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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Company started at UF expands nationally

It began in an UF dorm room.

But it expanded across the United States, including cities like New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

A local web design company, 352 Media Group, has recently introduced a program that integrates video into Web sites instead of using a separate player.

They have also created web sites for several major companies like American Express and Microsoft.

In 1997, Geoff Wilson and Jesse Murse, full-time UF students at the time, gathered clients and created web pages from a dorm room with the help of Brian Keller in Sarasota under the name SpyderWeb Page Creation.

Peter VanRysdam, a former UF student, joined the company in 1999 and became the vice president of marketing.

He said he and Jeff were both students in the College of Journalism and Communications.

Jeff cut back on his classes and started doing Web design full time, VanRysdam said.

"From there it kind of snowballed," he said. "In 1999, there were about 10 employees. Now we're at about 50."

Even though 352 Media Group is expanding, VanRysdam said they try to keep the same environment they had when the company first started.

"The reason we kept doing this was because we were having so much fun," he said.

The company has a unique way of keeping morale up in the office. He said a masseuse is brought in once a month, and there are always Nerf gun wars in the halls.

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VanRysdam said their approach to creating Web sites is to compliment the rest of their clients' marketing materials.

"The projects where we get to have full creative control and handle all aspects of that are the most fun," VanRysdam said.

Staff usually get attached to the project and end up working late into the night brainstorming, he said.

"It's a feather in their cap to say they have worked for those types of clients," he said.

In the past four years, they've won 44 ADDY Awards for creative advertising and have been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America by Inc. Magazine.

"If you have a great business plan and a fantastic product, you're going to succeed. That's the case of the 352 Media," said Brent Christensen, president of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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