Harrisonburg Business Perspectives

August 31 2017                                                                                                              Canvex Business Perspectives Interview                                                              Peirce Macgill                                                                                                                harrisonburgdevelopment.com

Canvex is a new company on the Harrisonburg technology scene. Canvex's mission is to bring a competitive advantage to businesses in the Shenandoah Valley (and beyond) by using drone technology to provide faster, more accurate and less expensive data.  The bottom line: they are an aerial data acquisition company. Their main services include aerial photography and video, 3D modeling, agricultural data acquisition and subcontracting for surveying companies.  

Canvex provides an excellent example of capturing the entrepreneurial talent at James Madison University to grow new businesses here in the city.  After graduation, the Canvex team could have chosen to start their company in northern Virginia, Hampton Roads or New Jersey, but they chose Harrisonburg.  I sat down with the three co-founders to find out why and to find out more about this exciting early-stage company. 

 Tell me about your academic and professional background. 

 Sarah:  I graduated in May from JMU.  I was a psychology major with a minor in writing.  I’ve done grant writing and internships, and some program management for non-profits. I got connected with Caoimhe and Nick while taking a class at JMU’s X-Labs. Through the class, we ended up doing the Virginia Drones Project together.  The point of the class was to use a drone to solve a social problem. Our project was working with a PhD candidate in Cartagena, Colombia, who wanted to do a structural analysis of the historic walls down there. Instead of using conventional methods, we used a drone to more accurately and efficiently make a 3D model of the walls for his research. It’s a protected heritage site in Columbia, so the PhD candidate is seeking ways to curb the walls’ erosion.  It was an amazing experience to work on the project for a week and Canvex was born out of the project. 

Caoimhe:  I just finished this past spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication from JMU. My second major is Industrial Design, which I will finish in December.

The writing experiences I’ve had have been interesting.  I’ve done a lot of freelance writing. The industrial design experience is also interesting, because I’ve done some writing in the community for a local market food truck, for a non-profit in Roanoke, the drone project and some other projects for the agriculture community.  

Nick: I also graduated in May from JMU with a Bachelor in Science and Physics. I did some freelance engineering last summer. I’ve delivered pizzas, and I’ve worked at JMU doing materials science research and serving as a teaching assistant. 

When did you move to Harrisonburg? 

 Sarah:  I moved here in August, 2013.  I previously lived in New Jersey, just outside of New York City.  
Caoimhe:  I also moved here in August, 2013 and spent most of the subsequent summers here. I’m also from Jersey - Mercer County. 
Nick:  I came to Harrisonburg in 2015, but have stayed here every summer and never left.  I’m from Chesapeake. 

Give me an overview of Canvex and your role in the company? 

 Sarah:  Our primary identity is aerial data acquisition. We use a drone to acquire that data and we can attach a camera and sensors to capture a variety of data.  Also, using an aerial perspective allows us to collect data in a more efficient and accurate manner than you would otherwise get.  We are working with farmers, real estate agents, academics and hoping to get into construction and engineering areas as well.  As for my role, I handle the business aspects, including marketing and networking. 
Caoimhe:  Nick and I perform similar duties. I’m more back end on projects doing CAD editing of the 3-D model and doing prints of it, and any other editing.  I also handle any post processing. By duplicating some duties, we can run multiple projects simultaneously and I can handle back end on some and Nick can handle back end on others. And, of course, we all have a role in sales.  
Nick:  We want to be flexible, so we’re still figuring out what we are.  Since summer started, we’ve had a job making a model of the new City Hall and the historic Municipal Building in Harrisonburg.  Since then, we’ve had a variety of opportunities presented to us and, so far, we haven’t said no to anything.  We’re seeing where we can get the best traction and define ourselves based on that traction.   

I also do the drone flying. I’m the only one with a pilot’s license, so I’m the only one allowed to fly by law.  I received my license back in June.  But it’s odd, you don’t need a license to fly for fun, but it you fly for commercial reasons, you need a license. 

Can you tell me more about the Municipal Building project? 

