Master of Media Marketing & Whiskey Connoisseur Alireza Parpaei
Meet Ali, the co-founder of marketing consulting agency Holland Park Media.
BY MARC RODAN
Posted: 16 February 2021
Every Tuesday, we put one KREW Member in the Spotlight. This week it’s our very own jack-of-all-trades when it comes to media marketing: Alireza Parpaei.
Who is Ali? For most of my life I’ve always been changing, adapting and moving from place to place. I’m just a classic, unconventional person of whom you never know what he’s up to. Whatever you think you know about what I do… two years later, I’m probably doing something entirely different.
My first hussle ever was selling CDs. I was born in Iran, so this is back there when I was probably 12. Rap and hip hop as a genre were a pretty new thing back then. We were slowly getting Iranian rap music and I felt like I wanted to be a rapper — when I was 16, I even had my own home studio. So I just went around downloading any kind of rap music I could: Eminem, Dr. Dre, a selection of Iranian rap music… and whenever someone asked me what this rap music is all about, I was like “well give me 5000 Toman (which is not a lot of money, but for a 12 year old it’s a good deal) and I’ll give you a CD”. That’s how it all started.
“What I do now, I wasn’t doing it two years ago. And what I was doing two years ago, I wasn’t doing two years prior. It’s not that I wanted this. I had to adapt. At the end of the day, I’ve just been hussling.
Later on I had more legitimate hussles. I left to Malaysia when I was 14 and after that I moved to the UK for university — I actually have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering! During university I tutored high-school kids in subjects like maths and science in order to save up money. My parents could support me a little, but not enough for me to be able to go to the university I wanted to. I also organised nightlife events (that was amazing!), I set up a sort of think tank in Malaysia that’s still successful now and I worked as an English teacher in Laos while I started up my own company in public speaking training.
Then I ended up in the Netherlands for personal reasons. I didn’t have a job. I had nothing. Probably a couple of thousand bucks in savings. But over the years of doing different stuff and needing marketing in the process, I’ve learned a lot about marketing. And content creation too, which has always been a bit of a passion for me. So what I do now is a mix of taking photos, doing videos, creating graphics, sometimes messing around with animations and doing a lot of marketing consultancy. Our company, Holland Park Media, is now a team of 12 people and we’re soon expecting to become 15.
Fun fact: I once crashed two cars in 48 hours. First my own car and when my car was in the shop getting repaired I crashed my sister’s car.
^ Ali and his co-founder Charles Weiler-Ulin (and Bay)
What is your biggest superpower? I don’t get tired. I’m hungry. I can keep going. No matter what happens, I’ll still keep going. I mean, at some point I became an illegal immigrant in Malaysia but I kept going. No matter what shit life throws at me, I always just get off my ass and find a way.
What can be your kryptonite? That I can be in a ditch and still be happy. At any stage in my life, no matter if it’s good or bad, I’ll find a way to make myself happy. I guess I sometimes lack that vision to be able to see where I actually am. I can get caught up in the moment. That attitude can be dangerous for me.
I have the tendency of having too much hope. Either in people, situations, or myself. It’s a sweet attitude, but for me it sometimes goes overboard. Then I waste my life. Then I spend too much of my own time trying to say “it’s OK, it’ll be fine” when it’s not fine. Some of the things that have gone wrong in my life were totally my own decision. No one else to blame but my own ‘believing everything will be fine’ and not taking action when I needed to.
Just so we can refer them to you: who are your typical clients? We like to work with companies that are going for international markets or internationals in general. We would be very good consultants for them because, well, we have a very diverse team. We have an Iranian whose business partner is American, which in itself is already a crazy start. You want to go after Germany, we’ve got a couple of Germans. Iranians? Sure. British? Sure. From east to west, we have people from everywhere.
If someone wants to do their marketing in Dutch, it’s not that we don’t like to do it. But what you don’t find in other marketing consultancies is that multicultural, diverse thinking. From start. We don’t write it in Dutch and then translate it to English… or vice versa. We think in the language we are trying to present, which I think enhances the quality of what we do.
Additionally, if you have the budget to take on 0,5 to 2 full-time employees and you want to kind get everything done within that budget — from content marketing, website, SEO to advertising — then we’re the go-to people. We would be much cheaper than having one employee plus a bunch of freelancer or to just have freelancers. That’s because we come in as a marketing extension teams with all the skills you could possibly need in-house. This way, you can also maintain a certain level of quality and consistency, that you wouldn’t get so easily when only working with freelancers.
Which products and/or services do you offer? Everything marketing and media related. We’re a team of 15 people almost and everybody has got different skills. Come to us with a problem and we’ll figure out a solution to it. Either for a one-time project like filming a live event or to have a fully equipped marketing extension team for several months or more.
What does success look like to you? Haha, it’s an ongoing joke in the company. My life goal is to open a bar on the beach of Mauritius. One of my buddies from back in uni is from Mauritius. We used to sit down and hang out a lot. We used to say “one day, we should just have our own bar”. One day, when we can. You know what I mean? I don’t know if I will have 20 million, 20 thousand or 2 thousand in the account. Buy if at any point I feel comfortable enough to actually go on and do it… that, for me, is success.
“If at any point I feel comfortable enough to actually go on and open a bar on the beach of Mauritius… that, for me, is success.
What is your favourite way to celebrate achievements? Whiskey. What’s my favourite way to have sorrow about failures? Whisky. Which kind of whiskey? Single malt scotch, Lowlands. Yeah.
