A marketing and video production training initiative has been chosen as this year’s winner of the Epic Grand Challenge, Earlham College’s business plan and social entrepreneurship competition for students.
Nelson Morlock and Sophie Pickering developed “Visual Future” to strengthen the local workforce and better serve nonprofits and small businesses in need of affordable marketing solutions. The venture earned $12,000 from the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity to scale their business and meet the challenge of improving the lives of 25,000 Wayne County residents within five years.
“Visual Future is a mission-driven venture that will train people in Wayne County and pair them with local businesses so they can have a personal videographer,” said Morlock, a junior global management major. “We are developing online courses that cover everything from how to run a meeting with a client to how to use a photo camera or your smart phone to the best of its capabilities. The last part of the course will take our students from beginners to intermediate level with video editing.”
The team identified a shortage of trained marketing and video production professionals in Wayne County as part of their business plan, noting the significant role that videography plays in digital marketing.
“Marketing videos can be very expensive and a lot of local businesses in Richmond and Wayne County don’t have extra money to hire professional videographers to promote their products and services,” Pickering said. “A lot of firms are in Cincinnati, Dayton, or Indianapolis, but not in Wayne County to serve local business.”
Morlock is leading the venture and is the founder of a video production company that he started in high school. He will spend his senior year on campus developing free online training modules for aspiring videographers in Wayne County. Pickering is graduating this week after earning degrees in studio art and Spanish and Hispanic studies. She will provide translation services for the training modules while she pursues a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Missouri.
Besides training community members, Visual Future will also offer area nonprofits the opportunity to purchase a condensed version of the training modules at a reduced cost so those organizations can produce quality videos themselves.
Visual Future also wants to partner with Earlham to offer current students course credit for completing their online program.
“This felt like a culminating experience of my Earlham education,” Morlock said, who started working on the venture earlier as a first-year student and refined the business plan for the Epic Grand Challenge. “I’ve taken business courses, run a video production company, and volunteered in the local community. I’m truly taking what I’ve learned in the classroom, taking theory to practice.
“Now I have a chance to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s a lean operation. It will be offered online so we won’t have to teach in person. It will be self-paced. The main thing I’ll be doing is maintaining relationships with our graduates and the nonprofits who pay for our services.”
For Pickering, the competition was a departure from her usual routine on campus.
“I had never dipped my toe in the business world,” Pickering said. “This was super cool to learn all about the different concepts associated with writing a business proposal.”
The Epic Grand Challenge is now in its second year and awarded a total of $25,250 to four teams of Earlham students to bring innovative ideas to life. Other teams that participated in this year’s challenge developed a micro-finance venture, an employer training/internship connector, and a summer training program for middle school students.
The competition was judged by Earlham faculty and local business leaders from Richmond and Wayne County.
“As usual, the Earlham Epic Grand Challenge cohort was excellent,” said Gene Hambrick, the director of Earlham’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity. “Earlham College students are driven to bring meaningful change by sharing their talents and creativity with the world.”