Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Maxim.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story begin on October 19th, 2014. I packed up everything I could into my 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo and drove from Akron Ohio to Phoenix Arizona. I was 26 years old at the time, and I didn’t have a plan. There was someone I somewhat knew who had moved to Mesa, Arizona 6 months prior. His name is Matt Whisman. Matt is the first person in my story who played a part in my journey.
Matt let me stay with him and his two other roommates to get on my feet.
The first few months were tougher than I thought it would be. It was really the first time I had to go search for a job. Even with my Bartending background, it was hard to get in anywhere without knowing someone. I had a little bit of money saved up during that time, but it wasn’t much. That savings started running out fast. Matt did get me hired at LA fitness as a personal training consultant. I didn’t last very long though. That job sucked ass. There were some shady tactics used at that place. The next job I landed wasn’t until about two months later. I got hired by Reebok as a sales associate. This was great for me because Reebok was the main sponsor of CrossFit and CrossFit was the thing I was most passionate about at the time.
A lot was happening fast. I had also found a school called Alpha Pacific Institute. It was an accelerated 7-month program for film and tv production. I was always the guy out of my friends who got video of everything we did. When we would go on spring break, general vacations or do something stupid, I always had the camera out to capture it. I would edit the videos, and everyone loved them. (Mostly because we were too drunk to remember what happened.) Even when I was a kid I used my mom’s video camera we had and recorded wrestling matches with friends and other kid stuff. I never thought about getting into video production until right before I moved. I was in a massage therapy program and everyday I walked past the video classrooms on my way to my classes. I had already changed my major so much. To do it again so soon seemed crazy. Instead I dropped out of the massage program to move to Phoenix. When I got here I told myself if I went back to school it would be for video. That is exactly what I did.
I had two main goals that year. The first one was I wanted to go to the CrossFit games. The second goal was to meet some CrossFit media guys while at the games to see what I had to do to get hired for video production. It is only a 5-hour drive to Carson California where the games were held. I figured getting hired at Reebok would be a way to get to the games. If not I would just go spectate but to do that I had to find a 2nd job. A guy that went to my gym at the time (Jorge Castillo) got me hired at a restaurant here in Phoenix called Rustlers Rooste. Even with my bartending experience, I had to start off as a bar-back. I won’t lie going from bartending down to a bar-back sucked. It is a pretty physical job. Especially at this restaurant, but the money was damn good. I was doing whatever I needed to make these goals a reality. Each day I was either in school or at one of my two jobs. I had no clue if this plan would work but it was a step in the right direction.
It’s early May 2015 and I get a call from my manager at Reebok. He asked me if I wanted to work the west regionals in Tacoma Washington. My manager knew I was into CrossFit and that I would want to go. This was a big deal. I was going to meet some big wigs with Reebok while there. In my mind this was a step closer to the CrossFit Games. I knew while in Tacoma I had to talk to everyone possible. The main manager in charge of the west regional was named Travis Hobbs. Travis was the guy who was able to request people he wanted to work the games. All I had to do was make it clear to him I wanted to go to the games and then bust my ass while in Tacoma. Travis put two coworkers and myself in the shoe department. The Nano 5.0 shoes had dropped and we had them in our pop up store. Between the three of us, we sold more shoes that weekend than any other regional. Our passion and performance from that weekend got all three of us referred by travis to work the games.
The 2015 CrossFit games was an awesome experience. I sold the hell out of shoes again just like in Tacoma. I even got to watch some of the events from the rebook suite. There were a few games athletes I got to meet, and I did meet a few media guys. They gave me advice on how to get involved with the CrossFit media. I had an idea of what I had to do if I someday wanted to work for them. The problem was I didn’t have a camera. I now had a new goal, and that was to buy a camera so I could start filming stuff on my own. I graduated from API around the same time the games were held. I was allowed to go down to my school and use the facility whenever I wanted but to use their equipment at other places was a hassle. About a month after graduation and the games my Reebok store shut down. It became an Adidas store and I quit shortly after the change.
