CEDAR FALLS — In 2014, Zach Everman joined the University of Northern Iowa’s Student Business Incubator to see if he had what it takes to start his own media marketing business. He gave himself three months to determine whether Pixel Labs Creative Media House would sink or swim.
Four years later, Pixel Labs, powered by Everman, his wife, Samantha, and eight employees, is not only afloat but has won an Addy Award and is marking new territory with clients across country.
He credits the word-of-mouth advertising from clients as well as mentors along the way and a talented staff for Pixel Labs’ success, along with UNI’s business incubator, which provides a variety of resources to startup businesses.
“That took it from a handful of clients to very quickly turning into something that I wasn’t able to handle myself,” he said. “I really leaned on the incubator because I didn’t have the business background. Having those people there that are willing to have conversations out of the blue really helped with making sure I was taking the right direction at that time.”
That included hiring, identifying markets and taking care of legal processes.
With several clients in the Cedar Valley, including Cedar Falls Community Credit Union, Cedar Valley Hospice and Oakridge Realtors, one of Everman’s main clients, the online education school The Art of Education, sends his production crews across the country to complete assignments.
Everman and his team are gaining traction by modifying some of today’s technology. They are experimenting with virtual reality video, motion tracking for 3D characters and a remote-control car mounted with a video camera.
“We want to have as many tools and possibilities so that the physical things that we have are not the limitations to our creativity. … We want to get to the point where basically if we want to do anything, we can say, ‘OK, we’ve got the tools to do it or we know the right way to do it,’” Everman said.
The low-angle cinematography instrument — L.A.C.I. — a radio-controlled car, includes two controllers: one to drive the car and one to direct the camera. His crews tested it out last summer at the Cedar Basin Jazz Festival in Cedar Falls where they captured unique views to create a video for the musicians.
“It’s this really big beastly car,” he said. “... It may spin off into a different business in itself. That’s just something we’re kind of playing with,” he said.
Everman’s passion for business and technology manifested at a young age. At 9 years old, he began a makeshift bicycle repair shop for his friends and a mini-golf course in a neighbor’s back yard.
“My mom, before I knew even what it meant, said, ‘You’re going to be an entrepreneur someday.’”
A native of Stout, Everman graduated from Dike-New Hartford High School and received a bachelor’s degree in electronic media from UNI in 2009. He gained real-world experience by working for five years in the Cedar Valley before unleashing his creativity on a broader market as CEO of his own business.
“I always liked fixing things, which kind of translates to what I do here at this point. I’m kind of putting out a lot of fires,” he said.
With the business in full force, including a portfolio of more than 50 clients, Everman has taken on more of a management and operational role, including troubleshooting computer and software issues.
“I was kind of doing some of those things as a kid, but I didn’t really realize that’s what I would end up doing after I graduated, just because the idea of starting a business seemed way bigger than anything I would be able to do. But then you start looking at all the different help you can get around you, and it’s not so daunting of a task when you have that support,” Everman said.
Now, the incubator is able to lean on Everman when looking for a resource for branding and marketing new companies.
“Zach and Pixel Labs went through many transformations in the incubator. Zach started doing all the filming, editing and production himself and has slowly expanded his team to include full-time staff and part-time contractors. Learning how to manage employees, delegate and think strategically about the business have helped Pixel Labs continue to flourish after leaving the incubator,” said Patrick Luensmann, senior program manager at the UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation.
Pixel Labs is now located at 409 Washington St. in Cedar Falls.
For more information, go to http://thepixellab.co.