BLUFFTON ALUMNI SHARE LESSONS LEARNED WITH CURRENT STUDENTS
A couple years ago, Cody Ridenour and Chad Stearns decided they needed a change.
Ridenour, a 2008 Bluffton University graduate in music education, was admittedly burnt out from teaching. And Stearns, also a Bluffton music education alumnus, in 2000, had been living "out of a suitcase," he says, as a pianist and conductor with touring musicals, including "Oklahoma!" and "Hairspray."
The longtime friends had talked about wanting more control over their lives, Stearns recalls, and they came up with a way to get it while watching local television, and commercials in particular, one night. They thought they could make better ads, he says, "and thus was born Modo Media," the marketing company they opened in Lima in June 2011.
Ridenour and Stearns related their story to faculty and students from Bluffton’s Division of Communication and Fine Arts on Oct. 23 as part of Division Alumni Day on campus. Nearly 20 alumni from the university’s six academic divisions returned to their alma mater to share their experiences with current students in their respective divisions.
The Modo Media partners agree that the adaptability gained from their music training at Bluffton has been beneficial as they’ve started their business. For example, Stearns says, they had figured they would do a lot of website design but soon discovered the popularity of videos, necessitating that they learn how to film and produce them.
They also learned computer programs and how to build a website—and a business—during the year he says they "studied like crazy" before opening Modo Media, which does print design work as well.
Bluffton’s emphasis on community has also impacted their early business experience. "Build a community and keep those people close," which they heard in college and have now done in downtown Lima, Ridenour points out.
Modo Media is housed in the Metropolitan Block, a building whose owner—and the father of one of Ridenour’s piano students—was looking for someone to build a website for him after he bought it with renovation in mind. "That really launched our web design business," says Ridenour, and Modo Media has since become involved with a group devoted to strengthening Lima’s downtown.
Bluffton prepared him, too, he says, for such "real-world" eventualities as interviews and meetings, and with a variety of people. "If you can perform, that’s always a good thing," notes Ridenour about another benefit of his background in music.
Striking a similar note at the Business Studies division presentation was Thea (Rosengarten ’10) Langenkamp, now a data specialist at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, Ohio.
"Before I came to Bluffton, I was a horrible public speaker," she says. "But through Bluffton, I got so much better at public speaking and interview skills, especially with people who are older than me. I can communicate with them better."
For Ridenour and Stearns, the result of their time at Bluffton and now in business has been an encouraging outlook on their future. "We’re getting in on the ground floor" with businessmen and women who know they need to market to young people, Ridenour says. "We learn something new every day."
Bluffton public relations, 10/26/12