Member Profile: Ron Torres
December 12, 2016
Prior to jumping into entrepreneurship full time, Ron Torres worked in the video division at Bodybuilding.com. During this time in his career, Ron continued to produce music videos and video content, remaining active in his own personal video production.
On April 21, 2014, Ron went through a dramatic experience; in a horrible sequence of events, Ron’s apartment was robbed, and 5 years of his hard work was stolen, the laptop and hard drive filled with his personal production content gone forever. Ron promised himself that if he ever got his hands on the equipment he so loved again, he would do something big with them. This is exactly what ended up happening.
In an act of insane generosity, the CEO of Bodybuilding.com bought Ron a brand new laptop and hard drive. Hitting a transition point in his life and following through with what he said he would do with the new gear, Ron set out to found Storyteller Content. Around the time he got the new equipment, Ron’s cousin Jason was moving to Boise from Portland. Ron connected with his cousin who was in the hotel industry and wanted change, and brought him on as a co-founder. Storyteller Content was born.
After leaving Bodybuilding.com, Ron realized he wanted to focus on expressing himself as a filmmaker, not restricting himself to one brand. According to Ron, “I wanted to tell as many stories as I could. I saw empathy in the world. We now live in this interesting time where storytelling is evolving into new forms. Content is developing into new interpretations, especially for those working to develop brands and web content. I have a very strong belief that the only way to make good content is to have a backbone of traditional storytelling processes in it, and at Storyteller Content, I implement this into the new Internet platform.”
The development of Storyteller Content was initially inspired by a short film Ron was working on. After being robbed of this content, Ron immediately wanted to start filming again. He decided to produce a short film highlighting his cousin for Project Greenlight, and even though it was not successful there, it was submitted to the Sun Valley Film Festival and was accepted. At the festival, Ron met Karen Meyer, a Trailhead board member. In conversation, Karen told Ron he should attend an upcoming mixer being held at Trailhead.
Recalling the experience, Ron stepped through Trailhead’s door, turned to his cousin Jason, and said, “We just found our new office, dude,” and with that, Trailhead signed up its first ever member. This was the beginning of a new era for startups in Idaho, and Ron was brave enough to take the first step.
Trailhead’s first ever member took a morning off from capturing other people’s stories to come in and share his own. The following Q&A with Ron Torres outlines his journey into entrepreneurship, his beginnings with Trailhead, and the development of Storyteller Content.
Where did you grow up, and what brought you to Boise?
I am originally from Pocatello, and ended up in the Treasure Valley in college when I attended the College of Idaho. In many ways, the school was the stepping stone for me becoming an entrepreneur; it allowed me to become someone that is constantly chasing opportunities. I think the College of Idaho’s academic approach is actually pretty similar to the incubative environment Trailhead sets up. So when Trailhead came around, I already had an idea of what it was going to be like.
What are your passions here in Boise?
Like all entrepreneurs, my passions are exactly what I do for a career. I love performance art at all levels, and storytelling at all levels. A lot of the activities I do in the city are surrounded by these things. I love doing anything that relates to film, television, production, improv comedy, music, art, etc.
I love being surrounded by people that can express themselves through art and transfer this expression to a greater audience. I have found that if the artist culture is developed in a city, the entrepreneurship culture follows. If you take a look at up-and-coming cities, the art scene has developed first. If you were an artist in this town, you kind of saw this whole entrepreneurial movement coming 5 years ago. There have been attempts at entrepreneurial space before in Boise, but Trailhead was the one to do it right.
How did you get involved with videography?
The story of my grandfather had been in my head for a long time. It is an immigrant story my grandfather told me when I was 10 years old. I took it upon myself to tell his story at some point in my life. At first I thought I would write it in a book. However, I went on to dabble in theater, and eventually decided I wanted to write a movie about it. With this desire in mind, I delved into videography. This was easy to do, as my mom was an avid movie watcher when I was a kid.
In addition to this, Pocatello actually had the first public access television station. Before the Youtube era, people could broadcast independently from government funded television stations. I learned the ins and outs of broadcast video production through the public classes offered at the station in Pocatello. Then, as my first job, I videoed city ordinance meetings. In having these experiences, I started finding the gaps in the industry.
