Chris Viel and Curtis Wood might have chosen to go the traditional path after college, but instead they decided to start-up something unique to Northeast Indiana. Founded in late 2011, the two of them have been growing together as entrepreneurs with their venture, Syndeo Studios, out of Huntington, Indiana.
As they both headed into the Huntington University Digital Media Arts program, partnering on an entrepreneurial venture wasn’t exactly on the two classmates’ minds at first.
“At first when I went into college, I was like ‘oh, I want to work for Pixar or whatever’ but then the professors kind of melded my mind,” said Viel. “Now I like the idea of kind of like an independent thing where you get to do your own thing…you’re not just doing the same thing over and over and over, and you have this creative freedom.”
Syndeo is working to promote the medium of animation to clients in the region – and most of their clients are local. Viel and Wood create pieces in stop motion animation, 2D/3D motion graphics, compositions, and logo animations – unique media that make people stop and look. Take a look at their reel below.
“That’s kind of our target…We do want to target this area and try and build up, and say to this area that this medium is actually important, and to make this area look better,” said Viel.
During the initial startup phase, after talking with one of their professors at Huntington University, he took them in the direction of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s Student Venture Lab, an incubator for student entrepreneurship at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.
From there they have been slowly building up their name and recognition from other people.
From partnering with Kelly Lynch of Lynchpin Creative on some projects to doing projects for the alma mater, Viel and Wood are continuing to grow and get their name out there. They even won a Gold Addy® Award for their piece “Celebrate Norm” in 2014.
With both coming from an artistic background, picking up the business side of things was not without its challenges.
“I’m an artist. I didn’t go to school to learn business,” said Wood, “You know, I wish I would have minored in it at least.”
Learning how to deal with clients and keep them happy has also been an area where Viel and Wood have grown.
“That was the hard part, because we’ve obviously never worked with clients before, but we figured it out,” said Wood.
Some things they wish they they would have done differently from the beginning was coming up with written contracts for the client projects and creating a better payment process, but now they know better.
“Man, we were noobs!” chuckled Wood.
It has definitely been a learning experience for these two, but having a former professor as a mentor, a strong creative partner in the community, and support from their families has certainly helped them along their way.
On partnering with Lynch on creative projects – “Luckily he knows about 90 percent of the city and doing so he gets projects very often and we can just collaborate with him on different things,” said Viel. “He has been a priceless asset to us.”
Perhaps the biggest source of mentorship and inspiration comes from their former animation professor at Huntington University.
“He’s been with us every step of the way, and he’s always been there for us when we need help or just need some advice on how to deal with something,” said Wood. “He’s a great guy.”
For now, Viel and Wood continue to work together and hope to continue to grow together.
“We don’t have studio space,” said Wood. “I work from my little office in my house and he works from his.”
But this does not stop them from getting projects done.
“Luckily in the art field and with current technology we don’t necessarily need an office,” said Viel. “We would like an office, yes, but luckily with how we can just work anywhere, you don’t actually need a physical office.”
What lies ahead for Syndeo? Perhaps an office space or maybe even their own interns? We at Living Fort Wayne will be keeping our eyes on Syndeo Studios, and we hope you do too.
And by-the-way, how do two young creative types work together successfully without driving each other crazy?
Viel thinks it is communicating with one another.
“Being on the same page, knowing what the project is and how it’s going to be executed, what the style is, what the client wants, or sometimes the client doesn’t know what (they) want,” said Viel.
“Knowing each other’s roles too, that’s a big thing,” added Wood. “What each person’s responsibilities are and keeping them accountable for those.”
Sound advice from two creative leaders in Northeast Indiana.