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Alumni Spotlight

Brent Vaccaro

Brent Vaccaro

B&E alum Brent Vaccaro

April 28, 2014

Sometimes he works at midnight. Sometimes he works at 6 a.m. Sometimes he speaks to classes, and sometimes to executive officers of companies. Despite the varied work hours and duties, there’s one thing that doesn’t change: Brent Vaccaro works for himself. A recent (2010) marketing graduate, Vaccaro is a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit.

“I went to corporate right out of the gate. Some people love it, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to get into an environment with no wasted time, structured to my liking,” Vaccaro said.

Of course that sounds great, but it’s anything but easy. In fact, at first it can be terrifying. Vaccaro’s main venture, Shoutside Media, a Pittsburgh agency that handles commercials, websites, photography and social media for its clients, came to fruition by going out on a limb.

“I put in my two weeks (notice to leave my former job). My then-new business partner (Shoutside Media CEO Micah Rosa) said, ‘I’ll buy you a computer and pay your rent for one month. If we’re not making money at the end of the month, leave.’ It was scary at first, but you have to adapt,” he said. “When we started Shoutside, we were working above an abandoned pottery shop for $100 a month. Everyone was making fun of us.”

But those humble beginnings have led to blossoming success. Now, the Shoutside team operates in a shared workspace with 10-12 other tech companies with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment including a recording studio, green screen room, podcast booth, voiceover booth and much more.

“We always stay on top of the new technology coming out. We try to stay a little ahead of ourselves. Many companies don’t do that until it’s too late,” he said.

One example of staying ahead of the curve is Shoutside’s investment in a drone, for which they were featured in the Pittsburgh news last February. According to Vaccaro, in 2015, federal government agencies and Congress are supposed to iron out the details concerning commercial filming with drones. Until then, Shoutside can’t video anything from its drone for profit. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the investment. There is untapped potential in the industries of real estate, agriculture and media for drone recording, which would be considerably cheaper and simpler than videoing by helicopter or plane.

“We think a huge market is going to emerge. Once it goes mainstream, we’ll have been the first (in Pittsburgh,)” he said.

But Vaccaro and his partner are careful not to put all their eggs in one basket.

“We’ll never stay doing what we’re doing. (Shoutside has) already evolved. At first we were really into social media management. Then we moved into doing websites. Now commercials are big. Plus, (my business partner) and I are both involved in a few other ventures,” that can bring new contacts and materials into the mix, he explained. 

For those students with dreams of being their own boss one day, Vaccaro had a few words of wisdom.

“Life isn’t group work. You have to work with other individuals, but no one can skip the group work and still get an A at the end of the day in the real world,” he said. “And find what you love. If you want it bad enough, you’ll figure it out. But you really do have to want it that bad. You’ll find out quick enough if you don’t. There’s no instant gratification, but there’s opportunity everywhere.”

Vaccaro also credits one of his former professors - Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Associate Professor Dr. Gary Insch - with giving him the confidence boost that helped him to become successful.

“I play in a metal band. I have full sleeve (tattoos.) My ears are stretched. Sometimes people asked me what I was doing in business school,” Vaccaro recalled. “Insch was the first professor I formed a real relationship with. He was really one of the first people in my entire life that actually seemed to deeply care about those he taught. So as a senior, I went to him for advice. After all, I was going into the worst job market in years. But he gave me a reassurance. And I’ve realized that although we’re in a bleak job market, it forces you to adapt - and I think that’s what our generation is good at. There are so many opportunities out there for people to start businesses because the technological revolution is happening every month - every hour - in science, in business. Everywhere. And it’s accelerating.”