By: Judith Ohikuare
David Moritz was a college party-boy who dreamed of being a lawyer. But then a gold-plated idea struck. Here’s how he built the company behind the Golden Globes.
David Moritz isn’t an actor, rock star, or Hollywood honcho, but he still scores tickets to every major award ceremony in the entertainment industry.
Moritz is the founder and CEO of Society Awards, a New York City-based business that makes statuettes, trophies, and awards. The 14-person company’s work includes the MTV Video Music Awards’s “Moonman,” the Emmy angel, and–for the past three years–the Golden Globes statuette.
Thanks to these and other lucrative contracts, the company is growing fast–it ranked No. 1,418 on the 2012 Inc. 5000, with $2.5 million in 2011 revenue. But Moritz hadn’t always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. Back during his college days at New York University, he seemed like more of a party boy than CEO material. “I rationalized that I’d party as much as I could and settle down by the time I got to law school,” he said.
And, yes, he spent three years in law school. It was only after he began interning at a boutique law firm that he confessed to his boss a desire to set out on his own.
“She said something like, ‘You’re a terrific lawyer and I would love for you to come here and work for me, but you’re clearly focused on business,'” he recalls. “I was just always thinking of ways to generate new business.”
Around that time, a friend tipped Moritz off that the awards industry lacked a clear front-runner–he says it was a hodge-podge of small trophy shops and custom manufacturers. He wanted to create a company with Hollywood appeal. “I wanted to make a company the client could be proud of–with the cachet, exclusivity, and style to match,” Moritz says.
To get started, Moritz borrowed $90,000 from family members for hiring a designer and purchasing equipment. Then came the cold calling. “When you’re starting out you have no clout,” he says. “But I’m very energetic and passionate, and will put all of that behind an effort if I know in my heart that my product or service is better.”
After several weeks of pitching small clients and building up a network of contacts, Society Awards won a commission from Billboard magazine to create a small, acrylic memento for Neil Diamond. (The magazine’s more prominent recognition, the Billboard Music Awards, had been put on hiatus, but the brand honored the artist anyway.)
For Moritz, the project was a small one, but special. “They continue to be a really close client of ours,” he explains. “When the Billboard Music Awards came back on in 2011, they hired us to design their new statuette. Neil Diamond won the Icon Award that year, and it felt so good to see that come full circle.”
Over the past three years, Society Awards has established sturdier footing in the industry by working with a number of high-profile clients, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that created the Golden Globes 70 years ago.
Moritz’s team spent more than two years bouncing ideas off the HFPA before striking a chord with the president at the time, Philip Berk. The shining idea was an update of the statuette’s almost matte, yellowish exterior to a richer, shinier gold. The HFPA was also interested in changing the kind of marble that was used for the base of the award. Jorge Camara, a three-time HFPA president with whom Moritz worked, says that Society Awards’s value proposition won them over in the end.
“The color change on the globes was a major selling point,” says Camara. “Moritz gave us a better deal.”
While the HFPA declines to reveal the actual dollar value of a Golden Globe (aside from, you know, “priceless”), both parties like to think the redesign boosted the physical award’s “wow” factor. Moritz coordinated with a network of factories to produce a more durable, higher-quality metal that could be polished to a crisp, gleaming finish. The team also updated the details so that all of the world’s continents were present and positioned accurately (previously, some islands were misplaced). Finally, Moritz flew to Los Angeles to meet with the HFPA and present samples of the statuettes. The final product, a 24-karat gold electroplated globe with a brown marble base from Eastern Europe, debuted at the 2009 ceremony.
What did getting the Golden Globe contract do for Moritz’s business? He calls it “monumental.”
“A lot of the time you do a big redesign and people don’t really notice or care that much,” he admits. “But during the show, Steven Spielberg accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award, looked at it and said, ‘It’s been redesigned. Beautiful.'”
“That was amazing,” Moritz says.