We live in coastal California in a small, idyllic spot a mile from the ocean. Before we started our own business, Rick ran a successful video publishing department at California Polytechnic State University called Visual Education Productions. (More about that to follow) We’ve run our own video production business since 1998 and have operated ecommerce sites and been in internet marketing since 2005. We also do corporate video work. Today though, we cherry pick our best video clients (Rick still loves the shooting side of video and Kim enjoys editing) and run our various internet businesses. We live with our cat Dominic and Rick has taken up the guitar again.
How We Got Started In This Business
(Rick) I began in media production and publishing before the invention of the VCR. Working for a unique quasi-commercial university department, Visual Education Productions (VEP) at California Polytechnic State University, that specialized in producing educational materials, we were producing and selling filmstrips and slides and books. As my career and the industry changed and grew, so did VEP. Under my direction, we moved into video production, then CD-ROMs, software and other formats. I am proud to say not only did we have many award winning productions and a few programs aired on PBS and the History Channel, we also won awards for our direct mail marketing efforts, including two “Best In Catalogs” awards.We literally sold millions of dollars worth of educational videos and other media all over the world. All of this before the heady days of the internet. It was a great opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of marketing.
In 1997, the university went in a new direction and sold my division to another company. I decided at that point to go on my own. I had always had a dream of producing and selling my own videos on my own terms.
(Kim) I met Rick when he was the director of VEP. On the tail end of completing my photography degree and feeling stifled in my job in human resources for the university, I approached him with my portfolio in the hopes that he would hire me. Well, he didn’t hire me but I did end up working with him anyway – as his spouse! (Much better benefits I might add!)
In 2000, Joe Clokey with San Luis Video Pulbishing hired us to produce a new educational video on soil. Rick was so busy with a large client load that I decided to take a shot at starting it. I had never done anything besides a very lame little video for a photography class before. But I had very recent experience doing photography projects (Kudos to Cal Poly’s learn-by-doing focus!) and I decided to approach it as a class assignment. I researched, storyboarded, wrote a rough script, contracted with an advisor who helped me refine the script, and directed, shot, and edited it. Needless to say, I was hooked. And the fact that video is still out there and selling strongly for Joe excites me no end. It also won a Telly Award. Not a bad first project! At the time I was tickled with a big check upon completion but after seeing how well it is doing, I have changed my thinking.
Enter The Internet
Prior to 2004, the bulk of our income came from corporate and client work, and Kim was still tethered to her stable, good paying job at the local university. But that all changed for us In 2004.
(Rick) It all started with a video I made of my dad…
In 2005 we completed a video I made called Patrick Smith’s: A Sense of Place. For years my dad, a well-known Florida writer and lecturer, known for his hugely popular book A Land Remembered, told me that if I made a videotape of the talk he gave throughout Florida, that I would sell thousands. It was a project I seemed to keep putting off due to my client work and the very real fact that I live in California and my dad lives in Florida. But then my dad was diagnosed with cancer and on a visit back there, he graciously sat down with me on his back porch and I taped him. Over the next few years through numerous trips back home, I taped B-roll and researched photo archives to illustrate his story. I turned that little story into a video that won several awards and was shown at film festivals. In fact, the Tupelo Film Festival invited me to attend, where I won the Founder’s Award prize.
Winning all those awards felt great but I had also put a lot of time and money into this film and felt my dad was right; I could actually sell this thing. However my market was in Florida and I lived in California and my dad, due to his health problems, was no longer able to do the lecture circuit and sell them to his fans. So that left the internet.
Now as I have said, I had been in direct mail marketing of media projects for 30 years but never sold anything on the internet except some video equipment on eBay. I could see the potential of selling on the internet and decided to build a web page. This video was a perfect product for me to get started.
I was told that my market, older Floridians, probably wouldn’t buy over the internet. As of today, my dad proved to be right and I have sold over 10,000 DVDs…and I am still getting orders for it from all over the U.S. I was thrilled to see that I could mix my desire to start a business on the internet with doing what I loved. As a result of this experiencee, Kim and I share a new way of life. She no longer works in human resources at the university and is a full time partner in this business with me.