 Nick:  Oh it’s a bear.  There’s a lot of learning in the process.  The building is not currently occupied and there’s a lot of history tied to this building.  The JMU professors we are working for want to capture the history for a book they are writing, so they tasked us with collecting data and making a model.  They (the professors) are having an exhibition in August, where they will release the book and show the pictures and history. They want the Municipal Building to be featured in the book because the building captures different time periods of Harrisonburg’s history.  So with a 3-D model of the building, you can get a more accurate look and feel of the different phases of the building’s construction. 
Sarah:  It’s called the Urban Renewal Project, supervised by Dr. Aaron Price and Dr. Kevin Borg at JMU.  Their idea is to represent Harrisonburg’s history though the lens of its architectural evolution over time and they’re also interested in the way our community has changed. Back in the 1920’s, people represented the important places in town through postcards. Today, we can use 3-D modeling to represent our key buildings.  
The original software we were using for the 3D modeling took months to process and we were able to find a better process to reduce that time period to one day.  We’ve also refined the way we fly and capture the right shots to produce the best quality 3-D model when it’s finished. 

What made you decide to take the jump and start a business?

Sarah:  It was a lot because of the encouragement of our professors in (JMU’s) Center for Entrepreneurship.  Our professors kept saying, we could really start a business with this.  And when we came back from Columbia, we all sat around, and the professors said, okay you’re going to start a business from this, right? And we said, yeah sure, maybe a side business until we graduate, but then we met with Patrick (Patrick McQuown, Director of JMU’s Center for Entrepreneurship) and he said no, you can’t do this on the side, you’ve got to commit to this full-on.  And we responded to that challenge and decided to go for it. 

Caoimhe:  The opportunity was there.  The big question when you graduate is what do you want to do next?  I think that it’s an easy choice to take a steady job, because there is certainly less risk involved than in starting a business.  A job has things in place, a regular salary, benefits, future roles. But having a chance to start something of your own, be autonomous and make money with your friends if you’re lucky enough to be prosperous; that’s something you shouldn’t pass up.  We’re young and we have little, to nothing, to lose. If you’re going to fail, might as well fail in your early 20’s! 

Why did you choose to start the business in Harrisonburg? 

 Sarah:  We felt like we had a lot of resources here, both through JMU, the X-Labs and the Center for Entrepreneurship.  And also the resources in the town and the networking, we had already started to build that, so we felt we had a good foundation here. It wouldn’t have made sense to uproot ourselves, when we’ve met so many people in Harrisonburg that can help.  Also, we have more to offer here.  If we were in northern Virginia, there are other companies offering similar services, but not so much in this area.  So we can offer something fairly unique to the community here.  And, the agricultural market of the region is perfect for us.  We are excited about creating our most sustainable relationships with the farmers.  It’s a great potential market for us. 
Caoimhe:  We have a lot support here, which is awesome.  There are a lot of people rooting for us. 
Nick:  Really, there was just no reason to leave. 

What do you like to do in Harrisonburg? 

Sarah:  We like to go to the Farmer’s Market.  On First Friday’s I like to go to the art galleries. The community events going on are usually pretty fun.  Forbes has great shows.  I like the orchestra shows and any instrumental shows.  I also enjoy tailgating at JMU football games. 
Caoimhe:  I’m a frequenter of the downtown businesses.  I love going to the Artful Dodger, Billy Jacks and the Court Square businesses.  I love going to movies at Court Square Theater.  If you haven’t been there, it’s awesome.  There’s a really cool community in downtown.  I got into a lot of the underground music as well, and art shows in houses around the city.   
I also try to partake in the outdoor adventures in the area.  I have to remind myself, since I’m a big biker, to go on hikes and biking trails.  There are so many.  And I’d like to go see a show at the Forbes, that’s on my list. 
Nick:  I like to go hiking.  I pretty much go to Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park) to do different hikes, like Mathew’s Arm.  I also like going to JMU football games. 
Where’s your favorite place to eat? 

Sarah:  I really like Cuban Burger, as well as Billy Jacks and Jack Browns.  I love Ruby’s Arcade.  That is my favorite place in town. 
Caoimhe:  The Little Grill.  That place made me love Harrisonburg!  It showed me that this is a cool community.  I love going there for breakfast, and they have really good Mexi nights.  And Ruby’s is pretty cool.  I like the new space at Magnolia’s.  It’s great to have some rooftop dining in town. 
Nick:  I would have to also say The Little Grill. 
Do you have any favorite local stores? 