I was now living in a house with five guys. Rent was cheap, but five guys in one house is a lot. I’m not sure what happened but all my motivation took a dive. I guess I just let life get in the way. Even with cheap rent I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was even donating plasma two times a week for extra money. I did manage to get brought on to shoot high school football games for a company named APN Video. I played football most of my life. To me high school football is the most pure the sport is at any level and I enjoy watching it. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was more experience and got a camera in my hands. I didn’t know what my next move was at this time. The goal of getting a camera seemed so far out of reach. I didn’t set any goals like I had previously did. I was just focused on trying to make sure the bills were paid. Right when I was least expecting it I got a phone call that would change the course of my path.
It is strange how things happen. One day I got a call from a guy named AJ Richards. I met AJ one day at my Reebok store and I sold him a pair of shoes. I had no idea when I sold him the shoes he was not only an owner of a CrossFit gym but also a company called Rush Club. I had heard of Rush Club but had never been to one at the time. I ended up going shortly after meeting AJ. It was a cool show! I had not seen anything like it. It took CrossFit (or functional fitness) athletes and put them head to head in competition. I thought it had potential and AJ knew I was into video production. He wanted me to meet him and his creative director, Kevin Korczyk, to discuss bringing me on to be an assistant videographer at the shows! Of course, I said yes!
I consider Rush Club my first gig. The production on it was solid. I was not getting paid, but I didn’t care. I knew I would meet some people and just figured the opportunity would maybe lead to some good things. I learned a lot about filming those events and would pick Kevin’s brain when I could. Kevin was such a busy guy it was hard to get time with him. He would let me use his good cameras to shoot on which gave me experience with different cameras. I also had the freedom to get creative with my shots. I was with Rush Club for about two years before It ended up folding. I didn’t realize how crucial Rush Club is in my story until I started reflecting on it. I consider Rush Club a success. AJ is single handedly the second biggest factor in me being where I’m at today.
During the spring of 2016 I had finally bought my first camera. The first videos I got to produce on my own were for a company called The Power of Truth. This was created by a guy named Danny Page. Danny was brought on by Rush Club the same time I was. I’m an energy guy and I knew right away Danny and I had a connection. One Friday I get a text from Danny asking if I could help him out. His video guy randomly quit on him and he needed video for a client coming through his program. He said he paid well and I jumped at the opportunity. This was technically my first paid gig. I had the full creative power to do what I wanted. I would basically cut these little trailers up of the people that would go through the program. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. The first client of Danny’s I shot was a blind shoot. I was given a location and time. I showed up, filmed everything I could, and made a highlight video out of it.
As time went on, I got more involved. I was present during more of the weekend with these clients to help show their transformation. I had built up a decent demo reel with these videos and I had fun doing them. Unfortunately, it also came to an end due to a particular client that came through. It was late 2016/early 2017 and it ended up being another struggling year. I wasn’t living with 5 guys in a house anymore which was good. I was in an apartment with an acquaintance who had also moved from Akron that year. Our lease was 2 months from ending and my Monte Carlo decided to take a shit on me. I had just landed a job with Go Daddy too. That was short lived. I worked there for about a month and a half. The location I worked at was in Gilbert and it would have been a far Uber ride everyday. I didn’t have the credit or money to get a new car and in my head my video skills were not good enough to make me money yet. I didn’t know how to run a business either. The only possible mentor for video production I had was Kevin but he was never available. I ended up back at the restaurant full time.
April 1st, 2017 my lease was up and moved down the road from my previous apartment into a new apartment. These apartments were nice as hell. The only reason I was there was because a friend of mine, Andrew Castle, (also from Akron) had just moved out here for work and needed a spot. I ended up basically renting a room off of him. There was no way I could do an even split on rent there at the time. He allowed me to pay the amount I was paying previously. I am not sure if he knows it, but he saved my ass big time. There were a few months where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make rent. I was taking Ubers to work and back 20 to 30 min each way most of the week. That got pricy. The average ride to the Rooste and back was minimum $20 each way. I don’t even want to know how much Go Daddy would have cost me. Luckily with either a few holidays, selling some belongings, or a little help from my mom, I was able to always make my bills that year. A big part of my problem then was my negative relationship with money. I had a scarcity mindset and looked at money as being evil. I always worried about it and in return I never had any! I was getting exactly what I was manifesting. I am grateful for Drew during that time period more than he knows. I’m not sure what I would have done had he not moved to Phoenix.
