Evan Starkman

Surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me and people I can learn from is paramount to my personal and professional growth.


Evan Starkman was born in Toronto ON Canada. He finished high school at Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, ME where he was valedictorian. Further pursuing his hockey and academic career, Evan enrolled at Cornell University in the college of Arts & Sciences. Graduating summa cum laude in 2007 Evan returned to Toronto Canada and began an on-air Entertainment career. As contributing co-host of MTV LIVE from 2007-2009 and host of NBC Family’s LOVE TRAP, Evan quickly rose to fame on Canadian television. Deciding to leave the entertainment business for more academic pursuits Evan enrolled in Tel Aviv University seeking a Masters Degree in International Conflict Resolution and Negotiation. Graduating in 2011 after spending nearly 15 months abroad in conflict regions, Evan again picked a new career path with a vision to start a ‘new type of agency’ which could create meaningful events, experiential and engagement content.

In 2011, Evan formed The Bait Shoppe in Toronto ON and signed his first client – Miller Genuine Draft where he built activation tool kits for all global marketing activities. Expanding quickly, The Bait Shoppe opened its first US offices in 2012 with a New York flagship. After signing clients in NY like Old Navy and PopChips, The Bait Shoppe was name the 125th fastest growing company in the US by Inc Magazine.

The Bait Shoppe now has over 60 employees and offices in Toronto, New York, Denver and Los Angeles. As an wholly independent agency who’s bottom line has doubled every year since inception, The Bait Shoppe & Evan Starkman are poised for continued success.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

So this might be a long winded answer, but stick with me. Experiential Marketing is powerful but not easy. Digital, experiential, viral, and interactive platforms are not lego pieces that create a campaign but rather narrative tools that must be closely coordinated with a larger plan in mind. Further, the perfect idea changes and adapts everyday. It must be oriented around the client’s business goals. It must be accessible to our target demographic. And finally, it must create a dialogue that promotes sharing and discussion. So just like fishing you can’t simply use the same lure everyday in the same spot. You need to change, adapt and always go back to the tackle box.

Maybe that is too long of an explanation?! At the end of the day, our name stands out, and our logo is awesome!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I had someone tell me once ‘corner office, corner hours!’ – so I am always the first person in! Once I get to work, I try and organize my daily ‘to do’ list and clean up any administrative tasks that might interfere with my creative process or the ‘real work’ I need to do throughout the day. Once I feel organized and the office has filled up, we have a full agency meeting. People share what they are working on, any challenges they are facing and where they might need some help. I feel that allowing the entire office to have a 30,000 foot view of all our work allows for a more cohesive group and really allows everyone to participate in all things making our output unmatched.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The Bait Shoppe is known as the agency which can do the impossible. In order to keep that reputation we need to constantly challenge our ideas and execution. We try and put all our work/ideas through the same 5 questions;
1. Did it make you gasp when you first saw it?
2. Do you with you had thought of it yourself?
3. Is it unique?
4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5. Is it still a good idea in 30 years?

What’s one trend that excites you?

97% of US consumers say an experience ultimately influenced whether or not they went on to purchase a product from that brand. As an agency that is in the ‘EXPERIENCE’ business we are more excited than ever that agencies and brands are investing more consumer storytelling.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I think entrepreneurship is all about risk tolerance. Building a business is a lot like building a successful campaign or event strategy – if you are not taking any risks, no one is going to notice. I think as an entrepreneur I have always had the confidence to take on risk, produce risky ideas and bet on myself!

What advice would you give your younger self?

SLOW DOWN. I used to think it could all be done at once and that everything would happen all at once – but it doesn’t! I made a lot of mistakes moving to quickly through the world and I probably still don’t smell the roses enough along the journey. I wish I could tell my younger self that ‘ITS HAPPENING and IT WILL HAPPEN’….just not right now and not all at once.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I am undefeated in knife fights. Most people don’t know however that I have never been in a knife fight.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

There are two things I do regularly as an entrepreneur that I highly recommend. First, I am constantly reaching out to colleagues in similar fields of business and completely tangential fields looking for mentorship. Surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me and people I can learn from is paramount to my personal and professional growth.
The second thing I do a few times a year is go on vacation to somewhere really remote with my wife. Travelling is an awesome way to disconnect, recharge and add a little perspective.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Myself and The Bait Shoppe ultimately work in a highly competitive industry. Of course our top priority in growth is to attract new business by doing great reputable work. That said a lot of our internal growth has come from growing the opportunities with EXISTING CLIENTS. We try to establish real relationships with our existing clients that is based on transparency and trust. Over time, if we are doing our job relationship building, our existing clients started to ask us in on more work. We have been able to grow our offerings as much if not more by expanding work with our current clients than by attracting new clients.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure that I constantly overcome as an entrepreneur is thinking that the first idea (or my idea) is the best idea. As an entrepreneur it is incredibly important to stay humble and to stay nimble. Ideas change over time, the climate changes or sometimes – the idea just simply doesn’t work! Its important to be able to say ‘this isn’t working…that’s ok….lets go another direction’. I am constantly reminding myself and my team, that just because something isn’t working doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong it just means it isn’t working. The quicker you can acknowledge failure, the quicker you can find/achieve success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Considering how much my wife and I travel for work and family, our fridge contents often get thrown out. Someone should invent an app based service that would pick up ‘unused groceries’ for people leaving town and then donate them to those in need. Food waste is a growing sector which is wildly important but also has a lot of opportunity.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Every month I take out $100 dollars in $2 dollar bills. I always keep a few on me for buskers or the homeless throughout NYC. Call it good karma, tzedakah or just a silly habit, but having something in your pocket ear marked for giving does change your perspective on a daily basis.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use a lot of collaborative softwares with our teams and clients. Internally we use SLACK a lot to communicate and organize groups according to clients and projects. It works across mobile and desktop and is a great way to collaborate internally. Externally we use Google Drive or Quip to share files, collaborate and keep project based materials all in one place and in real time. Ultimately working on projects globally and with teams/clients spread out – anything that helps with real time comms and approvals is paramount to our success.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I highly recommend reading THE DIRT – the collective autobiography by Motley Crue. It is just plain fun. Reading books on organizational structure, entrepreneurship, managing growth etc are all important, but sometimes turning your brain off and just entertaining your thoughts will produce more results than anything you can read. You can’t keep your engine running ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT!

What is your favorite quote?

Can I be a little self serving here in the spirit of the article?
“Advertising of the future is an ‘experience engine’. Blazingly creative. Perfectly inclusive. And fiercely human.
– unknown

Key Learnings:

  • If you are not taking any risks, no one is going to notice.
  • Stay humble and stay nimble.
  • You can’t keep your engine running ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT! Relax.