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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

I Turned My Passion for Tech and Storytelling Into My Own Production Company

Suzi Pond
Molly Haley

Suzi Pond never thought she’d get into film. But today, she’s the owner and founder of Redbird Media Group, a boutique video and film company, and revel+spark, a video editing business that helps families transform their video clips into keepsake home movies. Every day, Pond and her team are storytelling with a purpose—they’re striving for impact through a crafted lens.

You may be wondering how Pond got here. Well, when she was choosing her major at Skidmore College in the late ’90s, she realized she was interested in two seemingly very different topics—storytelling and technology.

Thankfully, Skidmore College allowed her to create another major (in addition to her Psychology major) called “Hypertext Writing” which “cobbled together coding, writing, online storytelling, and research,” explains Pond. And when she needed a job after graduation, she leveraged her coding knowledge to break into journalism.

“When I moved to Philadelphia, I sent out a batch of letters (the kind with stamps!) to various journalism outlets,” Pond says. “In them, I cited my coding and writing skills and asked for an internship. The online editor at Philadelphia and Boston magazines wrote me back almost immediately with an offer. Those days, translating content online wasn’t as straightforward as it is today. You actually needed to code paragraph breaks, bold tags—you name it.” In other words, Pond’s ability to code was extremely valuable to the magazines.

Pond knew this was her chance to use her skills in a field that interested her, so she took it. A few months later, a full-time job opened up and they hired her as Online Editor for Philadelphia and Boston magazines. And, five years later, she became the first online producer for The Portland Press Herald.

“At The Portland Press Herald, I capitalized on a need for video production by teaching myself how to shoot and edit. I also studied audio storytelling during an intensive three-month course at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. Any talented storyteller can tell you that high-quality, compelling sound is absolutely pivotal for story production. Plus, I was hooked on the power of the human voice.”

Finally, in 2014, Pond craved the freedom to make her own schedule, push her limits, and follow where projects led her. So, she founded Redbird Media Group. At first, she kept her full-time gig as Chief Storyteller at United Way of Greater Portland, but after a year, she left to focus solely on her new company.

Read on to learn more about Pond’s storytelling story (see what I did there?).

What Skills of Yours Helped You Start Your Own Business?

There were certainly times when I was unsure about my path—online storytelling was a new field, so there wasn’t an obvious career map to follow. But, throughout my journey, I tried to just keep heading toward what felt true. And my inner voice kept telling me that, somehow, I was headed in the right direction. Listening to that gave me the courage to learn new skills (like audio storytelling) and change jobs.

That said, I think the most beneficial skill I have in my entrepreneurial arsenal is my willingness to figure something new out. It’s not always fun or easy, but doing the work is really the only way to get better.

How’d You Manage to Launch a Business While Still Working a Full-time Job?

I built my side clients up slowly. Still, working early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends took its toll. I hit a wall that was, in retrospect, very obvious. There weren’t enough hours in the day, and it was starting to feel like my “day job” was getting in the way of my freelance work. I just knew it was time to go—mostly just for self-preservation. I had to make a choice about where I wanted to devote my energy, so I chose Redbird. I chose me.

Plus, I knew that, since I’d decided to go for it, I just needed to jump. While I would’ve loved a long-term safety net, there wasn’t one. There still isn’t. I have to hustle every single day.

What’s Your Favorite Part About Producing Video? The Most Challenging?

I love editing. When I’m composing a story and the voices and music come together just right, it’s pure magic. The most challenging aspect for me is being open to criticism, but that’s getting a lot easier. My ego’s much less fragile than when I started, and I’m gentler with myself. We’re all still learning, right?