed his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University.

Following graduation, he worked in heavy industry, on a technical track with limited creative opportunity. Hoping to move in a different direction, he enrolled at Fuqua in 2003. Collaboration with classmates and professors was a highlight of his Fuqua experience, further shaping his entrepreneurial mindset and honing his creative tendencies.

“Fuqua was an immersion into ideas and ambitions,” he remembers.

He decided to stay in Durham, and the area eventually became home not only to his imagination, but to a new venture. Born to Portuguese and Chinese parents and raised in Malaysia, Hoe’s broad interests reflect his diverse background. But the need for a work visa limited his career options. Frustrations with corporate life fueled his growing desire to create something on his own. After becoming a permanent resident in 2010, and no longer subject to sponsorship, his entrepreneurial drive manifested itself into Clearsketch.

A video and media production house, Clearsketch not only exercises the business development and imaginative abilities of staff in the United States, but also partners with technical and creative collaborators in Malaysia. Hoe believes this international footprint—and the often overnight turnaround it enables—will be a differentiator for his young firm.

With Hoe’s creative business mind and the technical skill-set of an engineer, Clearsketch is already proving itself as a capable production house, capturing the attention of a first-tier customer pool, including Duke Medicine, Lenovo, Tavve, and others.

“Having diverse, disparate interests exposes me to a variety of different individuals, experiences and influences, which help me to approach problems and challenges from a multitude of perspectives, especially when it comes to conceptualizing a video project for a client,” says Hoe.

As such, he leads a team of professionals who focus on building a new kind of agency experience, one that channels different forms of media messaging (including photography) into a vehicle for delivering brand equity. Clearsketch’s productions are not afraid to leave behind the traditional video platform and parameters to deliver their message in a more subtle and impactful way. Moving beyond the 30 or 60-second pitch, the company has produced dramatic short films for clients where the storyline tangentially relates to the product, yet leaves the audience with a new bond to the client’s brand. Hoe seeks to make this impact through all of his company’s productions by creating an emotional connection to a commodity.

“If we can shape our customers’ core message to resonate with their audience when they try to weave their brand into the fabric of their customers’ lifestyle, then it moves the conversation beyond feature, function, and benefits,” he explains. “We can establish the intangible: trust and connection.”

With a small but engaged customer base, Hoe believes that his firm—and his brand—will grow. He committed to Clearsketch full time in March 2011. All technical and creative aptitude aside, his success as an entrepreneur seems likely. He still has the drive to make the deal.