Four weeks after confirming they were leaving Rethink to start a new agency backed by No Fixed Address, Dhaval Bhatt, Joel Holtby, and Nikki Sahni have officially launched Courage.
For now, Courage is just the three co-founders, but they will be adding staff soon and are looking for an office. They do have clients lined up and have been working on some projects, but are finalizing details and can’t announce them until the deals are signed, said Bhatt.
The agency is backed by No Fixed Address founders Dave Lafond and Serge Rancourt, but neither has an active role with the agency. Courage is fully independent from NFA, but can work with No Fixed Address specialists when and if needed—from client-facing services, to back-office administration. If Courage needs help with production, performance marketing or PR, for example, it can call on NFA.
“When it comes to our day-to-day operations, we very much operate like an independent agency that offers our core services that we are good at and that we have strengths in, which is awesome creative, awesome strategy, design, and account management,” said Bhatt.
It’s a similar launch and operating model used to open Mischief @ No Fixed Address in New York City in 2020, which NFA calls “The Grid.”
“The beauty of The Grid is that it removes any and all unnecessary layers and silos and red tape, which stifle speed and creativity,” said Lafond. “It clears the runway for our people to get to the heart of the client problem fast, and solve it even faster—an ideology our people, including clients, share and greatly value.”
It also enables NFA to invest more in the talent that drives the best creative output. “Everything NFA Inc. does is driven by talent,” said Lafond. “Dhaval and Joel have always had ambitions to run their own agency, and NFA was looking for another solution within its platform. When the timing made sense for them, our long-standing relationship made it something we wanted to jump on.”
The three Courage co-founders held senior positions at Rethink when the agency has thrived, performing well at award shows in Canada and internationally, winning business from big clients, and earning a reputation as one of the top independent creative shops in the world.
However, No Fixed Address has been writing its own success story since launching in 2016. Since then, it has added a health arm, a digital products offering, performance marketing and media planning, while opening new offices and, most notably, launching Mischief in New York City. NFA’s “collective” has grown to 260 employees, and saw 100% North American revenue growth in 2021, thanks largely to Mischief.
Asked about the new agency name, Bhatt said Courage is both a brand that speaks to the agency values and the kind of work they want to do, and a “one-word business model. ”It’s hiring people who show courage, finding clients who want courage, and doing work that takes courage,” he said.
“A lot of the work that we’ve done that has broken through and delivered amazing results for clients, frankly, took some amount of courage to put out there,” he said. While at Rethink, the trio contributed to breakthrough work for clients like IKEA, Heinz, Molson Canadian, Honey Nut Cheerios and Scotiabank.
“We truly believe that courage can make you do amazing things,” said Bhatt. “And brands—especially today— If they’re going to stand out, if they’re going to do anything like drive affinity or carve out market share, they need to do stuff with courage.”