What is a major challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome it? Getting comfortable with the constant of changing. You know, I’m not a book reader, but there’s one book that my sister got me as a kid. I believe it’s called ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’. It’s a classic management book, written like sort of a children’s story. It’s about adapting to change and finding a solution quickly, which has been my biggest challenge throughout life. This book has taught me how to deal with that.
^ Ali and part of his team covering a hybrid event for The Hague Convention Bureau at World Forum The Hague during corona times | After movie
How? Well, some people are smart. I’m not. I have to compensate for it with time. I don’t complain, let thing get to me, or let them demotivate me. I just keep moving forward by working my ass off. To give you an example, when corona first came I was quite worried and all that. But aside from a bit of personal stuff, I was like “well, I have nothing else to do so I might as well work my ass off”. That worked out pretty well. But I’ve also seen people for whom lockdown became a vacation. And now they’re just complaining about things they no longer have: the bars, the restaurants, the Christmas markets even. They’ve fallen behind the change. Don’t get me wrong. Life is not a competition. I am the first one to say “I don’t give a fuck if people succeed, I’ll be happy for them”. I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. But if the world is moving forward, you need to be moving forward with it. Just keep moving. Don’t sit down. Don’t be rigid.
What do you love to do when you’re not working? Well, I love to work when I’m not working. Actually, I don’t work. I turned my hobbies into my work. So if I’m not working on a client project, I’m working on my own projects. Which is a bit unhealthy according to people around me, but I love it so I’m enjoying it. The Whisky Hour Podcast is a nice example of one of those projects. It’s the reason why I have a podcasting room set up in my house.
Oh, and I love playing CSCO — Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Especially with Russians and Turkish people. It’s amazing! I grew up with that game, so it has a sentimental value for me.
Who is your superhero (fictional or real)? Winter Soldier. He’s a good guy but also a bad guy. The lines are a little bit blurry there. When the Winter Soldier in him is activated, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he does bad stuff. People think that he’s a bad guy, while he’s not. He just wants peace. He’s misunderstood a lot. I kind of relate to all of that in a sense.
There was a time where I would bring up ideas that would be a little bit unconventional and I didn’t have the credentials to back those up. So people often thought that I’m not serious. Also, I’m my own kind of person. Unless you know me very well, you don’t know why I do things in the way I do. A lot of times I’m like “yeah, that’s not really what I meant to say, but fuck it, I don’t care”. So I can be misunderstood a lot as well. I’m working on that.
And he has a metal arm! How can you not love a guy with a fucking metal arm? That’s awesome dude. Sorry, I’m a Marvel geek.
Which book has made a major impact on you? ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is probably the one that has made the biggest impact on me. And it’s sequel! Out of the Maze.
You know the old cliché that the only constant in the world is change, right? Having understood that at an early age and having that idea planted into my mind, helped me get through a lot of stuff in my life. Whether that’s moving to a whole different country and not being able to speak the language — or English even. Or dealing with a lot of legal issues when it concerned my very existence. To dealing with some of the more recent personal struggles that I’ve had. These books taught me valuable skills about dealing with change.
Which tools do you love to use for your business? Adobe. I live in Adobe. I have Illustrator open right now and I don’t even know why. I grew up with it. And it’s a full service thing right? So I can create animations in After Effects and directly open them in Premier. I can edit the audio of my videos in Audition without having it as a multi-track system. It’s all compatible. It all works together. For a full-service company it works best. Other programs may be better or cheaper in some ways but but for me and the company it makes total sense to have one tool that has everything.
Why did you join KREW and what is the value that you got out of it so far? Well I joined KREW because I like you, Marc. I like your energy. You’re obviously one of those guys who’s going to go the extra mile. I respect that. So I joined KREW because you’re awesome. And I do believe in the vision you have to bring creatives together. Because one thing I hate in the creative industry is that everybody is competing with each other and shit-talking each other’s work.
^ Ali’s video testimonial for KREW (it’s on another level)
The value I’ve gotten out of it is just meeting likeminded people. People I can collaborate with. It’s just meeting people and catching each other’s vibes and say like ‘hey, let’s do this together!’. For example, one or two KREW Members are actually involved in one of my personal projects. It’s a video about how the business world views the creative work that we do and what the struggles are that creatives have to go through. Because more often than not I’ve heard ‘how long does it take to take a photo? You just stand there and click a button, right?’. Everybody who says that, I want to metaphorically strangle them. With this project, I want to just clear out that it’s not just clicking a button.
What can KREW Members reach out to you for? For a drink. Whisky. I could do beer too. Just no wine. Unless it’s good wine. Or coffee! Tea too — I make good masala chai. I’m not an alcoholic!
But also feel free to reach if you want to start your own agency. Or if you want to get a bit more experience in any of the topics from this interview. Or if you want to collaborate. I’m an approachable dude. I hope.
Thanks for reading the weekly KREW Spotlight! Don’t hesitate to reach out to Ali and start a new meaningful connection or collaboration.
Marc Rodan is the Founder of KREW and Chief Editor of KREW Stories. In 2015 he started his first business as the tallest (mini) pancake baker in Sweden. Since then, he has travelled the world to start businesses in both branding and online education. Marc loves penguins, UFOs and anything blue and orange, always makes up songs while doing the dishes and dreams of one day living in a tree house as big as Jake and Finn’s. Connect with him on LinkedIn.