Sarah:  Harrisonburg has awesome thrift stores, more so than any other town I’ve seen.  I like to go to all of them.  Gift and Thrift is probably my favorite, but I also like Mercy House and really all of them. 
Caoimhe:  Babylon on Main Street.  I also love Ragtime Fabrics.  It’s a massive warehouse of fabrics and it makes me want to sew clothes. And I like the Goodwill thrift shop.  I got a really sweet Jimi Hendrix shirt there. 
Nick:  FoodMaxx, I like that place.  Other than that, I don’t do too much shopping. 
Tell me about your commute to work? 

 Sarah:  What commute?  My commute is just down Main Street, so it’s really easy. 
Caoimhe:  I live a 5 minute bike ride away.  Whenever I’m able to, I like to bike to work.  It’s hard to do that in New Jersey and I realized the biking infrastructure there is not in place, so I always stuck to my neighborhood when I lived there.  It’s so much better to bike in Harrisonburg.  It’s a cool biking community. 
Nick:  It takes me an average of 2 songs to get here.  It’s great, it’s so quick.  I wake up 15 minutes before I need to be somewhere and can make it on time. 

Finish this sentence: The best thing about Harrisonburg is…. 

 Sarah:  .…the community.  It’s so vibrant.  There are so many fun community events going on.  On Saturday mornings, you have the Farmer’s Market and you’ll always see a lot of people you know there.  Coming from New Jersey, the towns kind of blend together there and so I was a lot less plugged into my community.  New Jersey may have had more things going on, but I wouldn’t know about them or feel a draw to them.  So I actually do more things here in Harrisonburg because I know the community well and am more plugged in. 
Something else I appreciate is the diversity.  It’s such a unique place.  You have the people who have lived here a long time, new people who have moved from other cities and students who have stayed here, but you also have a large refugee community.  That was kind of unexpected for me coming here - to see Harrisonburg be as diverse as it is.   
Caoimhe:  .…the eclectic nature of the community.  There’s such a diversity of people here.  You get the student diversity, the adults who have been here for generations, people who have just moved here and the refugee and immigrant community.  You can see it reflected in the businesses and I think that is really awesome.  I also love that there is a sense of community identity with Main Street, I know it’s been an effort, and I think it’s important to have that community core.  What we’re finding here is business is booming, the economy is doing well and people are generally happy.  That is part of what makes Harrisonburg such a welcoming place.   
And you can’t beat the views.  I’m always on the lookout for spots with a great view, either of the mountains or the city or JMU.  There’s a great spot over near EMU with a nice view of downtown.  We recently went to Mr. J’s, got some bagels and went up to the hill at EMU and just sat.  It was so relaxing to sit back and enjoy the view.   
Nick:  ….the mountains.  As a kid in Boy Scouts, we would drive from Chesapeake, about 5-6 hours, to go hiking for a weekend.  And now those mountains and trails are my backyard, so that’s pretty cool. 



August 20 2017                                                                                                            Progressive Party Ticket Giveaway                                                                        wherevent.com

First Fridays Downtown is a free celebration of culture and community held in downtown Harrisonburg. During the first Friday of the month, the downtown venues host art exhibition openings, local music performers, and various arts related events.

Activities Harrisonburg / Description

Arts Council of the Valley (ACV) is pleased to be collaborating with three First Fridays Downtown venues for a ticket giveaway to our 6th Annual Progressive Party!

Stop by Spitzer Art Center, Gaines Group Architects, and OASIS Fine Art and Craft during September's First Fridays Downtown to enter a drawing for TWO FREE TICKETS to ACV's Progressive Party, held this October 7th at The Columns at Six Penny Farm. Each venue will host one drawing; draws are scheduled as follows:

- Spitzer Art Center: 7:00 PM

- Gaines Group Architects: 7:30 PM

- OASIS Fine Art & Craft: 8:00 PM

One entry per person per venue. You do not need to be present to win, so stop by early in the evening before continuing on to other First Friday Downtown opening receptions!

