Our Roots: A Hollywood Origin Story
When Steven and Garrett met on the red carpet of the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA’s Voice Awards in 2018, greeting honorees like Ana Navarro and Billy Porter, the pair didn’t realize the adventure they were about to go on – together.
At the time, Garrett was serving as a board member for the esteemed organization while Steven was overseeing its public relations.
For the previous decade, Steven had built a solid reputation as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after independent publicists. His client roster included celebrity doctors, exclusive nightclubs, national restaurant chains, hospitality brands, entertainment artists, and well-known celebrities like Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, cultural icon William Shatner, and genre-bending hip-hop artist Souleye.
Steven nurtured GVG Agency into a powerhouse PR firm, earning dozens of awards and landing clients, such as famed child star Danny Pintauro (Who’s The Boss?), headline-making interviews with Oprah and The View. But, as the sole operator of his acclaimed boutique PR practice, Steven knew there was still much more room left to grow.
Garrett, a serial entrepreneur, had recently left behind the 9-to-5 grind of the corporate world and began exploring other avenues to create value, be of service, better the world, and follow his passions, while still earning a paycheck.
Garrett brought natural charisma, an innate ability to see the bigger picture and a gift for inspired leadership to mission-driven organizations.
Over the next year, Garrett observed Steven’s fiery drive to succeed, his tenacity and passion, and his ability to secure significant press coverage for his clients. Conversely, Steven saw Garrett’s extraordinary talent for streamlining, scaling, and exponentially growing organizations and their bottom lines, as he had done in his prior roles at Yahoo!, Basis (formerly Centro), and with his leadership coaching and consulting practice.
In a twist that only fate could conjure up, Steven and Garrett became roommates. Garrett, freshly out of a divorce from his husband, had posted his spare room to GMCLA’s internal message board. Within minutes, Steven, who had that same morning decided to start his hunt for a new home, responded.
The next few years created ideal conditions to build a strong friendship and a trusting, healthy, professional partnership.
“It was a natural evolution to work together,” said McClure. “We complement each other so well. And we have a lot of fun doing it!”
GVG Agency became a consulting and coaching client. And after a year of co-creating a cohesive direction and strategy to scale the firm’s business, Garrett and Steven inked a deeper partnership deal bringing Garrett on as CEO and co-founder.
And the next phase of evolution, for both the firm and the pair of entrepreneurs, was born!
Meet the Dynamic Duo Behind Epic Storytelling
Making Pandemic Lemonade
Within months, COVID-19 emerged and almost instantly altered every aspect of our lives, including how we work and where we live.
Steven and Garrett decided to make proverbial lemonade out of very sour lemons by moving away from the gridlocked freeways of Los Angeles and towards two cities that had been calling to them. Steven moved to the brand and startup incubating boomtown of Austin, Texas. Garrett found his home in the tranquil LGBTQ and design mecca of Palm Springs, California – a stone’s throw away from L.A.
“We had the perfect opportunity to re-envision all aspects of the business and our work and personal lives,” says Le Vine.
“We leveraged the trend of remote work, remote teams, and the dissolving need for corporate office space to help re-imagine our firm,” McClure further explains.
This was just the beginning of what would become an accelerated evolution and expansion of the GVG Agency brand.
Demand for Grapevine’s services and roster began reflecting Garrett’s deep experience in advertising, tech, and coaching, and Austin’s eclectic Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands. The pair decided to meet this trend by launching two new divisions: Brands & Experts.
These practices joined their existing specialization in high-profile celebrities and continued emphasis on serving LGBTQ+ and BIPOC clients. (In 2007, The Advocate referred to GVG as the “first firm specifically serving gay clientele.”)
Stories That F*cking Matter Takes Shape:
During this time their signature storytelling model, Stories That F*cking Matter, also began to emerge.
Over the years, Steven had received numerous requests to put out a book. Despite having a lifetime of thrilling anecdotes to share, such as accompanying his client on Madonna’s MDNA World Tour across Europe, volunteering with clients in Africa, and more, he remained patient for the right time.
“I’ll never forget sitting with Garrett in my favorite coffee shop, deconstructing our entire process for securing the client's press. It all comes down to their story,” Steven recalls. “At the end, this really simple but incredibly powerful storytelling framework revealed itself.”
The two quickly got to work writing the book. By the end of 2022, Stories That F*cking Matter: Three Pillars of Epic Storytelling to Dominate Media Headlines, Win Clients and Grow Your Business, was released.
The book features a special foreword from client William Shatner and an afterword from Pintauro and has since become an instant Amazon #1 bestseller. The book can also be found on the bookshelves in popular indie bookstores like Austin’s BookPeople and L.A.’s Book Soup next to business bestsellers such as Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson.
Throughout the book, the two PR and media industry veterans detail proven strategies and insider tips to tell a story that really matters and gets noticed. They emphasize this as the key to standing out in today’s chaotic, cluttered, and fragmented media environment. The book is full of current examples from pop culture, politics, and business. Bold tales of rugged entrepreneurism and interesting personal stories take the reader deeper into the concepts.
“The story is one of the most powerful tools humans have ever discovered,” McClure explains.
“And in 2023, not only is it the key to getting the attention of reporters and TV producers, but it’s also the key to success for anyone in sales, or an entrepreneur raising capital or recruiting the best talent.”
Steven adds, “Everyone has a story as unique as their DNA. No one shares your story, and no one ever will. But many don’t realize the sheer power of their story, or how to tell it. And sadly, many incredible stories go unheard and untold.”
“An authentic, interesting story is one of the only things the power of AI will not be able to compete with, touch, or manufacture. Your story is, in essence, your superpower. It’s time to own it!”
The book has stirred up so much attention and demand for the firm’s services that it has already tripled its team and created a waiting list for new clients.
“We are a growth-focused firm and look at each client’s entire business,” McClure says. “So it’s exciting to be eating our own ‘dog food.’ We are grateful for the opportunity to hand-select our clients.”
In addition to placing a heavy emphasis on storytelling, what makes Grapevine unique is its bold approach to using its PR and storytelling strategies to drive the growth of its client’s businesses and brands.
Grapevine PR places substantive focus on strategic planning and executing annual, growth-focused strategic PR and integrated marketing campaigns. At every step of the way, the firm makes sure each strategy and tactic is aligned with the larger goals of brand building and business growth for the client.
“Unlike traditional firms, we don’t focus on securing press coverage for our clients solely for the sake of getting great press or helping them become famous. We ensure the coverage we secure is intentional and moves the bottom line,” McClure explains. “We help them leverage the power of their epic story.”
“At the end of the day, what our clients really care about is growing their businesses and brands, courting investors or leading successful exits, and getting time back in their busy lives. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand this.” To read the SWAGGER cover story in full, go here.