Little did I know the Rush Club connections were about to come in handy. There was a gym a mile down the road from my new apartments called CrossFit PHX. The owner of the gym is Mycal Anders, also known as Derz. Derz was the head judge of Rush Club. We somewhat knew of each other but didn’t really talk during Rush Club events since he was busy judging and I was busy shooting. At this point it had been a few months since I had worked out. No car meant no gym. I was getting pretty out of shape so one day I decided to send a facebook message to the phx page. I figured I had nothing to lose. I got a response right away and Derz had me come to the gym. We talked and made a deal. I would film all the content ever needed for the gym in exchange for a membership. This was a sweet deal for me. I was able to get back to working out and back to making video content. I walked a mile to the gym and a mile back damn near everyday for a year.
Things were starting to look up until December 2017. I got back into pretty good shape. At least I thought I was. The training I was doing on top of the bar-backing was too much. One day my body was wrecked and I let my ego get the best of me. Someone talked me into doing this brutal workout that was 60 minutes long. The movements in this workout were wall balls, toes to bar and deadlift. I finished the workout but that came with a cost. I figured it was nothing and the soreness would go away like it usually does. Most of the soreness went away a few days later. The only area the soreness stayed in was my lower back. It was a challenge to even put shoes on at the time. Somehow I had to go work a minimum 9 hour shift on my feet lifting awkward, heavy things. I was in so much constant pain. I took two months off of CrossFit to help heal. I had never had a serious injury before. It messed with me mentally. I couldn’t do what I loved to do physically. I didn’t have health insurance to get it checked out. About a month after the injury I started doing some functional bodybuilding Derz was offering. My back was still hurting but It still helped out a lot and opened my eyes to things I was neglecting. This road to recovery was another thing added to my plate but I was eager to start over and rebuild my body from scratch.
It is now 2018 and where things start to change for me. Derz invited me to go to the CrossFit games with him and his co-host Jeff Thornton to shoot video for their podcast Feed Me Fuel Me. Jeff is another person that I met through Rush Club originally. He also trained at Phx as well. I would always run into him on occasion it seemed like. At this point, I didn’t really know either of them well, and here I was about to spend a week with them in Madison Wisconsin. It was also the first time they would be doing a video for their show. Ironically at this time, I was given access to two solid mirrorless cameras with cinematic lenses. It was a huge upgrade from what I used. I was able to borrow them at any time all thanks to my friend M’jaie Mangus (MJ)! I had edited a video for MJ a few months prior and she loved it. Her and I got connected again because she needed help setting up her podcast and I knew how to do the technical side of things. We became friends and one day she said if I ever needed to borrow her cameras I could. I took advantage of that offer and took them to the CrossFit Games with me.
This was the first time I would be doing a multi-cam setup since I was at API. My plan was to just go with the flow and figure it out. I didn’t know how much I would learn from this trip. Not from just a video stand point but business as well. I flew with Derz to Chicago midway and then we drove to Wisconsin from there to meet up with Jeff. Derz and I had a conversation where he laid into me a little bit. We were talking about my goals with video and where I wanted to go. Being creative can be a struggle when it comes to business. We are also our own worst critics. I still had a negative mindset at the time I didn’t even realize. I thought my work wasn’t good enough even though people liked it. I felt like because these people didn’t do video production it wasn’t telling me if I was good or not. Subconsciously I was looking for validation from other video guys and Derz made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. I was getting in my own way. That convo stuck with me because I just didn’t realize any of that really. It was cool though because I needed conversations like that in my life. It reminded of my football days and having coaches. I had coaches most of my life playing sports. It had been a long time since I had been coached like that. Matter of fact it was really the first coaching moment I have ever had with business or life. It is one of those things I needed if I was going to level up any time soon.