Going off of this, I heard something interesting about film directors in a celebrity’s speech once. In the speech, the person said that if you’re in the director’s chair, you have to be a person who appreciates everyone behind the movie, and to know if they are doing a good job or not, you have to have lived in their shoes for a bit. As a result, I’ve done everything in production from running coffee, to working as a janitor at the Flicks, to editing film. Now I am in the director’s chair and the producer’s chair, and I run a very positive set, a set that makes you work harder because you are connected to it. I may not have taken a traditional route into the business; I didn’t go to LA to be a director, and I didn’t go to school for cinema. I did the work to get here.
How do you usually use the Trailhead space?
I have used Trailhead in a lot of different ways. I’ve used it for the quick, “Ah man, I need to upload this video real quick and Trailhead has the fastest internet you can get,” and I have come to Trailhead and said, “I am going to stay here and think of ideas for my new film.” I’ve used the space for post production, where my team is all in here editing. I’ve shot interviews at Trailhead. I’ve used downstairs for a green screen. I even shot Kris Gethin from Bodybuilding.com at Trailhead. It is a pretty aesthetically dynamic space.
Very recently I wrote my first feature film at Trailhead. I now have a script, and am planning on raising capital in order to make it into a movie. I think it is pretty cool my first ever feature film was written at Trailhead.
I am basically looking to produce a Lost in Translation/Airbnb style movie. I have set up a story that highlights Boise from a fish out of water perspective. In the movie, a college student has negotiated to stay an extra day at a vacation rental here in Boise after attending the Treefort Music Festival, and another character, a food critic in their forties, is just arriving at the rental. They are coincidentally stuck together for 24 hours in the same vacation rental, and are going to go out and realize the beauty of Idaho. There will be a life conversation throughout the movie, and the uniqueness of Boise will really be shown. The characters are eventually going to end up in McCall. I want this feature film to be a time capsule for Boise now.
What is it like being Trailhead’s first member?
It makes me happy I was able to trust in a new environment and trust my instinct in what I needed for Storyteller Content. I have a point of pride in being Trailhead #1. I saw a good idea, and knew it was a good idea to jump into it. For me, Trailhead is great for Boise. I don’t think my business would be where it is today if Trailhead had not popped up. I needed an open space with a developmental environment, and this is what Trailhead gave me. I still do some work from home, but being able to go to the space and learn from its resources is great.
What interests you about entrepreneurship?
This is the era of entrepreneurship. If you do not have the mindset of an entrepreneur, even in your traditional business infrastructure, you are going to miss out. This is a time where you need to be adaptive to new platforms of technology. So many new things are thrown at you each year, and an entrepreneurial spirit provides the skillset that allows a person to navigate them.
In many ways, I’ve never not been an entrepreneur. I knew very early on, if I wanted to be a filmmaker, I had to be an entrepreneur. You have to learn to be scrappy, do it yourself, and basically become a production magician. You can’t show all your cards, and you have to have a lot of tricks up your sleeve that can wrap an audience into your story. So why be an entrepreneur? For me it wasn’t even a choice.
With that being said, people without that innate sense for entrepreneurship need to learn from the cultural landscape we live in. There is more empowerment than ever in entrepreneurship. You can actually work and live the way you want to live and work, rather than the way you are told to live and work. In today’s world, if you love something, you can really make that work.
Just for an example, I am one of the main creative minds behind Buck the Quo, a web series that highlights the potential to find success and happiness in your 20s through non-academic routes, either by going to trade school, completing an apprenticeship, or becoming an entrepreneur. I set up a conversation between a host and someone on the precibus of a big decision in their life. We pair the high school or college student with someone who has found their passion and calling in a nontraditional way, and highlight the person’s background. This is something I am extremely passionate about, and as an entrepreneur, I am able to spend my time working on it.
Through your work with Storyteller Content, has anything ever surprised you about Boise?
