Local multimedia entrepreneur brings national experience back to Fort Wayne
By William Bryant Rozier | Input Fort Wayne
Virginia Richardson grew up in Fort Wayne. A Snider High School graduate, she made it all the way to Washington D.C. to help launch the first BET Soul Train Awards, to run the marketing and sales promotions for VH1, and to help create another Viacom channel, Centric, before slingshotting back to Fort Wayne, with some other resume-lengthening stops in between.
Today, she’s the creator of Tilde Multimedia Firm, which might be one of the city’s best-kept secrets for promoting products and services.
It’s an all-encompassing firm that specializes in digital marketing, display ads, web development and management, search engine marketing (making sure you are found during Google searches), and also operations and promotions for events and shows. Her purview resides at the confluence of the creative and the technical.
Whenever Purdue University Fort Wayne needs an events technician specialist and audio engineering for one of their special events, Richardson is their go-to who gets the call. How she became a go-to resource is a story in and of itself.
Richardson has a Master’s degree in Music Technology. She has a Bachelor’s in New Media with an applied degree in Computer Science. Both were attained at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI).
She started her career as a work-study underclassman by managing music development where she convinced the director to give her a shot even though the only program she knew was Microsoft Word.
“But I was willing to learn,” Richardson notes and learn she did—in many different ways.
Buried under the list of jobs more related to her current vocation, Richardson was once an Indianapolis sheriff. She began as a home detention officer, interacting well with families and children, before her promotion. But an illness with her lungs—“a near-death experience” —led to her being restricted to bed rest and released from her duties.
On the mend, she couldn’t talk and could only communicate through typing or emailing.
“I told the Lord, ‘If I make it through (this), I will pursue my dreams,” Richardson says. She always wanted to be in entertainment, but after lung surgery, a singing career was out of the question. So she explored other options.
While resting up at home, she met a guy named Charlie in a Yahoo-like chatroom for filmmakers who asked her if she could work anywhere, where would it be?
She said BET (Black Entertainment Television), and oddly enough, Charlie was actually able to grant her request.
A week later, a BET Emmy award-winning producer, Mimi, called her. The producer thought she was already moving to D.C. and told her an unpaid internship was waiting for her when she did.
Richardson couldn’t believe it, but she didn’t necessarily hang up either. At the time, she was a 31-year-old college junior who wasn’t close to graduating. But a summer internship, that was doable.
As a bonus, she had a place to stay in D.C.; an uncle of one of her cousins put her up rent-free for the duration of her internship. She had some money, too, after saving little bits here and there from her disability checks, so she took the opportunity.
Around that time in 2006, BET’s jazz channel was being rebranded as BET J. So when Richardson arrived at her internship, she contributed ideas at a few brainstorming sessions for BET J, and her ingenuity paved the way for her to be invited to more meetings.
Eventually, she became so valuable that she inspired the network to create a rare deal with IUPUI for her to remain in D.C. while attending school in Indianapolis via an online streaming service.
At BET, Richardson was responsible for on-air promotions, making sure commercials ran at their slotted times. She also helped launch the first BET Hip-Hop Awards and BET Honors.
But the experience “wasn’t all good,” she says, recalling the cold shoulders she received from some of her co-workers who graduated from historical black colleges. IUPUI, in turn, was seen as an Ivy League School by her colleagues, Richardson says. That means, by association, she was viewed as “the other.”
But “I soaked up all I could,” she says. “A lot of things I didn’t get paid for.”
She was eventually moved from BET to Centric to VH1 before she was laid off. After that, she came back home to visit family and netted an interview with 21 Alive the same day she sent in her resume. The station pretty much created the position for her as Sales Promotions Manager. But she was laid off again when Granite Broadcasting was bought out.
So Richardson started doing freelance work. She helped launched a basketball series for the ESPN-broadcasted show, Ball Up. She moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and handled preferred clientele for a newspaper/advertising agency before moving back to Fort Wayne to start her own firm, where the competition might not be as formidable.
But there’s a trap door in that philosophy. A creative entrepreneur can carve out a unique niche to basically eliminate competition. Comfort, Richardson says, is the true competition.
“Especially with being a small market, people don’t realize the power they have with the new solutions that are out there,” she says, equating the public’s use of mainstays like radio, TV, and Facebook, to eating a fried food you know is bad for you, but you do it anyway because it’s comfortable.
Today, Richardson is pushing new boundaries. She has the means to advertise a product or service on GPS devices, like the FitBit, 700+ search engines online, has access to the same platforms that iHeart radio, CNN, and the Washington Post use. More than that, she makes them available at wholesale prices.
To put it simply: “I have one of the biggest platforms in Fort Wayne that people don’t know about,” she says.
BET and VH1 are on her resume: Virginia Richardson, Tilde Multimedia Firm from Ink Spot Fort Wayne