When you walk into the downtown office of VE Creative, one of the first things you notice is the set of huge windows facing Owensboro’s 3rd street, a few blocks from the Ohio River. For the small group of workers here, these windows aren’t just a way to view the pretty scenery outside. They’re also a potential way to help generate online and social media street cred for the company, and--more importantly--downtown Owensboro.
“We think it would be really cool to have our twitter feed pulling up on to these windows, during business hours, but especially at night whenever it’s light inside the office and dark outside,” says Nick Knapp, the 24-year-old in charge of building VE Creative’s Owensboro client list.
“People downtown could check in, if they hashtag us their tweets are going to come up on the screens. They could give shout-outs to people.”
These are the types of ideas that happen when you partner a group of tech-savvy 20-year-olds who have an entrepreneurial bent. VE Creative was founded by Nathan Cruse in 2007 during his senior year of college at Murray State. He was studying for a degree in finance, but says he realized the future belonged to web-based technology. So he started advising a few clients in the region about getting websites and content management systems up and running.
Now, Cruse and VE Creative work with clients in Owensboro, as well as those in places as far away as New York City, Las Vegas, and Canada.
“And I think one of the biggest things that we can bring to Owensboro is us being able to go pick up clientele-- whether it’s in Canada, or if it’s in New York--and being able to work with them and bring that money back to Owensboro,” says Cruse.
VE Creative has six full-time employees. They partner with companies, large and small, who want to improve their online presence. That could mean starting a website from scratch, or revamping an existing one. If a company wants its own smart phone app, VE Creative builds one. If a business wants to strengthen its social media presence, Nathan Cruse and his team will work on that.
Cruse says his company is attracting a lot of clients who want to find a way to use Facebook to benefit their business.
“I wouldn’t say right now that a ton of people are doing marketing with it, but they’re setting up for that. They’re saying, ‘hey lets gets our Facebook Timeline up and running, let’s get the cover photo, let’s get the logo in there.’ And now with Facebook, you can offer your products and services on there. People can view your services, they can view your products, and they can get to your website,” says Cruse.
The fact this sort of high-tech small business is able to operate in Owensboro, Kentucky is very telling. We live in a time where a few highly motivated, highly tech-savvy, and highly productive workers can run a lean, efficient small business from virtually anywhere. They don’t have to be in Silicon Valley, New York City, or Tokyo.
Nathan Cruse says it’s also a time when high-tech gadgets are becoming a normal party of more and more people’s lives. And not just young people, but older Americans--like Cruse’s grandmother, for example.
“My grandmother, who is 77, is hopping on Facebook and doing everything she can to utilize her mobile device. So I think our older generation is starting to utilize those things.”
When jokingly asked by WKU Public Radio if he offers any professional advice to his grandmother regarding her online presence, Cruse lets out a laugh.
“The only thing I’d like to tell my Grandmother is ‘let’s not get so political on Facebook’,” he says.
“But she’s doing a great job.”
Cruse says one of the next “big things” he thinks will start gaining more traction is geographical information systems, or “GIS”. Already in use in some places, GIS would allow a person with a smart phone to receive messages from businesses he or she is interested in, whenever that person is in close proximity to that business.
“Whenever you’re traveling past a business, for them to be able to send that information out regarding, say, a 25% off special that day. Some of those things are already being done now, but I think you’re going to start seeing more of that GIS targeting through mobile devices because these are what everybody is going to be using," says Cruse.