A quick online search of the word ‘dreams’ often produces lofty, philosophical and comedic quips about happiness, fulfillment and destiny. So for entrepreneurs, turning a dream into reality is both a way of life and a lesson in passion.
Take Stephen and Mary Pruitt of Never2Late Productions for example: having raised their two daughters, they charted their own course rather than follow the exact footsteps of others. While many filmmakers get their start with what is called shorts, Stephen and Mary’s first production was a full length feature film. “People said we were crazy,” said Mary, “but we decided we’d either sink or swim on our own terms.”
Film was always something Stephen had wanted to do, and Mary said she was delighted to see the artistic side of him emerge with their new venture. As with many dreams, Stephen’s artistic vision needed a technological boost. In years past, the technology required to produce quality films was far too expensive. However, a digital camera that makes filmmaking more accessible hit the market, and reduced a traditional investment of $250,000 to approximately $40,000. It’s quite an invention, considering several of this year’s nominations for Best Picture were filmed with the same camera that the Pruitt’s now own.
Because she was new to the industry, Mary attended film seminars, listened to and challenged the conventional wisdom taught by industry veterans. “The advice is to begin with marketing, to find an audience and fit the story and film into the right mold. We don’t do that. We go with the story. We believe that if we’re telling a story that is so universal, as much of life is, and if the story is compellingand beautifully acted, then it will be appreciated,” she said.
While their artistic vision is intact, Mary says that the business end is ever-evolving and changes with each picture. In fact, with each new picture comes a new business name, a new paradigm and a new set of challenges – most notably finding investors. Because the entire process can take more than two years, it can be difficult to sell esoteric material rather than a tangible product. Mary likens this process to the research and development phase of traditional companies, with the important distinction that there is nothing but a vision to sell in film.
While they do everything possible to keep costs down, such as employing local talent, they do whatever it takes to maintain superior quality.“We take our time, and even though we want it to be technically correct we also want the story to shine and for it to be beautiful to watch,” said Mary. Recently, they landed a deal with Vanguard Cinema for their first film, “Works in Progress” in January. With their second film “Terminal” almost in the can, they are intent on showing everyone that there is a burgeoning film industry in Kansas City that rivals Hollywood.
For Dallas and Janie Hainline, their business, Logo-Lighthouse was the culmination of Dallas’ hobby of holiday lighting and his desire to drive his own business. Their company manufactures and sells lighted acrylic plates called LightsNPlates that have images, such as a Jayhawk, Powercat or Tiger, that appear to float on the plate while the image itself emanates light. If that’s difficult to picture, it’s because the product defies words and is truly one of those ‘you have to see it to believe it’ products.
Growing up in WaKeeney, Kan., the city known as “the Christmas City of the High Plains,” Dallas remembers helping his dad and the local Lions club with decorations that were quite elaborate, even for a town with such a lofty claim to fame.“It probably started there!” Dallas said.
Many years later, Dallas continued the tradition when he and his son Zach started a holiday lighting business that Zach now owns, and which is responsible for the large holiday display at Vince and Associates in Overland Park. His experience with holiday lighting taught Dallas about the use of LEDs as a light source. “Because they require very small amounts of electricity and last for more than 50,000 hours, LEDs are the light source for LightsNPlates. So, I was familiar with them and knew how they might be applied to our product. That was the passion,” said Dallas.
The biggest challenge of starting a new business, said Dallas, is “the amount of time required to develop and market the product and the number of areas of discipline required to do so. Things rarely go as fast as you would like.”
Norm Crisp of Streamside Adventures has a similar, yet completely different, story. Growing up on a trout stream in New Hampshire, Crisp caught his first trout at the age of six, and immediately saw his future. “The only thing I ever wanted to do in my life was to study fish. It was like when I touched that first fish, I was infected.”
Of course, like most great stories there were a few plot twists before the dream became reality. After a very brief stint in the Marines, and then college, Crisp began a career with the Environmental Protection Agency. Eventually landing in the Kansas City Regional Office, he said “they paid me to run up and down the streams, collecting fish.” Hebecame the foremost expert on agricultural pollution, and eventually was asked to design an environmentally compliant program for animal feeding operations. After implementing the program, he retired about six years ago at the age of 57.
Knowing when he would retire and that he would want something to do, he’d already started Streamside Adventures in 1999. A chance meeting in a bar in Wyoming of all places with a woman from Olathe sparked a business partnership that got the business going. It turns out that the partnership didn’t last, but the business did with Crisp taking the reins as a solo entrepreneur.
“We foster community,” Crisp said, when they guide tours. Camping along the river for the entire summer, clients come and go but Norm and his guides are there with a meal, a guide and company. In addition to guiding tours, Norm also provides instruction and speaks widely not only on fly fishing but on business. He credits SCORE with helping him build a successful business plan and learn business theories he wasn’t yet an expert at.“This is a part time job that is really full time. There is always something to do, and I have to do everything,” he said.
“You have to follow your dream and be willing to take a risk. I live a low lifestyle; I don’t need a lot to be happy. I invested in memories rather than things. I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve just had a ball,” he said. Now
his sons sometimes accompany Crisp on his travels. He enjoys their time together and said now “I have the freedom to chase my dreams; I guess I just haven’t caught them yet.”