There were many conversations while on this trip, but another one stuck out to me. We are eating breakfast one morning and Jeff asked me a question regarding JMAX Media. JMAX Media was a production company I had recently started. Jeff was asking me questions I couldn’t really answer. He is so good at business and getting clear on what his business goals are. It made me realize I never thought big enough when writing my goals down. The whole weekend I was surrounded by well known people in the fitness space. Being around a bunch of “successful” people was a new thing for me at the time. One of the guest that week on the show was Logan Gelbrich. He owns Deuce gym in Venice, California. Logan was talking to Derz about something that I couldn’t stop thinking about. He had said people give other people power. This can happen when you’re at a seminar watching a speaker, meeting professional athlete or in the presence of a wealthy, successful business person. I used to give power to people like this and in return I thought I wasn’t capable of being on these peoples level. The truth is these people are no different than you and I. That’s what is great about shooting this podcast as it grows. I get to learn first hand from the guests on the show not only live but as I edit as well. I learned quickly the people who are or seem successful are also figuring shit out as they go! This was another moment that created a mental shift I needed to finally get out of my way.
Derz is always connecting people together. A few months after the games Derz had been trying to get me connected with another member of the gym who also does video as a side hustle. His name is Kelala Poumpey. Video, like many other things, takes a lot of work. A one man crew can only get you so far. Kelala and I finally met up one day just so Derz would shut up! (just kidding) After meeting up we decided that our different skill sets compliment each other well and that we should combine our talents. So we did. I teamed with Kelala under VaporSwift Media. We do anything from personal branding, real estate, podcast, vlogs, drone or video marketing. Whatever video someone needs done for their business, we got you covered.
Today is April 5th 2019. As I sit here and write all this my mind is blown away a little bit. It is humbling reflecting back from when I moved to Phoenix and everything that has happened since. It never really occurred to me how much work I actually put in. I pretty much did around 3 years of free video work. I have way more confidence in my skills now. This is my last month bartending Rustlers Rooste before I transition to video production full time. My mindset is just completely different. I have an amazing relationship with money. I treat it as an endless flow of energy that always comes to me. Being around “successful” people has become a norm. My back issues have damn near went away since I started rebuilding my body. I have the lowest body fat percentage I’ve probably ever had. I’ve upgraded the camera again and also have some new wheels! I think mentally everything finally started to click. The business side of me is still growing. I definitely have a lot to learn still. Luckily I have people in my life like Derz and Jeff who help me in that area. Thank you guys! I am so deeply grateful for everyone who I mentioned in my story. Each one of them has played an important role in me getting to where I am today. These roles will always be the foundation for my future success. You know what the craziest thing is? This is only the beginning.
Has it been a smooth road?
Not at all! I’ll take the blame for that though. The road would have been smooth if I didn’t cover it with my own potholes. Everything for me was mental. I had the knowledge the whole time from all the personal development I’ve done. The problem was actually using that knowledge and taking action. You can read all the books, watch all the videos, or listen to all the podcast you want but if you don’t apply it then it is useless.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I recently teamed up with Kelala Poumpey and we own VaporSwift Media. Both of us felt like we could do some big things. We both have different skill sets that compliment each other. Our mission is to create media content for brands to help them tell their story, grow their audience, and deliver the best representation of their brand. We have done a lot of different kinds of work from real estate to personal brands, vlogs, podcasts and more! I am excited to see what we will create for businesses here in the valley.
What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Where do I start! I spent a lot of time in the beginning thinking I needed the best camera possible for my first camera. My camera was on the cheaper side but it took me a while to pull the trigger on it. Buying used is not a bad thing either. Camera equipment is not cheap. Another important lesson is to let go of perfection. This is key in this field because perfection doesn’t exist. It will hold you back big time! Lastly there is no competition. Everyone can have a piece of the pie.
Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.