The Richmond Register

Education

December 2, 2012

From dream to ‘DreamWalker’ - EKU student CEO of own company

RICHMOND — Running a corporation at any age is no small feat. Through determination, innovative thinking and some help along the way, one Eastern Kentucky University student will step into a job of his own creation upon graduation.

EKU senior Christian Braun, along with two salaried employees (all under age 23), will move into 1,500 square feet of office space in Louisville next summer as DreamWalker Social Marketing Inc.

DreamWalker provides social media marketing optimization for its clients. This means it utilizes platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ to draw potential customers to its clients.

Eventually, clients are trained to manage their own social media marketing.

“It’s unlike any other form of marketing,” Braun said. “This is the future of marketing.”

One of DreamWalker’s first clients was the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has gained more than 700 Facebook “likes” and now has more than 1,100 Twitter followers since it partnered with DreamWalker around seven months ago, said Mendi Goble, Chamber director.

“This has changed the Chamber completely,” Goble said. “If more of the Chamber businesses take advantage of it, they will see some pretty amazing things.”

What began as an idea, one laptop and zero funding, DreamWalker is now a small corporation, which recently distributed 1,000 privately-traded shares.

In its first year as an LLC (limited liability company), Dreamwalker drew nearly $50,000 in revenue. Since it incorporated, Braun estimates a revenue of around $100,000 for the fiscal year, having big projects lined up in the spring.

“We’ve done well, but we’re smart about it at the same time. We make money, but we invest it back into the company,” Braun said. “These guys realize that there’s a high risk we can fail, but there’s also a really good chance that we’ll be very successful and they would be in a high position in a small corporation.”

However, Braun realized his business would not prosper on ideas and determination alone. He joined EKU’s Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CEDET) business accelerator program located in the Business & Technology Center building on EKU’s campus (next to the EKU Center for the Arts).

DreamWalker’s office is located in Room 042 in the basement of the building in the business “incubator.”

“It’s a place to incubate; to help businesses get off their feet,” said Michael Rodriguez, director of the Small Business Development Center, one prong of the CEDET program.

Rodriguez offers help in any kind of general business guidance, such as marketing research, bank loans, licensing and most of all, a business plan.

Around six or seven businesses are housed in the incubator, which provides basic office supplies like desks and internet access, giving each entrepreneur a “professional face to their business” for anywhere between zero to $400 a month, Rodriguez said.

However, Rodriguez’s consulting services are free to anyone in the community, not just college students. His position is funded by a grant through the U.S. Small Business Administration and he provides outreach to 15 counties across the state.

He also conducts free workshops such as the Basic Recordkeeping and Tax Update scheduled Dec. 6 (visit www.ekubiz.com for details).

From a dream to DreamWalker

Braun came from a family of entrepreneurs and inventors.

“I wanted to create my own job, I don’t want to work for anyone else,” he said. “And with the job market now, college students are graduating everyday with a bachelor’s degree and walking out into the real world empty-handed.”

Braun also didn’t want to “climb the ladder with everyone else” and took advantage of the opportunity he had with the business accelerator at EKU.

But his dream didn’t happen overnight. It took hours of hard work to drive his company to where it is now, he said.

He started out with an idea for a mobile app named InstaTaxi that would, in theory, summon a taxi without ever having to dial the phone number.

Braun took his idea to Trifecta, a web design, programming and marketing company in Lexington. He discovered it would cost around $30,000 to develop his idea so he offered to co-op an internship at the company in exchange for some help with InstaTaxi.

While at Trifecta, Braun worked doing social media marketing. A supervisor suggested he start his own company to market his app.

Around this time, he visited Rodriguez and created DreamWalker Mobile App Marketing, LLC. Once he got started, however, he realized this company — and the app — wasn’t going anywhere.

As his internship with Trifecta was ending, Braun began to use his social media marketing knowledge to help promote local musicians and then local businesses.

He pretty much said “yes” to anyone who needed help with social media marketing, he said, and his business started to take off.

DreamWalker’s clients include Madison County Ford, Acres of Land Winery, Lisa Foster Realty, Battlefield Golf Club, Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals, Richmond Underground Gaming and others.

Business really started to pick up, Braun said, so he brought on two full-time employees, Watson Ritchie, a recent EKU graduate, and Wayne Tackett, an EKU senior. DreamWalker also co-ops with other students to utilize different skill sets like graphic design and computer programming.

Impressed that a small student-run business was able to show a profit in its first year, Louisville Marketing invested in DreamWalker, updated its website and set up an E-Commerce system that enables DreamWalker to gain customers from around the world. The businesses have now partnered so that clients have access to both company’s services.

How DreamWalker brings customers to doorsteps

When DreamWalker gains a new client, they take over the management of the businesses’ social media marketing by generating content, running specials, promoting coupons and driving traffic to their store or website.

