Meet The Founders
From selling Bell Fibe Internet door-to-door to running a multi-million dollar creative agency, Carte Blanche Studio founders Ahmed El Dani and Amir Azimi have become the unsuspecting powerhouses behind the a-typical creative boom that’s taking the digital marketing industry by storm.
Well-spoken and introspective, the two young entrepreneurs bounce off of each other with a boyish charm. They banter and gently cajole one another with the carefully-nurtured ease of lifelong friends, and it’s easy to feel warm in their presence – as if you’d been right there with them through it all. And it all started at the bustling Ryerson University campus, tucked away deep within the metropolis of Toronto.
Small campus, big dreams
“My parents wanted me to become a doctor,” said Carte Blanche Studio’s Co-founder and Creative Director, Amir Azimi, reflecting on the fall of 2012. “We both dropped out because we weren’t doing the things we wanted to do.”
Ahmed El Dani, the creative agency’s Co-founder and CEO, has a similar story. After dropping out of Ryerson’s hospitality management program to deal with urgent family matters, he delivered room service at the Four Seasons, aiming to work his way up to a managerial position.
“And in between all of that, we were door-to-door Internet salesmen,” said El Dani. “Amir still knows the subway system and all the stops like the back of his hand.”
Thoroughly unconventional beginnings
Conventional wisdom will tell you it isn’t a good idea to work with your friends. But El Dani and Azimi rarely work within the realms of what’s conventional, and it has definitely paid off thus far.
“Our industry is about pushing boundaries and breaking the traditional mould,” said El Dani. “We’ve created a brand, something so unique, so impactful, and we’re not afraid to do things differently.”
The pair founded their first agency in 2016 as a side hustle – a relic of the “rise and grind” Gary Vayncerchuck-Esq mentality of the times. Like oil and vinegar, the two found that their strengths and weaknesses complemented each other perfectly as opposite as they were. And it’s brutally apparent that any venture they embark on needs a blend of both of their unique talents.
“Amir is amazing at designing websites and all things creative, really,” El Dani said. “I truly believe, well I know because I’ve witnessed it, that he has endless amounts of creativity.”
As fate would have it, El Dani is a naturally gifted businessman with a knack for numbers and developing meaningful personal relationships with his clients. In contrast, El Dani’s inspiration comes from reading Bloomberg and keeping up to date with the stock market.
While they both hustled and worked multiple jobs, their first agency allowed them to dip their toes into agency life, creating a testing ground to hone in on and refine their big ideas.
“That was when we were able to reflect on our flaws and realized what wasn’t working,” Azimi said. “We had never set up the right infrastructure and knew what we had to do differently this time around.”
The rise of Carte Blanche Studio – and its diversity of thought
If the business infrastructure was wrong before, El Dani and Azimi most certainly have got it right this time. With highly sought-after brands such as Sensitiva, Nike, and Planworth as clients and a rapidly growing team, the pair shows no signs of slowing down.
In a corporate culture that screams the importance of diversity above all else, few other digital marketing agencies have taken the risks El Dani and Azimi have. It might be their age, edge, or authentic uniqueness, but they have a finger on the pulse of the trials and tribulations of today’s society and aren’t afraid to draw inspiration from it. Or maybe, it’s because the agency is exceptionally diverse, lacking the stodgy C-Suite and the peanut-sized appetite for risk that typically comes along with it.
“People are scared to create what they believe in because they are scared of what the world might think of it,” said El Dani. “But the truth is, no one knows how anyone is going to perceive anything anymore, so we choose not to work within those confinements.”
If it seems like they are just two best friends living the dream – you’re only partially right. What they’ve built is a safe space for creatives and businesses to collaborate and impact the world. But, what they’ve built also requires hard work, focus, and a lot of patience (mostly for each other).
When asked what they’re most proud of, they both laughed and agreed it was their friendship.
“Being in business with your best friend means having to grow together, work through things, and sometimes put things aside for the time being,” El Dani said. “We have each other’s backs – there’s no doubting that.”
El Dani and Azimi have accomplished an astonishing amount for their young age. The pair have quite a few projects on the horizon, including creating an art studio for in-house photography and staging. Plus, they’re gearing up to open up their new office space to support their expanding team.
When asked what’s the end goal, both El Dani and Azimi had similar responses.
“We want to give back, make a statement and inspire,” said El Dani. “You can do whatever you want – anything you want in life, you can go get it.”
And they’re just getting started.