For info on ACV's 6th Annual Progressive Party, visit valleyarts.org/progressive-party

The Daily News Record

August 17 2017                                                                                                              Keeping It Traditional: Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice to Play at Court Square Theater                                                                                                               Shelby Mertens                                                                                                               dnronline.com

A staple in Virginia bluegrass, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice will be making a stop in Harrisonburg on Aug. 27 to play at Court Square Theater for the first time.

The band, known for its traditional bluegrass sound, originally called just Rambler’s Choice, formed in 1998. They later disbanded as its members went their separate ways, but reformed in 2008 as Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice.

Junior Sisk, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, has won numerous honors from the International Bluegrass Music Awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year in 2013 and 2017. The band won Album of the Year for 2012’s “Heart of a Song,” and Song of the Year in 2012 for “A Far Cry From Lester and Earl.”

The band also includes Jason Davis on banjo, Jamie Harper on fiddle, Kameron Keller on bass and Johnathan Dillon on mandolin.

Sisk started playing traditional bluegrass at 14 years old, growing up in Ferrum, a small town between Roanoke and Martinsville. He was influenced by his parents, who both played bluegrass.

“We had a family band growing up,” Sisk said. “We played a lot of fiddler’s conventions and stuff like that. I was raised on The Stanley Brothers pretty much.”

Sisk started writing bluegrass songs in the 1990s. He wrote the songs “Game (I Can’t Win)” and “Tears Are Blinding Me” for Lonesome River Band.

Sisk joined his first band, Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz, in the ’90s before forming Rambler’s Choice. After the first Rambler’s Choice, he played for a band called The Lost and Found for six months, and then the band Blueridge for five years. Rambler’s Choice reformed after Sisk left Blueridge in 2006.

He also hosts a festival in Floyd called Chantilly Farms Bluegrass and BBQ Festival on Memorial Day weekend for the last eight years.

Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice’s latest and seventh album is “The Mountains Are Calling Me Home,” which was released in March of this year. The band recently signed onto Mountain Fever Records, located in Willis, Va., after years of releasing albums on Rebel Records in Charlottesville.

Sisk has made it his mission to keep the sound of traditional bluegrass alive.

“We try to keep it traditional with our own taste,” Sisk said. “There’s not a lot of folks out there now that’s still keeping it traditional. It’s more progressive to get the younger crowd. We do it all; we try to get the young ones and the older ones as well. We like to look out into the audience and make ’em cry, and we like to make ’em laugh. We’re all over the place.”

Sisk said fans at the Aug. 27 show can expect “energy and excitement.” The set list will include both old and new hits.

“We’re going to do some old stuff back from Wyatt Rice to today’s,” he said. “We try to mix it up.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance or $18 at the door. For more information, call 540-433-9189 or visit the event page.

Theresa B. Clarke

August 15 2017                                                                                                              The 2017 Google Online Marketing Challenge Experience at JMU              Theresa B. Clarke                                                                                                           theresabclarke.com

JMU is celebrating!

Ubiquitous tech giant Google recently announced 2017 results from the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). After much anticipation, I am elated to report that students from the College of Business at James Madison University upheld the tradition of excellence by winning five major awards and four finalist awards when competing against over 12,000 students on 2,650+ teams from around the world.

The GOMC incorporated new campaign types in 2017, such as display network campaigns, video campaigns, shopping campaigns, and mobile/universal app campaigns. Additionally, students were encouraged to learn more about and experiment with additional ad types, such as image ads, video ads, shopping ads, call-only ads, dynamic ads, lightbox ads, Gmail ads, and app install/engagement ads that could run in Gmail, YouTube, Google’s Search Network (GSN), and Google’s vast Display Network (GDN). Equipped with varying strengths and skills, all of JMU’s teams tackled this year’s challenge uniquely, creating new, compelling stories and diving deeper into the ever-expanding world of AdWords.

The highest honor of the competition was awarded to Michelle Mullins (Team Captain), Caroline Galiwango, Raquel Sheriff, and George Shtern. Google selected this extraordinary team as the Global Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award. While triumphing over all other teams in the challenge, the winning team also sought success for their nonprofit client and was awarded 2nd Place in the AdWords Social Impact category. This global award secured a generous $10,000 donation from Google for their client, the local Arts Council of the Valley, which is dedicated to cultivating and promoting arts and entertainment in West-Central Virginia. As a reward for their efforts, the team will receive a seven-night trip to San Francisco, including a day at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, as well as digital devices and other exciting prizes.

