CBA Student Feature: Joseph Mario Micale06/20/2017
Heading into his final year at The University of Akron, Integrated Marketing and Communications major Joseph Mario Micale already has a full-time job waiting for him at a local company—his own. In April 2017, Mario officially launched Narrative Digital Media with the goal of authentically sharing companies’ stories.
“It was initially video production, but there are so many video production companies out there, even in the Akron area, and, really, anyone can shoot a video on their phone. What we like to do, and what I’m trying to differentiate, is we like to let the customer experience businesses’ products or service… we try to incorporate a story. Ads can be gimmicky, ads can be tone deaf, so we try to make it so if people are just scrolling through their timelines on social media, something will grab their attention and they’ll be intrigued by it. Hopefully, if they’re able to really experience a product or service, they’ll like it, and not only like it, but share it and engage with it.”
Already, Mario has worked with several prominent organizations, including The City of Akron, The Love Akron Network, and the Devil Strip. “I started work for [the business] in 2016, but it was launched April 21, 2017. That’s when I went public, told people about it, launched the website, and things like that. I was doing work for people in 2016 so I would have something to show. It was all free, but awesome pieces were made. There are some cool people in the community, in the business world, so it’s been fun and a great experience.”
While many students would be content to relax over their summer vacation, Mario sees the break as an opportunity to grow his business. “[My company] has been a lot to manage. I’ve taken 19 credit hours over the past two years, so I’ve just been consumed by work…over the summer it’s been nice because I can just focus on the business, focus on developing that.”
A passion for Akron
Balancing such a load hasn’t always been easy, but the people and resources available at The College of Business Administration helped to make it a little lighter. “The classes and faculty are amazing… The faculty, just in the College of Business, have been so awesome! They’ve answered so many questions, just beyond the classroom… I actually have a lot of faculty phone numbers!”
As he speaks about his work, Mario’s passion for his business, University, and the city which both call home, is apparent. “I want to separate that stigma of ‘Oh, it’s just Akron.’ A lot of people think it’s just a Rust-Belt city, it’s on the decline, but it’s really not… Until that stigma is gone, I want to do work for this area; It raised me. I think there’s so much potential and talent right here and whatever I can give back to it and help Akron grow, I’m super happy to do.”
Over the next few months, Mario will meet with companies throughout Northeast Ohio to help tell their story. “The goal is to build contracted relationships for 1-5 years… Over the summer, I’m trying to approach apartment complexes, hospitals, and sell my services to them while I have time, and hopefully get my foot in the door in that market.” Part of Mario’s strategy involves the growing medium of the 360 video. “360 videos are super new, you only rarely see them, but it’s growing into augmented reality, virtual reality, so that’s another differentiator I’m trying to go to. Not just videos, but experiences that tell stories. I’m super excited.”
In addition to recruiting new clients, Mario will be working with several established companies throughout the summer. “I’m working with Put-In-Bay to do a promotional video for Lake Erie Shores and Islands, which include areas such as Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay, Kelley’s Island, etc… So, this summer is a mix of bigger budget promotional videos and smaller, contracted services to where I’m not making a ton of money per project, but I’m making a lot of them. I’m building relationships that will develop over time…”
An Unexpected Journey
Though you wouldn’t guess it now, Mario didn’t always plan on going into business. “If two years ago, or even a year ago, you would have said I’d be running my own business, I would have said, ‘No way! There’s literally no way!’ The biggest thing I’ve learned through this whole experience is never underestimate what an experience will give you...I’m always keeping my options open, I’m always willing to explore and take time to learn new things, because you never know what’s going to happen!”
As a senior at Archbishop Hoban High School, Mario hoped to go into video production. “I did a lot of video work when I was in high school and I was looking around at colleges…I met with the director of ZTV and we talked about goals and what I wanted to do… It was the best fit for me at the time.”
Within Mario’s first year as a video production major, the director with whom he had originally connected left UA to pursue different opportunities. Mario decided to explore new opportunities, as well. Still unsure of what he planned to do post-graduation, Mario landed on business, making the move into Integrated Marketing and Communications. “I really liked business, I really enjoyed it…I liked talking to people, so I thought a business degree would help me a lot in whatever I wanted to do…I transferred to the College of Business, and it’s been great ever since!”
Diving into his new major with both feet, Mario took on additional credits and joined several student organizations, including ZTV, University Ambassadors, New Roo Weekend, the American Marketing Association, and Phi Sigma Kappa, a group of which he leads as a Co-Founder. “We started with about 10 guys and we’re now up to about 30. There are people from all different majors. It’s been great leadership experience.” He also works part time in the CBA’s Department of Marketing.
So how did a video production major turned Integrated Marketing Communication major end up in the world of entrepreneurship? Almost by accident. “I was introduced to [Kevin Smith, the Director of the CBA Institute for Leadership Advancement] through the Jamaica leadership trip,” Mario shared. “They were like, ‘Hey, we need someone to go on this trip and make a video, do you want to go?’…and I said yes. If it wasn’t for that, I would have never met up with Kevin.”
This meeting led to the eventual founding of Narrative Digital Media. “Kevin said, ‘Hey, why don’t we talk about developing a business? What do you plan to do after school?’ We talked for a year and that developed into this business and then I’ve just made videos for people here and there…it’s ended up paying off in the end and I’ve gotten business referrals from them, so you just never know where things are going to take you…”
At this point, Narrative Digital Media is a small company. “Looking for clients, thinking of what we should do, making the content, writing the scripts, setting up filming logistics, saying ‘These people need to be here to film that’, I do nearly all of it …It’s really cool. I like being busy and I’m learning so many skills.”
When asked how he feels about leaving the nest of the University in one short semester, Mario expressed a bit of sadness, but more excitement. “I’m really excited for it. I’ve learned so much here, I’ve developed great networks, I’ve talked with people, I’ve developed great skills, so after I graduate, I can dive into this full time. I’m super excited to get out there, sell my services, market myself... I’m really looking forward to growing.”
We will be following and sharing Mario’s experiences throughout the summer. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with Mario’s adventures!
You can learn more about Mario’s business, Narrative Digital Media at narrativedigitalmedia.com