By By Jessica Alfrey and Monica Chapman
While fellow Ohio University graduates are busy sprucing up their resumes, newly graduated Brandon Bornancin doesn't have the typical interview jitters.
And why would he? As CEO of EnMobile, Bornancin's own burgeoning advertising agency, interviews have become irrelevant.
EnMobile was conceptualized during the winter of 2006 while Bornancin was interning at Sway, a social media and marketing firm in Chicago. Bornancin said he saw potential in the growing field and began preparations for his own company shortly thereafter.
"I've always been a self-starter, and I always knew that I would run my own company or do something that I loved and try to make it succeed," he said.
Under the leadership of Bornancin and Chief Marketing Officer Jake Phillips, a senior marketing major at Ohio University, the fledgling company already employs 26 college students in-house and outsources to 15 programmers and developers in India, New Jersey and Canada.
A promising market
As the name hints, EnMobile seeks to capitalize on a growing business trend toward marketing through the use of cell phones. Once used to refer to moving billboards and other literally "mobile" marketing stunts, the term "mobile marketing" took on new meaning at the turn of the century with the rise of mobile phone text messaging.
Although text messaging is still the most common medium for mobile marketing, improved cell phone technologies are paving the way for increased use of cell-phone-based audio and video advertisements, Web sites and bar codes, among other gimmicks.
"Mobile phones are increasingly becoming like personal PC's offering unparalleled user interactivity," Bornancin, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration this spring, wrote in a company press release. "Technology is paving the way for an era of on-the-go commerce, increasing the need for speed and efficiency."
This alleged era is not as far off as some might assume. In May 2007, Business Week predicted that the world market for mobile marketing and advertising is likely to reach $19 billion in value by 2011.
EnMobile is well-positioned to capitalize on the industry's upswing. While there are numerous mobile marketing companies in existence, Bornancin is quick to point out that his is the only mobile advertising agency.
"Mobile marketing companies are just selling their brands, whereas we're selling our expertise," he said. "There are so many clients that have different needs. We want to find the best platform for them."
Target: Generation Y
Aimed at Generation Y, EnMobile's marketing strategies are anything but conventional. The company's recent promotion at Athens' Cold Stone Creamery is a case in point.
"Text Loveit to 41513. See what happens," taunts a plain white sign with bold black lettering in the storefront window. The ambiguity is beguiling, and those who can't resist the temptation to text are rewarded. Within seconds, a ten percent off coupon arrives in the palm of your hand (via cell phone text message), paired with an advertisement for Cold Stone's NRGize meal replacement smoothies.
The promotion fared well on Court Street, yielding more than 400 responses in the first week with a redemption rate of 30 to 60 percent -- which is very high in an industry where typical redemption rates range from 5 to 10 percent, Bornancin said.
Phillips is confident that mobile marketing will eventually fare equally well with the more than 200 million cell phone owners nationwide.
"This is an extremely profitable industry in its early growth stage. Mobile phones are omnipresent, and we know this industry is going to explode very soon," said Phillips. "There is nothing but potential for this agency."
Building from the ground up
Creating a company from the ground up has not been a small project by any means. Bornancin estimates he clocked about 18 hours a day for EnMobile in addition to his coursework while he was still in school.
The impressive time commitment is overshadowed by Bornancin's heavy financial commitment. With the help of student loans and credit, Bornancin has invested roughly $46,000 in the company, while Phillips has contributed an estimated $13,000.
But according to Bornancin, the experience and the payout at the end of the tunnel will make it all worthwhile. "Life is all about taking highly calculated risks," he explained. "The higher the risk, the better the payout will be and the more profitable you'll become."
Bornancin's high-stakes enthusiasm is sure to raise a few cynical eyebrows. Craig Davis, a visiting professor in the E.W. School of Journalism, was admittedly skeptical during their first encounter in Davis' Advertising Principles course.
"I handed out a form at the beginning of class asking, 'How many hours will you spend on this class per week?' I wanted to get a sense of what people were going to put into the class. Brandon put 20 hours," Davis said. "Of course, I thought, 'This is just some smart-aleck kid. This is just crazy!'"
That is, until Bornancin began showing up during Davis' office hours. Eager to soak up everything he could about the advertising market, Bornancin pulled book after book from Davis' shelves. In a day or two, he'd be back, eager to discuss his findings and share ideas.
"(Brandon) is Bill Gates with the ideas. And he shoots the ideas off to me," Davis said. "But he's the one who looked at the market and saw that mobile marketing is in a growth mode. So he's building his business on that capability."
The hard work has already begun to pay off. Brennen's, Attractions, VitaminWater and Rockstar Energy Drinks are among EnMobile's current local clients. And as EnMobile pursues a national clientele, Bornancin has high hopes of turning a profit by August.
Bornancin points to Google as inspiration.
"Every business consultant told them they weren't going to make it. But they did what they needed to do, and look at the outcome. That's what we're doing," he said.
A culture of optimism
To maintain an organizational culture that encourages working hard and playing hard, the EnMobile office at 340 W. State St. in the university's Innovation Center business incubator, is packed not only with laptops, desktops and whiteboards adorned with checklists, but also with video games.
The CEO hopes to one day move across the hall to a larger office space and expand his staff. But double the space translates into nearly double the rent, and with monthly operating costs of $2,000 to $4,000, the company's budget is already stretched thin.
Fortunately, the financial strain doesn't seem to have taken a toll on EnMobile's staff morale.
"I continually amaze myself at what we are able to accomplish on such a small budget," Phillips said. "We have been able to grow organically with $0 outside investment -- not an easy accomplishment from anyone's standpoint."
Taking pride in his roots
While many CEOs dream of moving to New York, Bornancin plans on keeping EnMobile right were it started: Athens, Ohio. The small-town setting undoubtedly poses challenges to a budding entrepreneur, but Davis believes Internet technologies make this more feasible than ever.
"A national brand company wouldn't care if he's in Athens or New York City, just as long as he's providing the service," Davis said of Bornancin.
Patrick Kreiser, faculty adviser to the College of Business' Entrepreneur Club, of which Bornancin is the president, agrees that the decision to stay in Athens is a smart one.
"Those of us who live in Athens tend to know it's a bit of a hidden gem, but the rest of the country doesn't know that," he said. "It is still a small town. Being known for innovation and entrepreneurship is something that can only help."
Bornancin said his main reason for wanting to stay in town is his pride in Ohio University and his regard for faculty at the College of Business and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
"The university played a huge role in where I'm at today. The faculty and staff at Ohio University are different than other universities," he said, noting the support he has received.
But above all, Bornancin credits the success of EnMobile to the company's hard-working staff.
"Our agency is comprised of the most intelligent and motivated students on this campus," he said. "Without them, none of our success would have been possible."
For more information on EnMobile, visit www.enmobilemedia.com.
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