Through customer targeting software, DreamWalker finds customers more likely to purchase products from one of their clients.

“Think of the information you put on your Facebook page: Your hobbies, companies, musicians and products you like, where you live, where you work, how old you are, how many kids you have, are you married,” Braun said. “That’s how we find our ideal customers.”

For example, with Madison County Ford, Braun searches how many people in the Richmond area tweet about wanting/needing a new truck or a certain car. He then “targets” that list by following them on Twitter or creating a Facebook advertisement specific to that group.

Another example is, if you’re a barber and you want to cut the hair of every male working in a factory across the street, ads can be targeted to people on Facebook who say they work at that factory, Braun said.

However, instead of bombarding those potential customers with marketing material, Braun’s job is to drive them to the social media page, allow the business-owner to build a relationship with the customers and then sell their products.

“People think they get a Facebook page and the customers will start walking in the next day — it doesn’t work like that,” Braun said. “The optimization process takes anywhere from six months to a year.”

Braun knew it was unrealistic for his small team to run social media marketing for each company forever. So through consultation and training, they can give control of social media marketing back to the business.

Some of his client’s pages reach 40,000 to 50,000 new and potential customers each day, he said.

For now, Braun is finishing his degree at EKU and looking forward to growing his company.

Many times, he and his crew work 40 hours a week, plus weekends.

“It all comes back to commitment,” Braun said. “It’s not that I have something prove. But, regardless of what happens, I can say I put forth my best effort.”

For details, visit www.dwsocialmarketing.com.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.

1
Text Only
Education
  • Kitcarson1.jpg Elementary schools built in ‘60s getting upgrades

    Renovation of three Madison County elementary schools built in Richmond during the 1960s will start this summer.
    The county school board voted Thursday to continue with the second phase of state paperwork required for the projects.
    With a target completion date of August 2015, renovations and alterations at Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and White Hall elementary schools are estimated to cost almost $12 million.

    April 20, 2014 9 Photos

  • May 30 last school day for students

    After 16 snows days and two weather delays this winter, the Madison County School Board decided Thursday to end the school year on Friday, May 30.

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-19 TechExtra1.jpg Students showcase projects in Technology Extravaganza

    Madison County School students showed off just how tech savvy they can be during the district’s sixth annual Technology Extravaganza on Thursday at Madison Central High School. After the showcase, more than 350 students were honored for their work.

    April 19, 2014 7 Photos

  • 4-19 SchoolBoardJesseWard.jpg Ward honored for service; tech center named after him

    Retired Madison County educator Jesse Ward was recognized Thursday for his many years of service. To honor him, Superintendent Elmer Thomas announced the board’s decision to rename the district’s technology training center on North Second Street in Richmond the Jesse P. Ward Technology and Training Center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-16 CMMShealthfair5.jpg Health fairs cover contemporary teenage topics

    Berea Community High School health students coordinated their first all-day health fair in November that was catered to elementary students.

    But their spring fair Monday handled more mature issues that targeted the middle and high school crowd, said health teacher Cathy Jones.

    April 16, 2014 13 Photos

  • Regents approve smoke-free campus policy

    The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents on Monday approved a tobacco-free campus policy and set 2014-15 rates for tuition, housing and meal plans.

    Effective June 1, the use of tobacco on all property that is owned, leased, occupied or controlled by the university will be prohibited.

    April 14, 2014

  • 4-10 EKUDanceTheatre1.jpg EKU Dance Theatre tonight

    Performances are 8 p.m. tonight, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday in O’Donnell Hall of the Whitlock Building.
    Tickets are available at the Whitlock Building ticket window or by calling 622-2171 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
    Tickets are $5 for students, $10 general admission and free for children under the age of 12. Tickets also may be purchased at the door.
    This semester’s concert offers a variety of dance forms including modern/contemporary, hip hop, Middle Eastern, musical theater and Latin jazz.

    April 10, 2014 7 Photos

  • 4-11 ChildAbusePrevPinwheels.jpg Pinwheels for prevention

    Madison Central High School CIA, or Central in Action club, placed 473 silver and blue pinwheels in the flower beds in front of the school, each representing a substantiated child abuse case reported in Madison County in 2013 to show support for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-10 TibetanMonks1.jpg Tibetan monks provide week of cultural experiences

    Berea College has had a special relationship with the Tibetan government-in-exile dating back to the 1990s. That is when the late John Stephenson, then Berea’s president, befriended the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, according to Jeff Richey, chair of Asian Studies at the college.

    April 10, 2014 13 Photos

  • 4-10 RedCedar4.jpg Open for learning

    While some may not have known all of the words or the exact notes to sing, parents and children in the Red Cedar Learning Cooperative enjoyed an afternoon jam session together Tuesday, complete with guitars, a ukulele, drums and a harmonica.

    April 9, 2014 13 Photos

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

Yes
No
     View Results