Competitive, Diverse, Bold, and Conservative. The dynamic Arts Council team comprised two expressive risk-takers and two analytical administrators. The foursome harmonized their efforts, capitalizing on their unique blend of introverted/extroverted personalities, as well as different junior/senior academic levels and business/non-business majors and minors. In doing so, Michelle Mullins (Team Captain), Caroline Galiwango, Raquel Sheriff, and George Shtern turned their varied and sometimes opposing forces into a distinct advantage to achieve client success. I extend hearty congratulations to Michelle, Caroline, Raquel, and George on their prestigious and well-deserved achievement!

Despite working on a condensed timeline and juggling families and full-time jobs, a team of JMU Innovation MBA (iMBA) students also won two significant GOMC awards. Google selected Jonathan Nicely (Team Captain), Jessica DrennonKen Prevete, and Jesse Springer as the Americas Regional Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award, which places them atop all teams in North, Central, and South America for AdWords performance. Over the course of the competition, the team created and managed an AdWords account for Cradles to Crayons, a charitable nonprofit that engages with more than 60,000 families, individuals, community groups, and companies to serve more than 200,000 underprivileged and impoverished children each year in the Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia areas. After working closely with their nonprofit partner, the graduate student team was also honored to be named the 3rd Place Global Winner of the AdWords Social Impact Award, resulting in a $5,000 donation from Google for their worthy client. In appreciation for their work, the team members will receive a two-night trip to visit Google’s headquarters, digital devices, and other prizes.

Phenomenal, Sharp, Professional, and Committed. Jonathan Nicely (Team Captain), Jessica Drennon, Ken Prevete, and Jesse Springer worked skillfully and perfectly as a well-oiled machine. The Cradles to Crayons team was creative and experimental but also strategic and calculated. When faced with difficult choices during the GOMC journey, they communicated respectfully, evaluated alternatives carefully, attended obsessively to the finest of details, and based final decisions on their client’s best interests. I exuberantly offer congratulations to Jonathan, Jessica, Ken, and Jesse for their impressive and hard-earned triumph! 

This year, Google created a new AdWords Certification Award for the highest performance in AdWords from a fully certified team. The certification is a professional accreditation for individuals demonstrating proficiency in both basic and advanced aspects of AdWords, such as search, mobile, video, display, and/or shopping. For the new award, Google selected one overall Global Winner and four Regional AdWords Certification Winners for the Americas, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Asia Pacific regions. Again, demonstrating diligence and excellence, a JMU undergraduate team brought home the 2017 GOMC AdWords Certification Award for the Americas Region. Additionally, the team was also named an AdWords Business Semi-Finalist which means they were one of the top 15 teams in the Americas Region. Working together, Nicole Carothers (Team Captain), Annalise Capalbo, Brendan Reece, and Emily Vaeth developed an AdWords campaign for their client, Virginia Discovery Museum. Through curating exhibits on literacy, science, math, history, and the arts, the museum focuses on intellectual curiosity and development for newborns through children aged eight.  Each student on this team will receive a digital device as a prize and a personalized certificate noting their status as the highest performance in AdWords from a fully certified team within North, Central, and South America.

Calm, Determined, Reliable, and Attentive. Nicole Carothers (Team Captain), Annalise Capalbo, Brendan Reece, and Emily Vaeth mastered and applied all of the AdWords knowledge they could possibly acquire throughout my course. The Virginia Discovery Museum team unfailingly devoted themselves to perseverance, to handling pressure with ease, and to performing exceptional work for their client. Congratulations to Nicole, Annalise, Brendan, and Emily for being recognized for their tireless efforts and winning one of the five awards in the new and highly competitive certification category!