The most surprising thing about Boise, with all the growth it has seen, and with all the new ventures that have come up, Boise still remains an authentic place to live. Even with all the people coming into town from different backgrounds that have non-Idaho experiences, we still set a precedent of kindness and honesty in our practices. I am amazed at how we still hold the line of being such a kind city. I think other cities eventually lose that genuineness, and we haven’t.
What are your most important short term goals for Storyteller Content?
We want to keep providing authentic storytelling for brands, and other interested parties, but also want to balance that with creating our own narrative content.
What is your long term vision for the company?
We will be a fully functional, new interpretation of a production company. I want Storyteller Content to be a self-sustained umbrella for multiple artists with multiple focuses, and a company that continues to make thrilling content in this area.
In what ways has Trailhead helped you along your journey?
Trailhead is amazing in this way. You can find incredible isolation and focus here. On the other hand, I can have a meeting in here, a very large meeting. There is a film competition called the i48, and I had 20 people in Trailhead developing the script for it.
Additionally, I always wonder who my neighbor is here at Trailhead. Great people work out of the space, and sometimes, they even turn into clients.
Trailhead also has the best dry erase whiteboards in town. I have used those amazing triangle white boards over and over again.
What’s great about Trailhead? They have set the stage for creating the work environments you want.
What has been your greatest success with Storyteller Content?
Being able to work on Buck the Quo, a partnership Storyteller Content has with Drake Cooper and J.A & Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Buck the Quo is a brand that matches everything we believe in with Storyteller Content. We are dealing with very important information and content, and are distributing it through storytelling. We are approaching the work we believe in, in the way we are best suited for, and we are actually getting listened to.
What have been some of the greatest challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur?
One interesting problem entrepreneurs have is we sometimes do not understand our value. You try to give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and do something to do something, because we just want work. Down the road you can run into hiccups, underappreciating the value your work drives. You work extremely hard, and try to balance too many things. This can lead to failures and obstacles that are unnecessary for you and your company. You have to know your worth and stick to that. When you get the client that appreciates that, great things happen.
What has been your favorite Trailhead program or event so far?
I love having artist installations here in town. A guy named Sam had an art display in the back corner of Trailhead for about a month. It was an awesome and dynamic thing. I think Trailhead is an inspiring place, and it was great to see that here.
I love that Trailhead has become a hub for everything. It somehow has become home to so many different movements in Boise.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?
You have probably heard it before, but it is imperative that you know why you are doing what you want to do. If you can’t dial in your why, your brand’s why, your company’s why, if you can’t zero in on what that is, you are eventually going to become lost. In a funny way, the work will come, but you won’t know why you are choosing one thing over another. In your first year as an entrepreneur you have to make your decisions count.
Get that mission statement dialed in, because that can become your compass for everything. If you rush your purpose, you are going to start just working, and you may end up hating your job. You become an entrepreneur to combat this; the reason you become an entrepreneur is to love your job.
What is the greatest challenge facing entrepreneurs in Boise?
I think one of the greatest obstacles entrepreneurs in Boise face is we limit our success. Entrepreneurs here allow themselves to reach a certain level of success, because it’s the success you have seen reached in this area, and then stop. There is a huge opportunity to change the landscape of business in Boise and Idaho. The issue is we think about being a successful entrepreneur in Boise, rather than about being a successful entrepreneur in the US. We have a tendency to reach for the ground here, when we should be reaching for the moon. You can be more than that; you have every opportunity here to be successful. Work towards a goal that moves beyond Boise.
Is Storyteller Content growing?
Storyteller Content began at Trailhead in January of 2015. In January of 2016 we had transitioned into our own shooting and studio space, Studio 208. I liked Trailhead so much I made a space just like it. We have also moved up to about five independent employees that work for Storyteller Content year round.
Is there anything else you want to share with the Boise community?
I really want to motivate people towards the idea of investing in Trailhead. I know you can work from home, find a coffee shop, do all the things that essentially allow you to start your own business. Though, for a nominal price, you are investing in your future when you become a Trailhead member. It is your first true investment towards your business when you sign up, and making that move will push you to start working on something. If you are on the cusp of working at Trailhead, there is no question, do it. I have my own space at Studio 208, but I will never not be a member of Trailhead. There are too many things I love about the environment encompassing Trailhead.