Doritos Guys Make a Mark in the Business World

doritos-guysWith so many businesses going under in the economic downturn, it's rare to hear about a start-up business that is succeeding and growing. Especially when the guy who started it has no formal business education -- or even a college degree -- and is only 25 years old.

Wes Phillips and his partner, Dale Backus, are high-school friends who first gained fame by winning an unusual contest. In 2007, Frito-Lay sponsored a contest to make a Super Bowl commercial for Doritos. Out of thousands of entries, the commercial produced by Wes and Dale, for a little more than 12 dollars, won the contest. The commercial, titled "Live The Flavor", not only snagged a $10,000 prize, but also was named the best video ad of 2007 by USA Today. That had some folks on Madison Avenue shaking in their boots.

Wes has been doing video production since he was 10 -- an endeavor supported by his dad, who even bought him a camera. But it was winning the Doritos contest that led to a lot of professional work using high-end video equipment.

The mother of invention

One thing that Wes found frustrating in the job was the fact that he couldn't find a small monitor to hook up to his cameras and computers that would show quality high-definition video. So, he and Dale decided to make their own monitor.

"We did a lot of research," he said. "We did things online and got a lot of pieces together to make it work."

They had their first product about a year ago, and decided to start selling it to other videographers and photographers. Thus was born their company, Small HD, based in their hometown of Cary, N.C., just outside of Raleigh.

"It did pretty well, and made us enough money to pay for meals and continue to grow," Wes said.

-- See average salaries for a videographer, film editor, and camera operator.

Now they have made a second monitor that displays high-def video and is rugged enough to withstand field work. While their initial sales were all from word of mouth, they recently showed off their products at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. Sales have been brisk.

Ready to expand

Right now they still assemble each monitor themselves, but Wes says they are ready to expand. They are looking at outsourcing the assembly so they can make more units, and they also are going to move into a new facility. They have already hired three people with more to come. So, not only have they created a business for themselves, but also are creating jobs for other people.

Some of the production, though, remains all in the family. "My second cousin has a metal shop up the street from me, and he makes the metal housings for the monitor," Wes told me.

So, how have Wes and Dale handled the transition from a creative endeavor to being businessmen? "We find creativity in this," Wes said. "We really enjoy being creative through video; but designing a product, that's really creative."

And Wes said they also know how to connect with people to help them succeed. "I don't have all the knowledge myself, but we're smart enough to find the people who do to work with us to make the product a success."

What does Wes feel is the key to his success? "Videographers are passionate. If you give them good technology at a reasonable price, they are willing to dive in," he said. "I think the fact that in a down economy we have come up with a product that people want and are buying says something about what we are doing."

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