Other notable recognitions from JMU include:

  • AdWords Business Semi-Finalist (Top 15 teams in the Americas Region) and AdWords Social Impact FinalistSteve Barranco (Team Captain), Teresa Comer, Victoria Landis, and Michael Lantz.  Their client was the Collins Center & Child Advocacy Center which strives to prevent sexual violence and its impact in our community.
  • AdWords Business Semi-Finalist (Top 15 teams in the Americas Region) – Rachel Kirbabas (Team Leader), Allie Hammond, Joey Scully, and Amanda Zwerin.  Their client was Cora Dance, a pay-what-you-can non-profit dance studio dedicated to making the arts accessible to everyone.
  • The three other JMU teams were ranked in the “Strong” category indicating strong AdWords proficiency and understanding of online advertising, as well as a ranking within the highest 16% of teams from around the world.

On behalf of my 2017 students, we are deeply grateful for advocates of the GOMC. The successes we have achieved, lessons we have learned, skills we have acquired, and bonds we have formed would not have been possible without the involvement of many supporters.

Thank you to…

…Google for their 10-year sponsorship of a most interesting, valuable, innovative, intense, and exciting educational adventure. Special thanks to all of the extra-googley Googlers who truly believed in the GOMC and worked behind-the-scenes on operational aspects of the world’s largest online marketing competition.

Lee Hunter and Jamie Murphy for their vision and leadership in creating and developing the GOMC as an ideal model of collaborative partnership between academia and practitioners. They designed an experience that benefited over 15,000 clients and more than 200,000 students and professors from almost 100 countries during the past ten years.

…Hundreds of instructors in the GOMC Academics Worldwide Community in Google+ for their advice and inspiration. Technically, we were spirited competitors, but the interactions from this group were collegial, always focused on the shared pursuit of student learning through high quality teaching.

… many JMU faculty and staff who encouraged and assisted in the GOMC efforts. Most notably we thank Andy Wood, Academic Unit Head for the Department of Marketing; Matt Rutherford, Faculty Director of the MBA Program; and Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah, Professional Director of the MBA Program, for offering and supporting the Digital Marketing Practicum (MKTG 477) and Online Search Advertising (MBA 625) courses this year.

Mary Gowan, Dean of the College of Business, for her continued support and for inviting me to present to the Executive Advisory Council last fall. Because of that presentation, I connected with Jason Glass, member of the CoB EAC and JMU Alum. Jason subsequently provided a referral to the CEO of Cradles to Crayons, resulting in two JMU awards and a meaningful connection shared among alumni, industry, and students.

…our eight wonderful nonprofit clients for allowing JMU students to represent their brands through online advertising using Google AdWords. An extra special thanks is extended to Lynn Radocha, Digital Marketing Communications Coordinator at JMU, for her contributions in recruiting and vetting client prospects for the fast-paced and intense MBA 625 course and her assistance during the MKTG 477 campaign launch day.

…our brilliant agency partners for reinforcing course content from a practitioner perspective, providing feedback, and sharing expertise through guest speaking. All of the 2017 guest speakers (e.g., Marketing Mojo, Merkle, Silverback Strategies, Workshop Digital, Jellyfish, and Seer Interactive) were phenomenal, especially Matt Weltz, Senior Paid Media Manager from Silverback Strategies, for his special guidance on display advertising, and Janet Driscoll Miller, President and CEO of Marketing Mojo, for helping JMU succeed ever since we started the GOMC.  We are grateful for agency donations of prizes, scholarships, company swag, and career/internship opportunities.

…the family of loyal JMU alumni who make a positive difference by sharing career advice and job leads, serving as course mentors, and supporting others in our learning community. We greatly appreciate your continued devotion to the greater mission of educating business professionals.

I am so proud of the accomplishments from my 31 very talented GOMC students in the undergraduate and graduate classes from 2017. I shall never forget their positive attitudes, strong work ethic, caring spirits, and how they made JMU’s 10th and final year of the GOMC so extraordinarily special.

Without a doubt, I will miss the Google Online Marketing Challenge on so many levels. The prizes are amazing, but my most satisfying reward has always been working closely with such a talented pool of students in the dynamic online advertising realm. I will begin efforts to build new rewarding educational experiences at JMU by capitalizing on our rich history from the past decade and consulting with practitioners and academics. Please contact me if you wish to support this endeavor in any way for our future Dukes of JMU.