During darkest days of COVID-19, student lights path of students, small-business owners
January 28, 2022
January 28, 2022
With his semester abroad in London cut short, he spent the beginning of last spring in his parents' basement talking with friends when he quickly recognized an opportunity.
“It all started when my neighbor who works in marketing and advertising told me that one of her clients needed social media help but couldn't afford a big Manhattan agency to do the work," he said. "She asked me if I would be interested in helping her client using the experience I had developed at Quinnipiac.”
Quickly, he discovered that he could help his friends who had lost their internships develop professional experience, too.
"The client needed a logo," Ebert said. "I know my creative strengths and weaknesses — and know that graphic design is not an area I excel at so I contacted a friend and asked if she was interested."
Today, that friend is his creative director.
Since those early days of helping a small private practice develop a telemedicine extension, Ebert has built a company with about two dozen clients throughout New York and Connecticut: Driven Media Management & Consulting, a full-service marketing firm with bold, novel ideas designed to help small businesses succeed.
Although the majority of his 19 team members are Quinnipiac students, he also employs students from Kent State, UMass Amherst, the University at Albany and several community colleges on Long Island.
"I needed people who wanted real experience, and I think people love the opportunity to gain real experience," he said.
Ebert set up a business model that directs a large portion of revenue to the team members who earn it — giving students internship credits, salaries and professional experience.
Ebert is also committed to helping businesses that cannot afford to pay for social media tools by offering a variety of pro bono services.
"We understand that not everyone can afford marketing assistance," he said. "As I have grown the company and helped students, I have realized that so many people want experience."
While he hopes to continue to grow his company, he is now looking for investments to make it sustainable long-term.
"I want to keep this student-run and student-based," Ebert said. "This is great because of what it is — and the incredible energy that the students fuel the company with."
He also wants to continue to provide additional opportunities for young people.
"I would love Driven Media Management and Consulting to eventually expand to work with more established ad agencies to attract larger clients," Ebert said. "That would create a bigger mix of clients with a larger revenue stream so that we could employ more students and expand our pro bono efforts."
Students from virtually every part of the Quinnipiac School of Business are involved in his business, he said, from leading marketing initiatives for clients to managing the books and payroll for his company.
"There is always room for more business," he said.
Although he has wanted to help lead a company since he was in high school, his hope to own his company didn’t develop until the spring 2020.
"I never felt an ambition to start my own company until the pandemic," Ebert said. "I watched the rich get richer and watch parents worry about how they'd pay for their kids' most basic needs — and I said 'No. There must be a better way. I could do better.’"
It was then, during the darkest days of the pandemic, that he felt inspired to lead by his own ideals.
"If I had my own company, I knew I would do things differently," he said.
He still thinks back to the students who sacrificed so much to help him launch the company and provide work to his initial clients — and feels a sense of duty to repay them.
"I want to have that culture where people want to feel appreciated and valued," Ebert said. "The work that we do for our clients is only as strong as the passion and security that our staff feels. I am dedicated to keeping morale high and our business successful — so that both the clients and our team members succeed."
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